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Last year, I wrote a fairly controversial post explaining why nobody cares about BPM. The main idea was that most BPM projects are implemented by software vendors and system integrators, with little participation from customers themselves. As a result, BPM products remain at the level of frameworks, rather than being promoted to the level of platforms. It has been nine months since I wrote this article, and twelve since Intalio moved to an open-source model. This time and experience gave me a better understanding of the problem at hand.

A month after publishing my original post, I challenged my friend and industry analyst Bruce Silver to point me to a BPM vendor that could identify three customers who successfully managed to use its product to build a complex business process that would leverge a Service Oriented Architecture, and managed to do it without writing code and with no technical support from the vendor. He could not. Since then, I have asked analysts at Forrester, Gartner, and Upside Research the same question. They could not come with a better answer.

Time passed, and I kept looking, until we hired a sales engineer who used to work in the professional services division of one of our competitors, which I won’t name for obvious reasons. While we were getting him up to speed with our product, I asked him to outline the pluses and minuses of our product compared to our competitor’s, without disclosing any confidential information. What he came up with helped me validate some of my early assumptions.

In a nutshell, when using our competitor’s BPM product, putting a simple workflow process together during a sales call is a matter of minutes. Drap and drop this shape, draw this link, and voilà, you have a process up and running, with simulation and all. Of course, this makes for a great demo, the customer is impressed, and before you know it, an $300,000 check has been signed. Then, the fun begins.

Once you get beyond the most trivial scenario, forget about drag and drop, and get ready to write some serious amount of arcane code. You want to connect to a web service through WSDL? Well, this will require some code to be written, some files to be packaged, and debugging will keep you busy for quite some time. Could you use the sexy process simulator for process debugging? Forget about it…

As you dive deeper into this $300,000 piece of software, you then realize that the architecture you were sold turns out to be some scary patchwork of disparate technologies that were quickly cobbled together. While getting a process to call an external service (outbound call) was doable, getting an external service to call a process (inbound call) does not seem to be part of the offering, and you need to implement your own listener as a Servlet for it to be done. Nice…

Then comes the really fun part: the business folks want a different user interface for their workflow. The one you got out of the box seems to be working pretty well, and you could display your company logo at the top left, but somehow the suits have something different in mind, and they want it now. They paid $300,000 for some magic pixie dust that gives them business agility, and they expect it to make you a contortionist worthy of a full-time job with Cirque du Soleil. So you end up spending the next six months writing massive amounts of JavaScript code that will hardcode the customer’s process deep into the user interface. You will be late, over budget, and won’t benefit from future software upgrades, for what you have now is built upon a completely different codebase. Great…

What I am describing here is not specific to the particular competitor I referred to above. As a matter of fact, it has become the norm in the BPM industry today, leading to an alarming failure rate for BPM projects that go over time and over budget in most cases, and an abyssmally low level of repeat sales—same customer buying again from the same vendor.

The problem mainly comes from the fact that BPM is being sold to business buyers as a way for business people to manage executable business processes without involvement from IT folks. But experience tells us that such a thing does not exist, for both technical and practical reasons. At a technical level, the technology allowing business analysts to design an executable process providing transactional integration with back-end systems and complex interactions with human beings does not exist. It’s science fiction. It’s snake oil. It’s a lie. Pure and simple. And at a practical level, business people do not want to take responsibility for executable processes deployed in a production environment. They’re simply too smart for that, and they’d rather leave it to the poor IT folks who have been doing it for decades now.

As a result, most BPM vendors sell this stupid vision to naive customers upstream, then make up for it by deploying armies of expert consultants to write a lot of code that is making processes utterly inflexible downstream. And when they’re done with it, they run as fast as they can to the next customer. Awesome…

Quite frankly, this is not the BPM my friend Howard Smith and I had in mind back in 2000 when we laid the foundations for it. This is why the BPM 2.0 moniker was introduced last year. It is time for a complete reset of expectations, and the adoption of business practices that will demonstrate to customers the real value that BPM can bring to their businesses, without hiding anything. This is also the reason why Intalio adopted an open-source model. Putting lipstick on a pig does not work so well with open source…

Last year, I complained that nobody cared about BPM, and that it was best illustrated by the fact that very few customers actually talked about their BPM projects, what was working, and what was not. So let’s start on the right foot, and let’s give them the stage for a change. Here is what customers have to say about our product, and what they are doing with it. And if that was not enough, you can find more of it there. And if you want to talk to them, let me know, and I will be more than happy to make some introductions. Enjoy!

“Intalio|BPMS is the future of Business Processes Managment. Graphical process design tool, web-based workflow user interface, automatic generation of forms, and enterprise-class open-source architecture. It has everything our customers have been asking for.”
—Konstantin Boehm, Ancud IT

“Intalio|BPMS is a very powerful BPM tool for process analysts. It bridges the gap between Business and IT in an elegant, easy to use manner.”
—Konstantin Boehm, Ancud IT

“Having worked with manufacturing customers in multiple industries to deploy business processes for the plant floor that improve operational and supply chain efficiency, we have used various BPM technologies, and Intalio|BPMS distinguishes itself as an exceptional value. Intalio’s open standard technology has a full range of functionality that enables manufacturers to very cost effectively build and scale business processes across their operations.”
—John Mahoney, B2D Solutions

“Intalio’s product has reached a level of maturity and sophistication that makes it the absolute leader in the BPMS space.”
—Mirela Cukovic, Broadlane

“Intalio|BPMS perfectly completes Thaler’s SOA. It makes service orchestration and composite applications a reality, without having to write a single line of code. Application development enters a new era where business takes control back from IT.”
—Pierre-Philippe Bastin, Callataÿ & Wouters

“We selected Intalio|BPMS as a best of breed in the new category of BPMS based on its thorough implementation of BPEL4WS. Our decision was also influenced by the maturity of Intalio’s integrated tools covering the design, deployment and management of enterprise IT processes that can be directly deployed onto an existing heterogeneous IT infrastructure consisting of both new best-of-breed and legacy applications that comprise today’s distributed computing environment.”
—Howard Smith, Computer Sciences Corporation

“After building three prototypes with Intalio and two competing products, I was sure that the Intalio approach was the best.”
—Heinz Drews, Computer Sciences Corporation

“It is clear that a product such as Intalio|BPMS is the direction of business process management systems for the future.”
—Clive Finkelstein, DM Review

“Using Intalio|BPMS will allow projects to be deployed within two to four weeks, instead of the multi-month or multi-year cycles traditionally associated with large-scale IAM projects. We evaluated many other BPM solutions currently available on the market, but no other product came close to Intalio’s in terms of robustness, scalability, and ease of deployment.”
—Ameet Shah, Diamelle

“Oooh! I like it…”
—Gil Regev, EPFL

“Having a real, executable BPM 2.0 environment at your fingertips makes you rethink how you architect solutions. It simply gets you wild again. Keep up the good work!”
—Jose Diego de La Cruz, EPFL

“The release of Tempo—the human interaction workflow component of the Intalio BPM suite—to Open Source further demonstrates Intalio’s industry leadership and commitment to making BPM 2.0 a reality. Tempo promotes the adoption of open standards, using XForms to implement the BPEL4People paper jointly drafted by IBM and SAP. Tempo raises the bar on what organizations should expect from a human interaction workflow component, and simultaneously eliminates cost as a barrier to adoption. I strongly encourage all interested parties to download, evaluate, and collaborate on enhancements to this significant contribution to the BPM and Open Source communities.”
—Vernon Stinebaker, Everse Corporation

“My experience with Business Process Management and Workflow is based on the automation of the standards production chain at the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva. At that time, I had just a workflow engine for the orchestration of services. With a product like Intalio|BPMS, my job would have been much simpler.”
—Alexander Samarin, ISO

“There is more to the tool than meets the eye. Its capabilities will surprise you.”
—Jesse Velasco, MSI

“I have now tested Intalio|BPMS, and the product is great. I have been looking for such an Open Source platform for years, and I am glad it is finally available on the market. Your decision to use BPMN for modelling processes is right on, and so is the choice of Eclipse as underlying framework. It is really nice to see BPMN becoming ready for prime time through Intalio’s work.”
—Tore Storodegard, Mobic

“Part of our decision to adopt Intalio|BPMS was its technical architecture and capabilities. From modeling to execution, we were pleased to see that Intalio engineers decided to rely on many industry standards and Open Source building blocks. Our main challenge was to integrate the Intalio|Workflow (Project Tempo) with the Open Source LifeRay portal, our preferred portal framework. Tempo uses proven and well-known frameworks and standards, such as Spring, Web Flow, XForms, and AJAX. As a result, our technical team was able to start working quickly on the integration project. Things went even faster once we engaged with Intalio’s technical support team. Today, we are proud to offer a powerful duo that combines an enterprise-grade portal with solid foundations for sales process management, tightly integrated with external systems such as Salesforce.com and Oracle E-Business Suite.”
—Natalie Watson, OperMIX

“Our experience in sales coaching and practice improvement has demonstrated that customer-related processes are the most critical and complex in any organization. Yet, sales people and executives need to keep very flexible practices, as market needs are constantly shifting. While using CRM or ERP solutions can certainly help deal with standard processes (30 to 50% of end-to-end processes), it cannot provide enough flexibility to support unique sales processes that set a company apart from its competition. Our customers are now starting to realize how BPM can be applied to customer satisfaction and loyalty building. Over other BPM solutions that are available in the market today, I believe Intalio|BPMS is the best choice for many reasons: it protects customer’s investment on the long term using standard approaches and technologies, it represents the lowest total cost of ownership, and above all, it is highly flexible and reactive, allowing us to change processes on the fly.”
—Hicham Jellab, OperMIX

“I cannot believe it. I modeled and deployed my first process in a record time. I think you have a very nice tool. Congratulations!”
—Christian Thoma, Universität Karlsruhe

“Designing processes on Intalio|Designer is flawless. Great tool and in-depth training made us realize the true potential Intalio can deliver.”
—Harish Krishnaji Rao, e4e, Inc.

Entry filed under: BPM 2.0