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As BPM continues evolving, each year brings additional changes. ebizQ asked two analysts to share their views on the likely business process management trends for 2013 and beyond.

In Clay Richardson's opinion, mobile BPM is "a big deal." How big? Richardson, a Forrester Research senior analyst, sees the potential for billions of dollars in spending to help companies adapt and reinvent processes to work with mobile technology.

So far, he says, much process-mobilization work involves companies simply trying take traditional web-based experiences and shrink them from a larger form factor down to smartphone size. That approach has succeeded in cases where there was a truly urgent need for some kind of quick functionality. But full-scale reinvention around mobile is what’s coming next, he says.

Social and cloud-based BPM are nearly as hot a mobile. In fact, says, Richardson, social capability is now largely a "given" in BPM suites. “Most vendors now have some social capability, even companies like Software AG, though the best examples are Appian and PegaSystems,” he says. Those “best” companies have made social “part of the fabric of getting work done,” he says.

Similarly, cloud BPM is now widely available and, Richardson says, is only likely to improve. In most cases, though, it remains an option offered on a “try before you buy” basis rather than as an implementation option. “We still see that as something that will evolve over the next 3-5 years," he says. "No big switch has gone off yet."

Still, Appian and some other vendors do offer good cloud capabilities, Richardson says: “It comes down to both the integration challenges of the cloud and perceptions of risk related to data security."

However, the evolution of cloud and social BPM “has less to do with BPM and more to do with interacting in a distributed way on mobile devices in a collaborative way," says consultant and analyst Nathaniel Palmer.

“If you are in business or managing processes, that is something you have to be ready to accommodate,” Palmer adds. Additionally, he notes, “when you are doing work that is highly distributed and device- or application-independent, involving multiple parties in a way that doesn’t have any specific coordination, you need BPM with dynamic capability.”

Richardson and Palmer both express some skepticism about “intelligent” BPM suites (iBPMSs). "BPM suites must have some ability to provide context and guide users,” Palmer says. However, the overarching reality is that customer experience requires delivering something compelling and engaging, he adds: “There is now a blurring of the line between process and experience as we look at the next generation of suites."

Looking ahead, Richardson says industry innovators are bringing “design thinking” to the overall BPM experience. “Several years ago we preached that BPM should focus first on modeling and then on the user interface," he recalls. "That paradigm has now reversed because you must think about how the customer wants to get the task done as well as what they want to accomplish."

Put another way: “We used to tell people not to worry about the color of the buttons but to focus on the cycle time," Richardson recalls. "Now it is just the opposite."

In market response to intelligent BPM, Palmer also sees a backlash against Gartner, the research company, which did much to define and shape the BPM field, particularly in its “Magic Quadrant" market analysis report on intelligent BPM suites.

“When the first Quadrant came out, only two companies really stood out, and that was a problem for the rest,” Palmer says. Consequently, in Palmer’s view, companies spent a lot of effort trying to shape their offerings to improve their rankings in the report, rather than trying to deliver real value or innovation.

“The iBPMS Magic Quadrant is not a natural evolution of BPM; it is just one particular path,” he says.

For that reason, Palmer would like to see the iBPMS definition deconstructed. He recommends that companies look for the particular features and attributes of “intelligence” that they really need, rather than for conformance to the iBPMS definition.

For professionals in the BPM field, Palmer and Richardson both expressed reservation about certification, or at least what it currently represents.

Forrester conducted a market evaluation for BPM certification and came to mixed conclusions.“We see certification playing a role in helping teams to scale out their BPM program and we think it will continue to be important," Richardson says.

However, he notes, because there isn’t a standard set of knowledge and skills for the practice of BPM, certification efforts face limits. “As customers evolve their practices, they want a base set of knowledge and skills and way to evaluate and validate whether someone has those skills,” he says. However, Richardson predicts that Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) approach to process modeling may receive more specific attention as a subject for certification.

Palmer shares a similar view. “Unlike the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, which is a widely-recognized certification for project managers, in the BPM space there is no reliable predictor of performance that is equivalent,” he says.

While the BPM space is more than a decade old, "people still succeed based on their reputations rather than on independent certification," Palmer says. "When I’m hiring people I really want to know just about how successful they have been in the past, not whether they are certified."

Palmer criticizes some BPM-certification programs' courses. "They are not being taught by leading experts, and there are still competing ideas about the definition of BPM," he says. Some university-based programs at least offer academic rigor, even if they may fall short in other ways.

Because quality varies so much from program to program, Palmer predicts the rise of an alternate approach: “I think the situation will move the market toward agreement on some kind of assessment criteria for BPM professionals,” he says.

READER FEEDBACK: What do you see as likely major developments for BPM in the next year or so? And what's your opinion on BPM certification training and assessment? ebizQ's editors would love to hear your thoughts. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Alan Earls, a journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business, is based in the Boston area.

More by Alan Earls, ebizQ Contributor



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