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

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

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)

Forrester v Gartner and the Future of BPM

Long regarded as the software equivalent of the offside rule in football, BPM might just be starting to get interesting. At long last there appears to be some debate happening in the BPM world with a gap emerging between analyst firms Forrester and Gartner on how they see the future of BPM (and Case Management).

First of all Gartner applied the paddles to the BPM corpse earlier this year with the announcement of their iBPMs (intelligent Business Process Management suite). They state that a iBPMs suite has all the features of today’s BPMS complemented with more advanced technologies like advanced analytics, business intelligence, social media and mobile applications. iBPMS use cases will integrate more analytics, social and mobile capabilities into processes making them more intelligent.

Confusingly though Gartner describe iBPMs as a new usage scenario, stating that it should not be compared with their previous BPMS MQ, yet they go on to state; “Our research indicates that the IBO use case represents the future of BPM tools and is experiencing rapid adoption.”

If Gartner have revived BPM Forrester might just have lobotomized the patient, completely changing its personality and how we will view BPM moving forward.  In contrast to Gartner, Forrester have a leaner, packaged, application vision for BPM and have defined a new process category called Smart Process Applications (SPA). These are 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.

Forrester’s confidence in the SPA market is such that they have put their neck on the block stating that they expect Business Process Management suites to be renamed “smart process platforms”.

So what’s my view? Who’s right Gartner or Forrester?

The cloud and the app. internet, as is the case for many SW applications, is a game changer for BPM. In our personal lives we are used to obtaining SW on demand, with little or no configuration required. We will and increasingly are expecting the same of our business software.

Like the software equivalent of Mr. Creosote Gartner’s iBPMS vision sees BPM moving in a different direction, continuing to expand and devour every new or emerging business trend its path. But is a BPMS really the best place for advanced Business Intelligence, Analytics and Social media capability or is it better to integrate with best practice elsewhere?  By adding all of these capabilities are we not continuing to make BPM more complex? Gartner’s iBPMS is a useful BPMS capability reference but iBPMS fails to address many of the issues holding back the wider adoption of BPM suites.

Gartner View of BPM

             Gartner View of BPM

Business process on demand, whether we call it BPaaS or SPA is the future of BPM.  BPM suites will continue to play an important role but increasingly as a cloud based engine for the delivery of on demand pre-built process applications rather than as an on premise application.

BPM in the cloud and BPaaS/SPA transform the business case for BPM applications extending the target market to small and medium sized organizations.  Increasingly organizations will look to these pre-built, good enough, on demand process applications rather than deploy and design their own in house processes. As a result I think Forrester’s leaner SPA vision rather than Gartner’s bloated iBPMS view represents the real future of BPM.

Forrester View of BPM

                                                              Forrester View of BPM

 

The Cloud – Transforming the Business Case for BPM

Despite rumours of its demise, or at the very least it’s description as a doddery old man who’s gotten lost after accidentally wandering out of the old folks home, there might be life in the old BPM dog yet. Like the movie Cocoon where a bunch of old folks are rejuvenated by alien visitors, the cloud has the potential to regenerate BPM.

The cloud is an opportunity to transform the business case for BPM and process improvement. Today many BPM applications are largely the preserve of large and multinational enterprises. BPM SaaS/PaaS presents the opportunity to extend the market reach of BPM applications into the SME market. Low start off costs and the ability to only pay for what you need with the reassurance of elasticity and scalability on demand has the potential to transform the business case for BPM for many organizations. The availability of on demand, pre-built process solutions delivered via cloud based BPM platforms takes this a step further giving SMEs the opportunity access to process solutions and industry best practice that they would have been unable to develop in house.

BPM in the cloud creates a business process outsourcing (BPO) opportunity for organizations with a specific area of process expertise. Organisations with specific domain expertise in for example financial services, healthcare or legal services can now not only deploy cloud based process solutions within their own enterprises but rapidly enter the BPO market and resell their intellectual property (IP) through the development of BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) process applications.

Deployment of business process solutions is de-risked through the ability to carry out rapid prototyping and testing of BPM solutions in the cloud. For organizations still developing their cloud strategy business process solutions can be incubated in the cloud before bringing on premise.

Most BPM vendors offer applications across a variety of mobile devices and form factors. Cloud computing extends the mobile capabilities of BPM suites through access to cloud based storage and processing and delivers process access via web browsers on any device, anywhere.

While it’s been slow to develop the cloud is a major opportunity for BPM. BPM SaaS/PaaS is an opportunity to strip away, the sometimes self-inflicted, barriers to entry for process improvement, to stimulate much broader adoption of BPM technologies and to engage with a whole new audience.

BPM and Case Management Cloud Integration

As well as introducing (to me anyway) yet another Gartner addition to the cloud taxonomy in the form of “integration platform as a service (iPaaS)” this article by Ross Mason “Will loud hit the wall without good integration?” poses some interesting questions for BPM and Case Management.

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