If This Then What is the future of Workflow and BPM?

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets users connect multiple different mobile apps based on a simple rule. “This” is the process trigger, “That” is the process action. Today the tool lets users rapidly create connections between 71 applications or what IFTTT calls “channels”. The simple workflows created between channels using the IFTTT rule are called recipes and can be shared within an IFTTT community.


So what’s the big deal?

In the BPMS suite we’ve been executing simple and complex business rules like If This Then That for years. The emergence of IFTTT is important because it does two things that BPMS does not do well; integration and simplicity.

Many business processes cut horizontally across organizations and as a result touch multiple business applications. There is thus an ongoing drive among BPM and Case Management vendors to continuously enhance their integration capabilities. This is however a continuously moving target and integration remains one of the greatest obstacles for the successful deployment of both cloud and on premise BPM solutions, often adding considerable cost and time to projects.

When it comes to the integration of cloud and mobile applications into business processes the difficulty multiplies. We are only just seeing the emergence of smart process applications and on demand business processes. Mobile BPM applications have emerged with integration to back end systems but is any BPM vendor doing mobile app to mobile app integration?

Mobile and cloud app integration is a key IT battleground. As business software users we regularly use mobile apps and on demand software to address business problems. This consumerization of the business IT landscape however sits uncomfortably with IT heavy BPM projects.

IFTTT radically simplifies the process of stitching together and automating web services and as such throws down the gauntlet to other business applications that are heavily reliant on application integration.

Consistent with consumerization IFTTT empowers users to integrate and develop their own workflows. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to expect this simple IFTTT rule to be extended to support more complex rules and events and ultimately encroach into the market for workflow and BPM applications.

IFTTT Channels

IFTTT Channels

7 thoughts on “If This Then What is the future of Workflow and BPM?

  1. Regarding the future, my take for the past couple of years has been that BPM will merge into ACM.

    The reasons are straightforward and, to me, logical –

    BPM had a niche focus, now it has an expanded scope plus the work environment itself has changed (more knowledge-based, less straight-through end-to-end).

    As a result, BPM needs to be change.

    Why put BPM in ACM instead of the reverse?

    Reason: You cannot do Case Management without Case, ACM has Case and BPM runs well under Case. Most BPMs don’t have anything that resembles Case. Go for the low-hanging fruit.

    For more info, see

    “What is BPM? When will they stop asking?”

    Regarding IFTTT. “What’s the big deal?” – There is no big deal.

    Transaction based processing has been around for decades. You have data, it needs to be processed, the obvious need is to send it to a place where it can be processed.

    It does not matter where that place is, except no point shipping data to the “cloud” and back if your destination is a processor sitting next to the point of origin of your transaction.

    I guess the “big deal” is we are close to running out of usable three-letter acronyms so we now have 4/5 letter acronyms. this makes them more difficult to remember.

    I suppose we could have stayed at 3 by switching to Chinese.

    • Hi Karl. As I said in the post the big deal here is that this is workflow design, admittedly basic at this stage, and mobile application integration in the hands of the end user. This IMO is a fresh look at process design and application integration for the mobile era. The simplicity of design and integration is a pointer towards a different future for BPM and Case Management.

      • Hi Peter, to be bluntly honest I could not agree less. This has nothing to do with process design in the first place, is not usable for ad-hoc processes and it also lacks the functionality for solid case management, adaptive or not. There is neither a definition of case goals nor performer assignments. It is a cute toolkit to sove a major limiiation of mobile app interaction. Kind of mobile business rules … Yes, there are other opportunities, but it wont make any inroads in the process management arena.

      • Hi Max, that why I used the terms “basic” and “pointer”. It’s clearly not a replacement for the BPMS or Case Management suite yet.

        In my opinion current BPMS and Case Management suites are an anachronism in today’s consumerised business environment. IFTTT points at a possible way forward.

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