A Changing BPM Landscape

 BPM Landscape

Peter Schooff: Hello. This is Peter Schooff, managing editor of BPM.com and today I have the great pleasure of speaking with Neil Ward-Dutton of MWD Advisors. Neil as you probably know is one of Europe's leading enterprise technology advisors and researchers, he has a long heritage with BPM. His current focus is on the new world of automation, and how organizations are bridging old and new worlds and embracing digital technologies and strategies. Neil will also be a keynote speaker at BPM Next which is largely what we're going to be discussing in this podcast, and the BPM Next is coming up this April in Santa Barbara. First of all Neil thank you so much for joining me.

Neil Ward-Dutton: You're very welcome, it's great to be here Peter.

Peter Schooff: How would you say, how has the BPM market landscape shifted over the last twelve months and what do you think this means for the next twelve months.

Neil Ward-Dutton: Well it's really continuation of something we've seen for the last couple years here in Europe. Most of the work that we do here is focused around the European markets. Certainly what we're seeing here is, as I said, continuation, not completely new stuff but a continuation of what's been happening over the last couple of years. That PLAYS OUT in a couple ways. Less explicit pursuit of BPM as a kind of independent practice, so yes there are still people out there who have centers of excellence, the core BPM center of excellence and they pursue BPM as a practice in their companies. We're not really seeing many more organizations take that up, but at the same time we're seeing very strong continuing adoption of the technologies. BPM technology platforms are being used to create new types of business applications.

I guess you can kind of summarize that by saying that BPM is kind of becoming more embedded proposition. It's less a kind of headline thing that people, the organizations seems to be thinking about, but absolutely it continues to enter into organizations as a set of technology and techniques. So that's one thing, the other thing we're seeing is a steady up-tick, probably the best was I describe it, in interest in open source alternatives. Whether that's from Camunda, Red Hat, Bonitasoft or Alfresco this is technology that you can just get started with and play for free and work with community editions.

Those things have been pretty popular and I think both those things are kind of natural outflows from the way that this technology is maturing and just becoming more and more mainstream.

Peter Schooff: Great, I've definitely seen the evolution of this thinking on the MWD blog that you guys write. Also, we've seen automation discussed more than ever. What do you think automation means for the BPM market?

Neil Ward-Dutton: This is a great question. I've seen some discussion over there at the BPM.com site on this topic and I think certainly I would agree with you that automation broadly is discussed more than ever. I think there is a couple of key pieces to that. There's a very big picture level discussion that's going on at the C level around automation. That's really about how automation is moving from factories and warehouse and how new technology there are starting to ... the conversation starting to be more, "Are those technologies going to play roles elsewhere in more organizations?"

Automation isn't just about core manufacturing but it's about helping people navigate warehouses, it's about helping people choose optional parts, any is that going to go further into kin of clerical work, into the kind of more routine knowledge work. There is a high level of discussion around that and I think absolutely that is the trajectory we're on.

At the same time there's a kind of bottom up conversation that's happening which is particularly around something that's become known as Robotic Process Automation, which is a terrible, terrible term in my humble opinion. It doesn't sound very humble, does it? Sorry. It's a shocking label for essentially kind of intelligent integration technology that enables organizations to streamline a lot of the kind of swivel chair integration stuff.

In the old days back when I started in this industry we called it host integration OR screen scraping, which is a bit of a derogatory term. The technology has definitely grown up, it's become more intelligent, more automated. Fundamentally, it's still that kind of technology. Having said that, I must take a lot of interest in that, there's a broader picture here around automation and BPM technology is definitely or should be part of that broader conversation about, "How automation has the opportunity to affect work and be there as just one part?"

We're seeing some vendors address this bigger picture, for example Pegasystems has been a part of this conversation for quite a long time. Not because of what it does in robotic process automatin but for what it does in decision automation for a company; the business rules, the recommendations. It's just not automating how work is coordinated but it's also automating some decisions and certainly automating some smart recommendations.

We're seeing a bigger picture automation conversation, BPM should be a very active part of that conversation, it's not always, it depends how you talk to.

Peter Schooff: Very interesting. Something else we're both seeing, is the idea of digital transformation. What part does BPM play or where would you say BPM is most valuable to organizations who are pursuing digital transformation?

Neil Ward-Dutton: There's actually a whole host of different things organizations can use these technologies for, if we're talking about the technology side of it which I think we probably are. One are where I've seen organizations really take to this and it's very practical, quite tightly scoped thing which proves to be super useful in helping to create good multi-channel experiences in helping organizations kind of coordinate the ways that they interact with customers across multiple channels and do that consistently. We're seeing a number of organizations, I'm thinking of a few specific examples in retail, telecoms, in government, those are the three that spring to mind around that particular kind of use case. There's actually many, many different areas where BPM technology can provide an enabler for digital transformation.

You talked about value, and I think this value piece is really interesting. Think about what a BPM technology platform enables? If we strip out the technology specifics, like BPMN and so on that people get HUNG up on ... but that's one side and think at a more abstract level.

What are these things enable? They enable collaborative working across boundaries, to build solutions, that's one thing they do, they do really well most of the time. They enable agility in how you manage change to your applications, the way people work. They enable VISIBILITY of performance and the ability to use that to change. When you think of it in those terms, those are three key pillars of digital transformation actually but the link to BPM technology isn't often made by people and I think that's a real missed opportunity.

There's a whole host of particular use cases and I think the alignment actually between what BPM tech can actually do and what people need to do these transformation, the alignment is really strong but it's not often very well understood.

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Peter Schooff