Are BPM suites another 4GL (fourth generation programming language)

Lately I have been spending more time with various IT issues (especially around application performance management) than with business process management (BPM) or adaptive case management (ACM). What I think surprised me most is how little BPM is used by most development and IT shops for their own use. Even when a truly structured IT process is being implemented (like deploying an application into production) – the tools are never based on BPM suites. The only time I see BPM suites being used is when there is an IT management decision to take a more process oriented approach to certain business applications. In that case a BPM team is created and they implement certain processes – it never seems to leak much into the broader IT domain. It also seems to be used mostly in the context of business application built by enterprise IT departments.

So where does that leave BPM suites? – they aren’t used by most developers, and aren’t used by business people. So in many ways it resembles a 4GL (a fourth generation languag,e for anyone old enough to remember) for implementing structured business processes that don’t have a packaged application available. Just like 4GLs in their day it provides value for a nice sized niche – but still a niche.

What does that mean for the future of BPM suites?

BPM suites could try to branch out and try to encompass unstructured processes – but that would mean essentially building a different tool as Max Pucher continually points out in his blog and Neil Ward-Dutton shows in his presentations on ACM vs BPM.  This can work in a suite context (as Keith Swenson points out in his blog) and I believe that this is where many BPM suites are headed – but I doubt if they’ll make it. It is a lot more complex then just adding some “social features” to BPMS. Most vendors don’t understand that, and neither do many analysts – just take a look at how much focus Forrestor puts on the structured part of case management (and how little on the unstructured part) –  in their dynamic case management wave. As I have said before we’ll know BPM vendors have nailed it when we see knowledge workers using their BPM applications on a daily basis instead of email.

A second direction would be to provide more value to participants in the niche – or expand to the folks who can benefit from data derived from the niche (like BI capabilites). I think all BPM suites will expand in this direction – but I question whether that will be enough to keep them from going the same path as 4GL languages – essentially a niche business that never breaks out into the mainstream -either from a IT or business direction.

A third direction would be for BPM suites to embrace their 4GLness and focus providing more value to developers so that BPM suites could be used by a broader set of developers, while evolving into general purpose business application developments suites – but I don’t see any BPM vendors going in that direction.

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3 Responses to “Are BPM suites another 4GL (fourth generation programming language)”

  1. Business Process and Adaptive Case Management News and Information » Are BPM suites another 4GL … Says:

    […] Link to original posthttps://ukelson.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/what-mainframes-can-teach-us-about-the-future-of-the-cloud/ […]

  2. BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane Says:

    […] BPM and Development – Jacob Ukelson What I think surprised me most is how little BPM is used by most development […]

  3. Is BPM a 4GL? It Boils Down to Your Perspective » Process for the Enterprise Says:

    […] Jacob Ukelson writes: What I think surprised me most is how little BPM is used by most development and IT shops for their own use. Even when a truly structured IT process is being implemented (like deploying an application into production) – the tools are never based on BPM suites. […]

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