Longtime BPM.com contributor Theo Priestley, a well-respect BPM expert and industry gadfly, has joined Software AG as “Chief Evangelist.” BPM.com’s Managing Editor Peter Schooff interviews Theo on this recent development and his outlook on the BPM industry overall.
BPM.com: So even though you've just started with Software AG, how's it going?
Theo Priestley: Hectic. We're preparing for our big annual conference Innovation World in October so there's a lot of focus on that just now, it's going to be of real interest for a lot of people to learn what others are doing with Software AG. There's also been a lot of interest inside and out about me joining and there's a lot to get to grips with as you can imagine. I have regional responsibility for everything outside of the US and Canada and across the portfolio of solutions including the recent acquisitions we've made. It's a big task but as Chief Evangelist I really do have the scope to make a difference.
BPM.com: What is the single thing you're most passionate about with BPM, Theo?
TP: Its future. I think BPM has the chance to take centre stage for once, if it figures itself out and where it naturally sits in the 'Nexus of Forces' as Gartner calls it. Process sits at the intersection of all these trends, it's the only way any of them actually make sense as an action. Where that intersection happens is different for all organizations because of their own priorities, so the push-pull of each force defines their process differentiation. And the methodology has to do exactly the same: take into account these trends and allow practitioners to adapt in the same way. That means BPM experts can't ignore having to keep up with what's going on in the IT world, including Six Sigma and Lean.
BPM.com: What are the biggest opportunities you see in BPM today?
TP: The same as I've just stated, really, the ability to adapt and offer organizations efficiencies and differentiation based on a combination of factors and not just process alone.
BPM.com: What would you say are the biggest challenges ahead for BPM and for Software AG?
TP: BPM has always had a challenge to be sexier than it currently and always has been perceived as. There's no company that can make BPM as attractive as Salesforce.com has done with CRM. I mean, take CRM for face value and it's actually very limited but the combination of marketing prowess and Marc Benioff's charisma has turned it into a massive success. Every year one of the analysts publishes a survey that says BPM is one of the top lines of the agenda for the (current) year but it's lip service and really wrapped up in cost saving initiatives. That's where BPM has to break out from, just being perceived as a way to cut costs. It can do so much more.
And to be honest, that's a part of the mission I have with Software AG. I'm bringing sexy back.
BPM.com: What are the biggest challenges facing a company starting out with a BPMS?
TP: How mature their attitude to process is. I've come across this several times in my career where they're all fired up after reading various reports that a BPMS can solve their inefficiencies, but when you question them about their capabilities internally, they're nowhere in the equation. Process is always treated as an afterthought. Capability and process maturity have to be at the top of the agenda when considering a software solution because they're not all equal and some are more technical than others.
BPM.com: You recently said process modeling doesn't matter...can you elaborate?
TP: There's a finite line where process modeling hits the law of diminishing returns. It's immutable. For exposing processes internally and defining performance indicators, governance and ownership, it's essential, as is the need to interconnect with training for example. But crossing the line you end up with just a massive content management system. At some point you have to realize that the effort required to continually update and maintain a massive process library is better spent automating the processes. What would you rather do? Spend years on a reference library or actually deliver efficiency?
BPM.com: Big data, cloud, mobile, social: if you had to pick one, which do you think will be the most influential. Which the least?
TP: Funnily enough I've just written a blog post about one of them. The least influential right now is cloud. The NSA and PRISM exposure has basically slowed that industry to a crawl because of concerns with data security. It doesn't matter whether it's data or process artifacts, you're holding for clients now. The damage has been done and the death of on-premise was greatly exaggerated. After chatting to an analyst this weekend he revealed that 100 of his clients are wary of cloud now, and the closure of encrypted email services like Lavabit and Silent Circle are just the start.
Most influential? That's a really tough call actually. Both mobile and social change the face of how process interacts with people across the enterprise and with customers. But at the heart of it all is data. When companies combine an MDM strategy with Big Data and tie it with BPM for example, then you have an alignment of structured and unstructured data with structured and unstructured process. That's quite a potent conjunction.
BPM.com: How important is enterprise architecture in all this?
TP: Zachman, TOGAF and such frameworks define and help process understand where it sits within the whole IT and business picture. It's important as an overall c-level strategy in context but I don't believe it drives BPM. I've always preferred TOGAF for this because it's a business driven approach.
BPM.com: It is conventional wisdom that maturing markets consolidate into “big 3" competitors and primary market leads. Do you see that happening with BPM? Where is Software AG in that equation and why?
TP: Market consolidation always happens, last year and the beginning of this year was no exception. Big players will swallow smaller but only where the synergy fits. If they don't than it's actually a sign that you're not enough of a threat to remove.
I believe we're at a point in the BPM market where consolidation is coming to an end. The main players are too well established to be eaten by another at the same level, and the smaller ones don't offer enough differentiation to warrant an acquisition. So M&A strategies will always be in a different domain to broaden solutions.
If you look at where Software AG sits in analyst reports, we're always in the same league as the big players. That's quite an achievement and it's a sign of the strength of the BPM portfolio we have with ARIS and webMethods. We're well positioned as a leader with our solutions and professional services to go up against the likes of IBM, Pegasystems, Oracle, TIBCO, etc. The differentiation is not only in the software but in the ability to act as a trusted adviser to our clients.
And with a Chief Evangelist with a reputation of being a respected influencer in the industry, Software AG is better placed than most now.