Cloud forces BPM to become easy

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By Tom Baeyens

Business Process Management (BPM) is on a turning point. I’ll show current state, where we are heading and what is truly exciting about it.

ACM is merging into BPM

BPM Systems today is about simplifying development of custom enterprise software solutions for repetitive, typically larger grained tasks.

Adaptive Case Management or Advanced Case Management (ACM) is all about so called unstructured work. Goals and tasks that are broken down into smaller bits as they are being processed.

Almost any organization larger then 10 people with a fair portion of knowledge work can benefit from BPM and ACM. The main reason why adoption has not reached that scale is the value proposition. For people new to BPM, it is hard to digest the diversity of information to see the value it brings.

Complexity was a friend

Both vendors and analyst firms in BPM have had a strong interest to make it sound a bit complex. These products are mostly sold to the executive level. If you sell a simple task list, you are probably not able to charge as much as if you sell a BPM System with loads of bells and whistles. CIOs can spend the time to learn the values of all those features and see how those will pay off.

Many of the older BPM Systems (aka suites) now have a hard time switching gears. For them, cloud is about hosting. So they add multi-tenancy as capability and host their software themselves. In the next paragraph I argue there is a more fundamental difference between the technical aspects of cloud and how products on the cloud work.

The impact of cloud

Cloud can be looked at in terms of CAP theorems and virtualization. But those new technology advances have cause more important and unstoppable trends.

Prosumers (professional consumers) became important purchase decision makers, in some cases becoming as relevant as the CIO’s. New products have adapted to those new clients. Prosumers have a shorter attention span and need to see clear and immediate value for themselves.

To illustrate this, think of a CIO comparing 2 BPM products. Often this results in a feature table with checkmarks. The older BPM systems are totally focused on this form of evaluations. They pile as many features as they can and as a result, user experience always suffers.

On the other hand, new cloud services aim for viral adoption. Enabling the a new user to get a success experience in the first 5 minutes without training is the goal. Prosumers also require a very clear and simple value proposition for them to make that 5 minute investment.

So there is a new category of buyers on the cloud and they created a sharp focus on user experience and a direct value proposition. These are 2 aspects in which BPM Systems have to do a lot of catching up.

The dots

Cloud computing made creation of new products extremely cheap. A massive wave of new startups has been formed trying out every thinkable combination of ideas. That resulted in an extreme pace of innovation.

A couple of those innovative cloud startups show some aspect of BPM, even though they do not associate themselves with BPM. Together they can give a sense of direction for BPM in the mid term future.

Trello
Trello is about managing tasks in teams. Tasks start of as just a simple task with only a title. But people can start to discuss, share documents, links and create subtasks. That way tasks can grow organic. This form of social collaboration around tasks can also be seen in Asana, Do.com, Producteev and many others.

These services include a task list and case management features typically a big component in BPM Systems. But the user experience is a lot simpler, the value proposition more direct and the social interactions are tuned for professional usage.

Wufoo
Wufoo is a simple yet powerful form builder service. Wufoo is mainly designed for contact forms on websites. In BPM, forms are created for completing tasks. Most BPM Systems have much more complex form builders.

Ifttt
While BPM die-hards may laugh at the simplicity of the process capabilities in services like ifttt and zapier. But they do show a very interesting point. Integration is typically the most technical aspect in BPM Systems requiring developers to be involved in making executable processes. Ifttt brings integration to a level so that average knowledge workers can do it themselves without requiring a developer. That on itself is a revolution compared to typical BPM Systems.

Together Trello, Wufoo and Ifttt form a substantial part of a BPM System.

Connecting the dots

The services mentioned above are not associated with BPM. That will change. And it’s not those services that will change. It’s the notion of BPM that will adapt to this new environment. BPM will become a lot simpler, deliver value faster, cheaper and easier to adopt locally.

That sums up how we see BPM at Effektif. Inspired by these innovative cloud services and a long track record in the BPM space, we’re creating an integrated solution with a razor sharp focus on user experience and delivering direct value to end users.

And we believe that the days are numbered for solutions that rely on perceived complexity to justify their high price. Today, it’s all about what you enable your users to accomplish on their own. BPM will be easy or it will be replaced. Let’s make it easy!