If you draw a bell curve for BPM, you will probably find it has actually passed its peak – it is coming out of more CIO and CEO’s minds than it is going into. Memories of those horrendous Process Modelling Meetings where everyone drew process diagrams and at the end of the day they got rolled up and put in a cupboard still haunt people – and when you try to explain BPM they say “not that old stuff again”.
The curve for understanding of Process, however, looks more like an S curve. And it is still rising fast. My old friends at Amazon must get the credit, but also the guys at the Big-Data firms, the companies like Import.io, Zapier, IFFFT and a host of other apps which make it simple to connect one piece of data with another and create a mini-process. Process is winning the hearts and minds of most business executives.
But there is every sign that the two are not connected. Whole fields like Marketing have suddenly become process driven, but there is no BPM in sight. New initiatives like Internet of Things which should be linking sensors into a process are not even considering BPM to create the processes they link to. And E-commerce is also passing BPM by.
This isn’t very surprising. BPM is an old-fashioned process system designed for IT people. Part of BigIT, itself on a downward spiral, giving way to apps.
So it is still strongest in the slow, step-change, BigIT types of companies and industries. Sad given its agile, continuous improvement capabilities. But ironically, these are just the fields where it is seen as an upstart, fought off by the BigIT programmes like SAP and Oracle, resisted by siloed managers and made impossible by the very fact that systems in these companies are not joined up.
So we have two choices.
The first is to penetrate those big slow industries. If Oracle, for example, really got behind its BPM offering it could create a step-change in BPM adoption. But it won’t – its BPM product is only a spoiler to stop people defecting to IBM.
The second is to create agile BPM – the sort of product which you can simply clip into e-commerce systems, BigData aggregations and dynamic web tools. Where users themselves can create decision trees and processes to run their marketing, sales, HR, facilities and other operations, without needing to get IT involved.
We need to take BPM away from IT and give it back to the user. Or simply keep watching its decline, linked inexorably to the decline of BigIT.