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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Value of BPM in 2015

January 23, 2015 No Comments

In the below interview, BPM Evangelist at Comindware outlines some of the key challenges and benefits BPM will offer to organizations in 2015.

  • Q. What changes in BPM perception do you anticipate in the coming year?

A. First of all, BPM will be declared “dead” in 2015. Why? Because it was declared so each of the last say 5 years. BPM is like Osiris from Egypt mythology: it dies and rises every year.

Seriously, the possible reason for such declarations is that BPM doesn’t match the market expectations systematically right from its birth. Yet as Geary Rummler has said, the BPM acronym may get out of fashion but the processes are here to stay, and so are process performance issues. BPM industry faces new challenges both in methodology and technology each year.

It’d also be a safe bet to predict that the discussion will continue about what is BPM and what is a business process, after all. We came close to a commonly accepted definition BPM in 2014 thanks to Keith Swenson who initiated a discussion among experts and analysts. The resulting definition is close to the one accepted by ABPMP – Association of Business Process Management Professionals.

However BPM is a “moving target” – we solve one issue only to face another one and this is how new aspects of BPM arise. As an example, some BPM practitioners position themselves today as business transformation professionals rather than business process management professionals.

  • Q. What are the current challenges, then?

A. From business perspective, BPM now becomes the key element of Digital Transformation – the desire of forward-thinking businesses to become fully “digital”, i.e. being able to provide access and control to its data, processes, projects to consumers, partners, staff and management – without human intermediary, right from the smartphone, ideally. It also implies being more agile – capable to steer your business operations wherever the business opportunities and company’s strategy lead.

BPM was always both about gradual improvements (coming from Total Quality Management and Six Sigma) and radical transformations (called Business Process Reengineering in old days) so it’s not something totally new, just more attention to certain targets.

  • Q. And what are the technology needs?

A. They are probably higher than ever; we at Comindware have a feeling that they are of game-changing scale.

Look: the market names mobile and social as key technology trends for years. But let’s have a closer look: what does the social enablement of business applications mean? Let’s accept the user’s perspective: assume that all business software vendors have implemented a social functionality within their products. So there is a separate social network within ERP environment, BPMS, project management etc.

Now imagine that you as an employee are involved say in sales process implemented in CRM, in a product development process and a number of supporting processes implemented in BPMS and also participate in several projects supported by project tracking software. Each piece of software now has its own social network – will you actively participate in each?

No, it’s probably too much.

Exactly! We should learn from Intranet experience that there is certain “critical mass” of participants that makes social network viable. If it is not reached – if the majority of employees avoid using the social network at work – then it would be dead. So this is the game-changer: companies could live with disjoint software (“best of breed” concept has certain advantages) but disjoint social networks doesn’t make sense.

As soon as this will be realized, nobody will need a standalone BPMS software or project management or case management software – it should be a single design and execution environment hosting them all as different flavors of collaboration, supporting interoperability, migration, unified task management and end-to-end resource planning.

  • Q. So BPM is dead, long live Collaboration?

A. Gartner coined the term “Extreme Collaboration” in 2012, “Facebook at work” was announced in January 2015. But we at Comindware look at it little bit differently – we believe that people at work need more than just “likes”, broadcast announcements and intranet-like portal. The social network should be wired with projects, process activities, business objects etc. For example, a project stakeholder should be able to “like” the project and automatically subscribe to all status updates; process task performer should be able to ask advice from his/her “circle” of friends and/or process subscribers etc.

Not only all forms of collaborative work – projects, processes, cases and document-based – should be unified – they should be melded with traditional records-based business applications. Once again, the idea of Business Operations Platform is not new – the recent achievements in social, mobile and business intelligence technologies is what makes this concept more appealing than ever.

  • Q. But how about complexity – some people say that BPM is too complex already?

A. This is valid concern indeed. Two things should be done to manage the complexity of company-wide collaboration: enable smooth migration and bridge the gap between business architects and execution environment.

Every time a new business challenge arises it requires several levels of support. Information storage and retrieval comes first – it’s the “bare necessity”. It may start with unstructured documents but structured data is preferable for most business scenarios, we need a “System of Records” as Gartner calls it. Then we need a collaboration support. As Project Mining experience shows, it’s more effective to start small from case-style collaboration and approach to much more complicated process models later when the process routes become known from cases statistics.

Currently there is no software product allowing a migration path like this and providing ability to cross-call between projects, processes and cases. This is the challenge for us at Comindware.

Another issue that should be addressed is that there is no room for enterprise architecture and enterprise architects within software supporting business operations. BPM Suites bridged the gap between process models and execution, now it’s time to bridge the gap between architectural frameworks and execution – “What We Architect is What We Run”. This way we’ll approach the business complexity issues with the people most trained and most “brained” exactly for this kind of tasks.


Anatoly Belaychuk has over 20 years of professional and managerial experience in software and consulting industry. He is acknowledged BPM (Business Process Management) expert, writer, key speaker at BPM conferences, blogger and trainer. His current position is as a BPM Evangelist at Comindware.

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