When you spend time taking a sober look at a market's maturity – like we did with our recently published BPM Tech Radar report – some technologies make you yawn, but then other technologies give you goose bumps. The primary purpose of the BPM Tech Radar was to map the maturity of the 15 most critical technologies that make up the BPM landscape. This included tried and true technologies such as workflow, process modeling, document imaging, and business rules; in addition to bleeding and leading edge technologies such as process data management and process mashups.
- Accelerated pace of change in the business environment – Business leaders who thought they had months or years to adapt their processes to changing conditions are now fossils, driven into extinction by our latest recession. Going forward, business leaders need to approach BPM using both a top-down and bottom-up approach. New technologies, such as "process wikis" allow frontline workers to update process knowledge as conditions change on the ground. This real-time feedback loop was never available before; most updates to process knowledge are only captured haphazardly or driven from the top down.
- The need to put process completely into context – I spend a lot of time trying to read through e-mail threads to understand the complete context of a question posed to me (the snowball effect: e-mail starts off from one person, bounces around, and then ends up in my inbox). Completing a process often involves numerous conversations – via e-mail, instant messenger, voicemail, etc. – that fall outside of the BPM suite container. Imagine combining a tool like Google Wave with a BPMS: Now process-related conversations and threads can be easily traced throughout the process instance. So, instead of digging through e-mail, you can click on an activity in the process and see the entire context of conversations around the in-flight process.
- Demand for user-generated content – I'm man enough to admit it: Just like you I jumped on the "get-rich building your own iPhone app" bandwagon. Why? Because I think I can code and I want the world to see my new whiz-bang idea for the iPhone. Of course none of this ever materialized (I have a full time job, remember?). But a lot of other hack and weekend developers rolled up their sleeves and contributed their own whiz-bang apps – some good, some not so good. Looks like users and department heads are also trying to get in on the act of user-generated content. Except it's not for the iPhone – it's for internal processes. "Process mashups" (such as Serena Business Mashups) and "BPM-as-a-Service" (such as Appian Anywhere) technologies are indulging the business' fantasy of automating processes without IT's help. And the verdict? Process hacks are having success generating some pretty nice processes (that run!).
Why It Matters
Don't discount social media's impact on business process management just because of its current level of hype and consumer focus. Over the next two to three years BPM suites will continue to incorporate social technologies and features that connect process to the real way that people work and get things done. Millennials and Gen Y employees entering the work force will likely embrace these new features and help accelerate the Social BPM trend. Business Process professionals should keep an open eye (and open mind) out for opportunities to begin leveraging Social BPM components such as process wikis, process mashups, and BPM-as-a-Service.
What's Your Take?
I want to hear from you. Let me know what you think about social media's impact on the BPM market? Do you think Social BPM represents the natural progression of BPM suites. Do you think social technologies will help BPM suites harness process-related conversations and user generated content? Or do you think this is just a mashup of two hot market segments that really don’t belong togehter?