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.

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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

 

Unsourcing – The Future of Customer Service?

Why bother outsourcing customer support when you can get your customers to do it for you. I’ve been watching the success of giffgaff with interest for a while. For those not familiar with giffgaff it is a UK mobile service provider where customers participate in the company’s business operations, specifically Marketing, Sales and Customer service.

As well as via the Giff Gaff community web page Facebook and Twitter provide additional channels for customer support. Support is provided socially, by fellow customers rather than using Giff Gaff employees.

This trend of setting up online communities to deliver peer to peer customer support has been dubbed “Unsourcing” and is not limited to Giff Gaff. The obvious reason for many organizations choosing to unsource is cost. Gartner estimates that using communities to solve support issues can reduce costs by up to 50%.

However viewing unsourcing as an opportunity to reduce customer support risks repetition of the same problems that have beset organizations who have chosen outsource their customer service to emerging economies, most importantly creating a disconnect between the organization and its customers. Simply viewing customer service as a cost center rather than for example an opportunity for differentiation and as a source of new product ideas is doomed to fail.

Unsourcing has a number of benefits. It allows Gen Y customers to interact with organizations via the social channels with which they are most familiar and to engage with fellow customers who share a common interest. In addition it creates a bond between an organization and its most important customers.

Unsourcing will become a key aspect of the customer service mix rather than a panacea. Organizations will still need to ensure that their customers aren’t left high and dry should they not get the right answer. If it’s a complaint they will need to ensure it is addressed as quickly as possible. They must monitor the channels to detect emerging trends, product problems or new product opportunities. In other words they will still need to tie the social or unsourced customer to business processes.

BPM Marketing – A Failure to Connect?

As we embark on another round of BPM navel gazing, otherwise known as the BPM conference season, I’m wondering whether the BPM Marketing community are failing to connect with our target audiences.

A couple of recent blog articles brought this to mind. This first article by Ian Gotts “Why does nobody care” highlighted the declining audiences at BPM conferences compared to huge audiences for CRM events.

This second post by Connie Moore highlights the failure of BPM to engage with the C suite, the majority of whom she says don’t really care about process and methodologies and are turned on by business outcomes, profit, market share, growth.

The role of marketing is to create connections. This is done by clearly defining the problem you are trying to solve and showing your prospect how your product or service does this (preferably with case studies to reassure the client). The two blog articles indicate that BPM is failing to connect.

Customers don’t buy BPM suites they buy solutions for business problems. BPM customers don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves, you know I really need some complex rules, predictive analytics or social bpm. Instead they enter the office with problems they need to solve; transform customer support, drive increased revenue, lower service delivery costs or utilize their staff more efficiently.

Which brings me back to this year’s BPM conference season. How can we light a fire of interest in BPM and connect with our audience? I’ve an idea. BPM conferences regularly have solution provider sessions. These solution sessions however tend to be around the edges of the event, separate from the main conference tracks focusing on BPM technology and related topics like organizational change.

Conference organisers should flip this model on it’s head. Focus the event not on BPM technologies but on BPM Solutions, with solution tracks for Finance, Government, Telco, Retail etc. and push the BPM technology and theory sessions to the edge of the event. Let delegates see best practice elsewhere and learn from it, let them see what is possible with BPM rather than the potential of BPM. Then we’ll begin to connect.