Posted by: Adam Deane | 20/10/2010

The art of back seat driving

BPM ConsultantI enjoy blogging. It’s a great creative outlet.

It forces me to sit down and research BPM related subjects, write about them, and then follow up on the feedback – “the ultimate Petri dish for innovation and ideation”.

I guess like all bloggers, one of the targets is to influence.
So how much influence does a blog have? A bit? A lot? Nada?
I suddenly find myself “preaching” on what we should do, what we shouldn’t.
I guess it’s a bit of my frustration at the fact that BPM hasn’t taken off..

BPM is like a airplane on the runway, engines full speed, you can feel the thrust, the airplane is speeding down the runway.
It’s speeding, it’s speeding… it’s still speeding…
And you say to yourself – “Why doesn’t it take off?”. It’s running back and forth down the runway, but it never leaves the ground.

Nothing is wrong with BPM. It has potential, it has business value, but it just hasn’t taken off yet. It hasn’t become a must-have in organisations, it hasn’t become the centre of attention. We have been at the “tipping point” for years. We have been jumping over the “Trough of Disillusionment”
… but we have yet to see the promised land.

So, who is the Moses that will bring us to the promised land?

The Analysts
Now, I’m not going to criticize them. I’ll just say that that the influence of the big analyst firms in the industry has rapidly declined.
There are so many great BPM resources out there, and so many other references that customers can turn to these days, it makes their job harder, more competitive, more focused on marketing. They have stopped being industry leaders and just keep to the industry analysis part of their role, in order to survive.

Once, the analysts had great insights. Nowadays, most of their public publications are shallow. Most of their content are no more than marketing teasers intended to drive you to their paid content. They no longer lead the market, they just react to things that happen in it. It’s a pity, I had such high hopes that they could lead us to the promised land (or at least point us in the general direction..)

The people in the field
Like in every industry, the people we should be listening to – are the people in the field. The people that actually see what works, and what doesn’t. What the customer actually needs (which is usually different to what they say they want).
The problem is that these guys usually too busy fighting in the trenches.
As Sandy Kemsley once said: ”Anybody who works for a vendor and has something interesting to say is probably too busy doing other things, like building the product, to spend much time blogging”

People in the field (myself included) also see more of the trees and less of the woods. We see things through a narrow perspective. If you are technical – you often miss the sales point of view. If you are sales – you are focused on the short term perspective. If you are a vendor – you only see your wins and losses, and only of your typical customer-base…
No. The people in the field should be listened to, but they won’t bring us to the promised land either.

Consultancy Companies
I might be wrong, but I believe that the boost to the industry will come through the consultancy companies. Those people who advise organisations what needs to change, what can be added to the organisation.
Not just the BPM consultancy companies, but the ordinary consultancy companies.
They are already out there, already embedded in organisations, already have the trust of the CIOs and CEOs, already providing advice on IT.

I bet most of them don’t even know what BPM is.
If they knew, they could advise organisations to use it. And if they actually see it working successfully in one of their consultancy projects – I’m sure they would actively promote BPM in their customerbase.

It’s just like any sales cycle.
Selling software to a new customer is always harder, and requires more investment than selling additional software to an existing customer.
Consultancy companies are already out there, embedded in organisations. Surely convincing them (and let them convince their customers) is easier.

So I’ve got this urge, but I’m not sure what is the best way to proceed.
How do you target consultancy companies? How do you educate them on BPM?

Where is this promised land everyone’s talking about?…


  1. Good point, Adam.
    I’m a “guy in the field” too and I came to similar conclusion about consultancy guys a year ago.
    But this idea didn’t work either. Why? Because there is business consulting/IT consulting gap similar to the well-known business/IT gap. Business consultants know what to do but don’t care about “how” part of the equation. IT guys know pretty well about “how” but don’t care about “what for”. A typical business consultant is interested in what BPM expert tells him but it’s way to technical for him. It’s a kind of magic for him, he can’t fully trust ot it and hence is unwilling to recommend it to his customer. He’d better get a quick win and go to the next door. Well this is my observation anyway.
    So it’s BPM consultants (including myself) mission to close this gap, to tie together “how” and “what for” part for a customer. It’s not easy because it requres a broad range of competencies but I believe it’s the only way. Otherwise BPM guys will continue producing pilots that are successfull in a sence but don’t evolve into enterprise-wide transformation projects.

    • Hi Anatoly,

      I completely agree that BPM consultants would be best for the job, but there are only a handful of BPM consultant out there. An organisation looking for to implement BPM should use BPM consultants.

      But I’m talking about organisations that already have non-BPM consultancy companies working for them, that they trust.
      These consultancy companies can’t recommend BPM if they haven’t even heard of it before.

      It’s all about widening the web…


  2. I entered the BPM space in 1999. While it is true that I know more about BPM today then I did in 1999, I have to agree that the impact of top tier BPM Space Analysts has decreased….and their role even has changed in today’s market to analysis. And it is certainly frustrating to listen in on an Analyst presentation that ends up “superficial” and leaving me with more questions than answers.

    For each new potential customer with whom I talk, I welcome them to collect and review as much information as possible when making their BPM decision. Today, there are numerous streams of valuable information outside of buying pricey research reports. In fact, if my opportunity has not done their research before the buy, I provide them the pointers to their research.

    Lastly, BPM success is so much more than buying a BPM Suite technology. While the technology is a major component in the solution sucess, total BPM success is about relationship (both with the vendor and internally with the process stakeholders), services, and support.

    • Hi Chris,

      I would love BPM to become mid-stream.
      I would love to get to the point where someone asks me “what’s your profession” and I don’t have to spend the next five minutes explaining what BPM is …

      Some of my posts over the last few months have included soft prodding, hoping to get analysts to be more active. Nada…
      I did find it amusing that my blog was posted a day before Gartner published their BPMS MQ (by the way..well done Ultimus..). I wasn’t trying to criticize the analysts, just state an observation… the impact of top tier BPM Space Analysts has decreased. It’s a pity.

      I agree that BPM success is more than just buying a BPM Suite technology.
      My point was that the more consultancy companies hear about BPM – the more they can recommend it to their customers.
      The more organisations that successfully implement it – the more mid-stream BPM will become.
      Not just the software, the whole mindset… success breeds success.
      But maybe my approach is too simplistic…

      Maybe the promised land will take some time…


  3. Adam, my take as a guy who has been opposing BPM as it has been sold by both consultants and software vendors from some time.

    BPM as a management concept that tries to plan and predict how a business should operate MUST BE a failure because that is utterly unnatural. Life and business are about people and their interactions. Most of what BPM does is not focused in people and even in the Human BPM systems the focus is on optimization and manpower reductions. The lame tries to say that BPM covers the mundane and leaves time forh the decision making stuff maybe true, but BPM does not supoprt the decision-making. It also is simply not dynamic enough to really make a business agile. That is an assumption or maybe even a lie.

    So until the BPM consultants (and some do) focus on people interactions and outcomes and until BPMS SW vendors (and most of them don’t) and analysts (who mostly have no clue) start to look at BPM as an environment that is more like moderated social conversation about business matters while using business entities, BPM won’t go anywhere. Most of the current BPMS will have to be dumped to make room for new BPMS with that paradigm. There is a huge money investment into software and even more into marketing to make that happen quickly.

    The inertia of that marketing money is holding BPM on the runway until the running engines will simply tear off the airplanes wings, the shell-shocked brains of the consultants aboard will be treated in asylums and the bulldozers will push the old BPM plane rubbish off the runway to make room for the new one. Then it mught take off … but not before!

    Thanks for the good work. You are like the gourmet food critic who picks the best pieces from all our cooking. I am always looking forward to which of my bonmots you will latch onto. I yet have to dislike your choices!!! Thanks again. Max.

    • Hi Max,

      As usual, I love you response.
      I never understood your great “hate” of BPM.
      Personally, I think ACM should of been positioned as BPM 2. The new generation of BPM. The ability to manage structured processes and structured processes. The ability to give business the ability to work in a structured and dynamic way.
      I also think the ACM guys have missed out on a fantastic opportunity with Enterprise Activity Streams, which are just about everything ACM has said we need. I believe that the streams should have been part of the ACM roadmap and offering.

      Regarding you comment, I don’t think BPM is a failure. I do think we are stuck.
      I agree with your analysis, but haven’t seen a viable solution (chucking BPM and adopting ACM isn’t one of them 😉


  4. Adam, thanks. I do call Papyrus a Communication and Process Platform. If you read my blogs wou will find my definition of ‘Adaptive PRocess’ which goes further than ACM and expands BPM. No one likes that either. We adopt ACM also because the market has a very clear definition of what BPM is supposed to look like and who the leaders in this field are. I see what we do as the way BPM should be, but I don’t see a chance to tell this to the analysts and thus to the market. I don’t have a couple of billions to spend on advertizing. I have nto heard yet about Enterprise Activity Streams, but I have heard about HIM Human Interactions Management and some other stuff in this direction.

    I think that BPM will succeed as a concept but that it won’t take off until the rubble of current BPMS has been cleared away, along wth its proponents.

    Thanks again for the open discourse despite different views. I appreciate that very much! Max

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