Phil Gilbert | Perspectives in Process
Business process management requires a new set of technologies. By 2010, these will replace ERP as the primary focus of solution engineering at companies large and small. By 2020, managing process through technology will be second nature to senior executives, and the transactional systems we use today will be like mainframes. My blog talks about BPM today, tomorrow and where we'll be in 2020. Welcome.
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It Isn't BPM, It's IBM

Yesterday, Dennis Byron of ebizQ presented a false choice between "BPM point solutions" and the stack vendors' "BPM suites." But this isn't the choice at all. IBM doesn't do BPM, not really, despite the Orwellian marketing rhetoric (although it is a delight to see them describe "Dynamic Process Edition" - a collection of four no-doubt business-friendly Websphere tools - as a "comprehensive foundation to deploy dynamic business processes in response to changing business needs." BINGO, for goodness sake!)

With just a tweak, replacing "BPM point products" with "personal computers," this line from Dennis's post could have been written in 1984: "IT managers and staffers have to ask--again and constantly--do I want to bet my job and my enterprise's success on personal computers anymore?" Those pesky business users...

The choice isn't between pure-play vendors and stack vendors, the choice is between BPM or IBM.

What is BPM? I think it's pretty simple: put the business back in charge of its business assets. And what is IBM? Keep that control in IT.

The Business Assets

These assets can be classified in two broad buckets:

  • How you do business (the processes)
  • What business you do (the data)

The "how" of business can be expressed in any number of ways, but the most pertinent is via the prism of process. So the first order of business for BPM is for the business to regain ownership of defining, understanding, implementing, measuring and improving its own processes. This job has been largely outsourced to IT over the past four decades. You hear this in the statement "the process is what the application does." And since IT controls the application, it controls the process. This isn't BPM, it's IBM. This has to change.

The "what" of business is the actual business data. Today, most system-of-record business data is electronic in nature. How does a business person access this data? Probably through applications controlled by IT. Go ahead, ask how long it will take to get a certain report. And what about process performance data? It isn't even available. This isn't BPM, it's IBM. This has to change.

And so while Dennis thinks my take on IBM's "free BPM" is simply some specific deal, he's wrong. Ask any BPM practitioner in any account where IBM has leverage and s/he'll tell you the same story. This is nothing less than a strategy to kill real BPM, and IBM executes that strategy every day in every way. As I've pointed out in the past, they want to kill off the impertinent notion of business-people controlling the business assets. IBM has spent almost half a century building up their control over this information, and they're not going to give it up without a fight!

"A point in every direction..."

So, Dennis, you're wrong on this one. IBM doesn't do BPM, so saying there's a choice between "point solutions" and the stackers is a false choice. Don't take my word for it, search for "dynamic business process management" on the IBM site. Look at all the stuff they say you'll need for BPM. 20 tools? 30 tools? Or you can look to mainstream analysts who have tried to find and interview IBM BPM references.  Their findings, as published in reports you can see if you are a client, will show that customers aren't moving very quickly with their BPM deployments, and they usually have to use other tools in addition to the "WebSphere Dynamic Process Edition" to author real-world processes and reports.

Take a lesson from Oblio: having a point in every direction is the same as having no point at all. And that isn't BPM, it's IBM.

ps - here's a link to Scott Francis's original blog post that Dennis forgot to include yesterday, as well as Scott's reply to Dennis.

Comments

Today I altered this post slightly. In the original post, I used content that I thought was publicly available but was, in fact, available only to customers of one of the mainstream analyst firms. I removed that sentence, and the offending quote, and replaced it with the text "Or you can look to mainstream analysts who have tried to find and interview IBM BPM references. Their findings, as published in reports you can see if you are a client, will show that customers aren't moving very quickly with their BPM deployments, and they usually have to use other tools in addition to the 'WebSphere Dynamic Process Edition' to author real-world processes and reports."

My apologies to the copyright holder.

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