Archive for the ‘process’ Tag

Don’t Forget the Business Process Ecosystem!

There is lot of angst about Business Process Management (BPM). Reading the blogs, press articles and analyst reports one hears the frequent complaint that different people and organizations have different understanding of BPM, BPM standards are lagging, the technology and the terminology is confusing, and that there are too many vendors of all different types who are vying for the market. The market seems to want uniformity and clarity. The lack of clarity and uniformity undoubtedly causes potential customers of BPM to be wary of making investments that could greatly help their organizations. No good business person will invest in any major new initiative if there is a cloud of confusion surrounding it.

This angst is based on looking at the BPM industry in the wrong way. There should be no expectation of uniformity across the BPM industry for the simple reason that business processes come in many different shapes and forms that cover a very wide spectrum of needs. A couple of years ago I wrote a column on  BPM Outside SAP. In it I argued that like any other man-made system, business processes of different types must coexist in an ecosystem to complement each other.  I used the example of a transportation ecosystem. There are many different systems that must work together in a complimentary manner in order to satisfy the need for transportation. For examples, if an employee has a business meeting in a different city the transportation systems he will use  are (a) an elevator to go to the ground floor (b) a taxi to go to the airport (c) an airplane to fly to another city, etc. These systems are all very different from each other. They use different terminologies and technologies. No one vendor offers all of them. It would be foolhardy to apply one set of standards to all of them. However these systems make up the transportation ecosystem and work together synergistically in order to accomplish the business mission.  No one expects the transportation ecosystem to be uniform and have the same terminology, technology and standards.

Business processes are also a part of a “process ecosystem”. There are many different types of processes in an organization that must work together in a complementary fashion. Each type has different requirements and terminologies.  The optimal automation of these processes will require different technologies, and it does not make any sense to apply the same standards to all of them. The mistake many observers of BPM make is that they assume that since BPM is dealing with processes, and that BPM systems (BPMS) are based on software, one should expect consistency and uniformity. The correct way of looking at it is that BPM is dealing with a process ecosystem characterized by great diversity. The BPMS that are best capable of managing and automating the different types of processes in the ecosystem will naturally be very different from each other, just as an airplane is very different from a car.


If we grasp the notion of a business process ecosystem and understand the diversity of processes in the ecosystem, we can readily understand the following:

         i.      One BPMS will not satisfy all the process needs of an organization

         ii.    One BPMS vendor is unlikely to meet all the process needs of an organization

         iii.   One standard will not be suitable for all types of BPMS

         iv.   A BPM competency center must have skills in the different types of processes in the process ecosystem, and the BPMS that are optimal for each type.

         v.   The different types of processes must be able to gracefully interact and co-exist with each other.

The BPM industry will have a cloud of confusion hanging over it till it comes to terms with the diversity of the processes in the ecosystem. Indeed, the best way of looking at the industry is to break it down into sub-industries around each type of process. So the overarching industry is the “BPM ecosystem” and under this are various sub-industries with their own vendors, standards, best practices and terminologies. Looking at it with this way will reduce confusion and accelerate the growth of the component sub-industries.