The demise of BPM software vendors

After the announcement, just before Christmas, of IBM's purchase of Lombardi, hardly has the New Year started then we get the announcement at the beginning of this week that Progress Software... see IT Director

The consolidation of BPM software providers is nearly complete. The heady promises that automation of processes was the way forward (mostly by the marketeers of those 'solutions') seems now to be drawing to a fitful conclusion. Are we witnessing the death-rattle of BPM?

Most certainly if you are an IT vendor in the space. Absolutely not if you have moved beyond the confines of those inside-out powerpoint on steroids technical 'solutions'.
The business side of Advanced BPM aka 'Outside-In' is in its ascendency and that simple realization that overly complex software touted by aggresive sales teams just doesn't work is timely. In fact most of it has been a costly distraction from the original promise of BPM.

The excellent stories being told by sector leaders (Google, Apple, BestBuy, Disney, Ryan Air, Bank Santander, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Virgin etc.) is that the technology should support business transformation, and when used to enhance the alignment to customer success, succeeds without the hyperbole of IT zealots.

OK let's get back to business :-) Join the Advanced BPM community on Linked-In


  1. Any predictions, Steve, on how these BPM products will perform from their new and bigger homes?

  2. Steve, from my perspective these BPM products were mostly sold as QUICK-FIX products, very often with precoded drop-in processes for very specific needs. They were also mostly sold through large and expensive partner organizations who also sold a lot of consultancy on top of the software. So don't blame the vendors alone. IBM and Progress are buying these vendors to consolidate the market and to buy customer share. That won't work well as the customers are owned by the partner network. Those products won't integrate and thus will disappear from the market eventually.

    Yes, there are IT zealots (LOTS of them) but that does not make technology wrong. Old-style BPM is NOT great technology. It's useless. Great technology changes the world quickly and from inside the system, while consultancy and methodologies have to find the leverage points from the outside and then succeed in acceptance, control and verification! Sofar technology was always more effective, what should be different know?

  3. Nice blog Steve, I have no qualms in accepting that I was like one of those IT Zealots before attending your workshop on BPM. IT vendors are yet to realize that the core piece in BPM is the outside –in thinking and not the products. The products are just the means to the end. A lot of focus is being put by these vendors on simulation and what-if analysis which is like the tail wagging the dog.

  4. Tony Baer wrote something recently where he said, "the cold hard facts are that anytime, anything executes in software, IT must be front and center. So much for bypassing IT" - he was absolutely right. But not every BPMS is based on going around IT. ActiveVOS is a BPMS that is instead geared toward fostering collaboration, not turf battles, between business and IT. Enterprises naturally look for IT to continue to play its pivotal role in the development of new applications. The development just needs to be done with significant input from business users, not by expecting those users to actually develop the apps themselves (as if they want to).