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.

iftt

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

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Why has the BPMS Market Stalled?

The BPMS MarketAccording to a recent Gartner report after years of double digit growth the total BPMS market declined by 1% in 2012 to £2.3Bn.

So what’s the reason for this decline? Gartner propose quite a few reasons including M&A activity in the BPM vendor market creating uncertainty and the hype surrounding other SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) technologies that has had the effect of putting the BPM baby in the corner.

While many of the reasons for the decline proposed by Gartner are valid in my opinion I think there have been two primary reasons for the decline:

The Cloud

BPM was late to the cloud market and remains today primarily an on-premise play.  There were a variety of reasons for this delay and my own thoughts on this can be read here.

For IT leaders evaluating or executing on their cloud strategy a meeting with a BPM vendors pushing on premise deployments must raise some concerns. “Should I really be considering an on-prem BPM investment at this time when my gut instinct and my execs are telling me to focus on the cloud?”

In the long term there’s no need to panic. The BPM market is, I think, in the process of making a right hand turn. As more demand BPM and Case Management process applications emerge e.g. BPaaS and smart process applications, underpinned by a BPMS growth will re-emerge.

It’s the Economy Stupid

Many of the IT planning and funding decisions for 2012 will have been made in 2011 when the economies of both the US and Europe were still struggling to recover from the crash of 2007. The EU continues to recover extremely slowly and it’s noticeable from the Gartner report that the BPM market in Western Europe actually declined by almost 7% in 2012. The economic impact hasn’t just been felt by BPM vendors. Outside the BPM market the Business Intelligence market growth slowed considerably from the approximately 17 percent rate experienced in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

What do you think? Is this a temporary blip in the BPMS market or the first sign of a much bigger problem?

BPMS - No Need to Panic

BPMS – No Need to Panic

Intelligent Process Applications

Check out my new blog Intelligent Process Applications. This blog will be about the future of business process, what I refer to as Intelligent Process Applications.

This blog will continue to be focused on transforming customer experience and employee empowerment using BPM and Case Management.

Intelligent Process Applications

The Consumerization of BPM

July 10th 2008 was a watershed date in personal computing. On this date Apple launched the App Store marking the first time that software applications could be purchased and installed onto a mobile device without having to sync with a PC or laptop. The App Store, launched with 552 applications, has now over 1 million apps. The launch of the App store wasn’t just a key moment for personal computing; this event also triggered fundamental changes in enterprise computing as well.

Our personal technology experience has changed our business IT expectations. The ability to download a game or a lifestyle software application in seconds and use it intuitively without recourse to a user guide is now taken for granted in our personal lives. When it comes to how we use software in our professional lives things have moved much slower. In the enterprise long software purchase lifecycles with large up front license and professional services costs still dominate. However this model is now under pressure from post pc employees frustrated with delays in software selection, approval, implementation and change timescales as well as business leaders determined to drive down upfront cost and total cost of ownership.

Consumerization

Consumerization

The consumerization of IT is the manifestation of employee desire to bring their personal IT experience into their working lives. Employees are increasingly creating their own technology solutions to address business problems. Bring your own technology (BYOT) has been most aggressively adopted by senior executives with Forrester reporting that 77% of executives buy their own hardware and 45% self-provision software. With this senior level endorsement BYOT is an issue that’s not going away for IT departments.

Into this brave new world steps the Business Process Management (BPM) suite. Established BPM practices are an anachronism in the post pc, consumerized business environment of today. Creation of BPM centers of excellence, the complexity of many BPM suites, heavy implementation, integration and professional services costs contrast greatly with the demands of the consumerized employee. Employees and executives are looking for a short term tactical play where previously BPM only offered a strategic one.

This too is now changing. Newly cloud and mobile enabled, today BPM suites now have the tools to respond to consumerization. Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) and Smart Process Applications (SPAs) are emergent BPM trends that represent the evolution of the BPM market to address the requirements of the post pc generation.

Rather than product or price, in the new millennium business agility and customer experience are the key competitive differentiators. Whether it’s a pop-up store or Instagram, where a $1Bn business was built on 13 people and scaled to over 14M users in little over a year using a variety of cloud technologies, the ability to rapidly deliver processes gives an organization the edge. Step forward consumerized BPM.

BPM – Have we been flying upside down?

I was watching the current season of Mad Men last night and a bit of dialogue struck a chord. Ted Chaough was flying his new colleague Don Draper in his small private plane to a meeting with a client. After some bumpy weather Ted uses an airplane analogy, “Sometimes in life you think you’re the right way up when in fact you’re upside down. Gotta check your instruments.”

Mad Men - Ted and Don

Mad Men – Ted and Don

This got me thinking about BPM. BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller and medium sized businesses. All this time we’ve been recommending building this huge BPM ecosystem within enterprises and have then wondered why BPM has struggled to take off.

Maybe all this time we’ve been flying upside down. Maybe we should have been deploying rapid, pre-built or almost pre-built BPM applications, with clear business value and rapid ROI. Maybe we should have been searching for the quick win, to show off the potential of BPM suites before thinking about broader, more strategic process improvement.

With the emergence of BPaaS and Smart Process Applications it would appear that at long last someone has taken a look at the instruments.

The BPM v Case Management Debate – this time it’s in the Cloud

It’s happening again folks. Just when we thought the BPM versus Case Management discussion had been finally put to bed Forrester have gone round blasting their car horn and woke the debate up with their publication today of their Smart Process Application (SPA) wave. In this sequel the debate has moved to the cloud.

Forrester define Smart Process Applications as packaged process apps that encompass many of the characteristics we associate with case management business processes including collaboration and variability. SPA characteristics include ease of use with the ability to be modified rapidly in response to changing business and market conditions. Crucially they expect the cloud to be the primary delivery infrastructure for SPAs making them easier to deploy, support and continuously improve.

Cloud Processes

Cloud Processes

However an already established definition, BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) exists for business processes delivered based on the cloud services model. So what’s the difference between a SPA and BPaaS? Are they the same thing? Are SPA’s a subset of BPaaS? Or are we about to have another debate over transactional versus variable business processes, BPM versus Case Management?

Is BPaaS BPM in the cloud and Smart Process Applications Case Management in the cloud? Are BPaaS applications high volume, cloud based transactional business processes and SPA applications lower volume, variable, knowledge worker focused processes in the cloud? Do we really need another term added to the cloud services model?

In my opinion SPAs will be viewed as a subset of BPaaS, as enhanced BPaaS functionality in the same way that Case Management features are viewed as enhanced BPM functionality today. In the same way that some BPM suites offer case management today some BPaaS platforms will be able to offer SPA capabilities and others won’t.

(P.S. Click here if you want a free copy of the SPA Wave)

Is BPM now a Tactical Play?

Is the future for BPM strategic or tactical? A recent client engagement has thrown into focus a debate that is beginning to emerge about the future of BPM. To give you some background, the client is looking for an expense management solution and is having an internal debate on whether to choose a prebuilt, off-the-shelf application or whether to build their own in house solution using a BPM suite. The accounting department, who will use the solution, are recommending purchase of the pre-built application, emphasizing speed of deployment and lower cost as their key motivating factors. The IT department, who hold the budget, are recommending acquisition of a BPM suite, motivated by the classic BPM reasons of process flexibility and extensibility into other departmental processes. The accounting department is thus looking for a quick tactical play; the IT department is looking at a longer term strategic play.

Is BPM Tactical?

Is BPM Tactical?

BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller businesses.

Increasingly however BPM will be viewed as a tactical rather than strategic play. For example Forrester believe the smart process applications market will be a $35Bn market by 2015 and Gartner expect the business process as a service (BPaaS) market to have grown to $84.2Bn in 2012. While the figures may be so big as to be almost meaningless and a significant proportion of this market will not be BPM opportunities what is clear is that the market for on demand process applications is significant and growing rapidly.

In our personal lives we expect to download an app and begin using it in minutes and with no training. Increasingly we are expecting the same user experience in business. Today this is most apparent in the increased trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOS (Bring Your Own Software) and the exponential adoption of generic SaaS applications like SalesForce.com. It was inevitable that business process applications would follow this path.

Process On Demand

Process On Demand

The growing demand for pre-built business process applications is a challenge and an opportunity for BPM vendors. A challenge because any organization with process expertize in a specific market segment can now quite easily set themselves up as a business process outsourcer (BPO). An opportunity because ultimately prebuilt business process applications extend the market for process optimization from medium and large organizations to smaller organizations for whom the cost of a BPM application, development, training etc. is prohibitive.

While the classic strategic reasons for deploying BPM suites will remain, increasingly organizations will deploy process solutions for shorter term tactical reasons. In this tactical scenario the role for BPM will be as a cloud based, on demand, process delivery engine. The future for BPM is tactical.