The Year Ahead for BPM -- 2017 Predictions from Top Influencers

The Future of BPM Isn’t Mobile

Nathaniel PalmerThis year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and in the last decade we have seen an extraordinary shift in customer expectations. This can be observed in several areas, some striking and others opaque. Yet we have one vivid illustration which illustrates just how dramatic this shift has been. The scene below shows St. Peter's Square outside of the Vatican on two different years. In both cases a large audience anxiously awaits the news of who will be named the new Pope. The first in 2005 was the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI. The second was in 2013 for Pope Francis. The same event, same place, and likely many of the same people, yet something happened between 2005 and 2013 which led to a very different picture!

By 2013, as perhaps even more so today, we experience the most important events of our lives through the lens of our phones and mobile devices, our constant companions. This has fundamentally changed how we form social bonds, as well as our expectations for how should be able to interact with the companies we do business with.

St. Peter's SquareAs a result of this dramatic shift over the last decade, nearly every firm has a mobile strategy today, yet most have truly missed the point on why customers care. It is not the iPhone which excites consumers and drives innovation – it is the promise of (and expectation for) instant gratification. If you cannot provide that, I will quickly find someone who can. The value you offer to me erodes the longer it takes you to satisfy my desire, and the business value I represent to you drops just as fast, as I am become increasingly likely to move on to your competitor. We have a basic framework for illustrating this very notion. If you cannot provide that, I will quickly find someone who can. The value you offer to me erodes the longer it takes you to satisfy my desire, and the business value I represent to you drops just as fast, as I am become increasingly likely to move on to your competitor.

About 5 years after the iPhone came the Kindle Fire®, Amazon’s answer to the iPad, and with it an innovation which today could be leveraged on any mobile device today – the “Mayday” button. Hit the Mayday button and in an instant you’re having a live conversation with an actual human being, who is able to resolve nearly any support issues with either the device, or the service Amazon delivers. Yet most importantly this innovation spotlights the key disruption just now shaping consumer expectations and is the model for the future of customer interaction – CONVERSATIONS.

Amazon EcoToday the symbol of disruption for consumer expectation and digital channels is not the iPhone, Kindle or iPad, it is the Amazon Echo ®. Although the Echo itself is merely a vessel. As a device it is merely a speaker and a microphone, but speak and you shall be heard. What drives this innovation is a cognitive capability (Amazon’s Alexa®) which translates verbal commands into actions – conversations instead of taps onto a tiny screen. Soon these conversations will be heard across an infinite spectrum of enabled devices, and the way our customers will expect to interact will be not through taps and clicks, but conversations. Does this sound like BPM? Perhaps not the way BPM has been leveraged for the last decade, but represents the interface for BPM looking forward, and most importantly BPM is the best-equipped platform for delivering the connection to operations and business rules for any customer transaction. To be clear, what ultimately enables any business and consumer to conduct business through conversations is the leverage of Business Process Management (BPM).

Today process automation (sans BPM) still looks a lot like the same investments in industrial automation for the last 40+ years but designed for optimal efficiency and consistency. Industrial engineers designed the ideal routes to move objects in the most efficient way possible, across fixed pathways unable to adapt based on what is in the package. The challenge is that fixed pathways are not consistent with the way we work. We do care about what’s in the package.

In a conversational model, we cannot fully script out in advance the sequence of steps and end-to-end processes without knowing the exact context of any given task we will be performing. Leveraging BPM over other modes of process automation expands the range of what can be automated or otherwise managed. It is the combination of process, rules and data which frame today’s BPM platforms which enables “intelligent automation.”

Today’s BPM platforms deliver the ability to manage work while dynamically adapting the steps of a process according to an awareness and understanding of content, data, and business events that unfold. This is the basis of intelligent automation, enabling data-driven processes adapting dynamically to the context of the work, delivering the efficiency of automation while leveraging rules and policies to steer the pathway towards the optimal outcome.

This is an exciting moment in the evolution of business innovation, where industry has finally caught up to the potential offered with BPM. Over the next month we will provide many learning guides for how BPM can, will and even has already begun to drive digital innovation. Kicking this off, we have asked the industry’s top thought leaders and market shapers to offer their predictions on what they think are the most important trends for 2017 and beyond.

SignavioGero Decker -- Signavio

What BPM is strong at is helping companies manage change. Over the past years, we have seen that the pace and impact of change have increased significantly. More and more companies understand that they have to become a model-based business to stay ahead. This means they need to be more process-focused than ever, leveraging the collective intelligence of their organization on the one hand, and insights from the vast amounts of data available on the other.

What might change in 2017, however, is how our discipline is called. More people already talk about 'Business Transformation' than 'BPM'. But no matter how we call it, focusing on the operational model, constantly improving and re-inventing it, this won't go away for a long time to come. And we can all be very excited to be part of this journey.

FCB PartnersSteven Stanton -- FCB Partners

The first is that process digitization will be the dominant issue for traditional organizations as they look to performance improvement. Old analog processes, designed in an era of information poverty, cannot compete with the speed and precision of digital processes which capitalize on today’s bounty of new technologies. Moving from paper, fax, and telephone to software-driven process designs will finally free organizations from their ERP prisons.

The second is that many smart organizations will find that they can achieve more by doing less. Instead of toady’s improvement frenzy, characterized by rampant “project-itis”, the launching of thousands of disconnected bottoms-up process projects, winners will do fewer but more transformational projects, supported by better staffing, project management, and sponsorship. Less will be More!

Digital Clarity GroupConnie Moore -- Digital Clarity Group

BPM is taking a big jump forward in 2017 with a focus on data.

  • Companies will deploy BPM for data consumption, quality, integration and distribution—essentially incorporating data into process initiatives. Examples include a European workforce provider and Coreso, which coordinates the European high-voltage electricity system. This focus on data heralds a new era going beyond process automation, improvement and agility.
  • Organizations will discover entity modeling as an alternative to traditional modeling; variables share the same data space which is defined through a set of entities. Although not new (e.g., it is core to BizAgi and Pegasystems) other vendors, such as OpenText, now offer it. Customers will follow suit once they understand the advantages. Entities are superior for dynamic processes or when multiple processes are tackled across an organization, plus they decrease the integration effort and cost by an order of magnitude.
  • Organizations will use BPM software to expose unknown or poorly understood processes so they can discover how processes work. While not new, more companies will use BPM for discovery-- in addition to automation/improvement--when they have poorly documented or largely invisible processes. Dubai Free Zone is an example, in addition to Coreso and the workforce company referenced above.

BPM-DMathias Kirchmer -- BPM-D

In 2017 BPM will continue its shift from a more or less internal efficiency focus towards significant external value creation. BPM becomes the management discipline for strategy execution and ongoing digitalization. It helps to focus on what really matters, improve in the context of specific organizational challenges and sustain those improvements. Rapid improvements to react to fast market changes, standardization and customer journey planning for consistently best customer experience, value-driven and process-led digitalization and system-implementation become typical BPM initiatives. Those initiatives are launched and managed through a value-driven BPM-Discipline, aligning strategy, people and technology.

PegaSetrag Khoshafian -- Pegasystems

2017 will accelerate a fundamental premise: the value of AI will be realized in the context of end-to-end processes, with the intelligence driving automations and interactions with edges (aka IoT), customers, all the way to the enterprise and its broader ecosystem. We see bots as well as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) becoming more and more intelligent and playing a greater role beyond simply automating rote tasks but moving front and center as a key part of the customer engagement story to deliver the optimal 1:1 experience. We also see artificial intelligence redefining the practice of BPM with machine learning providing automated insights and paths for optimized outcomes and further driving operational excellence.

These trends are not just about technology. 2017 will also witness elucidation in realizing sustainable DevOps, IT-OT, and automation best practices with increasingly accelerated continuous innovation for optimized customer experiences.

So, here is the challenge for 2017: how to sustain an accelerated rhythm of change and innovation with increasingly intelligent (AI) BPM best practice governance. Technologies such as Big Data analytics, AI, Robotic Automation, Bots, and of course BPM, are the enablers. Adaptive methodologies will become the catalyst for success. This tug of war will continue to persist. Organizations embarking upon digital transformation governance (Center of Excellence (Coe)) strategies will need to come to terms with a balanced approach that allows for business/IT agility, such as building MVPs and Microservices, but also provide governance over the increasing smart/connected “things” and bots across business silos.

Red HatPhil Simpson -- Red Hat

2017 is already shaping up to be a year of exciting new ideas in the business automation space! Over the last year we have seen IT development organizations look to BPM, and the many new technologies surrounding and supporting it, to enable them to respond to business demands for engaging new customer facing applications. Nowadays it is software that is key to competitiveness, and the “digital transformation” drumbeat is driving interest in more broadly integrated appdev stacks, where BPM is a central component. In particular we see demand for decision management tools, especially the use of Decision Management Notation (DMN), to supplement more traditional BPMN projects.

Robotics, and Robotic Process Automation is emerging as a potentially huge cost-saver for finally automating those manual process steps, and advanced analytics and machine learning tools are likely to make inroads to improve efficiency in business operations. We believe the most far-reaching changes came towards the close of 2016, however, with the somewhat unexpected popularity of Amazon’s Alexa and other intelligent personal assistants. Voice opens up many new possibilities for customer engagement, and we see BPM and its related technologies becoming the backbone connecting new user experiences to an organization’s operational processes and policies.

pnmsoft 250Vasileios Kospanos -- PNMsoft

Businesses and organizations are dealing with the need to adapt to changing market conditions faster than ever. This is pushing them to transform the way they do business and turn to technologies that enable them to compete and differentiate in today’s digital age.

PNMsoft believes that digital technologies, such as Dynamic Workflow, AI/machine learning, cognitive computing and IoT will become more prominent than ever in the BPM space in 2017. By utilizing these technologies, businesses can take advantage of the huge sets of data they’re collecting. These digital technologies can quickly analyze trends and make recommendations on how to operate going forward based on past results and trends. These are very powerful tools to support decision making and will allow for shorter cycles with continuous improvements and enhance the efficiency of products and services to the benefit of a rich and seamless CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

PNMsoft and the Genpact Lean Digital approach will continue helping businesses to improve their processes by implementing BPM solutions coupled with these digital technologies in 2017. The company’s efforts are supported by Genpact, a global leader in digitally-powered business process management and services. PNMsoft will utilize Genpact’s global reach, delivery capabilities and vertical expertise to quickly assess and deploy solutions.

Fujitsu AmericaKeith Swenson -- Fujitsu America Inc.


  1. BPM has become settled science, but that will be what is precisely what is needed to expose the limitations of the current approach to BPM. BPMN was converted from a descriptive notation to a programming language, and as such we will see it is useful only for the core 20% of what organizations need for their processes. The other 80% will require something that is not a programming language.
  2. We will increasingly recognize new organizational forms called "self managed" where the role of dedicated managers become less useful and less necessary, and organization without managers will start to out perform those with traditional management schemes.
  3. The idea of the "office as a factory" will be less relevant. Replacing it will come the "office as a vital dynamic network" which automatically re-configures itself as needed, particularly in response to perceived crises where the context shifts out of the control of the organization, forcing it to respond.
  4. Whereas BPM was an approach to eliminate crises, a new form of technological support will grow to replace it that embraces crisis. Instead of thinking of the organization as a machine that precisely repeats what it does, we will think of the organization as a conscious entity -- a brain -- capable of new, unexpected, and unique responses in the face of a changing world.

BP Logix E. Scott Menter -- BP Logix

I was struck by something that Keith Swenson recently said. He noted that, in 2016, none of the winners of the awards presented by his organization used BPMN to describe their use cases. That seems to me a remarkable development in the day-to-day practice of business process management, one that is not always reflected in vendor or analyst messaging. The change is, however, consistent with the idea of BPM as more than a process automation platform. Though it certainly continues to play an important role in digital business, process per se no longer has the spotlight to itself. Digital application designers are equally concerned with customer experience, response to external events, human-directed exception handling, and many other factors that BPMN was never intended to address.

In the coming year, enterprises will increasingly deploy BPM as a low-code digital platform for rapid application development. Along the way, these organizations will set aside even more relics of Tayloresque process centricity (I call it “draining the swim lane”), in favor of models that reflect a broader vision of how their businesses conduct operations, interact with customers, and adapt to changing markets.

IntellectRomeo Elias -- Intellect

  1. BPM will be adopted more broadly in the midmarket. With new vendors entering the market, competition is pushing the license and implementation costs down, so that companies that normally couldn’t afford a BPM implementation are finding it within reach. In addition, digitization and automation of manual processes are becoming common discussion points within the C-Suite which will increase the adoption.
  2. Configurable Apps will become more prevalent. These apps that are built on the BPM platform, are fully functioning out of the box and are vertically focused solutions. However, they come with the key advantage that companies can customize and expand them easily and cost effectively to their business needs through configuration.
  3. BPM solutions will be enhanced by artificial intelligence technology. AI will be able to assist in detecting inefficiencies in the processes at runtime, and optimize automatically by resolving, re-routing or escalating processes. In addition, BPM implementations will benefit and be aided by AI recommendations on how to best configure and automate processes.

princetonbluePramod Sachdeva -- Princeton Blue

The need to digitally transform is high on the priority list of most of our clients, and process improvement is a key component of that transformation. Most clients need to improve process transparency and efficiency in response to ever-changing market conditions and regulatory pressures. Business Process Management along with like Cognitive, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Internet of Things (IoT) will play a key role helping clients with their digital transformation journey.

Most clients are aware of the evolving cognitive capabilities and have seen a demonstration of this capability. 2017 will bring greater adoption of cognitive platforms to ingest large volumes of data and bring structure to content in natural language form, pdf documents and other unstructured content within the organization and on internet sources like news, blogs, forums, etc. BPM along with Business Rules will enable real-time pattern recognition from this big and unstructured dataset and allow appropriate notification and action.

Believe it or not, we still live with legacy systems that were developed a long time ago and don’t provide API’s for easy integrations. RPA platforms will enhance connectivity with these legacy systems and help automate the otherwise mundane and repetitive tasks performed by people and reduce the challenges of swivel chair integrations.

Decision Management SolutionsJames Taylor -- Decision Management Solutions

For BPM in 2017 two things are clear – the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard will become increasingly important and companies will spend less time on dashboards and reporting and more on operationalizing advanced analytics.

DMN is getting broad vendor support and we are seeing increasing interest from end user companies too. The ability to clearly and unambiguously describe the decision-making that matters – whether that decision-making is manual or automated, rules-based or not – is going to change how organizations think about their processes and systems. Identify, modeling and managing decisions makes processes simpler, smarter and more agile while making it easier to apply business rules and analytic technology.

Advanced analytics – data mining, predictive analytics, machine learning – are hot and organizations are learning that the trick is to be able to operationalize these analytics. This means embedding advanced analytic decision-making into their operational business processes. It means embedding analytics for data-driven decision making not just dashboards and reporting.

We plan to continue helping companies learn how to model decisions and, in particular, to make sure that organizations are modeling ALL their decisions – including their analytic ones and their manual ones.

CamundaJakob Freund -- Camunda

BPM as it has been defined in the past decade is crumbling away: The low-code BPMS are being replaced by focused SaaS tools like Zapier; the heavy-weight enterprise BPMS have discovered that the CRM market is more attractive; and ACM products never really took off, just like ACM as a concept never did. One of the few topics currently generating some buzz is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and that’s only because there are still enough fossilized IT landscapes in the business that are simply unable to expose their legacy systems with APIs. No wonder the BPM teams in the big IT analyst firms are crumbling away too.

Ironically, the actual need for BPM is still growing since at the end of the day, it’s just about getting things done. People still discuss how to improve their processes, and they invent technology to do that. They are just not a part of the past decades BPM community anymore.

Nevertheless, there are some concrete things in BPM that really do make sense, among them BPMN and workflow automation. It’s our mission to bring these things to the people caring about their processes even though they never cared about BPM, and we will continue to make progress in 2017.

BonitasoftMiguel Valdés Faura -- Bonitasoft

2016 was a year of unprecedented adoption of BPM technologies. BPM Application Platforms became the new face of BPM for a lot of organisations that were looking for alternative approaches to traditional enterprise application development.

In 2017 BPM Application Platforms will continue to expand their footprint by enabling businesses to create and maintain applications that improves end-users experience and continually align processes with the strategy, goals, and objectives of the company.

At Bonitasoft we will work with more and more innovative businesses building new kinds of BPM powered apps that will include some predictive and machine learning functionality. "Living Applications" that will improve customer engagement, will become more powerful and intelligent over time and will identify drivers for improvement.

2017 is the perfect time for BPM, predictive analytics and AI vendors to establish strong partnerships and deliver high-value technology integrations.

2017 will also be the year of emerging use cases and applications offered by blockchain technology. Blockchain will enable a paradigm shift in how companies do business by providing a new medium to exchange assets. The need to streamline, control, and optimize the business processes that use it will still be here, and BPM Applications Platform will have a big role to play.

Software AGSoftware AG

In 2017 companies will continue to expand their view of BPM as an instrument for reducing costs and increasing efficiency to an enabler for better customer engagement and innovation. One of the key drivers for adoption will be the digital transformation and the emerging need to provide digital products and services across industries. Beyond connecting business processes with the digital touchpoints of customers and partners, automation and orchestration will be highly relevant for leveraging Internet of Things. Real-time information collected from sensors or smart devices to kick off automated processes or workflows is just one of examples how process technology is already being used in IoT. Robotic process automation and machine learning will complement and fuse with iBPMS to add an additional automation component that reduces or even eliminates human tasks and make processes more intelligent and autonomous.

Further we see the shift from traditional BPM suites to more sophisticated platforms that support both IT and citizen developers to create and deploy agile process applications. Process, case, task and decision management are becoming integral part of Digital Business Platforms (DBP) that also include additional capabilities for hybrid integration, API management, real-time analytics or machine learning.

Since business departments are increasingly involved in business application development process itself, these platforms need to support IT driven and business innovation driven approach to application delivery but also enable exchange and collaboration between them. To achieve this low code development environment that enable business people to create applications by visual configuration instead of programming will be bridged with traditional IT centric environment on the same platform.


Whitestein Technologies predicts that 2017 will witness accelerated BPM evolution toward intelligent decision management due to pressures from increasingly digital landscapes. From a technology perspective, the ability to cognitively train and steer automation through business defined models ensures BPM tools are the ‘go-to’ enabling capability for enhanced value generation. 2017 will introduce goal-seeking process control agents, which surface their decision logic via externalized DMN. These agents will operate strategically and tactically to reduce friction and optimize process execution. They will deliver multifaceted, context-driven applications that streamline customer journeys and significantly improve employee engagement by simplifying work via dynamically generated workflows.

Whitestein Technologies uses the term cognitive automation to describe solutions that exhibit intelligence by actively adjusting system execution to achieve desirable business outcomes, while being guided by corporate policies and regulatory constraints. Of course, Big Data and deep learning will play a larger role in 2017 by supplying analytic outputs to the decision logic consumed by goal-seeking agents. A milestone of this evolution will be case studies showing the near complete automation of complex areas of work that currently require human navigation. These scenarios move rapidly past the short-term labor saving fad of RPA and instead leverage approaches that synthesize the stages of human cognitive problem solving (encoding, planning, solving, responding).

AppianBen Farrell -- Appian

Here's my prediction: in 2017 BPM will matter more than ever. The world is on fire talking about digital transformation. It’s important to understand what that really means, and where the real value lies. Meaningful, high-value transformation is not about doing the same old stuff, just faster or getting some of it done on a mobile device. Digital transformation is about using innovative technologies to fundamentally change how an organization operates; how it develops and delivers products and services; how it attracts and retains customers; and, don’t forget, how it engages and empowers its employees. All of that requires truly understanding your business processes and constantly evolving them at digital speed. BPM naturally lends itself to the speed virtues of the emerging Low-Code Development Platforms market, but as importantly, BPM is the silver bullet that adds enterprise-grade power to low-code development.

Peter FingarPeter Fingar

Crossing the Cognitive Chasm, Circa 2017

Many many pundits have made their predictions for cognitive technologies in 2017. Here we provide many links to those predictions. Let’s, however, raise our perspective and look at the state of cognitive from a macro perspective. We can use Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 classic “Crossing the Chasm,” but update it with a parallel update to Joseph Schumpeter’s 1942 “creative destruction,” the “process of industrial mutation that revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” To wit, look at Amazon’s impact on the retail industries with the once new technology of e-commerce (remember Borders Bookstores?). Now a new technology, cognitive technology, is driving creative destruction so it’s time to introduce the notion of the “cognitive destruction” of established industries,

For leaders of 1-800-Flowers, Artificial Intelligence technologies are so important that they are likely to radically change their business. Chris McCann, the President and CEO of 1-800-Flowers said,“ AI will enable us highly advanced customer relationships. It is as if we were starting a new company.

The awesome changes being ushered in go beyoud the creation or modernization of companies and their ROIs, it goes on to societal change... on to ethics: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.

Below are number of discussions and actions related to ethics, esp. in light of Fake News and Alt-Facts:

And here is a collections of predictions from the pundits, including master cyber criminals, super-trojans, workforce shifts, advanced analytics and more:

Welcome back from pundit-ville. Let’s go on to some macro-perspectives. Here is Geoffrey Moore’s classic model for adopting new technologies, esp. from a consumer’s point of view.

Chasm 1

But let’s move on from consumers of radical new technologies to the business and other organizations that need to adopt them for competitive reasons, for reasons of staying relevant. Forget Moore’s comphy bell curve, which is good for statistics classes. Let’s look at the “S” curve, where Late adopters and laggards are made irrevelant.

Chasm 1

So, without further ado, let’s consider two questions:

Will you be the doer?

Or the one done in, in the cognitive era?

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Nathaniel Palmer

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, 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 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.