BPM Suites: Picking Up The Pieces The Day After

There’s no doubt about it. The BPM suite market has fundamentally changed, now that IBM announced plans to buy Lombardi, and Progress Software sealed the deal on Savvion yesterday. Two little vendors . . . and you would think, given all the reaction, that something really big happened. But in many ways, that’s the case.

Ok, why are these two deals so important? Lots of reasons, including:

  • The l-o-n-g awaited convergence between integration and human centric BPMS markets is picking up steam, finally. Importantly, this doesn’t mean the two product categories have converged overnight, but it does mean the vendors offering these solutions are converging so that a single vendor can provide products for a wider range of processes that span both BPMS market segments. Plus, you can see the beginnings of the product convergence in these acquisitions.
  • Expanded interest in BPMS by big players, including the big IT vendors (MISO) and middleware players. SAP and Microsoft are mighty late to the game and have very incomplete (at best) understandings of the BPM world, but the IBM acquisition has to have rocked their boats. It’ll be interesting to see how these vendors-- with a clear integration-centric BPMS bias--respond.

  • Closer integration between BPMS, predictive analytics, BAM and BI. Other vendors—such as TIBCO are already focused here—but this trend will accelerate given IBM’s broad portfolio of products in the data management space and its understanding that BPMS and data belong together, and Progress Software’s interest in integrating process with operational BI and real time analytics.

  • Better BPMS functionality from IBM, particularly in process discovery (Lombardi Blueprint) and unified, collaborative development between business and IT (Lombardi TeamWorks). Before the acquisition, IBM was in both the human and integration-centric BPMS space, but the functionality and usability for people-driven processes often left business process professionals with more to be desired. That will change now with Lombardi on board.

  • More acquisitions and consolidation to come. Other IT vendors from different perspectives will jump into the BPMS space, many without having a clue that they are getting into a continuous improvement discipline. In many cases, these acquisitions will be fueled by vendors in mature markets expanding into a high growth market they covet but don’t really understand (long term success in this market will hinge on how quickly these vendors discover that selling BPM software requires a deeper understanding of BPM, the discipline, and methodologies that support it.) Expect some vendors making new acquisitions to come from the middleware space, others will be from the ECM market while others may come from an LOB application software perspective.

     

The reason I named this post "Picking Up The Pieces The Day After" is that we’ve been inundated with people asking "what now? What about Pega? What about Appian? What about fill-in-the-blank?"

Here’s what I think business process professionals should conclude about the BPMS market and its impact on BPM, Six Sigma, Lean and other process initiatives, the day after this last acquisition:

  • Pegasystems will remain a strong, independent pure-play with a brilliant future. The old adage is "never say never" but it’s hard to imagine a situation in which Pegasystems gets bought, as long as founder and CEO Alan Trefler remains in charge. Pegasystems has a strong BPMS offering built on a business rules engine from the ground up. A large majority of Pega’s Fortune 500 and Global 1000 customers are strategically committed to this vendor because their business runs on Pega rules, and they are now in the process of upgrading to BPM + business rules, or BPM + frameworks. To put this into perspective, in all my time attending vendor events I have never seen such a senior executive/CxO-level audience, or heard customers who were so strategically committed to a technology and product as the Pega customers. I think Pegasystems is going to live long and prosper, no matter what consolidation brings to the overall market.
  • Other BPMS pure-plays have a bright future too. The market consolidation happening right now in BPMS is a rising tide that lifts all boats, including the pure-plays. The biggest headline from this consolidation is that the BPM suite market is picking up more and more steam, having moved to mainstream status about two years ago. Companies like Appian, Metastorm and others will do well in this consolidating market—either as acquired companies or as longer-term pure-plays.

  • The document-centric BPMS market is moving quickly into dynamic case management. Most mainstream BPMS vendors don’t really understand document-centric BPM software or document-centric business processes, with the exception of IBM (and that is because IBM bought FileNet, which was in the document-centric BPMS market.) But pure-play companies with a strong document heritage-- like Global 360, and major IT vendors with a similar document focus—like EMC and Adobe, understand that dynamic case management requires the intersection of BPMS and enterprise content management (ECM), plus BI/predictive analytics. These document-focused vendors will chase the newly emerging dynamic case management market, and largely leave other types of business processes alone. If anything, some of the ECM vendors who lack strong BPM software may acquire smallish pure-play BPMS vendors to be in a better position to pursue the dynamic case management market.

  • There's room for a lot more innovation in BPMS. Several vendors point the way for even greater innovation in BPM suites than today's products offer. Some of the exciting innovation is coming from non-traditional BPMS vendors, like Serena with process mashups; or other types of pure plays, like Nimbus with process discovery; or tiny companies like itensil with BPM software for social/collaborative processes.

  • Business processes need a lot more than today's trends around BPMS convergence. We know from our interviews with business process professionals and our own experience helping clients with BPM projects that technology is not the hard part of any BPM initiative. In fact, technology is the easy part in comparison to so many other parts of the project. Clients tell us that BPM projects are difficult because organizations lack business process skills and need better tools to help them with process discovery, and need additional tooling for frameworks, methodologies, governance, building centers of excellence and managing the business on a business process basis. Once we get past this round of consolidation, vendors will need to refocus and redouble their efforts on all the areas that organizations desperately need to become truly process and continuous improvement driven.