New_photo2 By Clay Richardson

Time flies when you're having fun – and 2009 was a really fun and successful year for the BPM industry.  Nearly all BPM vendors reported double digit revenue growth over the first three quarters of 2009 and many are already reporting strong pipeline growth for 2010.  Most importantly, some BPM practitioners are beginning to reign in the bloat and complexity traditionally associated with BPM implementations.  

Over the past few months I've been on a bit of a world tour – numerous BPM industry and vendor conferences mixed in with customer meetings – listening to customers discuss their BPM hopes and challenges and listening to vendors outline their roadmaps and plans for 2010.  If I translated all of my conversations over the past few months into a tag cloud, "Simplicity" would jump out as the most prominent term mentioned on both sides.  
BPM customers and prospects are clamoring for the simplicity of Web 2.0 functionality for their BPM initiatives – and some are actively requesting enhanced collaboration capabilities offered by social technologies. In a previous blog post I highlighted the convergence of BPM, Web 2.0, and social – commonly referred to as "Social BPM". In a recently published report, fellow Forrester analyst Alex Cullen, highlighted Social BPM as one of the Top 15 Technology Trends to watch for enterprise architects and business process professionals.
Specifically, in preparing for 2010 enterprise architects and business process pro's should evaluate four key Social BPM components that help simplify and streamline BPM initiatives:
  • Process Mashups – Lightweight BPM tools that support rapidly building and deploying structured and unstructured business processes. Process mashup platforms include only bare-bones functionality provided by BPM suites: execution engine, process modeling, Web-based forms, worklists, and administrative functions. Tech-savvy business analysts are using these mashup platforms to quickly deliver process solutions that IT doesn't have the bandwidth to tackle.
  • Process Wikis – Process wikis allow distributed teams to easily build and maintain institutional knowledge about a particular business process or collection of business processes. Process wikis provide simple Web-based modeling and documentation capabilities that encourage input and collaboration across all roles that participate in process discovery: end users, process analysts, stakeholders, developers, and architects.
  • BPM-as-a-Service– Web-based BPM platforms and solutions that allow users to model, develop, and/or execute business processes in public or private cloud environments. Companies are using BPM-as-a-Service platforms as a cost-effective "try-before-you-buy" approach to BPM.
  • Process Personas – In 2010, this will be a key area to watch for BPM.  Leading vendors such as Global360 are simplifying the user experience by providing pre-built templates that provide identified process roles (e.g., supervisor, line manager, etc.) with just the features and functionality they need – no more, no less.
Ultimately, the Social BPM trend and the push towards BPM simplicity are connected to a broader trend towards "simplicity" in society.  To illustrate this, a few weeks back I was driving in my car listening to an NPR segment outlining food trends to watch in 2010.  The host highlighted the movement towards "simple foods" as a major trend that would gain greater momentum in 2010.  The basic premise behind "simple foods" is that there should be as few ingredients as possible in the foods we eat.  After listening to the segment, I thought "Hmmm, that's novel…" but didn't think much else of it.
Then a few days later, I tuned in to a Fox News (hey, they do have some news) segment on the excessive amounts of sugar in kids cereals.  I was amazed to learn that all of the cereals in our pantry made Fox's top 3 list of cereals with the most sugar.  To my daughter's disappointment, my wife and I immediately cleaned out the cupboard of these oversweetened cereals and marched off to Whole Foods to buy the "Envirokids Amazon Frosted Flakes" recommended in the Fox segment.  
While it was interesting to see that the Envirokids cereal only had half the sugar of the other cereals, what really blew my mind was that Envirokids only had 3 ingredients listed on the side of the box:  corn meal, evaportated cane juice, sea salt.  And according to my daughter (and online reviewers) it tasted pretty decent  – although I also tried a bowl and thought to myself "I already miss my Honey O's…"
Why It Matters?
Ultimately, society (as illustrated in the case of "simple foods") is demanding greater transparency and control over the makeup of what we buy, bring into our homes, and put into our bodies.  This is the same force driving the Social BPM trend – business users want greater control over assembling, updating, and communicating their business processes, with minimal support from IT.  And many vendors are beginning to heed the call.  
Last week at Appian Forum (Appian's annual user conference), I listened in as Appian's CEO, Matt Caulkins outlined the future direction of the company's flagship BPM offering:  I believe Matt used the term "simple" at least two dozen times in his presentation.  And other vendors such as Global360 and Software AG are also investing heavily to make BPM "simpler."

Through the years, BPM's promise of "ease-of-use" and "business empowerment" rang hollow and left business users cold and disappointed.  In 2010 the BPM industry will begin to deliver on this promise by providing concrete methodologies, capabilities, and tools that simplify all aspects of continual process improvement – and Web 2.0 and social will form the foundation of this move towards simplicity in the BPM industry. 

Enterprise architects and process professionals planning for 2010 should add Social BPM to their list of emerging methodologies and tools that will have a significant impact on the enterprise's ability to deliver value and minimize waste.

What's Your Take?
I want to hear from you.  Let me know if you think the BPM industry will finally deliver on it's promise of "simplicity" in 2010 or whether this is just a pipe dream?   If you're an enterprise architect or a process professional, let me know if you're beginning to explore leveraging some of the Social BPM capabilities highlighted in this post. I'm also interested in hearing your thoughts on the "simple foods" (and the larger societal) trend towards "simplicity".  Post your thoughts in the comments section or feel free to shoot me a quick e-mail at