Posted by: Adam Deane | 10/11/2010

BPM Product Development

BPM MirrorMirror mirror on the wall – who is the fairest of them all…

Thousands of words are written on BPM products: analyst reviews, press releases, PR campaigns, Twitter chatter…
The product walks on water, the product makes coffee while running optimisation, it’s the answer to your prayers, the Pope is thinking of buying two…
All true I’m sure…

I’m reminded of the saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
One of the best BPM resources that I regularly take a peek at is Sandy Kemsley’s Product Screenshot Gallery

Sandy, an independent industry analyst, has uploaded a collection of product screenshots (probably from vendor briefings). It’s a real gem. The ability to visually see and compare, without marketing clutter, without sale pitches… Just the product.

It’s usually the small things that impress me. The things that the vendors didn’t “have” to develop, but decided it would add value to the solution, or would make it more user friendly. It shows maturity.

These features don’t appear as a pre-requisite in any RFP tender, these features probably are not even mentioned in a sales pitch, but the development team felt they were important to the end-users experience, therefore important to the customer.

Some of features really show the brilliance of the product development team behind them (yes, you can hear a bit of envy in my voice..)
Not just the regular tick-in-the-box standard design, execution, optimisation features – but real vision, real understanding of organisation and user needs, real effort.
I can give start giving examples, but I think I’ll let you look and decide for yourself…

Obviously, some of the products I was less impressed with – old technology, clunky, stale interface, and don’t look very user friendly, but hey! It works for them…

Product development is only one of the elements to vendor success, and usually not even the most important one (a good tool is only as good as how it is being used).
Vendor success usually depends more on the ability of the sales team to sell (sad to say, but true), the ability of the analyst team to find a solution to the customer’s business pain, and the ability of the technical team to implement the solution.

That said, a good tool makes our life easier.
My hat off to the development teams out there..

“Give us the tools and we will finish the job” – Winston Churchill


  1. Adam,
    thanks for sharing this. Extremely valuable resource indeed.
    Let me point you also to another source of knowledge for the BPM field I recently discovered: the Slideshare group managed by Sandy Kemsley, :

  2. Adam, thanks for this post. Good points.

    Business users decide on the GUI regardless of what is underneath or how you get to the application. That is well known.

    I have posted on the ‘out-of-the-box’ syndrome.

    Unfortunately, screen shots alone don’t tell you how something works and how you get to this screenshot. We have added many features that customers didn’t tell us they needed. Most of them are under the covers and we don’t even dare to talk about them because people just stare at us with blank eyes. ‘A pattern-matching what?’ – ‘Model-driven-design?’ – ‘Peer-to-peer node atchitecture’ – ‘Natural Language Rules’.

    Shwo them a cute GUI in a simple demo and they’ll buy. And therefore the sales process is extremely important. How something is demoed and by whom and if he seems to speak the language of the user, is the most important element of all. Doesn’t say anything about how much the solution will fulfill business needs. IT will lean back and say to business: ‘You guys chose this.’

    A simple user inbox and a ‘one-click’ delegation doesn’t tell you how you get to this point and what pain it is too make any other change. Then you show business how they could do things for themselves and they go: ‘Whoa, this is really complex.’ Then they install Sharepoint and no one complains that manyears are being spent to create simple workflows with WebParts and BizTalk and .NET coding.

    All in all, I totally agree on the importance of a really simple GUI, but it is not the sign of vendor being in any way visionary or business oriented.

    BTW, many of Sandy’s screenshots are years old.

    Thanks, again. Keep going strong! Max

  3. Adam, thanks for the link — I sense a lot of new views on my Flickr stream coming up!

    Marco, note that anyone can join the BPM slideshare group and add presentations to it, I just do a bit of pruning after the fact to keep out the unrelated presentations that end up there.

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