The Year Ahead for BPM -- 2016 Predictions from Top Influencers

Nathaniel Palmer

Amara’s Law: We Overestimate the Effect of a Technology in the Short Run and Underestimate the Effect in the Long Run.

Although he passed away on New Year’s Eve nearly a decade ago, during his tenure as president of The Institute for the Future (TITF) over the years of 1969-1991, Roy Amara’s work prophesied much of what was ultimately realized through the impact of the Internet (as seen from the earliest days of ARPANET) and which today defines BPM and “groupware” (a term he likely coined, and has been associated with TITF since the early 1980s).

Amara led an ensemble cast of scientists, names arguably now more famous than his own, such as Paul Saffo, Bob Johansen, and Jacques Vallee. Yet Amara was the futurist’s futurist. He was a thought leader with few peers, and out of his work came what has become known as “Amara’s Law” which states that “we overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

This is of course true and visible in any area of technology, including (in fact particularly) with regard to BPM. For years we have claimed that BPM would change the world, and indeed each year it has, even if not quite by the magnitude its most passionate proponents had hoped and claimed. Nonetheless, year over year BPM has advanced. There is a compound effect at play, and as we look back just 5 years ago, nonetheless over the last decade, the impact of BPM has been both indisputably profound, and for most underestimated.

Where not long ago we described BPM in terms of its potential, today it is easy to measure what it has done. The enterprises who have adopted BPM are forever changed for the better. If not all of them, certainly most – this claim is true where it was not always the case. Today the success stories easy to find and impossible to ignore.

Last year we pronounced that BPM was at the beginning, and not the end, of an inflexion point. Specifically the BPM had become a key leverage point in the arrival of digital disruption – ultimately disrupting everything with no finite boundaries on what it will change. Indeed, everything today that we see, touch, buy, consume, require to live – it will all be affected in one capacity or another. Do we really mean by BPM? Yes. We can say with a straight face that it will be nearly impossible to identify any part of digital lives not touched by process technology.

Digital transformation and digital disruption is more than simply “things” – robotics, sensors, wearables and the other cool tech which hog the spotlight. These are merely catalysts, where it is BPM that the offers the real leverage point. Over the course of 2016 we will be focused on how to fully exploit that leverage point – how pivot to digital transformation through BPM. We will be kicking off that conversation over the next few weeks with a series of articles, podcasts, webinars and white papers.

We have asked both leading BPM software vendors and the top BPM thought leaders to share their views on what to look for, and what their plans are for 2016. This vision provides a roadmap of not only what is store for BPM in 2016 but the road ahead for digital transformation. Here is a sampling of what they said.

FCBSteve Stanton - FCB Partners

  1. 2016 will be the year of measurement. No organization can operate without accurate objective feedback on performance. Metaphorically, smart organizations will be moving from flying by line-of-sight to flying with instrumentation. The pace and complexity of the environment demand better metrics.
  2. 2016 will be year when technology driven process designs take off. Usable process half-lives have been shrinking, but now, a host of quick implementation technologies (cloud, mobile, sensor) will allow process designers to more frequently improve their process’s designs. As we move into the post-ERP era, the center of tech gravity will move away from IT and towards process and operational leaders. Technology today is too important to leave to traditional specialists.
  3. 2016 will be another turbulent year, especially for traditional industrial-era companies. It’s too difficult for many to compete with upstart competitors who have different DNA and don’t suffer from the hierarchies and bureaucracies of traditional models. Despite their scale, many dinosaurs are doomed. We will unexpectedly see several large long-histories companies either be acquired by disruptors or begin their “long irrevocable” decline.

SignvaioGero Decker - Signavio

For many years, it was biotech, gaming or other B2C software companies topping the charts for fast growing companies. This year, it is BPM specialist Celonis who won the prestigious Deloitte Fast 50 Award in Germany as fastest growing tech company. This is exciting news for the BPM community as a whole: lots of innovation is happening in this space, especially driven by the young and upcoming players.

Last year, we predicted the uptake of Business Decision Management (BDM). This proved to be right: Our partners are onboarding thousands of consultants on to this topic and are already delivering on the huge demand for BDM.

This trend will continue in 2016, as more and more companies adopt BDM for Compliance (turning regulation into actionable decisions), Performance (optimizing process through decision automation) and Innovation use cases (managing variations at scale and leveraging more data for better decisions).

BDM, combined with Process Intelligence, Process Design and Workflow, provides a powerful platform for Business Transformation, enabling the right moves in a world of rapid change.

XMProPieter van Schalkwyk - XMPro

We see a bi-modal use of BPM technology that will accelerate in 2016. Traditional BPM will continue to service request-driven "workflow" style applications that revolves around Request, Review, Approve use cases. The second mode leverages BPM capabilities in event-driven applications with more of a "Sense and Respond" approach to streaming data from applications, services and smart devices (IoT). This mode combines real-time operational intelligence with business process management.

Augmenting processes with robotics will increase in awareness as forward-thinking organizations are starting to integrate robotics, drones and 3D printing into their operational business processes. BPM will have to demonstrate that it is a key enabler for digital transformation otherwise it will continue to be confined to classic workflow and automation role in the organization of the future.

PegaSetrag Khoshafian - Pegasystems

2016 will be an interesting year for BPM, particularly in the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT) and customer experience transformation. A theme that will continue to build momentum is the business value of IoT: will it be realized, can it be realized, and, if so, how? The revenue opportunities that connected devices will offer to those within the service economy in particular are potentially significant and over the coming 12 months, it’s a trend that will become increasingly prevalent.

Another important aspect of this trend that should not be overlooked is the transformation of customer experience itself as a result of this increased connectivity. Clearly, intelligent and dynamic BPM will continue to play an important role in listening, engaging, and resolving customer requests. However, 2016 will see this augmented by the IoT providing the foundation for even more compelling services. These services will be necessary in order to meet the needs of increasingly demanding connected customers, resulting in far greater flexibility in customization and configuration of services, resulting in even greater end-to-end customer engagement. Thus, a new generation of customer relationship management empowered through BPM/DCM as an essential link between IoT and CRM and involving ‘Things’ as essential participants or targets will develop and quickly become critical over the coming year.

Jim SinurJim Sinur

Process is about to overcome the stigma of being only useful in saving costs and optimizing rigid work patterns in and around organizations. This will be true long term, but there is so much more to BPM. While business process management (BPM) is not considered one of the flashy technologies in and around digital business, it will become an essential enabler of digital businesses. Tomorrow's Digital Business Platforms (DBP) will have a strong thread of BPM for work management and the development of resource and task management. With the emphasis in digital business on incremental transformation, dynamic process / case behavior, rapid iterative development, visual business and better customer experiences, BPM is an obvious enabler for 2016 and beyond. The trends in digital business are unstoppable, so emergent and growing BPM will be dragged along as the invisible enabler.

BPM will enable digital work because it can manage and collaborate with autonomous and intelligent resources. It can handle emergent business patterns, assist decisions and see that emergent work reaches critical goals and dynamic milestones. BPM can be the hub of visual development that works in an incremental and innovative way by supporting experimentation and fast low code development. BPM can support incremental composition, re-composition and incremental transformation allowing for evolutionary business practices as well as revolutionary new business models. BPM can be a hub for visual operations and customer customization within governance constraints.

Red HatPhil Simpson - Red Hat

Our prediction is that 2016 will be a year for real business transformation! Technologies like BPM, data virtualization, app integration and mobile are finally coming together in ways that will enable businesses to rethink their operations and focus on engaging with their increasingly empowered customers. Dynamic BPM technologies, like case management and intelligent processes informed by the Internet of Things, will feature strongly as we move from automating routine work to assisting knowledge workers to achieve their goals. Competitive pressures have never been greater, and many businesses need to make fundamental changes to compete with the next Uber, the next Tesla. We expect to see a greater emphasis on rapid development of componentized applications by citizen developers – business experts building their own solutions on low-code platforms supported by IT. BPM will play a critical role here, orchestrating the interactions between users and IT services and driving each customer towards a desired outcome.

In 2015 we have seen some real BPM successes for Red Hat clients. We believe that 2016 will see the beginning of much larger scale automation, driven by a burgeoning IoT and the availability of advanced analytics, decision management and intelligent processes.

Here’s to 2016!

BPM-DDr. Mathias Kirchmer - BPM-D

  • Discipline of Strategy Execution: According to major research only 13% of businesses meet their yearly strategic goals. BPM will increasingly become THE management discipline of strategy execution, addressing this issue. It will be positioned and executed accordingly.
  • Value from Digitization: Digitizing the real world only realizes its full potential if this leads to new innovative processes enabling superior business value and new operating models. BPM becomes THE enabler of value through Digitalization.
  • Innovation: Process innovation has become a major contributor to business innovation. BPM drives this change. It becomes a key part of the innovation process.
  • Chief Process Officer: With the growing importance of BPM for strategy execution, this emerging top management role will become more and more main stream. Visionary process practitioners can start moving into this role or existing executives, like CIOs or CPOs, transition into this role.
  • Digitizing Process Management: The “process of process management” will be raised, step-by-step to the next level of maturity through appropriate digitization approaches. The preparation of “Digital BPM” starts now.


AuraPortal iBPMS empowers organizations to make optimal use of new technology and digital media.

In 2016 digital transformation will be a priority for organizations as they realize its importance in building new business opportunities and increasing customer engagement. IoT will be involved in more BPM projects. Disruptive technologies, gadgets, wearables and innovation will enhance the customer experience and drive deeper customer engagement. Leading BPM vendors will inspire customers to leverage new technologies and embrace innovation. These devices and solutions will redefine competitive advantage in practically every industry with exceptional development in manufacturing, transportation, retail and healthcare.

Customer expectations will drive vendors to deliver faster solutions with demonstrable ROIs. To meet the challenges vendors will simplify processes to adjust to the constantly changing customer behaviors, providing agile processes that work at the pace of dynamic customers with increased importance on personalized experiences.

Technology will accelerate business, emphasizing the need for real-time information, fast intelligent analysis and rapid reaction times.

Nathaniel Palmer
Author: Nathaniel PalmerWebsite: http://bpm.com
VP and CTO
Rated as the #1 Most Influential Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) by independent research, Nathaniel Palmer is recognized as one of the early originators of BPM, and has led the design for some of the industry’s largest-scale and most complex projects involving investments of $200 Million or more. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief of BPM.com, as well as the Executive Director of the Workflow Management Coalition, as well as VP and CTO of BPM, Inc. Previously he had been the BPM Practice Director of SRA International, and prior to that Director, Business Consulting for Perot Systems Corp, as well as spent over a decade with Delphi Group serving as VP and CTO. He frequently tops the lists of the most recognized names in his field, and was the first individual named as Laureate in Workflow. Nathaniel has authored or co-authored a dozen books on process innovation and business transformation, including “Intelligent BPM” (2013), “How Knowledge Workers Get Things Done” (2012), “Social BPM” (2011), “Mastering the Unpredictable” (2008) which reached #2 on the Amazon.com Best Seller’s List, “Excellence in Practice” (2007), “Encyclopedia of Database Systems” (2007) and “The X-Economy” (2001). He has been featured in numerous media ranging from Fortune to The New York Times to National Public Radio. Nathaniel holds a DISCO Secret Clearance as well as a Position of Trust with in the U.S. federal government.