Posted by: Adam Deane | 11/07/2011

The Technologies to watch in BPM

There are two technologies I’d advise watching, as we enter the second half of 2011:
Enterprise Streams and Mobile

Enterprise Streams

One of the annoying technical issues BPMS tools need to negotiate with – is Outlook.
It’s the rugby player in the middle of the field that we are all trying to avoid, tiptoe around quietly.

Most BPMS solutions use emails to deliver tasks. Most organisations use Outlook.
Even if there is a tasklist portal, Outlook will still be used.

Outlook is not a technical friendly partner for integration.
Yes, you can create an Outlook Add-on, but most organisations will not allow users to download add-ons and change security settings. (And I’m not even talking about those companies that reset security permissions every night)
And yes, you can start embedding fancy client side tools, but if you need to deploy them to an organisation with 15,000 users – it’s a nightmare. Different versions, different languages, different browsers… I’m not saying that its not doable… I’m just saying that Outlook is not an integration friendly application.

The new era of social tools like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are changing the communications landscape.
Users desire same level of innovation and functionality from their business applications as they get from their home applications.
Outlook will not disappear, but will be used less. (Mobile phones did not kill handsets)
The idea of using Twitter-like tools inside the organisation is gaining momentum.
There are already two BPM vendors that have Enterprise Steam offerings. It’s just a matter of time till more vendors jump on the wagon.

But the competition isn’t between the BPM vendors. The biggest competitor is Google.
Google will (one day) offer a great Twitter-like tool for businesses to bypass Outlook.
The three functionalities that Enterprise Streams need to have, in order not to be ‘obliviated’ one day by Google are: Workflows, Integration and BI.
These will be the three key differentiators between any future Google “Twitter-for-Business” offering and a BPM Enterprise Stream solution.


Don’t think of Mobile BPM as just another way of interacting with the system through a small screen.
Think about the things that make your mobile phone different than your laptop.
You talk on your mobile, email, sms and communicate in ways your laptop doesn’t. You take pictures using your mobile. Mobile devices know where you are. Your laptop doesn’t. You never go anywhere without your mobile.
Mobile also includes smartphones, tablets, IPods.. the future of communication.

Most BPM vendors “support” mobile. “Support” means that they can send emails to mobile devices. Luckily for them, most organisations are not at the stage where mobile functionality is a deal breaker. It’s more of a “bells and whistles” gizmo for the demos.

From a technical point of view – Any BPM mobile solution needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. We have not reached “the promised land” yet.
Every mobile device has its own operating system, its own programming language, even different versions of the same device.
Trying to make one BPM mobile application that would fit all mobile devices, all versions, in an mobile industry that hasn’t yet been able to agree on one communication standard – is not (yet) possible.

And anyone that tells you that you don’t need a client application – “you just approve from email links on your mobile” is blowing smoke.
If you can’t authenticate the mobile device (see reasons above) then you are using anonymous authentication to enter the BPM system from outside of the company. You don’t need to be an Einstein to understand that this opens the system to abuse. Most BPM systems are secure closed systems, accessible only from inside the company’s domain. If I can click on a link from the mobile and bypass your security, I can also hack my way into your system, expose information or bring it down.

That said, mobile technology is progressing. It won’t be too long till they come up with an industry standard and solve security problems.
And any BPM mobile solution offering will enjoy the “fruit” of any future feature that the mobile industry comes up with.


  1. Hello Adam:

    Two thoughts regarding mobile:

    1- Mobile was never adopted because people want the same user experience like a desktop/laptop. This kind of experience was never delivered due to the fact the size of the screens and the content that is delivered is far to big a small screen can handle. This happens since the prehistoric era when we tried to use mobile devices with windows CE with screens bigger than iphone. Today, tablets offer a new dimension (well industrial tablets offered too, but nobody like to carry a brick, right?), and can unlock mobile usage, also because mobile data plans decreased a lot.

    2 – What about HTML5 that can bypass mobile OS lock in?



    • Hi Alberto,

      I was sceptic about mobile too.
      The usage of mobile has grown. The usage of laptops has decreased. There are specific functionalities that mobile has, that desktop doesn’t.
      Most BPM vendors have “mobile” on their roadmap. Hard to tell if it is serious or not…
      It’s a trend. The success still needs to be proven. It will only come if it is massively adopted. Time will tell…

      Regarding HTML5 – great point. I wasn’t aware of it.


  2. Very surprised this list did not include SAP Streamwork as it has been offering its Enterprise edition since last year.
    I first saw it at TECHED 2010. See demo in the link underneath for an integration with SAP BPM.

    Thanks to a set of APIs, it can be integrated with SAP Business Suite (or other vendors) applications as well.
    SAP has also released a specific Streamwork client for iPhone:

    So I guess SAP is right in your sweet spot for 2011 !

    • Hi Thierry,

      Thanks for your comment.
      I spent the last 2 hours going through SAP Streamwork documentation, videos and even opened an account on Streamwork and played with the system. I was very impressed.

      SAP, by their own account, see Streamwork as a real-time collaboration platform, therefore should belong in the list of other great new generation Enterprise Social Networks like Chatter, Jive, Novell Vibe, Oracle Oratweet, Microsoft OfficeTalk and others.

      On the other hand, although Streamwork doesn’t have BPM functionality, it has loosely coupled integration with Netweaver and others tools.
      It might not be a pure-blood BPM suite, but it definitely provides a BPM solution.
      Thanks for the information. I’ll need to do a bit more homework on the subject…


  3. Oh dear, in healthcare, the use of any of Twitter, Google+ and Facebook would not result in HIPAA friendly messaging.

    Civerex addressed the issue of POS (point of service) messaging a long time ago in a case management environment by having messages go from process steps to peers, domain experts via a secure internal messaging facility.

    In the interest of continuity of care across shifts, it is important that a user who has a question (needs a 2nd opinion) at a process step be able to dispatch a message from the POS and have some other person (unknown at the time the message was sent) receive the response at the POS and take note of the question and the answer.

    Example; I ask a question at 14:50 hrs, then go off shift and my night shift replacement (whom I do not have to debrief) sees the pending process step, sees the outgoing e-mail question and sees, at the process step, the response.

    So, the peer or domain expert needs to have his/her response go to the process step, not to the originator of the question.

    • Hi Karl,

      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m not sure I can find an example of added value, from using social tools in healthcare, but let’s take another example “Criminal Investigations” – analysis of information relating to major crimes investigations.

      Take “CIVER-MIND”, add a social dashboard, so that every investigator would receive straight away, on-line, ongoing investigations links and data.
      Like twitter – If you see 3 “tweets” about post office robberies in a certain area – you know that there is an ongoing spree. You could warn the other post offices in the area, thus enabling the investigators to become proactive, instead of just analysing after the fact.

      Social tool functionality won’t replace existing software solutions. It will just add another enabling functionality.. call it acm+


  4. I’m working on a project at my company to build a mobile app that manages tasks from our various workflow systems. We just finished the Proof of Concept with great success!

    We are using Airwatch for security to get users validated and behind the firewall. Then we have services into our workflow systems.

    When this is implemented later this year we expect to see an increase of more than 30% with mobile users.

    • Thanks Krista for the update.

      Building an iPhone application for field technicians to receive and update work orders on mobile devices is great. Simple, smart and useful. We still need a way for all the other devices to be able to hook up (Blackberry,Microsoft, Palm, Nokia, Motorola…). But I still think you are going about it the right way (and probably way ahead of the rest of us…)


  5. I suggest that’s Chatter is also social media within a BPM application (by a broader definition of BPM). In the end, the social-within-business application that will storm the walls MUST be, 1) deployed on every desktop alongside true functionality (not just BPM for some and social for all), and, 2) must be linked/associated with the drivers of business value, not just another communication stream alongside for the ride. I have some thoughts on exactly what that looks like, but maybe that’s best left to my blog :-).

  6. […] There are two technologies I'd advise watching, as we enter the second half of 2011: Enterprise Streams and Mobile Enterprise Streams One of the annoying technical issues BPMS tools need to negotiate with – is Outlook. It's the rugby player in the middle of the field that we are all trying to avoid, tiptoe around quietly. Most BPMS solutions use emails to deliver tasks. Most organisations use Outlook. Even if there is a tasklist portal, Outlook w … Read More […]

  7. Mobile also enables context aware BPM. The ultimate case for this is perhaps location awareness where business process execution can take into account the physical and perhaps changing location of the resources.

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