Redefining BPM? Who wants that?

Various posts by David Moser, Keith Swenson and Jim Sinur have covered the subject of redefining the meaning of BPM or Business Process Management. For consultants BPM already means a management concept and not a product or market. I usually refer to the product market fragment as BPMS to avoid confusion, but I won’t even bother with that here.

I have mentioned in a previous post that Gartner Group is expanding BPM’s meaning by predicting a trend towards more dynamic and social interaction for processes. My position? WHY BOTHER? Or better, why would someone else bother? Like with the global warming or climate change panic we need to ask in whose interest it is. Why does someone see the need to first define BPM as a market fragment and then redefine it now? It is not happening by chance. Market fragments (meaning they are not natural segments but artificially set) are created by analysts who observe the market and not by the buyers or by the vendors. Once a fragment has been defined, it becomes a bandwagon that all sorts of pundits jump onto, to get as much as a free ride as possible. Hmm, it is not as free as it seems … reminds me of Faust and a deal with the devil.

TLA (Three Letter Acronym) market fragments create as much confusion as they claim to reduce. Well, a buyer can always pay the analysts to clarify what the acronyms mean for them. All the vendors (inluding us unfortunately) take part in the Pay-To-Play game of the analyst companies. If a product like the Papyrus Platform does not fit into a single market fragment – as we sit squarely across ECM, BPM, CRM, EAI – and a few more, it becomes very difficult to be covered. That is the reason that vendors shuffle their definitions continuously to fall into the fragments and try to shoot up into the ‘quadrants’ or ‘leaders’.

So clearly BPM analysts will not allow the Adaptive Case Management concept  (as defined in ‘Mastering the Unpredictable’) wandering off on its own. They will expand the meaning of BPM and will at best create a new subsection in it. The vendors will jump onto the bandwagon and the whole entourage takes another trip around the bend. The ones that loose out in this are the buyers who are taken for an involutary ride as well! IBM has already taken its own step to fend off the small ACM crowd by ‘overloading’ (a C++ term for redefining a class definition) it to mean IBM’s Advanced Case Management, which is notably not a functionality but a ‘concept’. That means there is nothing to sell than lots of consulting services, so they are apparently thumbing their nose at us all.

Yup, we were noticed! THANK YOU!

Could we do with an independent definition of BPM? Sure. The Wikipedia definition of BPM is a very wide one, clearly trying to avoid conflict and to encompass everything that deals with defining or refining processes. I would not say it is wrong and neither can anyone else. On which authority? I like it more than the analysts definitions. I happen to believe that process flows are an illusion because nothing ever happens in exactly the same sequence with exactly the same intermediate states. So the general concept of a definite process flow is flawed when considered in the light of complex adaptive systems that the economy and its business entities are due to the individually acting agents. I have been fighting the idea of rigid BPM for as long as it was there. It is the ‘Pure-Play BPM’ products that should be dumped first …

Are other BPM vendors moving towards redefining what they do with BPM? Absolutely, at least in their marketing spiels. But ARIS, BPMN and all other flow-paradigmes are and will remain old-style orthodox BPM with some additional frills. So is there anything good about BPM as a concept? Yes, there is. It defines process owners and their goals and thus focuses on outcomes and not on structural organization. Is there a need to work according to flowcharts towards those goals? Absolutely not. Can technology empower the actors to be more efficient? Absolutely. Can technology provide up and down the line transparency to actually make BPM work? I would not know another way! Therefore a true proponent of BPM as a management concept should love a flowchart-less process management environment. For the first time he would be able to align a business to process goals without long, up-front analysis efforts. Ooops! That means that BPM consultants will sell a lot less services. I guess a simple flowchart-less way to do BPM will not be popular with them either.

So given all that, the Payprus Platform is now ECM, BPM, CRM, EAI and a few more TLAs. Is that really relevant? Absolutely not. But if you care, more on that subject on my Papyrus Architecture blog.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in Adaptive Process, BPM, Process
7 comments on “Redefining BPM? Who wants that?
  1. […] Papyrus ECM, BPM, CRM, EAI or a Mashup? In my post ‘Redefining BPM? Who wants that?’ I discussed the problem of market fragment definitions by analysts. To shorten my posts and to […]


  2. Jim Sinur says:


    I don’t think BPM needs to be redefined as it already a discipline for managing processes. BPM is just waking up to new opportunites to extend the benefits to the knowledge worker who has less structure in their processes(traditional view asumes a fixed model).



    • Jim, thanks for the comment. I don’t disagree. I did clearly say that BPM is a management paradigm, but that the analyst community made the rules what was considered a BPM product and what not. I agree that ‘someone is waking up’, but clearly orthodox BPM as previously defined does not support the knowledge worker. Or do we disagree there? So some redefinition or expansion of the BPM is taking place. Gartner certainly was not interested to discuss a product that did not provide flowcharts as a BPM product. Do I understand you that this would be acceptable now given that knowledge work is being added to the BPM world? What happened to all the ideas that all processes in a business would be flowchart defined and executed as such? Are you saying that the whole idea of mapping out a business with flowcharts never existed?

      I am just trying to understand what the ‘waking up’ includes. Thanks again. Max


  3. Max,

    You have obviously picked the referenced that fit the “adaptive” paradigm and the segment you deal with, which is fair. I’d not have mentioned this, though, unless I had a point to make as well.

    It’s not that only Case Management and Adaptive Process Management part of the community is concerned about the functional overloading and mishmash that these definitions have created. In fact, the discussion on eBizQ yesterday (that has prompted Keith’s, and indirectly your post) originates from what I posted on my blog on the state of BPM –

    I hold a clear view that more than the definitions, what’s important is how the enabling technologies come together to find solutions in customer problem space. I had also posted earlier on the convergence ( and I indicated the ecosystem needs a synergetic effort. And this effort needs to come from the concepts that address unstructured processes as much as those that address the structured ones. In fact, in my view, there are very few processes that would be at any of these two extremes – most will fall in the overlap of structured and unstructured processes and we need solutions that bridge the two rather than create a divide and force the customers to make an either-or choice!

    Having said that, I’m in agreement with most of what you said. I really like the “Faust and a deal with the devil” analogy :)

    And incidentally, this morning I had posted my thoughts around Pure Play BPM, that we better drop the term now! What a timely coincidence that you mentioned it the same day – although from a slightly different angle.

    I think most of us carry the same view, let’s also ensure that somewhere we start talking the same language when referring to the same issues :) :)

    – Ashish


  4. […] Sure we could try and extend BPMS (the tool) to include the kind of work they do, perhaps even extend it enough to have it include email and document management systems (or is it that document management systems include BPMS, I get confused). But why should we? Most BPM systems have hooks that let the system invoke email (and so do document management systems) – but I would doubt most people would consider email as part of BPM. BPM and email are two separate systems which are sometime used in unison to solve a business problem – there is no need to pull them both under the same umbrella. I think the same is true of Wikis and other social technologies – they are useful tools – and there is no benefit pulling them under the BPM umbrella. So in the on going debate on ACM as part of BPM – I’m going to have to side with Keith and Max. […]


  5. Nick Guest says:

    For those of us that live and breath BPM, it is fairly well-defined, and understandable. This is not the case for many mid-size to large organizations I deal with daily. I think this is because the term BPM has been taken and applied by various S/W Companies to align with their strengths. Whether their roots come from Data Management, Workflow, Document Management, True Business Process Improvement, or some other niche area, they twist the term and the concept to fit their products. This, I believe, has caused a great deal of confusion amongst the general consumer of BPM Services. Additionally, BPMS has become interchangeable with BPM. These are VERY different things we are talking about. One is a Software Suite (BPMS) and the other is an ideology, approach, way of thinking, etc. (BPM). Just my 2 cents…


    • Thanks for commenting. The term BPM has been redefined in so many ways that the one thing it lacks is a clear definition. If the ideology is about improving the way a business works then BPM is always good. I always do say clearly that I am against BPM flow-charting regardless if it is done through a BPMS or by BPM methodology. BPM is about achieving strategic objectives, operational targets, process goals and customer outcomes. These should be explicit and the process should be coordinated accordingly and not follow some rigid flow. That is all.


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Max J. Pucher
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