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Is intelligent BPM (iBPM) actually something new and useful for BPM or just more hype?

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A question suggested by Emiel Kelly in response to Gartner calling this the year of intelligent business operations: Is intelligent BPM (iBPM) actually something new and useful for BPM or just more hype?

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  • I think it was Gartner's attempt to make the BPM field more comprehensible, as they had "Microsoft" (Sharepoint + Viso) in the same place as iGraphx and Nimbus, which made no sense. Intelligent BPM is about being able to enrich process with knowledge, forms, links to other systems (including workflow) to accomplish the things that a static drawing tool could never hope for. It may not be the end game, but it is an enormous step toward a single BPM tool that manages process in any part of the organization.

  • iBPM is a long list of many different process management concepts and supposedly existing systems can merge and use them in a very effective way. Is it hype? Not yet. Is it real? Not in the sense of the existing BPM installations being able to simply upgrade to iBPM. Especially the process mining capability and the adaptive (dynamic) case management functionality can't just be amended.

    See my post: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/a-real-world-assessment-of-the-process-mining-manifesto/

    I am not sure what the 'intelligent' should really mean. It is the same non-sensical use as in 'business intelligence' or as with 'knowledge management' for full-text databases.

    From my perspective iBPM reads like a strategic ACMS, meaning that it links into business architecture and strategy and inline monitoring of goal-achievement, and a real-time process mining capability.

    So we have now for WfCM's ACM, also Forrester's DCM and Gartner's iBPM. It is fantastic how analysts make all our lives so much easier ...

  • I think Max's last line says it all really.

    Not that I'm known for rocking the boat or anything but I stopped paying attention to certain analysts a long time ago simply because what's written is unintelligible (uBPM anyone ?!), poorly realised or for the sake of trying to create a new trend to hang a fez on.

    And I have to counter Chris on the iBPM definition he offers, that's just a bread and butter BPMS to me, not something groundbreaking or that deserves yet another acronym to confuse the CxO and people at the coalface with.

    I don't see anything in "iBPM" other than someone creating a similarly named, badly designed drawing tool in the App Store to download for your corporate iPad....

    So, in answer to the topic at hand: it's iHype, and not one BPM needs right now.

  • Well I think "iBPMS" is already happening frankly. The combination of a BPMS with a Decision Management strategy allows for rules-based and analytical decision making to be embedded in a process. Decision Services use a combination of business rules, data mining, predictive analytics (including machine learning) and optimization to make "intelligent" decisions that can then be embedded in running processes. I think it's good that Gartner is asking BPMS vendors to do more to embed intelligence - to go beyond the effective inclusion of people in processes (so they can add their intelligence) and allow automated decision-making.
    This trend already has legs - IBM, Progress, Tibco, Oracle, FICO and many others are already combining process management and decision management to get "intelligent" processes.

    • Excuse me, James. I happen to disagree. There is no such thing as automated decision making. Processes already have all the automation they will ever get in the gateways.

      There is further no such thing as predictive analytics, but just statistically aided guessing. Correlation is not causation. Most BPM suites can't even handle a different context per execution!!! And now they add intelligence ... makes me laugh.

      Yes, yes, yes, we all know the marketing hype from the incumbent mega vendors. I propose it is all hocus-pocus and vaporware with no real value in practical use. But I am sure that there could be nicely tuned statistics to show the value of statistically aided process guessing.

      We have spent a decade of research in real-time process machine learning and I can tell you stories how hard it is to get a business to use it (meaning trust it). What is called process intelligence or mining today is very basic process monitoring ...

      All we REALLY need is to make the individual process context transparent (top-down and bottom-up) and so adaptive that real people can make real decisions and don't have to follow rigid flows with their decisions being replaced by some abstract rule engine, turning them to keyboard monkeys only - that get electric shocks if they don't type fast enough.

      I apologize for the satirical touch, but I get a little emotional when I see the dehumanizing BPM ideas proliferating. People need: autonomy, targets, objectives, expected outcomes, guidance, social interaction, transparency, and security. How could a flowchart with intelligent decision making give it to them?

  • It's hard to get on board with the use of the word "intelligent" when describing software that, actually, is programmed. I'm not ready to hand over my business to my cyborg overlords. :) I've seen how that movie ends.

    The analysts are really stretching to differentiate their analyses of what is going on in the market, but they're held back a bit by the fact that they're not out in the field implementing in the real world. So they spot "new trends" after they're well entrenched. They coin flip phrases rather than dedicate a paragraph or two to explain. They settle for vendor references rather than digging in to do some original research.

    (I apologize for generalizing, because of course for every generalism there is the exception to prove the rule).

    I wouldn't call it hype because no one is paying attention to it really... the vendors are just reacting to competitive pressures from other vendors, they're not reacting to the analysts coming late to the conclusion that decision management and bpm go together.

    Max is right, they make it so much easier for us ;)

  • My read of Gartner's iBPMS is to lump together a set of BPM related technologies - events, discovery, automation, metrics etc.

    Think of ERP post the SAP/Oracle roll-up of all the independent apps (inventory control, supply chain, accounting, MRP etc)

    Maybe iBPMS is a way to get the big players to understand what should be on their M&A shopping list. Thereby making life easier for the analysts as they have to follow just a few large companies, not hundreds of little ones.

  • Pfheew, I am happy wit most of above reactions.

    A client of me asked me for intelligent BPM because it should be the coolest thing ever.

    But I couldn't find the book "How to implement iBPM" now.

    Now I can tell him maybe he should start making his customers happy with "normal" BPM.


  • It is a little of both. At one level it is a logical progression of getting a variety of technologies to work together. While venders do that, there is always the need to hype things a bit. Looking beyond the hype, I think there is real value in providing technologies that are pre-combined to work together.


  • @max - there is such a thing as automated decision making. I have helped clients build many such systems. Deciding what offer to make a customer on a website, what carrier to select for one of thousands of packages being sent each day, which claims to review and many MANY others are routinely automated using business rules, data mining and predictive analytics. You can deny it all you like but it does not make it less true.

    And I disagree that this "dehumanizes" processes. Firstly many of the processes that use these decisions are completely automated anyway (there is no person in the ATM or behind the website to make the decision manually even if you wanted to). Secondly I think having to make a repeatable, repetitive, narrowly scoped decision hundreds or thousands of times a week following a precise set of policies and regulations is MUCH more dehumanizing than having a machine handle the routine and letting the people do what they do best.


  • To me it is still all about BPM; the attempt to manage your organization by process, because we believe the process creates results for our customers and getting grip on the process will deliver better results.

    Mankind has been doing this for ages. The Egyptians wanted to build pyramids. Omg, that’s some kind of process. They used a lot of labor, but also more and more tools to speed up the process.

    In our modern time it’s the same. We have to deliver results (which sometimes feel like a pyramid) by a process.

    More and more tools come on the market to make our processes better. Tools for many factors of process management. Tools for executing, tools for monitoring, tools for improving, tools for communication, tools for..

    When walking around the tool store and you see all those flashing stuff, you might want them all. But do they help you?

    To decide whether technology will improve managing your processes; that’s the most intelligent part of BPM, I think.

    Anyone can buy tools, only the intelligent will buy the right tools.

    I can’t wait for the weekend. Then I will buy a 1500 bhp nuclear powered chainsaw. Isn’t that cool?

  • The "intelligent" part is nothing new really, some of the concepts may be new to certain BPMS but does it mean that we now have iBPM? No it doesn't...This is marketing and trying to categorise different types of BPMS because BPM is such a "wide covering phrase".

    Categorisation of BPM implementations is needed, a typical BPMS isnt the same as ACMS, yet both are BPM - both handle business processes / goals etc.

    I think the "i" has been added so we all sound more user friendly and hopping on the iOS/iPhone etc branding bandwagon...actually the "i" there was origionally meant to stand for "internet"...curious...Maybe iBPM is internet based BPM...what you think? lol

  • Regardless of what iBPM means to a certain firm or set of analysts, I know what I'd like it to mean: building more optimization into BPM practice and technology. Process optimization is a key component of the practice of BPM, but under-represented in the BPMS solution space.

    Maybe there is no such thing as predictive analytics in the truest sense, but certainly there is the ability to build in optimization strategies, parameterize remediation strategies, test heuristics for work selection, relax and tighten rules on the fly, etc., against well defined (or loosely defined) goals. It's not about taking decisions away from humans in the operation of business processes, but making it easier for humans to make the better decisions.

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    iBPM is to BPM what BPM was to EAI - a logical next step in evolution. It's just a pity they had to sink to Apple-mania and tag on the "i". Maybe we should've gone for something like "HTA" (Hueristic Task Allocation) for our new paradigm.

    In other words, I don't think it's a step-change but it is a progression and I think it will require as much of a mental shift as a technical shift to take advantage of these new HTA capabilities

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    (joining the party 7 months late, but....) The continuous creation of new terms is mostly due to the inability of current disciplines and technologies to sufficiently meet the needs of mature, complex and/or sophisticated business operations. For nearly two decades I've been using the term "Work Management" as a collection of disciplines and technologies required to meet these needs. Work Management involves/includes BPM, ECM, CEP, EAI, BI, Simulation, BRM and others to increase the level of control over and automation of business operations. I think iBPM is just another stab at reaching for the ultimate goal of satisfying the near endless needs of complex business operations.

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