Tag Archives: BPMS

Choosing the right BPMS

14 Aug
The following is a guest blog post that I wrote for BPM geek website. You can read the original post here.


Me: “Hello?”

Neal: “Hey, its me Neal.”

Me: “Neal…it has been a long time. How’s it going?”

Neal: “Its going well. My company has decided to invest in BPM software. I am leading the project. Since you have been through this, I thought you may be able to help.”

Me: “Sure. I am glad to help in any way I can.”

Neal: “Our CIO wants us to buy the best product that is out there. So tell me, which is the best BPM Suite out in the market today?”

Me: “It depends.”

Neal: “What do you mean?”

Me: “I don’t think there is a single, definitive answer to this. What is right for someone else, may not be right for you.”

Neal: “Can you explain? What is the approach should we take?”

Me: “Here’s my two cents…at a high level, choosing the right BPMS is no different from choosing any other software product. You need to carefully evaluate your requirements, your situation before making a decision. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered before you choose a BPM Suite.”

Neal: “Factors? Give me some examples.”

Me: “Have you identified the processes that you will be automating using BPMS? Are they simple straight-forward? Do you have any case or project management type processes? These may require a lot of flexibility.”

Neal: “We will be automating on-boarding of new employees to start with.”

Me: “Do you really need BPMS then? Perhaps, an HR application may suffice.”

Neal: “We already have an HR management system that can handle some of the basic setup along with benefits etc. but we also want to do things like granting user access to network and systems, send information to our payroll processor etc. Our HRMS cannot do all of that”.

Me: “I think you are on the right track with BPMS. As seems to be in you case, most BPMS implementations will need to integrate with other systems. So that is another important factor. You need to choose a product that can integrate easily with existing systems. Some provide built-in connectors for ERP, CRM and other applications. If you have to integrate with home-grown, legacy applications you may need customization.”

Neal: “Customization? When I looked at some product brochures and videos on vendor websites, it was all point, click, drag, drop and you are done.”

Me: “Ahh … BPMS utopia…but we live in the real world. It is likely that out-of-the-box you will be able to do 70-80% of what you need. For the remaining 20-30% you will need customizations, extensions etc. How easy are those going to be?”

Neal: “Hmm…didn’t think about that”

Me: “Actually, that raises another point. What skills are needed to make these customizations? Is the product built using Java technology, Microsoft technology or something different altogether? Do you have people who can do this? Or will you be depending on the vendor for this? I would venture to say that in any case you will need vendor support for the initial period but eventually your internal team could take ownership and run the show.”

Neal: “Great, this is just what I need. We are ready for take off”

Me: “No so fast buddy. Don’t forget the cost. These days with tight budgets you will need a good idea of how much all this will cost. There will be hardware costs, software licensing fees and professional services. You may also have to factor in your internal costs”

Neal: “Yes of course, total cost of ownership. I will work on that. This is great but where do I get started? What products should I be looking at?”

Me: “I suggest you start by looking at reports from research analysts like Gartner, Forrester, etc. As always the internet is your friend. Look at vendor websites, read blogs, browse discussions on LinkedIn and so on. Look at where different products are placed in the market and make your short-list from there.”

Neal: “And then?”

Me: “Arrange vendor demos and short-list further based on what you see. Once you are down to a handful of products, do a POC.”

Neal: “POC?”

Me: “Proof of concept. This is a deep dive into these products. Provide vendors with some use cases that are representative of your situation, have them implement it and see how each product fares. POCs typically last from a couple of days up to a week.”

Neal: “Fantastic ! Thanks for all this information”

Me: “You’re welcome. Remember, the bottom line is go with the one that best addresses your requirements. All the best.”

Neal: “Bye…”



Facebook for the enterprise

19 Feb

If you look back at the trends in “electronics era” (post-1970) , it is clear that popular consumer technology eventually creeps into the corporate world. First it was the personal computer, then the internet and the world wide web. Web 2.0  followed when companies realized the value of collaboration tools such as wikis and instant messaging and began  to pilot them. The trend continues with social media revolution. Facebook and Twitter have seen a meteoric rise in their popularity, so it was just a matter of time.

One of the first movers in this area, Yammer, was launched in Septermber 2009 starting off with a bang when it won the TechCrunch50 event in 2008. It was called Twitter with muscles and brains but in the two years since its launch it has not seen the sort of widespread adoption enjoyed by Twitter. The game changer could be Chatter from Salesforce.com. Originally launched in 2009 at its Dreamforce conference, Salesforce touted it as “Facebook for the enterprise”. The company described it as “a new secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform”. Chatter was initially available only to their paid users. It appears to have gained so much traction that in December 2010 they unveiled Chatter Free – a new edition of Chatter that is completely free. Anyone with a verified company email address can join their company network.

Other companies have started jumping into the fray. One of the leading BPM software vendors Appian recently launched Tempo – a new addition to their product suite that brings real-time collaboration and social networking features. A colleague pointed out that in January business integration software vendor TIBCO launched tibbr. While tibbr is available as SaaS, it can also be deployed on premise. It boasts of having out-of-the-box feeds for events in and out of major ERP and CRM applications and the ability to leverage clients’ LDAP for user profiles etc.

It is likely that sooner or later all major vendors will extend their existing offerings (or introduce new products) to include  real-time collaboration and enterprise social networking. With Salesforce offering Chatter at no cost it appears that the process of commoditization of these products has already begun. The consumer social networking space has become unipolar with Facebook effectively crushing its competitors. In the enterprise space this is less likely to happen. As has happened with ERP and CRM applications it will be a multi-polar world. The challenge for end-user companies will be to decide which horse they are going to back. Once you start using one of these platforms the possibility of lock-in is very high. In large companies, if an enterprise solution is not rolled out quickly enough individual departments may choose different products. The challenge then will be compatibility between such products. This is definitely an evolving space and it will interesting to see how things pan out, say, in five years from now.

No Gartner Magic Quadrant for BPMS in the future?

31 Jan

Business Process Management (BPM) products have matured considerably and are now seeing widespread adoption. BPM industry segment has evolved from having standalone products to having full fledged Business Process Management Suites (BPMS). When selecting a BPMS, many organizations rely on reports from leading industry analysts such as Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave etc.
I came across this interesting blog post titled BPMS and Gartner’s Quadrant Problem by Doug Henschen on Intelligent Enterprise site. It appears that Gartner may be moving towards a Business Process Platform (BPP) or Integrated Composition Enviroment (ICE) quadrant instead of one for BPMS. BPM is an evolving market and I suppose this is to be expected. This is reflected in the acquisitions of pure play BPMS vendors by more established infrastructure companies: TIBCO’s acquisition of Staffware, BEA buying Feugo and softwareAG acquiring webMethods. All pure play BPMS vendors are potential candidates for acquisition. So does that tilt the balance in favor of infrastructure vendors? It depends on what products are considered to be a part of BPP/ICE – BPMS, middleware, ESB, SOA governance, etc. If it is required that all these be delivered by the same vendor it will favor the heavy weights.