BPM: The Rise and Fall of Command and Control

BPM crowd blog image

If you’re a DJ, you’ll be thinking BPM stands for “beats per minute”, but I can tell you it’s far less cool than that. For enterprise software geeks like me, it means Business Process Management… come back, I’m not finished! It’s a class of enterprise platform that has been struggling with its identity for years. It seems to do everything and nothing – all at the same time.

The Clockwork Organization

Generally, the concept is pretty easy to get: you draw flow diagrams of how your organization “should work” and BPM helps your organization work that way – usually using a range of technologies that form the BPM platform. What has drawn me to the industry is the focus on pivoting your organization to be less about your org chart and much more about how customers interact with your organization. Put the customer at the center and optimize how your organization works for them.

Sounds pretty good right?

Well, actually no. And here’s the problem.

For many years, BPM platforms have pushed a model of command and control. They’ve been too busy getting you to wire back-office systems together to worry about your customers. But also embarrassingly, they forgot about just about every person: customer, partner, employee. Oh, they know they’re part of the process, but they treat them very much like an integration endpoint:

Notify user, provide user inputs, gather user outputs, move to next execution step…(said in your best robot voice).

But the story gets even worse – BPM platform vendors have actively encouraged a world where the “systems”, not people, are issuing orders according to pre-defined and pre-determined rules. You can just imagine how much fun that is for your employees. Or even more brutal to your organization, try inflicting that approach on your customers.

BPM platform vendors should take a hard look at themselves – and perhaps kick their own ass for once. This is not the future you’re looking for.

The Rise of the Customer Platform

The next generation of BPM will look nothing like its predecessors. It will be lighter, faster, easier, agile – and MOST importantly – customer centric. What does that look like?

The next generation platforms will allow organizations to rapidly automate customer experiences as apps. These apps will share common themes:

  • They will allow your organization to collaborate with customers, in realtime, while also driving and enabling consistent customer service at scale. This is way more than social networking.
  • They will work across all devices and form factors – they’ll be wherever your customer is in whatever form is most appropriate for them. Google Glass, Android Phone, Apple Watch, you name it. This is the internet of customers.
  • They will of course be easy to maintain, fast to update, and agile enough to be spun up and torn down to keep pace with the ever changing demands of your customer and the line of business. They will be the center of your innovation strategy.
  • They will be connected to your existing systems and data so you don’t lose control. Rather than controlling the employee, the partner and/or the customer, they will control the systems and provide a unified user experience.


The result? Your organization will be able to:

  • Launch new products quickly and iterate faster than ever before.
  • Deliver killer customer service to support the entire customer lifecycle.
  • Leverage automation to make peoples lives easier, not more controlled.

Where do you find one of these platforms? Hmmm – let me think… ManyWho :0)

Posted in BPM

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