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Will BPM software ever be easy to configure and change?

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Thought this exchange between Scott Cleveland and Patrick Lujan was interesting in this forum discussion. So do you think  BPM software will ever be easy to configure and change?

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  • Is it April 1st already ?! Lol

    As BPM software sophistication and features rise so does the complexity to manage and maintain them. There's no such thing as a "no coding" solution or one which does not require the Business to obtain some degree of IT intuition and intelligence.

    So, the answer is No. The marketing on the back of the packaging will tell you otherwise but once you open the box there's no going back....

  • Agreed, Theo. The answer is no. No matter how easy you try to make it, there is substantial dedication required in understanding how to use a BPM platform and how to best apply its features and functionality to suit the needs of the business. Not that it can't be done but it's not easy in the sense that you can snap a process into an app and let it run itself.

  • What they said - "No," and that knowledge, that education, that mileage under the belt, that experience or, rather, the lack thereof, is also the reason a lot of BPM projects don't live up to expectations if not outright fail.

  • BPM is not all about dense integrations into core business systems. There are fabulously bloated tools out there that build armies of loyal configuration experts, script developers and administrators of numerous ilks.

    But there are also sleek, efficient, user gorgeous and ready out-of-the-box solutions out there too. Some require no more training than already being proficient with Excel and Visio plus a couple of hours of study. Some come straight out of the cloud and you can sign up with your credit card and some take a few minutes to download from the 'net.

    If you're crossing a hostile desert, get the armored Humvee and the legions of support staff it needs; if you're busying with your daily life get a Hybrid with a push-to-start button and have some fun.

    BPM is about empowering the business, so empower the business with tools they can use without IT support.

  • I think it will get there - the vendors know that they need to go in that direction. I will say, even if it is configurable there are lots of things to configure. I am sure that users can configure some things, the real problem is that there are so many that they didn't know they needed to configure. So, I see complexity holding back the ease of configuring. However, I am hopeful...

  • Relatively speaking it is getting easier to configure and change BPM software. If it wasn't we would still be entrenched in waterfall assembly language productions and not making the kind of progress we have been making over the last few years. BPM wouldn't exist otherwise. You can't tell me that it hasn't gotten faster to deploy workflow automation, case management, SOA, dashboards, business analytics and all that fun stuff that enables us to drive business transformation thru the BPM lens ? remember those basic green screens to show a customer's address took months to develop and now there are such things as drag and drop GUI go to production in weeks. No question vendors will strive for simplicity but at the same time try to differentiate with some wow factor. There will continue to be a specialization need for BPM skills both in business and technology but organizations are using BPM software and getting to market much faster than past because the software is easier to develop. Now I am sure we will eventually get into the crazy debate of defining what easy is .......

  • Well, if by easy you mean doesn't require somebody with a computer science degree and a decade of coding experience, then congratulations, we're there.

    BPM is, in fact, the beginning of the end of non-commercial programming. By that I mean that there should be no need for coders anywhere that isn't in the business of selling code. An insurance company shouldn't need programmers, and neither should the manufacturer down the street. They only hire programmers to make things work the way they need them to work.

    BPM, however, delivers custom solutions without coding. (Yes, Theo, I said it. :) Programmers can go back to writing software for companies whose product is software, thus improving their lot by shifting from overhead to revenue generation.

    So while BPM may never be "plug it in and watch it fly" easy, it's already substantially easier than the alternatives.

  • Well it has already arrived, pioneered and well proven with early adopters over 10+ years in UK. Scott is right with good news others are emerging. Think about it why are we coding business logic over and over where people create information when the fact is business logic does not change? Sorry Theo "No code" has arrived at last the commoditization of enterprise software where business professionals build and take charge of "their" business processes. Of course "IT" needs to be involved to ensure secure delivery and help manage the current mess of legacy to be used as required. And yes where complex calculations are required then deeper technical support should be on hand but the responsibility for the end to end process application lies with business.

    So BPM supporting technology, which needs to include clever tools to build the dynamic easy to use UIs, already allows rapid build and change which in effect delivers a future proof investment for the buyer. There is no code generation or compiling. There is no "language" BPEL or BPMN that hinders performance. Neither does it use a declarative language that Microsoft saw as the future in 2008 in their code “D” project but more of a declarative technique thus ensuring quick build and change from the transparent object model where build takes place. But not even IBM having bought their way to the top of the "BPM" magic quadrant have this …yet. It is highly “disruptive” which will see cost of business software plummet. Good news for customers with pressure to deliver more for less but smart suppliers will make bigger margins. Maybe even SaaS will become a profitable business?

    It works because of the clear focus on people’s needs at work which is what BPM is about.

  • Of Course it would be great when the Business can design their own workflow, forms, authorization, work distribution etc. And that they are able to adapt during execution by skipping steps, adding steps, change distribution paramaters, change roles etc. So, we can send our IT staff home.

    And yes that is all possible with current BPMS’s. And you can get it running fast with small processes that run in a vacuum. And that’s the point; processes that matter don’t run in a vacuum.

    It might get data out of 6 databases. Changing data might infect 9 other processes. Creating documents must be done with a DMS. Financial stuff is in SAP and on and on and on.

    So unfortunately IT guys did a better job of promoting themselves than the ‘process guys’. 'Proces"? Who needs a process? Bits and Bytes, they rule!'

    So BPMs’s have to cope and connect with all the ‘outside’ stuff. And for sure it does get easier, but still hard for business people I think.

    Although I wish it wasn’t, the answer to the question is no for processes that matter.

    But having said that, there are still many industries that are not so IT-spiderwebbed yet and where you still can manage your process on paper or with Microsoft office.

    A chance for those Business controlled BPMS’s?

  • Emiel
    I am sure many sympathise with your comments but the world of IT must move on. The gap between business and IT is as wide as ever but just cannot go on in this manner. IT needs to move to business drivers but to do that they need tools that allow the flexibility as described in the control of business. The good news as I have said there is a growing number of challengers that will help that change. I came across this one www.beinformed.com a Dutch company that has been supported by the smarter than average Dutch Government (the Ovum Radar report well worth a read). Like us and others they are handling serious enterprise level applications. It is even called “disruptive” and it is and therein is the real challenge…… Once one major vendor “gets it” then the world of IT will truly change for the better and it will be BPM thinking that “rules”?

    • David,

      For sure that gap must be closed. I'm from Holland, so I know Beinformed very well. Actually I work for one of their main competitors (and one of the challengers) in our little country at the sea ;-)

      And for that I also know that Marketing departments also create a lot of nice stories. But this forum is not the right place to argue about that ;-)

      But for sure; I would be happy when the business is in full control of their processes, but I think that, at this moment, that is only possible when they don't use company wide IT-things.

  • I'm mystified by those who say it is difficult - and always will be!!!

    We are now training BPM so everything up to integration is done by Line of Business people, rather than IT. With drag and drop coach design and collaborative web based process mapping, it is now something everyone can have a hand in. That means everyone has buy-in and implementation is unopposed.

    In the days when IT was hard, we all needed an IT person to map and execute business processes. We accepted the trade-off that they would know less about the business needs, potential pitfalls and opportunities.

    But that is no longer the case. Designing coaches and processes is now visual and intuitive. Execution is more about departmental buy-in than IT constraints.

    So the business understanding comes to the fore.

    Old fashioned IT centric methods may have been right for the 20th century, but not for the 21st.

  • Yes and No.

    First - BPM as in which of the three kerberous flavors
    - The process framework version of BPM as in understand, documented, create transparency, reuse, library all our processes version
    - The human centric BPM (workflow/e-form on steriods with a bit of reporting and integration thrown in)
    - The BPM mash-up, integrate, automate, and replace/solve all business system problems and people where possible

    Yes - for the first

    Yes - for the second (of which so,so, so many BPM projects are being used for) Solutions like Kissflow, what Handysoft is doing with quick process and I am sure many others.

    A big No to the third
    And not so much that the technology won't continue to require less and less coding - I have worked with tools that require very little if any, and not that business users cant be taught to model a process. At this level, you are designing software applications and no matter how you dice it, there has to be someone driving that understands and is competent in software development. This is not a skill business people have and most do not want to.

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