It is the end of the year and everyone is focused on what 2010 will bring. So I wanted to join the crowd and share my thoughts on the trends I see in Business Process Management (BPM). I don't think anyone can precisely predict what will happen in 2010, but one can make sound predictions about industry trends in the near future.
What I see in the future of BPM are the Three Ss: Socialization, SaaS and Simplification. All three are related consequences of the same force that is the Internet.
Social networking is becoming a very important way in which people interact with each other. It is having a profound impact on many aspect of the Internet-driven software industry, and BPM is sure to be one such area. I wrote about this in detail in another recent blog titled "Social Networking and the BPM of the Future". As I noted in that blog, participating in a BPM process is a social activity wherein people collaborate and communicate with each other. Social networking technologies are an excellent compliment to BPM. By socialization I mean that BPM solutions will leverage social networking technologies for the communication and collaboration that surrounds BPM. Perhaps some innovative companies will start from a social networking platform and back into BPM rather than the reverse, which I think will have much broader appeal and greater usability.
SaaS is definitely the next big thing in BPM. Innovative companies in the industry have already taken the leap and started offering BPM software as a service. Like every evolution, the early offerings will not be comprehensive, but the innovators will learn quickly from their experiences and offer increasingly sophisticated solutions, which is one of the big advantages of the SaaS delivery model. BPM will benefit from the developments in Cloud Computing on the server side, and the rapid maturation of rich-client technologies such as Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight on the client side. There is no longer any technical impediment to offering rich BPM functionality in a hosted environment except perhaps the challenges of integration with on-premise systems and data. Even in this area the integration-related developments spawned by Cloud Computing will have direct beneficial impact on BPM.
Finally, I believe that BPM will, and should be simplified. If the market evolves towards socialization and SaaS, then it is necessary for BPM solutions to be simplified because both these trends demand simple solutions. As I wrote in another blog "BPM: Jack of All Trades.. but Master of None" BPM has become too complex for its own good and vendors will be well served by narrowing their scope. The name of the game will become the number of users, which is the key indicator of success for social networking as well as SaaS. A complex BPM solution cannot be used by large number of users. In the era of social networking, customers would rather use a simply workflow tool that is easy to use and adopted by a large number of people instead of a complex product will bells and whistles that is only used by few.