Note: Here I am talking about BPM software as it exists today, *not* Business Process Management as a discipline.

Long live BPM! Business Process Management, BPM for short, is close to couple of decades old. I feel sad for the companies that make Business Process Management (BPM) Software. Reason? They have been fighting the perpetual battle of adapting to the change that has been plaguing this category.

At first I think the BPM Vendors got the basic premise wrong. Early stage BPM softwares were heavy duty integration middlewares. They were built on the premise that large enterprises already have the “Apps” and they are not going to redo it. But those legacy apps lacked a “process” layer. So, if you slap a “layer of process” on top of the “legacy apps” - viola, you have a BPM enabled system. It didn’t turn out so easy. Except for few instances where the vendors put in their mega effort for the purpose of creating success case studies, it didn’t go anywhere. Around that time, SOA came and added fuel to the fire. Most BPM vendor were busy repositioning themselves as SOA vendors and they missed the people part completely. During this chaos, BPM thought leaders like Clay Richardson were instrumental in moving the BPM vendors from an integration centric architecture to a “collaboration” focus spanning across people and systems.

Then in 2008, “Cloud” started to show up. While SaaS was clear already, clarity over different layers of Cloud, vis-a-viz, IaaS and PaaS started to emerge around 2009-2010. Within the PaaS category, a special type of platforms called “Application PaaS” emerged and threatened the traditional BPM vendors. Big players like Cordys and Fujitsu quickly white-washed their BPM software as “Application Platform-as-a-Service”, aPaaS for short, only to confuse the customer and eventually face a brutal exit from the market like in the case of Cordys which was sold for a pittance of mere $33million to OpenText. Cordys had raised $80m in funding and was doing $52m revenue as per vendor’s self declaration to 451 research few months prior to acquisition. Cordys numbers are puzzling to me. Except for Appian, Bonitasoft, Intalio and Pega, most of the other BPM vendors were either acquired, closed or irrelevant.

It is 2014 and it is a world of “Apps” out there. Users are expecting instant gratification or close to instant gratification when it comes to software. In the case of BPM software, the users expect a “Self Service” model. A model where the process owner and process creator are one and the same and she makes reasonable compromises to the process and the system to get things going fast! If she makes a mistake, she changes it on the go and keeps moving forward. The current BPM products are nowhere close to this paradigm. They are faced by yet another brutal change and sadly most will not survive this phase. The cost and time expectations of the users in the self service BPM Software model are order of magnitude lower and none of the current BPM vendors have a model to adapt to this change! Now, What is your POV?

Suresh Sambandam
Author: Suresh SambandamWebsite: http://kissflow.com/
Founder & CEO
Suresh Sambandam is the Founder & CEO of OrangeScape, the creators of KiSSFLOW workflow software. KiSSFLOW is the #1 workflow product in Google Apps Marketplace with 10,000+ organizations using it across 108 countries. Suresh holds 3 US patents and specializes in enterprise software space specifically meta-data driven enterprise systems like rule engines, business process management systems (BPMS), workflow engines and enterprise application integration (EAI).

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Suresh Sambandam