As some of you know, I’m a bit of a political junkie. I believe I picked up the political bug from years of riding shotgun with my dad as he listened to Rush Limbaugh blaring on the car radio. As a kid, I loved listening to Rush and trying to understand where he was coming from, trying to understand his perspective, trying to understand his ideology. The term “culture wars” in U.S. politics is used to define a clash between two different political ideologies – conservatism and liberalism.
Over the past few years, I’ve also started using the term “culture wars” to describe the clash and fragmentation we’ve seen in the BPM market. In the BPM space, the clash has primarily been around dynamic case management (DCM), human-centric workflow, and straight-through processing ideologies.
I’m the first to admit that fragmentation and categorization is not always a bad thing, since it can help software buyers and decision-makers better understand which solutions best match their business requirements and desired business outcomes. However, the fragmentation in BPM sometimes overlooks the primary purpose and value proposition of BPM – to help support creating a sustainable business change program.
Yesterday, Amazon launched an adjunct to its successful Amazon Web Service (AWS) elastic cloud offering. While we don’t normally comment on every product release, this one is significant — primarily because of who is doing it. The Simple Workflow service (SWF) clearly has nothing to do with Adobe’s Flash offering (although techno-nerds may initially think so, given the acronym).
So what was this all about? The business model is certainly interesting: an elastic, configurable workflow capability that’s distributed across any number of access points. Essentially, this will allow an organization to orchestrate processes in the cloud, linking participants up and down the value chain.
“Amazon Simple Workflow Service (Amazon SWF) is a workflow service for building scalable, resilient applications. Whether automating business processes for finance or insurance applications, building sophisticated data analytics applications, or managing cloud infrastructure services, Amazon SWF reliably coordinates all of the processing steps within an application.”
Pricing is initially free and then transitions into a blended, low-cost consumption model, with charges oriented around execution steps, bandwidth usage, how long the task is active, and signals/markers, etc. With usage charges at around $0.0001 per execution step, this gives you an idea of how small the operating overhead might be.
I’ve just finished up several months of research digging into the best practices of how leading organizations aspire to implement outside-in, customer-focused, cross-functional processes that transform the organization and set it on the path toward continuous improvement. I found that these companies are moving from isolated business process management (BPM) and/or front-office customer relationship management (CRM) projects toward broader transformation initiatives across the organization. At the core of this trend is a desire by these organizations, especially in services industries, to domesticate their “untamed” or “invisible” processes that touch customers.
My report on the best practices for process-centric CRM will be published soon. A key finding is the growing convergence of data-centric CRM, BPM, and dynamic case management (DCM) solutions. The right mix of these solutions, of course, depends on the use cases you are designing for. For example:
Today, Tibco Software — best known for its SOA integration, complex event processing, and business process management suite — announced its acquisition of Nimbus Partners, a privately held business process analysis vendor based in the United Kingdom. Nimbus Partners is smaller and less well known than the other more mature and full-featured BPA solutions, such as those from ARIS, Provision, and Mega. Nimbus, which employs more than 100 people, sold process discovery and authoring tools along with its homegrown methodology for quickly capturing and managing detailed information on business processes. Nimbus’ features and ease of use appealed mostly to process architects, process analysts, and business stakeholders that wanted an environment more robust than Microsoft Visio but not as technical — or requiring as much training — as other BPA environments.
Having just finished the dynamic case management Forrester Wave™ — it will probably appear in mid-January — I was struck by the variation in the approaches between the vendors; especially how they represent the organization, and the variety of wrinkles associated with work assignment. This was not so much related to an individual case management vendor, but it became apparent when you looked across the products. And that got me thinking and discussing with colleagues, customers, and vendors around the challenges of realistically supporting the organization as it looks toward BPM generally. Of course, there are many different issues, but the one I want to focus on here is around organizational structures, roles, skills, and responsibilities.
The central issue I want to highlight is one that many folks just do not see coming in their BPMS and dynamic case management implementations. Very often, there is only a loose concept of “role” within an organization. When the word “role” is used, it is usually equated to an existing job title (part of the organization structure), rather than responsibility (at least initially). It is further complicated by the fact that within a given job title, there are usually wide variations in the skills and expertise levels of those who work in that area. And while this is not a problem where people manually coordinate their work, when it comes to automating work routing (to the most appropriate person to deal with a given work item or case), there are often major complications.
Business Process professionals are scratching their heads at today's announcement by Progress Software to acquire Savvion. Process professionals are asking what exactly does this deal mean - for Progress and Savvion's combined customer portfolios and for the broader BPM market.
Connie Moore and I sat down earlier today to record a video blog post on what this deal means for Business Process professionals and to the broader BPM market.
In our video blog post (also posted on Forrester's YouTube Channel), we outlined three key themes driving the Progress/Savvion deal and how Process pros should view and respond to the latest round of acquisitions in the BPM space: Process pros should: