What’s the first thought that comes in to your mind when I say the term “BPM”? – No doubt for many it will bring to mind BPMS platforms like Pegasystems, IBM BPM, Appian, etc. Experts have long decried the way these BPMS vendors, have co-opted the term. Whilst BPM used to refer to a strategic discipline focused on helping optimize business processes; over time it has become a byword for these BPMS technology platforms which automate processes. That being said there is plenty to admire in the innovations, pure-play BPMS have brought in (their focus on case management, decision management etc), and how they have helped many a client in streamlining their processes (usually as long as the BPMS implementation is part of a larger business process improvement initiative).

Now to complicate matters, in the past year, there have been new products coming into the market which are touting themselves as BPMS tools when in fact they are workflow platforms (or in some cases they facilitate the development of process components, rather than processes themselves). These kinds of tools fill an important niche in the market, but by classifying themselves as BPMS they are doing a disservice to themselves and to the BPM space. This is compounding a longstanding problem perpetuated by document management tools, business rules engines and integration middleware platforms all calling themselves BPMS, when they often lack process handling capabilities!

Battling to clarify to customers what is BPM, BPMS and BPMT is complex enough, but these vendors are creating further confusion. One of the outcomes of this kind of confusion is that the overall BPM market has not expanded or matured as fast as was expected 10 or even 5 years back – despite what the market-sizing reports claim – see Theo Priestley’s insightful blog on the same.

It’s time for those in the BPM industry to grow up and have a mature debate – around adopting common standards (and not just paying lip-service to the likes of BPMN). Critically, there needs to be a set of common and comprehensive BPM training and certification programs. This pool of technology-agnostic experts can then spread the BPM message, but also ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Clients can also undergo this training and feel more comfortable about adopting BPM and what it entails – without the usual marketing hype. There can be industry-specific campaigns and promotions to spread the BPM word, funded by all parties. If all stakeholders work together, it will ensure that BPM finds it rightful place at the top of any organization’s priorities and put a stop to the confusion which has existed till now and impeded the growth of BPM.

I know it’s a lot to expect, and there are a number of conflicting interests, but for a consensus to be reached soon, the discussion needs to start now. And unlike in most debates, everyone will be a winner!


Some have complained about my use of abbreviations in my previous blogs – (a favourite of those of us in the technology industry), so here is a simple glossary of the terms used above, as I like to define them:

  • BPM – Business Process Management: the management discipline around the optimization of processes through the orchestration of people, process and technology
  • BPMS – Business Process Management Suites: Those products in the market which aim to operationalise a process – be it through automating process activities, case management, codifying business rules, integration with external systems, etc
  • BPMT – Business Process Management Technologies: the wider area of technologies focused on process improvement – this includes Business Process Analysis (BPA) tools (used for process modelling), Workflows engines, Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) tools) used for process monitoring) etc. BPMS is effectively a subset of BPMT
  • BPMN – Business Process Modelling Notation: You know a notation standard for business process modelling 🙂