Posted by: Adam Deane | 09/05/2011

BPM Stereotypes

BPM StereotypesI’m on my way to a Gartner conference this morning.
I like going to conferences. It allows me to get away from my regular hectic schedule, listen to other people’s point of views..
It gives me time to think…

Conferences are usually good fun and have a positive atmosphere, and although everyone is trying to sell you something it’s a good opportunity to meet other people in the industry and share views.

There are subtle differences between conferences in the UK and USA:
The UK conferences are usually like:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite XX to say a few words about BPM.
Please welcome him…” (polite hand clapping)…

The American conferences are usually like:
“LADIES and GENTLEMEN (.. drums and trumpets )
(.. music from Rocky ..) (.. crowd goes wild .. )
(.. xx comes running onto stage, hands in the air)

As I said.. subtle differences

Stereotyping is part of human nature. Prejudice, racism, ignorance and discrimination are the bad side of it. Poking fun and laughing at your own weaknesses with colleagues and business partners is the good side.
Our French colleagues like to call us “Roast-Beef” for our well known British gourmet cooking (sandwiches for lunch). Pubs, left side driving, pompousness and love of tea are also great topics that we get teased about, and I don’t mind.

Stereotyping in business also exists. (I can’t tell you how disappointed I was arriving at a business conference in Houston, Texas to find out that they don’t wear cowboy hats or shoot in the air all the time)
As someone that travels a lot abroad, coming from England – is a great advantage.
England has a reputation for good management, delivering on-time, with a quiet no-fuss approach. That’s a stereotype that I can live with.
The Royal Wedding is just another example of a well-planned project.
Of course no one tells you that when we screw up, we screw up big time. (Projects will be late not by weeks, but by months, or years… let’s see how the Olympics’ go…)

A common “chip on the shoulder” stereotype that I’ve seen at every customer that I’ve ever been to, is that they think that their company is crap, and that every other company is better than they are, runs smoother, workers are happier and that the grass is greener. I try my best to explain that they’re wrong and that every organisation has the same problems.

On the other hand, this stereotype sometimes plays in my favor…
Their first instinct, if something goes wrong in a project, is to blame themselves.
(this, I let them believe that it’s true…)

BPM has its own stereotype. But even inside BPM there are different groups with different agendas, different ways of expressing themselves.
Each tries to distance themselves from the other competitors. A good breeding ground for stereotyping.

So which stereotyped groups do we have in BPM?

The BPM Amish
The “Outside- In” crowd have built their own closed congregation. They keep away from the regular BPM folk who “have lost their way”.
They’ve got their own spiritual leader and their own translation of the BPM bible.
Their basic belief is great: aligning business processes to customer-focused strategies.
My only reservation is to their references. They attribute Apple’s success to Outside-In. I’m sure they’ll attribute Seal Six’s killing of Osama to Outside-In next…

The BPM Brady Bunch
The open-source crowd have a good stereotype. They’re young, innovative and friendly.
For open source BPM to succeed, they need to grow communities around them. Therefore their effort is in people (always a good thing)
Has open-source taken off? Not yet. Will it succeed? The proof is in the pudding (.. not in the number of downloads…)

The BPM Dreamers
The BPM in the Cloud crowd are currently going through a tough time.
They’ve come down from the Peak of Inflated Expectation and reached the Trough of Disillusionment.
Can they pass it? Are organisations embracing it because of technical and business value or because of the pricing model?

The BPM Incredibles
The ACM crowd are a lively bunch. They’re active on the web, blogs and Twitter. Engaging, explaining, preaching…
They are passionate about their methodology. Their common theme is: BPM doesn’t support it, BPM can’t support it, Therefore we should give it a new acronym and set it up as an alternative to BPM. It sounds a bit like: My cat has four legs. All dogs have four legs. Therefore, my cat is a dog.

The Cheerleaders
The BPM marketing crowd and the analysts that battle every day with the essential question “How do you make a boring subject like BPM – exciting ”?
So they put on their pompons and miniskirts and start their dancing routines (some are quite good…)
Do people get excited by BPM? Mmmm…

The Grumpys
This includes all of the people that start their conversation with: “Nobody listens to me”, “if I had it my way”, “why wasn’t I told”, “Is EA dead?”, “Is the CIO role dead”…
Why doesn’t BPM immediately change the way the organisation works, bring in revenue.. and make coffee?

And we’ve got the jocks, the geeks, the skins, the nerds….

And me? I’m looking forward to my sandwich for lunch…


  1. Adam, you are absolutely right! Once again. And yes, a cat is a dog! It just depends by which features you classify.

    For BPM to lose its negative stereotypes and to differentiate it from the ‘ACM Incredibles’ is to simply deliver what I have been asking for the last TEN YEARS:
    A scientifically founded study that proves that BPM delievers any benefit whatsoever to a business!

    As long as such a study does not come forward, BPM is no different to ACM or any other acronym. It is a matter of faith or undisclosed interests (such as BPM product sales revenue) or your livelihood as a BPM consultant.

    Who could imagine a priest to say one morning in church: ‘I discovered that what the Bible says has no scientific foundation and therefore I can no longer believe in it.’

    Adam, I love your writing and your English wit (another fortunately true stereotype), but clearly you belong to the BPM faithful for good reasons.


  2. Adam,
    I feel quite insulted by the categories, as I find myself unable to decide in which category I belong.
    So, in the best of BPM tradition, could you please define a seperate category for me? This would automatically make me a leader in my field – and when we rebrand my category as THE real bpm category later on, I promise to share some of the proceeds with you.

    Seriously though, (putting on my Cardinal Fang outfit to poke at your arguments with the soft cushion), isn’t the problem that each of the factions you mention claim to be the sole keepers of the flame of truth?

    There may indeed be companies out there that require an injection of outside-in thinking (in fact, I know there are), just as other companies need a couple of tons of Max’ medicine. It’s more a question of getting the mix right and that comes down to the individual customers need.


  3. […] Deane recently offered a tongue-in-cheek list of stereotypes for the BPM crowd.  We open-sourcers are “the BPM Brady Bunch” – young, innovative, and friendly.  Yo. […]

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