The Evolution of BPM

For those of us who have been in this digital transformation space for a 15+ years, you will recall that it wasn’t too long ago when workflow became BPM (Business Process Management), then transformed to iBPMS (Intelligent Business Process Management System) and most recently to Digital Process Automation (DPA). This was necessitated by the plethora of new features and functionality that were (and continue to be) added each year into these technology platforms by the leading BPM vendors.

The pace at which these technologies continue to evolve has accelerated even more, with some of the leaders rolling out a release every quarter. Most of the leaders (as recognized by Forrester and Gartner) are featured in multiple analyst reports. In some cases, it depends on the lens thru which you view these technologies, while in other cases, the leading vendors have intentionally made significant efforts to expand into other complimentary technologies that can offer clients the best digital transformation experience in a single platform.

Just a few years ago, if you wanted to evaluate the best BPM platform for your organization and your specific use case, you could start your BPM research by reviewing The Forrester Wave1 and The Gartner Magic Quadrant2 reports, selecting the top few vendors in each report to begin your technology evaluation for the best BPM platform that’s just right for you. Today’s leading BPM vendors excel in many digital transformation categories (as defined by leading industry analysts) including:

  1. Business Process Management
  2. Dynamic Case Management
  3. Low-code Application Management
  4. Digital Process Automation
  5. Robotic Process Automation
  6. Customer Lifecycle Management

To do the same BPM evaluation today, you would first need to narrow the digital transformation field down to the right technology category. But it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds, since the most innovative BPM platforms are recognized in more than one technology category (listed above). Forrester refers to this space as Digital Process Automation which combines a set of leading digital transformation technologies including BPM, AI and consumer-grade UX amongst others. For a detailed evaluation of DPA technology vendors, you can read The Forrester Wave™: Digital Process Automation Software, Q3 2017 by Rob Koplowitz (July 5, 2017).

At Princeton Blue, we participate (as a sponsor, presenter or sometimes simply an attendee) in the leading digital transformation technology conferences every year, with the objective of staying ahead of the digital automation technology innovations and which vendors are leading the charge. Over the last 7 months, we have participated in various BPM, RPA, AI and other digital transformation conferences ranging from Appian World, Pega World, IBM Think, Blue Prism World, Imagine (Automation Anywhere), AI World, IRPA AI and the Forrester Digital Transformation Summit just to name a few.

It became very clear that the pace of innovation has never been faster, and we will likely need a new category soon – let’s see what the technology analysts think when their next reports come out.

At Think 2018, IBM announced its newest offering, the Digital Business Automation (DBA) platform which combines IBM BPM, ODM, Blueworks Live, Filenet, Datacap and IBM RPA by Automation Anywhere. DBA adds content management and data capture/ingestion to the last year’s bundled BPM, Rules and RPA offering.

Appian continues to innovate every quarter and the latest offering, Appian 18.2, significantly improves the intelligent UI rendering with the philosophy of “build once and consume anywhere (on any device)” while maintaining all the advantages of low-code application development. The newly announced Appian Intelligent Contact Center (ICC) marks Appian’s first product offering built on the Appian platform. AI capabilities like sentiment analysis are now a core part of the Appian platform, so no need to venture out to Amazon or Google for that anymore. A sign that perhaps other more advanced AI capabilities will soon find their way into the platform as well in the near future.

Pegasystems (“Pega”) made a big splash at Pega World 2018 with the announcement of the new Pega Infinity platform which brings, BPM, business rules, RPA, AI and a variety of Customer Relationship, Sales, Marketing and Service Management capabilities into a single platform. Pega provides built-in RPA (via the Openspan acquisition 2 years ago) and AI capabilities as a shared service via its centralized Customer Decision Hub across all aspects of the customer acquisition, servicing, up-sell and support life-cycle.

A common theme across the leading BPM platforms has been the desire to leverage RPA (via partnership or acquisition) to automate repetitive human tasks that are today done by people even when the process is automated via BPM. Another common use case is to leverage RPA to build integrations with applications that are either too old, or on a path to being sunset, and the cost associated traditional API based integration is not justified. I do think that we will see some M&A activity between BPM, low code development and RPA technology vendors given the complementary value proposition across the digital transformation spectrum.

With over 400 digital automation projects under our belt over the past 11 years at Princeton Blue, we have observed that BPM is most commonly used for client onboarding and servicing, so it is not surprising to see the leading BPM vendors are moving in that direction and offering an out-of-the-box offering around customer lifecycle management – from demand generation and customer acquisition to customer support, upsell and servicing. Pega is now taking on Salesforce in this area with its Marketing, Sales Automation and Customer Service offerings, while Salesforce is competing with Appian on the low-code application development front. Appian made its debut in this space with its Intelligent Contact Center platform.

This innovation from the leading BPM technology vendors is happening at a pace never seen before. It’s hard imagine that most of these new capabilities have been introduced in the last 12 months. Technology vendors continue to expand their digital transformation offerings with the objective of providing their customers with a growing set of digital automation features, tools and capabilities so they can support their customers with the most innovative digital solutions on the market.

So how can we still call this BPM? Can’t wait to see this year’s BPM analyst reports and how these super innovative digital transformation technology platforms will be categorized. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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