Will 2011 be the Breakout Year for ACM?

I just read Jim Sinur’s “Are There Storm Clouds on the Horizon for BPM?“.  In my mind that connected to a previous post of his “BPMN for Business Professionals: Burn Baby Burn” and Phil Gilbert’s BPM2010 keynote “The Next Decade of BPM“, all of which led me to some thoughts about BPM and ACM in 2011:

1. BPMN is becoming more complex because it is primarily a tool for IT professionals. The technical desire to have the model rigorously define real-world processes has led to that complexity – and I doubt if it will change any time soon. Once it became a tool primarily for technical users there is no going back.

2. IT departments like the centralized control most BPMS give them. A good BPMS allows them to deliver to the business faster – but still enables them to be in complete control. Paraphrasing Phil Gilbert – it enables 1 Java programmer to control the productivity of 250 business users, and makes those business users completely dependent on IT.

3. This is reminiscent of the mainframe era in the 60, 70, and 80’s – which generated the client-server backlash of the 80’s, 90’s, and 00s. User’s got tired of the centralized DB’s that were never up to date, applications that took to long to build, lock of usability and IT bottlenecks. Once users (in this case knowledge workers)  were given tools that they could management themselves (office productivity suites) and together with the other tool under their control (email), they went wild and started handling most of their work that way.

4. IT, the CIO and most vendors hated that trend and tried to fight it. The more they fought it, the more people found ways to get around IT and use thhe systems that gave them back control.

Sorry for the history lesson (or at least my version), but I think we are in the same spot with respect to business process mangement. Both IT and existing vendors want to keep the tooling for the management of business processes in the hands of IT. On the other hand – both customers and analysts are starting to see that if that continues – there is no way that BPM will be able to handle the 70%-80% of process that are what Phil Gilbert calls “email and excel” processes.  Some BPM vendors are starting to add “Social BPM” capabilities to their products – but that doesn’t really democratize business process management (or put it under participant control)  – it just makes it easier to for the same subset of people that were doing process beforeto  become more efficient (that is a good thing, but not nearly enough to tackle the “excel+email” problem.

So where does all this leave us? I think that in 2011 we’ll start seeing business user backlash to BPMS – they will want more participant control over process, faster start up time, better end-user usability.  That will lead them to ACM (or to continue using email+excel).  It also probably means that the BPMS growth rate will slow.

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