Forrester Wave™: BPM Suites Grow Up And Move Beyond The Culture Wars

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.

Whether you’re looking to enter into BPM from a DCM perspective, a human workflow perspective, a smart process perspective, or a straight-through processing perspective is really only one piece of the puzzle. The other big piece of the puzzle focuses on building out sustainable practices that continue to deliver real business value and transformational benefits over an extended period of time.

Over the past six months, my colleague Derek Miers and I immersed ourselves in evaluating the landscape for BPM suites. A key part of this research focused on how well BPM suites supported building out a sustainable business change program, as opposed to just delivering individual process projects from siloed perspectives. Through our research, we found that the next generation of BPM suites focus on helping change programs:

  • Design and deliver the right customer experiences. No longer relegated to the back office, BPM is beginning to play a critical role in driving customer experience initiatives. These initiatives range from companies looking to overhaul customer service processes to companies seeking to deliver more compelling experiences that incorporate big data analytics and real-time guidance. This shift to a focus on experience design is also driven by the need to reinvent legacy and inflexible business processes, enabling them to work more fluidly in mobile and social environments.
  • Use business architecture to connect strategy to implementation, ensuring outcomes. Business architects are playing a broader role in driving business change initiatives. In many cases, these architects focus on defining the strategy for transforming end-to-end business processes. Historically, BPM tools offered very little to help these business strategists scope and manage large-scale change projects. This disconnect between strategy and execution keeps BPM suites isolated to the CIO’s office, without a way to have a greater impact on enterprise strategy. The next generation of BPM suites provides a much tighter connection between strategy design and execution.
  • Build end-to-end processes that span multiple process patterns. Historically, Forrester has tracked BPM software across three different market segments: document-centric BPM suites, human-centric-BPM suites, and integration-centric BPM suites. However, through market consolidation these three segments are merging into a single BPM suite offering that can cover three different work patterns: dynamic case management, human workflow, and straight-through processing. Increasingly we see BPM suites moving toward the provision of a single design and development environment that supports multiple process patterns and use cases.

So in a very real sense, these three trends are forcing BPM suites to move beyond individual ideological views of business process. Instead of taking pot shots at each other, savvy vendors are focusing on supporting change programs that can deal with internal and external disruption. In short, BPM suites have matured since our 2010 market evaluation and are positioned to have a greater impact across the enterprise, for both business and IT.

Comments

Convergence or Integrated Suites

Hi Clay,

Good post! Glad to see you covering this shift.

I don't think customers ever cared one iota about the "BPM Wars". The leading vendors were shouting to cover for BPM tools that could not and would not address all work patterns, and on the other side folks with alternate solutions were screaming to get heard over the BPM marketing machine - tempest in a teapot.

You are right to focus on diversity of work patterns. As I think you know, I've been talking about work as a continuum of structured and unstructured, human and system activities for a long time, its good to see these ideas being embraced.

I think it's good to ask "how" vendors will bring these together - through acquisition and forcing disparate solutions in an "integrated box", or by changing the application model to line up with a more loosely-coupled and dynamic 21st Century. We've taken the latter path, and the rewards for customers is that they can have a process that has properties of all work patterns - the continuum, which seems to fit their needs well.

Best Regards,
Dave