Buckle-up. The BPM ride is about to begin…


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I’ve just returned from a rather adventurous and eventful trip involving two important dots on Gartner’s magic quadrant for BPM. One is a tech behemoth interested in almost everything related to IT, and the other, a vendor that has a laser focus on BPM.

The first dot is of course IBM and the other dot, allegedly the ‘best one’ on the quadrant, Appian. Ahead Sunrise

I am talking, of course,  about IBM IMPACT at Las Vegas and AppianWorld at Washington D.C. Although the scope and scale of the two events is a study in contrasts, attending both back to back, has thrown up a few interesting insights and takeaways.

The first is to always avoid connections and take direct flights instead.

Ok. I had to get that off my chest, but it was still an interesting takeaway because it seemed to me that one of the constant themes in both conferences and indeed in all events between the two, was the importance of customer experience. (And United seemed to particularly enjoy delaying either me or my flight and then dispatching me and my baggage in opposite directions.)

This was my first check-in at IBM IMPACT at Las Vegas and as expected the central topics continued to be Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud, SMAC or CAMS as IBM wants to call it.  IBM was SMACing everything about, showcasing a ‘composable business’ promising awe-inspiring business benefits. And of course, there was a lot of talk about process. Smart ones too, of course.

At AppianWorld, it was still about the same topics but specifically in the context of BPM as a ‘work platform’ bringing together, social, mobile and cloud deployment.

Interesting parallels and contrasts, Social, mobile, cloud – the commonalities. The big guy is looking at infusing the SMAC force into everything – including BPM – and the other is doing everything in SMAC to enable just BPM.

There is something else that appealed to me more.

Generally speaking, what is becoming very evident overall in the IT industry is that the core messaging from product vendors, SIs, etc., seems to be getting stronger and louder than ever before in their message to business. Clearly everyone is drumming up a pretty loud and compelling pitch designed to the appeal to business. One could see it clearly at both IMPACT and at AppianWorld.

IMPACT Solution Showcase

Additionally, there is another important message sticking out of all the noise to me – the journey itself to deliver those promises to business. Let me sum up both based on my experiences in the two events.

  • The first as we just discussed has to do with the destination, the result, the outcome from IT investments. The promise of technology is definitely becoming more rooted around business outcomes, customer experience, revenue, and agility and less about cost and inward looking improvements or mere technical features, functionality and the like. At IMPACT, Tangerine CEO, Peter Aceto’s opening keynote was all about delivering to customers, combining mobile experience with process change, ‘doing things that haven’t been done in Banking’. Marie Wieck, of IBM brought up ‘design thinking’ and talked about enabling a shift in thinking akin to changing from designing a mere ‘flower vase’ to taking an approach to design for ‘enjoying fresh flowers’.  Marie is GM for Application and Integrations Middleware. Car2Go – another example of putting customer at the pivot and designing to their expectations and experience. At AppianWorld there was enough said about business outcomes, revenue improvements, customer experience. Of course, they were all about BPM anyway.
  • The second message is about the actual journey towards those business benefits. This is about the development cycle. About infrastructure setup, configuration, development, about testing and deployment, about rapid application development. In both events there was substantial stress on how that is going to be like going forward. And the common message seems to be faster, easier, better.  It is about finding the shortest distance to those business benefits. IBM while making its fundamental promise to the business, is at the same time consolidating its products and services portfolio to appeal to both IT and business at the same time, assuring IT the tools, platforms and techniques to deliver exciting solutions – quickly. Tangerine’s Peter Aceto invited his CIO on stage and he had some serious messages that I am sure a lot of people took note of. He talked about having a mobile development cycle of 6 weeks and aspiring to bring it down to 2 weeks. Which they apparently did – how? By understanding that they traditionally spent too much time on configuring and managing software, developing mobile libraries, preparing test environments and so on, and then knocking off that time spent. Granted those are traditional wins moving to the ‘cloud’ but what was interesting to me was how the means became sort of secondary, perhaps even incidental with such strong desire for shorter go-to-market cycles. In fact as a sign of it’s commitment a faster go-to-market, IBM also announced an IBM Cloud Market Place and BlueMix Cloud Services that includes everything from API management and DevOps services to data analytics. Appian for its part announced several important changes to its product that will make not just design faster, but also testing cycles shorter, giving way more rapid application development and deployment.

It is not like no one has ever thought about the final destination, the outcomes or business benefits. It is perhaps likely that we have just been too consumed by the journey to get there. And with everything going on in the market, economies, the convergence of social, mobile and cloud – the Nexus of Forces as Gartner puts it –  is getting everyone to sit up and rethink pretty seriously about delivering value – real value.

And that throws up the question of what IT has really been delivering so far?

And this sort of brings to mind the rather impassioned speech Alan Trefler last year at PegaWorld13, about how IT has traditionally short changed-business – although if you ask me, that message was more from the the degree of success in delivering results and less about the actual journey itself. But looking at Appian’s product announcements, I got a different sense – that it really needs to be a combination of both – less about the journey and at the same time, more about the destination. Zero code, for example.

Zero code is certainly music to the ear.

But honestly, now, can zero code really be music? Not necessarily to all ears. I am sure the idea of zero-code makes a pretty sizable portion of the IT market squirm uneasily.

With the references at IMPACT, to the cloud market place, an API Economy and so on, and seeing all that in the light of the two points I just discussed, I think we are headed to a serious shift in the IT economy itself.

It is going to be very very interesting to see how product vendors and SIs team up – how they will align and – indeed even alter – each others interests to what the buying customer is now being trained to expect from IT – both from the journey as much as the destination.

The ride ahead is definitely going to be fantastic. So, don’t forget to buckle-up!


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