In 2014, the top priorities for business process management (BPM) initiatives focused on extending mission critical business processes to support the mobile workforce and redesigning business processes to deliver exceptional customer experiences. During 2014, Forrester also noticed a growing appetite to move business critical processes into the cloud using BPM platform-as-a-service solutions. And, although customer sentiment for BPM was mixed to negative in 2014, software vendors reported respectable double-digit revenue growth for BPM solutions. Sounds like it’s time to pop the bubbly and celebrate, right?
Not quite yet. In 2015, BPM will fight to expand its relevance in the front office and will need to shed serious weight to better align with age of the customer imperatives that prioritize speed-to-market over analysis and complexity – traditional hallmarks of the BPM discipline and software solutions. Together, with my colleague Craig Le Clair, we expect 2015 to be a tipping point for the BPM market. In 2015, customer-obsession – the relentless focus on winning, retaining, and serving customers – will disrupt and reshape the entire ecosystem for BPM:
Over the last 12 years, I've seen – and helped drive – a lot of change in the BPM market. First, I watched BPM move from a heavy focus on integration to a greater focus on collaboration and social interaction. And then, BPM expanded from highly structured and ‘automate-able’ processes to address unstructured, more dynamic business processes. It is safe to say that over the last decade, demand for BPM was driven by key characteristics of the "Information Age" - a relentless drive towards improving the flow and sharing of information across people and systems.
Now, the most compelling business cases powering fresh demand for BPM focus on characteristics of the new age we are moving into - what Forrester calls the "Age Of The Customer." If you look closely at most of today’s BPM initiatives, they tend to hide behind an imaginary firewall that separates what external customers experience and what internal business operations feel they need to be efficient. In this new age, business leaders are waking up to the realization that they can no longer divorce process improvement from the people and systems that touch customers, partners, and customer-facing employees.
Earlier this month I attended IBM Impact in Las Vegas where the software vendor announced new enhancements and features for their BPM suite product. On the face of it, the announcement sounded a bit underwhelming, with heavy emphasis on updating core functionality that was needed to remain competitive in the market. However, one bullet in the announcement stood out:
“Significant enhancements to the IBM BPM built-in dashboards to help improve business process outcomes and enable the creation of custom dashboards.”
Recently, I interviewed a half dozen top service design agencies to better understand how they work with enterprise architects and business architects inside the client firms they serve. All of the agencies I interviewed focus on helping their clients transform customer experience and introduce new products and services. I wanted to interview these agencies because they represent the tip of the spear when it comes to introducing new innovation inside of companies looking to take advantage of disruptive drivers - both competitive and digital – and rethink their business models.
I asked each agency for examples of how they worked with their clients’ enterprise architects and business architects when introducing new innovation. When I posed this question to each agency, I could hear crickets chirping in the background. In short, they all indicated – in as nice terms as possible – that they try to avoid the IT organization in general, and had no contact with specific enterprise architects or business architects.
For me these interviews painted a picture of a school yard where team captains are picking players for kickball, and a small group of kids were being left on the sidelines, not picked for the team. Using this analogy, the business – in many cases the CMO and CXO leaders – are the team captains. And enterprise architecture, including business architects and process architects, are the kids being left on the sidelines.
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.
Lately, I have become a bit obsessed with evaluating the linkage between good process design and good experience design. This obsession was initially sparked by primary research I led earlier this year around reinventing andredesigning business processes for mobile. The mobile imperative is driving a laser focus for companies to create exceptional user experiences for their customers, employees, and partners. But this laser focus on exceptional design is not only reshaping the application development world. This drive for exceptional user experience is also radically changing the way companies approach business process design.
Over the past six months, I have run across more and more BPM teams where user experience is playing a much larger role in driving business process change. Some of these teams highlighted that they see experience design playing a greater role in driving process change than the actual process modeling and analysis aspects of process improvement.
Outside of BPM, one of my other passions is mentoring college students through the process of launching new startups. I enjoy helping students tighten up their business ideas and seeing them build business plans that can attract the funding they need to stand up and implement their ventures.
Recently, after reviewing and providing feedback on a student’s business plan, the student responded, “I can launch my business without a business plan; all this planning seems like a waste of time.” At first, I thought he was joking. However, I could read by the look on his face that he was serious. I am sure you can imagine the conversation that followed.
The next day when I reflected on the conversation, I had a moment of satori. I could see that startups share the same risk/reward profile as business process management initiatives. Just like startups, BPM initiatives promise huge returns to investors and stakeholders. Additionally, just like startups, BPM initiatives are fraught with risks such as inadequate funding, low adoption, and difficulty attracting skilled resources.
My conversation with the student about the importance of business planning seemed to parallel conversations I often have with enterprise architects and business architects launching or retooling their BPM initiatives. Most tend to overestimate the BPM’s potential rewards and downplay — or do not fully understand — the risks involved with launching a BPM initiative. However, for the most successful BPM initiatives, I have found that their leaders tend to have a “lean startup” mentality.
What does it mean to have a “lean startup” mentality?
Arguably, mobile is currently the hottest trend driving both business and technology strategies for executives. If you need any additional evidence, just look at all of the enterprise buzz Apple has generated with the iPhone 5 launch. Unfortunately, today’s business and technology leaders continue to respond to the mobile opportunity with the wrong answers. Business leaders respond to mobile with, “Let’s build a really slick mobile app, put it up on iTunes and we’re done!” Technologists respond to mobile with, “We need a strong BYOD policy and to put device management tools in place!” Both of these responses completely overlook the fact that underlying legacy applications and business processes need optimizing for the mobile experience.
We run into examples of this “lipstick on a pig” approach to mobile all the time. In fact, I ran into a perfect example of this recently when I needed to order a pizza for my family after a very hectic Saturday afternoon. When I picked up my mobile phone to call the pizza delivery place, a light bulb went off over my head. Instead of dialing the pizza delivery company and waiting on hold for 15 minutes, why not download its mobile app in two minutes and order my pizza within another two minutes. I figured I could shave off ten minutes of wait time by simply downloading the pizza delivery company’s mobile app.
Nowadays, there are two topics that I’m very passionate about. The first is the fact that spring is finally here and it’s time to dust off my clubs to take in my few first few rounds of golf. The second topic that I’m currently passionate about is the research I’ve been doing around the connection between big data and big process.
While most enterprise architects are familiar with the promise — and, unfortunately, the hype — of big data, very few are familiar with the newer concept of “big process.” Forrester first coined this term back in August of 2011 to describe the shift we see in organizations moving from siloed approaches to BPM and process improvement to more holistic approaches that stitch all the pieces together to drive business transformation.
Our working definition for big process is:
“Methods and techniques that provide a more holistic approach to process improvement and process transformation initiatives.”
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.