The Year Ahead for BPM - 2018 Predictions from Top Influencers

Nathaniel PalmerNathaniel Palmer

Each year we (among the analyst and editorial board) approach the annual “What’s Next” article with not only a sense of hope, but a conviction that this will be THE year for the BPM market. For nearly a decade, this ritual has set a high bar of both goals and expectations, and most years they have indeed been met.

In 2015 we talked about the idea that Automation was no longer the anathema it once was, but was coming back into vogue as a key driver of BPM investments. That year we coined the phrase “Intelligent Automation” which now appears to be the banner of much of the industry.

In 2016 we talked about the emerging discipline of Decision Automation and Decision Management unique from Business Process Management. Indeed this is now one of the defining pillars of BPM software as well as one of the larger architectural constructs which define BPM.

In 2017 we were perhaps the most enthusiastic we’ve ever been, seeing green shoots of a true digital transformation driven by BPM. Last year was perhaps the most exciting of my career, with nearly each week bringing new validations of the work that we in the BPM industry have dedicated years, and in many cases our entire careers bringing to life. 2017 gave us the first BPM billionaire and top IPO of the year.

How could we possibly top that in 2018? Just watch us! This once again will be “the year.” We enter the year with tailwinds rather than headwinds. We face both exciting times and times of threatening uncertainty – and address it with more momentum and a far clearer direction than ever before. This will not be a year of pivoting, but it will be an inflexion point. I am as excited for 2018 as I was throughout 2017, and hope you will continue with us on the journey to find out “what’s next!”

SignavioGero Decker

Facts and feelings will be the two key drivers behind continued growth in BPM for 2018. Traditional subjective analysis approaches will be increasingly supported by objective analysis from Process Mining/Process Discovery Technology. This fact-based analysis will also be used in accelerating ERP transformations and to elevate Robotic Process Automation to a strategic level. The feelings aspect will come from a renewed focus on the customer, and broader use of customer journey maps to better understand how our business really works and how to transform operations to meet the demands of a changing marketplace. We are already seeing customers replacing top-level value chains with customer journey maps, and rethinking what an end to end process should really look like. Thinking from the customer’s point of view reveals gaps, roadblocks and insights that traditional process modelling approaches fail to catch.

Signavio has already started on our own journey to address these two key drivers. Redesigning Signavio Process Intelligence and adding a class leading Customer Journey Map capability, both of which have been very well received. We see that the combination of process modelling, decision modelling driven by customer journeys, will continue to help drive market penetration.

AppianMalcolm Ross

Tech/low-code predictions

The future of coding is less code: The demand for new digital solutions is growing at an amazing rate, and the reality of today is that traditional development just can't keep up. In the immediate future, the market will see an increased adoption of low-code platforms to accelerate development and creation of digital solutions. In the not so distant future, code will be generated by AI driven algorithms that create new digital solutions on the fly.

A new diverse crop of developers: Freed from the rigours of programming, low-code will help to diversify the pool of developers. In turn, there will be a greater contribution to enterprise digital solutions by citizen developers and business operations.

Lines between business and IT operations blur: As development becomes more efficient and automated, IT professionals will shift to more direct interaction with business operations. The most successful organizations will move their most skilled IT pros into testing future, bleeding edge technology, while business managers will blend with low-code developers to quickly create and change digital operations and customer experiences.

Industrial Revolution of Code: No longer reserved for tech titans the moniker of “software-centric” is very much attainable via low-code development. This new-found capability to achieve true digital transformation has given rise to an Industrial Revolution of Code, one in which individuals outside the IT sphere can contribute to projects and increase overall involvement in the end-stage application process.

CamundaJakob Freund

The BPM market is, under this label, in fact stalled, if not shrinking. Just look at Google Trends for the term "Business Process Management".

At the same time, there is a thing coming up that we like to call "Big Workflow": The problem of developing and operating complex, distributed, long-running and mission-critical activity chains, on a massive scale. The magnitude of this problem and the respective market potential is similar to what we saw with Big Data a few years ago. At Camunda, we continue our rapid growth despite the BPM market's stagnation, because we are more or less the only BPM vendor that actually solves that problem.

Capital BPMGene Rawls

BPM has become Digital Process Automation. Robotic Process Automation continues to be a primary discussion with our customers. A CIO left one of our clients and was replaced with a CDO (Chief Digital Officer). The words "digital" and "automation" seem to permeate the air around BPM. And those of us who have been working in this industry for the past few decades wonder, are we facing a real change or just re-labeling the same ideas?

My career has been focused on BPM because I have always wanted to empower the business, to provide the tools and processes to focus IT on the needs of the business. Today we are seeing no-code solutions, bots, and automation enable the business to better define and address their needs. Yes, the tools are changing, providing greater power to address the needs of the business. But Stan Lee is correct, "With great power comes great responsibility." As practitioners of BPM, I believe we still have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure process automation is built upon a solid foundation of well designed processes based on strong metrics. These are the guardrails we need to ensure are kept in place as we provide leadership during these changing times!


FCB PartnersSteven Stanton
FCB Partners

2018 will be a year of critical crossroads, where organizations will have to choose between:

  • looking backwards at process tasks, or looking forward to focus on process information and harvesting process insights as we truly move from analog action to digital information as our basic currency
  • mapping activity the traditional way or aggressively exploring decision making and accountability with new clarity
  • defining success at the silo level or having the courage to create corporate power at the center to actually implement meaningful standards

How organizations navigate these choices will have a dramatic impact on their success or extinction

Decision Management SolutionsJames Taylor
Decision Management Solutions -

I predict people will continue to lump Decision Management with BPM to the detriment of both. The best practice deployment of Decision Management technology such as business rules is as a stateless, side-effect free decision service. This means there is, or should always be, an arms-length relationship between BPM and Decision Management. Lumping them together just means that people focus on BPM and treat Decision Management as a poor relation - they tend to identify only small, intra-process decisions and think mostly about the process.

The right way to position Decision Management is with analytics and AI as a DECISION-MAKING approach not as a bolt-on to BPM. The right way to use business rules, analytics and decision-centric AI is decisions first. Decisions, like processes, are first class business concepts and should be treated as such.

Process Maker, Inc.Brian Reale
ProcessMaker Inc.

I predict that workflow microservices will disrupt the BPM market in 2018. Limitations of the workflow feature set in enterprise applications such as company ERP, CRM, or DMS systems have driven a significant portion of demand for BPM until now. This is about to change.

Lean serverless workflow orchestration APIs, such as ProcessMaker I/O (, are orders of magnitude more scalable than current monolithic BPMS. A modern API-first architecture makes it easier to implement best of breed BPM and workflow as a modular part of any existing application. “Workflow APIs as a Service” such as ProcessMaker I/O will begin to be incorporated in newer cloud architectures and applications. Fewer companies will need to install a complete BPM solution when their ERP, CRM, and DMS begin to incorporate best of breed workflow API functionality.

Microservices is not just a technological change; it is also a different business model. Workflow-API-as-a-Service pricing will be based on compute time, API calls, and/or token transitions, and it is fundamentally an OEM business. Similar to the effect of AWS on SaaS hosting, the micro economics of API-as-a-Service models will help accelerate innovation and push it to the perimeter, i.e. closer to the client.

TrisotechDenis Gagne

  1. BPM as a practice will continue to shift its interest from efficiency of operations (OPEX) to digital transformation (DX), shifting the organizational focus from inside-out to outside-in value creation. Continuing on the journey toward true business agility initiated some years back. BPM software will either follow suit to maintain relevance to current business challenges or disappear into the technological stack.
  2. Carried by the current Artificial Intelligence (AI) renewed fascination, many will explore Machine Learning (ML) for everything. Maybe even using ML to suggest next best business action, only to realize that unexplainable business strategies are no better than no strategies at all. Explainable AI is a must for business strategies and business decisions.
  3. Decision Management, and DMN (Decision Model and Notation) in particular, will rapidly be recognized as the next best tool in business process management. Allowing organizations to inject knowledge-based decisions services that are traceable, auditable and explainable into the process fabric of their operations. DMN penetration into the market will be rapid.
  4. The nascent Business Architecture movement will continue to grow and only find success if it is able to provide an agile method for business transformation. Too many still believe that the architecture is the deliverable, when the real desired outcome is agile business transformation.

BonitaSoftMiguel Valdés Faura

Digital Business Platforms (or Digital Transformation Platforms) permit the convergence of many major technologies — including BPM, AI, big data, IoT, mobility, RPA, security, cloud and more — to enable enterprises to create innovative digital solutions for both customers and employees. Digital Business Platforms will provide greater openness and extensibility to development teams, so they will serve more and more as “the” business cornerstone platform.

With BPM becoming the foundation of the majority of Digital Business Platforms (DPA’s), I expect mergers and acquisitions as well as strategic partnerships to be heating up in 2018, with BPM, iaaS, AI and API management markets being the most obvious examples.

In 2018 we will continue to see more and more examples of DPA’s as a catalyst of decentralized blockchain apps development. A new way to create blockchain apps involves modeling them visually, and application developers can mask the complexity of blockchain and make it easier to quickly integrate applications with any public or private blockchain technology.

PegaSetrag Khoshafian

The year 2018 will be a watershed year for innovations in digital process automation that will be both transformational and pragmatic. There are two facets of process transformation in 2018:

  • Digital Best Practices: In 2018 organizations will put much more strategic emphasis on the healthy tension between Digital Innovation Speed and Digital Competency Best Practices. Innovating fast will be very important: Low Code/No Code Digital Transformation (DX) platforms will become critical for the end-to- end digitization and optimization of customer experiences. But so will best practices in security, reliability, real-time agility, quality, governance, Cloud migration and re-use.
  • Digital Transformation Technologies: In 2018 four technologies that have evolved somewhat independently will be unified in DX platforms that orchestrate end-to- end digitized value streams for optimized customer experiences. The technologies are Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation, AI, and Connected Devices (IoT). These technologies are at different levels of maturity. In 2018 they will start coalescing through end-to- end automated value streams.

So in 2018 the winners will be those that know how to leverage the aforementioned technologies, innovate fast, while balancing them with the demands of competency best practices. There will be renewed emphasis on orchestration of operations, connected assets, trading partners, and customers. Concrete ROIs will be achieved through end-to- end digitized and automated value streams.

TibcoRoger King


  1. Over-hyped screen-scraping RPA enters trough of disillusion whilst AI-based Intelligent Automation platforms show the proper way to address the Cubicle Worker replacement problem
  2. Rise of persona-centric platforms - persona appropriate user experience trumps an enterprise offering dumbed-down into an "express edition" for Citizen Developers
  3. Low code flirts with going the same way as iBPMS as the analyst industry arms-race starts to bloat and stretch it where it shouldn’t go
  4. The final death of big-process and the crowning of dynamically orchestrated use-case centric process fragments as the saviour of BPM in an agile, digital business world
  5. Process Compliance and Governance platforms aren't sexy but every business of any size is going to realise it needs one
  6. Business Decisioning solutions are going to make a come-back as natural language, cloud platforms and function-as-a-service makes viable, truly centralised decisioning managed by the business


You'll just have to wait and see ...

Red HatPhil Simpson
Red Hat

At Red Hat, we're excited about the new releases of our BPM and business rules products that we are planning for next year. An overall trend that's driving our direction is the increasing influence of business users in the development of software applications, going beyond traditional business analysis roles to directly contribute business models to the application development process.

We believe that the only way to meet the business need for applications that engage with customers and are agile enough to respond to market changes is for business to become an equal partner with IT. This has been a long-sought goal for the BPM community, but the technology is finally coming together. New platforms will combine BPM, rules, low-code and AI capabilities with modern approaches to application development like CI/CD pipelines, containers and microservices architectures.

In 2018, we’re looking to enable business users to fully participate in DevOps processes, and contribute their expertise directly to modern, scalable, secure, cloud-native apps.

BPM-DMathias Kirchmer

Here are six key trends and predictions I expect for 2018 and the following years:

  • Discipline of Strategy Execution and Value-driven Digitalization: BPM is seen more and more as the management discipline focused on strategy execution across the enterprise. Digitalization has become part of basically every business strategy. BPM aligns people, their organizational units and the supporting digital technology, focusing everything on creating value for clients. Hence BPM becomes THE discipline that combines strategy execution with the related value-creation through digitalization. Process Governance becomes a key lever.
  • Rapid Process Improvement (RPI): Since the business environment changes so quickly rapid process improvement approaches will continue to replace slow traditional approaches. Using a value-driven approach to process modelling and repository tools in combination with process analytics and mining techniques resurfaces as a key enabler of sustainable agile process improvement.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA has started to close an important gap in next generation process automation. Combining RPA with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cognitive features makes it a powerful improvement component that eliminates more and more of the routine work in our offices.
  • Integrated Process and Data view: The best process does not work without the right quality of data and data is not worth much without the processes transferring them into value. Therefore an integrated process and data view is required. This is especially important in a digital world which moves fast and does not give much time to adjust processes and data. As a consequence process and data governance will be integrated.
  • Continuous People Enablement and Culture: The limits of process improvement will be determined by the imagination and capabilities of people rather than through the technology. The key to success will center around the collaborative engagement of people in owning and improving processes. The collaboration is enabled through robust approaches to providing ongoing information, communication, training and education related to emerging process improvement tools, technologies and approaches. This includes specifically executive education on the new realities of value-driven process management so that decision makers can be more effective in the digital world. Result is a more process and performance driven enterprise culture.
  • Process-driven Project Portfolio Management and Value Realization: Improvement projects need to be systematically prioritized regarding their importance for the overall business strategy and focused on best value-creation per dollar spent. After project conclusion the value realization has to continue seamlessly. The BPM-Discipline has to deliver the appropriate approach – enabling systematic growth in our digital world.

ISIS PapyrusMax Pucher
ISIS Papyrus

If we follow the widely adopted notion to look at BPM in the broadest possible meaning we do face unlimited possibilities. Virtually anything can be used and misused to change how a business is run when it is forced into a process perspective.

It has been my stance for a long time now that processes are a crutch to achieve some form of predictability and control. The true measurements of quality are not process adherence but goal achievement, customer satisfaction and profitability. Processes can used as part of a virtual customer journey with the big risk of reducing that satisfaction through inflexibility and automation. We do need to ensure compliance to company principles and regulation leading to complex integration or flow-diagram spaghetti code.

In difference I propose embedded business rules based on an ontology-driven language. What remains is user and customer adoption which requires ease of use without training and therefore conversational interfaces on mobile. Can machine learning be a relevant component in making all that happen? Yes, absolutely…but most certainly not through what is considered 'AI-from-big-data' today. Will BPM deliver that in 2018? No. But we at Papyrus Software will!

XMProPieter van Schalkwyk

The exponential increase in near real-time data is changing the way we have to process it. BPM is traditionally associated with the Internet of People (IoP) as Stanford’s Dr. Tim Chou describes it. Recent McKinsey research shows one of the biggest capability gaps is integrating IoT solutions into existing business workflows. As the understanding and scope of IoT grows beyond blinking lights and flashing LEDs to smarter business operations, so does the requirement to move beyond engineering POCs to integrated, real-time process management solutions.

IoT is no longer just about sensors and smart devices. It now includes “things” such as blockchain-based smart contracts for supply chains, insurance, aviation and healthcare amongst others. Real-time BPM for IoT rather than IoP requires an event-driven approach where we have to reduce the “Big Data” from IoT to “Smart Data” through advanced analytics before we integrate it into our “Business Processes”.

2018 will see companies move from engineering-based IoT POCs to operational solutions that integrate Event Stream Processing (ESP) with BPM. We’ll see a change in the BPM platforms that support these processes from traditional request-driven BPM systems to ESP-driven solutions that ingest and process real-time data to support real digital transformation.

Kemsley DesignSandy Kemsley
Kemsley Design

In 2018, BPM will continue to be critical to digital transformation efforts, but the term "BPM" will be used less as it becomes just one functionality within platforms for creating intelligent process-centric applications. These platforms -- whether they're called digital process automation, case management or low code application development -- will continue to have process management as a core capability, but BPM will be less front-and-center than in the past. In other words, “BPM is dead…long live BPM!”

As someone who has spent a lot of time building integration between BPM and other technologies, I’m a big fan of these integrated suites that combine BPM with many other capabilities such as analytics, decision management and machine learning, allowing companies to build more capable applications much faster. As an analyst and practitioner, I look forward to seeing how these platforms evolve to truly bring process to the masses.

BP3Scott Francis

2018 is all about digital operations - the connection between the desired digital experience and the process of delivering that experience to customers is too hard for most organizations. Digital operations is all about aligning people, process, decisions, and technology with the digital experiences we want to produce.

Processes and decisions are the connective tissue that give meaning to the new tech we need to leverage to produce next generation of digital operations. It gives context to RPA, machine learning, data science, and even buzz-worthy tech like Blockchain.

Aragon ResearchJim Sinur
Aragon Research

BPM is no longer a hot term or even shiny object that attracts the throngs of business or IT professionals anymore, but don’t be fooled. Process will be involved in big and small ways in digital delivery for the foreseeable future. The problem is few realize that process is present because it is embedded in solutions and quite invisible for many circumstances. Process is just as important as before, but homage will not be forthcoming unless a business model highly depends on it. The Customer, Employee, and Partner Journeys are the new process, but internal processes still persist.

  1. By YE 2020, process and work management in all forms will be pervasive and key to digital solutions.
  2. By YE 2019, all styles of process will be contributing to producing digital results.
  3. By YE 2019, processes will dynamically aligned to customer journeys, personas and customizations
  4. By YE 2020, process will be smaller in size and moving closer to the edge of digital solutions.
  5. By YE 2018, vendors who do not deliver process capabilities themselves or through partnerships will be at great disadvantage.

To read the underlying rationale, please see

FujitsuKeith Swenson
Fujitsu North America

  • Most important innovation in process space for 2018: Deep Learning. Alpha-Go showed us a system that can play a game that was considered unsolvable only a few years ago, and it did this without any programming by humans. Tremendous advances in (1) big data and (2) cheap parallel computation, but….
  • Most disappointing innovation for 2018: Deep Learning. Learning systems really have not solved broad open ended problems such as we need in the process space. Currently limited to hand-coded algorithms. Deep learning exhibits very quirky reliability: some amazing results, but lots of overwhelmingly problematic results on the long tail of exceptional situations. In such a system it is hard to understand what has been learned, and hard to modify and adapt it without starting over. Automatically improving a process requires understanding the business (cultural, moral, etc.) far outside the system. This important step is only the beginning.

BP LogixScott Menter
BP Logix

BPM software has increasingly become recognized as an essential platform for the enterprise. Strangely, at the same time, there’s been a near-total collapse of BPM as a distinct category. The big BPM conferences have vanished, and the analysts are all busily reshuffling, trying to find new homes for their erstwhile BPM boffins. Your favorite vendor may not even feature the term on their home page!

The disintegration of the category belies the success of the technology.

Putting a definition to BPM has always been tricky, to be sure. Perhaps there was always more to the problem than one simple phrase (albeit one with seven syllables) could capture. “Business process” was, perhaps, too thin a hook on which to hang the wide assortment of challenges that BPM can actually address. In 2018, BPM products will be used as development platforms, analytical engines, on-demand report generators, and more. They will be used to delight customers, manage suppliers, and engage employees—all in service to facilitating the enterprise’s digital journey.

In short, BPM will finally break free of “business process management” to embrace a broader, digital mission—no matter what we end up calling it.

Peter FingarPeter Fingar

To manage the inherent complexity in inter-enterprise or value-chain business processes, smart companies will demand ever “smarter processes.” But “smart” doesn’t mean some Orwellian thinking machine; it means intelligent agent technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Though published before its time, this book goes in depth: Business Process Management: The Next Wave

Intelligent Agents can be integrated into BPM frameworks that contain, in one package, specific problem-solving functions, data, and control. Intelligent agents support a natural merging of BPM and knowledge-based technologies. Intelligent agents can facilitate the incorporation of reasoning capabilities (e.g., encapsulation of business rules within agents). They permit the inclusion of learning and self improvement capabilities at both infrastructure (adaptive routing) and application (adaptive user interfaces) levels. Intelligent user interfaces (supporting task-centered user interfaces and intelligent assistance to end-users) can be a boon to productivity in a complex world of multi-company business processes.

If we consider intelligent agents as fractals in a multidimensional business ecosystem, some of the key components of multi-agent problem-solving are essential. To achieve common goals, agents need coordination. Effective coordination requires cooperation, which in turn can be achieved through communication and organization. That’s where the agent-oriented BPMS comes in to provide the needed choreography.

Welcome to agent-oriented BPM as the great choreographer of business. Unleash the true power of the BPMS. Plug the new business amplifier into your BPMS and turn up the volume! After all…it’s 2018!

MWD AdvisorsNeil Ward-Dutton
MWD Advisors

2018 is going to see the digitisation of business processes continue to be really important, for at least two reasons. Firstly, organisations will need process digitisation to continue to support wider digital transformation initiatives – most of these initiatives start at the customer experience, but strategic wins only come when those initiatives ‘reach back’ to connect digitised customer experiences to existing business functions (and connect across business silos). Secondly, the introduction of the GDPR legislation is going to create demand as large organisations in particular need automated support to deal with implementation (dealing effectively with SARs, for example).

Now the question is about what kind of tools organisations will use. It’s far from certain that organisations will gravitate towards ‘traditional’ process automation platforms. RPA tools are more popular than ever, and in some situations (not all) they can substitute for BPMSs. Model-driven app development tools are also substitutes in some cases – as are the new wave of application integration tools.

The most successful organisations will be those that crack the code of ‘automation architecture’, with clear understanding of how to employ the right tools for the right job.

Digital Clarity GroupConnie Moore
Digital Clarity Group

  • Substantial demand for BPM solutions will come from many diverse sectors, in contrast to the past which was largely dominated by insurance, banking and other financial services. While financials services will remain strong, substantial growth will be in government (city, regional, national), manufacturing, telecommunications, high-tech and other sectors.
  • The demand for BPM will be strong across many geographic regions, in addition to North America and Europe, including strong growth in Latin America from government and telecoms.
  • BPM implementations will increasingly focus on data integration in addition to process automation. This includes BPM solutions that either offer master data management tools or integrate with MDM; and tools that offer predictive analytics as part of the process execution (not just analyzing process data after work has executed). Integration with data will also be key to processes that are being standardized and/or centralized within the organization.
  • Non-standardized processes that exist throughout an enterprise to support different regions and/or business units will be increasingly standardized across the enterprise and, often, centralized in a shared service.
  • Customer experience teams will increasingly work with business process teams in cross-functional teams, although it will not be a natural marriage because these teams have different skill sets (journey mapping vs Lean/Six Sigma), different work patterns (right brain vs. left brain) and different tools (journey mapping tools versus process maps/modeling).
  • Robotic process automation will be incorporated into BPM solutions and also sold as standalone tools. RPA will cover the gamut from automating heads-down, manual activities to customer-centric, customer experience focused activities. RPA’s end user will cover the gamut from clerical employees to customers that engage via chat.
  • Customer experience projects will expand to include a combination of CRM, omnichannel, RPA/BPM/business rules, and natural language processing
  • BPM software will morph into a new digital process platform that includes: BPM (both case and standard BPM), business rules, RPA, and predictive analytics.
  • Increasingly, companies will install both standard BPM and case management solutions. These products will increasingly converge (and have already converged with some vendors’ products).
  • The rationale for buying BPM will bifurcate into 1) implementing a digital process platform for digital transformation and 2) implementing a low-code platform for process modernization and transformation. These are not mutually exclusive, but form powerful rationales for businesses to invest in BPM.

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