Minimum Viable Definition of BPM Technology, Part 2: The BPM Core

Part 2 Part 2In support of selling and promoting the adoption of BPM software technology, what is the simplest definition of BPM technology itself?

What is a definition of BPM technology that provides maximum clarity concerning what is unique and important about BPM?

We call such a definition the “minimum viable definition” of BPM technology.

There are many definitions of BPM technology, including those found in textbooks, and there are several excellent definitions of BPM produced by BPM community professionals. Many of the definitions offered are very worthwhile!

From these definitions, we learn that BPM technology is both very broad and very powerful. And we learn too that BPM technology is important to business – and even revolutionary in its implications.

Trying To Sell Mount Everest Not A Good Idea

But all this excitement and possibility is lost if we see BPM technology as a cross between Mount Everest (overwhelming size) and a Rube Goldberg device (overwhelming complexity).

So let’s define what’s really important about BPM technology, and – for now anyway – leave out all non-core BPM technologies that we’ve seen in the Dimensions Of BPM Technology diagram in Part 1 of this Paper II.

For example, we are going to exclude management practices from our definition of BPM technology. A good example of management practices is the question of “performance management”. Certainly performance management is an essential activity for any organization. But performance management exists whether BPM is present or not. And the fact that a given BPM software package includes features that help us with performance management or other higher level features is not germane to our quest to understand the value of BPM.

With a focus just on core BPM, we’ll have the freedom to truly highlight the radical nature of BPM software technology, specifically what makes BPM software unique.

Performing this task of stripping BPM technology down to its essentials can be seen as a very positive and refreshing step. There has been a sense in different parts of the BPM community (circa 2016) that BPM is an old and tired story. And interestingly one can even pick up this “BPM pessimism” from BPM vendors, with some vendors leaving the market and other vendors de-emphasizing the “BPM-ness” of their offerings, preferring instead to focus on “solutions”. (This might be an excellent business strategy for a given vendor, but it doesn’t do much for the promise of BPM technology as such.)

In Paper I we identified the key technological capabilities which distinguish BPM technology. These capabilities were identified as being “first-class citizens” of BPM technology. And we noted that this collection of capabilities was assembled for the purpose of supporting the automation of work. The Minimum Viable Definition must therefore include all capabilities required for this purpose – and nothing more.

Components Of The Minimum Viable Definition Of BPM Technology

Here are the components of a minimum viable definition of BPM technology. Products providing the functionality included in this definition will enable human actors to produce useful work automation artefacts.

Components of a Minimum Viable Definition of BPM Technology

  1. BUSINESS – Concepts of work are first-class citizens of BPM technology. The implication is that BPM technology is directly usable by business people.
  2. PROCESS – The concept of repetition is a first-class citizen of BPM technology. The implication is that BPM technology is widely applicable in typical organizations (given that repetition is specified by organizational economics).

These first two components of a Minimum Viable Definition of BPM Technology address the question concerning the relevance and importance of BPM to business as the technology of the work of business.

To complete BPM technology as a full software solution, the automation artefact manufacturing life-cycle is added:

  1. MANAGEMENT – The concepts of modeling, manufacturing, use and management of process automation artefacts are first-class citizens of BPM software technology. The implication is that BPM technology is technology which empowers business management to automate work processes, thus directly affecting organizational capabilities.

Tooling and integration technology is not part of the Minimum Viable Definition; nevertheless these capabilities are required for any given BPM product to be useful.

  1. TECHNOLOGY – Organization-ready capabilities typical of business-class software with tooling, integration, and interfaces for use with multiple systems and users, all make BPM software technology packages usable in a business environment.

With these canonical components of a Minimum Viable Definition, we can now craft an actual definition that is concise and compelling, and we’ll also add to the Definition a statement of the implications of that Definition.

Minimum Viable Definition Of BPM Technology

BPM Is The Technology of Work

Business process management software technology (“BPM”) is the technology for automating the work-of-business. By definition, in BPM automation technology, and only in that technology, concepts of work and process are first-class citizens of the technology.

Consider the significance of using this definition in the workplace. CIOs, architects and business analysts, not to mention sales people or line-of-business executives, can make a statement about one technology that will resonate in any board room or CEO office: “BPM is the technology that is directly about the work of business”. The immediate implication is that any business project, especially concerning business transformation, should involve BPM software technology. The claim is bold, certainly. And both business and technology executives are rightly wary of hype. But BPM software technology is real and it delivers.

Meaning of BPM Technology for Organizations

Only BPM software technology directly enables business-side staff to directly imagine, model, manufacture and use automation artefacts for any desired business process, minimizing IT-side mediation.

New generation BPM software technology thus enables organizations to evolve or transform business capabilities more rapidly and affordably than is possible with any alternative.

Papers I and II in the BPM Technology As Revolutionary Enabler series have explored BPM software technology and the Minimum Viable Definition. Papers III and IV will explore the state-of-the-art in BPM technology, some of the challenges of using the technology, and the responsibility of management to step up around BPM usage culture.

Pointer Next up in the Series -- Paper III, Part 1, Manufacturing The Automation Artefacts Of Business Capability: We do a deep dive on the power of imagination! Building great tools for business transformation and operations is what BPM is for.

Paper Road Map

There are four papers in the Series: Explore BPM Technology As Revolutionary Enabler:

  1. The first Paper, “Why BPM Is Unique & Important”, introduces the exciting topic of BPM software technology and why BPM so relevant to business today. Work, process and modeling are revealed as built-in to BPM software, enabling rapid construction of new business capabilities. Published in five parts.
  2. This second Paper, “Minimum Viable Definition Of BPM”, introduces the whole BPM ecosystem but then zeros in on the Minimum Viable Definition. Promotion and adoption of BPM software technology is facilitated when the unique value of core BPM is clearPublished in two parts.
  3. The third Paper, “Challenges Of Being A BPM Pioneer”, highlights technical keys to success for a BPM programme. BPM software technology is not mature, and “results may vary”. However, there are ways of narrowing the “cone of outcomes” for your BPM programme.
  4. The fourth Paper, “Adoption Process & BPM Institutionalization”, covers how BPM software technology adoption can accelerate beyond the current technology grid-lock, a process which is less about technology and more about community.


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John Morris