Posted by: Adam Deane | 22/12/2010

14 Trends that will change the way we do BPM

The BPM industry.
We have not reached “the promised land”, but we are slowly getting there.

Although BPM is a management discipline, it’s a software vendor driven market.
Most BPM suites offer a solid solution. They embed the required process design and process execution functionality that is needed for managing enterprise business processes, centres of excellence and change management programmes.

The way we “do” BPM is constantly changing. In the last few years simulation, content management and BPMN have been added. What can be expected in the future?

These are the 14 trends that will change the way we do BPM

The strongest trend in the next couple of years will be Business (Process) Intelligence.
BPM vendors have the process design and process execution elements of the BPM life cycle pretty much nailed.
BI will become a competative edge for BPM vendors. The difference will be between vendors that provide process design, process execution, and basic reporting – and vendors that provide cutting edge trend analysis, proactive, not interactive .
A system that tells you what needs to be done, instead of a system that just lets you search for the problem. The ability to be alerted of problems and solve them before they need to be escalated. Visibility and accountability. There will be more requirements for reporting, drill-downs, analytics, KPIs, impact analysis.
It should come as no surprise to see mergers of BPM and BI vendors, OEMs and joint solutions in the next couple of years.
The biggest differentiator between BPM solutions, from a customer’s point of view – will be the quality of the BI offering.

Cloud and SaaS
Hosting software is an infrastructure solution, not a business process solution.
It doesn’t provide a different solution, a different methodology or even a different approach to BPM – just a different infrastructure platform.
It has been discussed quite a lot in the past year, as will be next year.
Infrastructure vendors have invested too much money in it to let the hype die down.
It is not cheaper, faster, or better, but it does have one very important advantage.
It removes the hassle… and IT managers are willing to pay large amounts of money to get rid of the hassle. Removing the hassle factor has real value.
The Cloud will remain a fog. The way we deploy BPM solutions will change. Cloud solutions will enable companies to bypass expensive BPM Enterprise licenses and start using BPM “pay as you go” solutions in the cloud .
The success of BPM in the cloud depends on the ability of cloud vendors to offer out-of-the-box solutions, that require minimum customisation, at a lower cost, to multiple customers.

Open Source
Open Source has slowly become part of mainstream BPM in the last year.
The huge number of downloads alone has shown that it is no longer a niche.
The business model of downloading the BPM software for free, and then paying for development and consultant services is an appealing model. Less risky, easier to get approved budget-wise.
It’s success still depends on more people embracing the open-source concept, the ability of the open source community to support, and of course all the other problems that non-opensource vendors face.

Both Saas and Open source have a strong selling point – The pricing model.
From a financial point of view – less risk. It’s easier to finance (even if it might not be cheaper in the long run).
It enables IT managers to fly under the radar, get third party services without going through the hell of tenders and purchase cycles.

CEP – Complex Event Processing
CEP is currently embraced by only a couple of BPM vendors.
The other vendors still do not see the added value of CEP. Unlike other areas (like ECM and ACM) that BPM has moved into, CEP is still an undiscovered territory.
CEP will probably start to grow in the next couple of years when the concept is clarified, the value is proven and the vendors feel it will give them a competitive edge.

Google is one of the most innovative of the big companies currently in the market.
Any new innovation that Google comes out with will have an impact on BPM vendor offerings. Currently, when comparing BPM vendors offerings, one of the differentiators is Microsoft vs Java solutions. All the vendors have one eye open on Google.
Integrating with any Google future application (Search, Mobile, Email…) will be seen as giving the vendor a competitor edge.

Email is still an island. The content is saved in the employee’s Outlook and not integrated into the BPMS’s database, therefore cannot be analysed.
There are already attempts to bypass the Outlook email island (Google…)
The end game will be to embed email content (not generated by a BPM system) into the BPM audit trail and reports.

Mobile BPM
Most BPM vendors have simple mobile functionality (receiving tasks and notifications via emails and SMS notifications).
The round cycle (updating the BPM system by mobile) is still lacking.
Missing standards in the mobile industry prevent a BPM solution from being used by ALL the mobile device types, all the mobile devices, operating systems, application platforms and versions.
That said, the biggest obticles of BPM mobile adoption in organisations are still the security issue (opening up a closed BPM system to the web) and user authentication (audit trail corruption).

Adaptive Processes and Case Management
The ACM acronym has become quite an important part of BPM debates in the last year. The need for unstructured process, ad-hoc functionality to solve unpredictable events will remain a hot topic in the BPM discussion.
ACM will either become a standalone market or will be embedded as part of the BPM offering.
Case Management, traditionally part of ECM, is slowly becoming part of the BPM solution offering. If ECM don’t start pulling their socks up – Documents, Record management, Collaboration will become part of the BPM offering as well.

Social BPM
Social media applications have had an impact on way people communicate.
It’s still early days, the talk is mainly hype, the vendors are testing the waters.
Users desire same level of innovation and functionality from their business applications as they get from their home applications.
It won’t take organisations long to cotton on to the potential: Twitter-like applications, Collaboaration applications. Social BPM, Enterprise social networking, Online real-time collaboration, Adaptive BPM, Enterprise Microblogging. They all have the same target and they all will be integrated into one naming convention as time goes by.

Back to Basics – Workflows
Like all industries, there will be a push for more innovation, then a “return to basics”, then again another push.. Checks and balances are part of every industry.
As vendor solutions become more sophisticated, therefore more costly, there will be a demand for simple and inexpensive workflow solutions.
BPM vendors will either have separate high-end and low-end offerings, or focus on high-end, leaving a niche for smaller vendors.

“Checklists” belongs to the workflow era, before the acronym BPM was established, therefore seen as the old way of doing BPM.
Checklists will make a comeback, part of the “back to basics” theme, as they are an important business process tool and are currently not getting the attention they deserve.

Consulting, Skills and Education
Software, as good it may be – is still software. The bottleneck will always be human.
Successful BPM initiatives have a high correlation with educated business users.
As BPM software reaches the plateu, the next drive will be to educate business users.
The market has a large number of process designers, either independent consultants, vendor consultants or internal organisation roles.
The trend will see new roles, new consultancy companies, new type of consultants running new BPM focused programmes like Centres of Excellence, Change management programmes, BPM best practice programmes and will be targeting CIOs, BAs and even EAs.

Selling BPM as a platform has not been found to be a gold mine.
BPM Applications, off-the-shelf solutions, with the flexibility to customise and change – will be the next trend in BPM.

AI – Artificial Intelligence
Years down the line…
Making computers think more like people is an idea that persists. In the workplace, software already predicts customer behavior and machine failures on the factory floor. These capabilities will continue to evolve. AI’s strength is that it can uncover patterns and spot problems amid a mountain of data. That might translate into detecting future trends. The first step will probably be implementing AI in the BPM simulation modules.


  1. Interesting and comprehensive list, thanks for the effort for putting it down so sharply. Also, very much in line with our thoughts at webRatio and Politecnico di Milano, you may want to check out the presentation we gave a couple of months ago:

    With respect to your list I would add:
    – integrated DATA AND PROCESS DESIGN (on how to bridge the gap between BPM and MDM, master data management)
    – RECOMMENDATION systems for BPM (to recommend which processes to reuse or how to continue your BP modeling based on mining and AI techniques on existing BP repositories), this may be a sub-item of the AI trend you mention
    – more effective BP SEARCH (and in general, model search, to increase reuse of BPM models, templates and patterns), this goes beyond Google and may include content-based search (aka, search by example), faceted search, graph-based matching an so on

    • Thanks Marco!

      You’ve given me incentive to research MDM. Any recommended resources?


      • Hi,
        I’m quite a newbie to MDM too (I spent some time on it starting last fall). I found some interesting resources here:
        Furthermore, some resource centers by the big vendors (IBM, Oracle, Tibco, …) are available online.
        From my perspective, MDM is basically a way to try to solve information and specifications mis-alignments at the enterprise level.

        I see two options here:
        – radically solving the issue by an integrated and unified design from the beginning (but you know, this is not always possible)
        – trying to cope with the mess while you add your part of the (BP) design and management

        I’m more for the first option: see again my presentation mentioned in the previous comment; we also have a chapter in the new BPMN 2.0 Handbook entitled Mutifaceted BPM:

        Works at IBM (TJ Watson) by Rick Hull are also aligned to this.

        Clay Richardson presented the MDM+BPM issue at BPM2010 with a provocative question “Which came first: data or process?”, with more emphasis on the second option (which is probably applicable in most real industrial situations).

        Click to access 2010-09-15-Richardson.pdf

  2. As pointed out by Adam (record management) and Marco (MDM), there is undeniably a huge gap between automated process and its reliant data. Anyway, BPM started off addressing the formalization of processes, not the data input/output. But, in every practical implementation of BPM use cases, interactions of human participants are heavily related to data, especially the business transactional data. And when an organization adopts a BPM product, they are implicitly looking for a solution in mind, in fact. Though it is now technically feasible for every BPM product to integrate with a development platform to achieve record management, but still quite a big chuck of development efforts is involved in this case.

    In reality, considering most part of the data and record management needs are circulating around CRUD (create, read, update and delete), a BPM product that is well integrated with CRUD record management capability would be able to posses a significant differentiating factor.

  3. Excellent summary of key issues in BPM. Concerning the relationship between BPM and MDM, I wrote a blog post the other day with handy links to relevant articles and analyst commentaries on the subject:

    MDM and BPM: “Just like Romeo and Juliet”…except with a happier ending.

    And, relating to social and mobile BPM:

    Social and mobile BPM: the debate continues.

  4. Enterprise Microblogging…very interesting term. I think that has legs, Adam. I think we see in mainstream social media that microblogging now includes all kinds of content, not just short editorial posts. I’m thinking of tools like Tumblr, Posterous, and FriendFeed(Facebook sellouts..that wound is still fresh for me, but I digress). It would be awesome for the enterprise to be able to share photos, video, links, podcast links, etc as well. *wheels turning in Krista’s head*

  5. Adam, Nice article . . .

    Re BI, we have had good success with predictive analytics where the software environment independently consults background checklists and advises supervisors of evolving states of non compliance, the idea being if they take action, a state of non compliance need not be an inevitable results.

    I suppose Civerex supports ‘open source’ in that we give our process mapping software to qualified management consultants with the expectation that if their clients see them using it to map processes, the clients may pick up on the notion that they could use this same software to manage their day-to-day operations.

    On ACM, we took the plunge last August to move from BPM to ACM/BPM after realizing something was wrong with our definition of BPM and transitioned briefly to BPMx. Reading “Mastering the Unpredictable” sorted us out. The software environment now happily works with any mix of structured /unstructured steps.

    We long ago added Documents w/versioning (not all data is available in digital format), plus Collaboration – the interesting finding for us was that people people messaging does not work. What is needed is POS->people, then people -> POS because in any 3 shift environment, I can ask a question re a task at 15:45 then go off shift and if the response to that question were to come back to me, we would be looking at an automatic 16 hour time delay.

    Record management has been in there since 2000 (its called an EHR in the healthcare products, and an Audit Trail in the manufacturing industry products – every keystroke goes in real time to storage complete with a date/timestamp and user identifier. Authorized users have full recall capability (view data as it was, at the time it was collected, on the form versions that were in service at the time) There is a parallel data feed to a formal data exchanger that has facilities for selecting need-to-know sharing with any number of subscribers.

    All of this adds up to 1,000,000 lines of complex code but the users see a very simple UI.

  6. Adam, thank you for that very good trend summary.

    As for BPM, MDM etc. – don’t be modest and just ask for CRUD, add BPM + Agile Modelling to the list. What we really want is a unified description of the enterprise on a asufficiently abstract level, i.e. in the business domain.

    Unachievable? Not at all, it is already here and available. The modelling concept enabling unification is published here under a creative commons license in an open wiki, particitpate as you wish. An example for an AMS, an application management system enabling agile modelling is provided by our company (sorry, the site is german only at present). If you’re interested in how we do the magic of providing complete solutions including UI, BL, DB based on comprehensive models, just contact me, I happily provide details.

  7. Hi Adam,
    Great job of catching some critical trends. However, I would have liked to see you expand on Social BPM to include modeling work as networks. Beneath all the conversation is the emergence of networked patterns of work. Even processes have networked patterns. Social BPM, Adaptive Case Management, and Value Network Analysis all offer ways to model emergent knowledge-based work where formal processes and work flows are too confining or do not capture the critical human interactions that make the processes work. Interesting days ahead!

  8. where to learn about BPM? Our small-to-mid sized company uses our own custom solution for many aspects of our business. I’m not sure what out there and if they fit our business model. Approach a vendor? or… go with opensource? any books that dig a little deeper on things you mentioned in your article?

  9. […] the way, Adam Deane published a nice blog post on “14 Trends that will change the way we do BPM“. It’s a good read. AKPC_IDS += "113,"; […]

  10. […] to be shed. “Not yet in the promised land, but slowly getting there”, as Adam Deane put it in his post on trends that will change BPM in […]

  11. I would like to mention data mining.
    The huge numbers of unstructured data (especially over social media) will be a valuable source for new mining tools, who may feed it back right away into a BPM solution.

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