Over the last few days I’ve had a number of conversations with professionals, clients and vendors concerned about the amount of jargon and acronyms being thrown around in the Business Process Management industry today. BPM, BPMS, BPMN, BPN, iBPMS, BPA, BPR, IBO, Simulation, Social BPM, Cloud BPM, Operational Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Process Mining, Process Discovery, Human-Centric, Accelerators, Adaptive Case, Dynamic Case, Repositories, Suppositories……the list goes ever on.
Two words have emerged constantly from feedback received; simplification and education. I had a 2am iPhone email conversation with someone over Christmas one year who was struggling to see the value of BPM for her organisation because no-one she talked to for over 6 months gave her a straight answer. She was met with either jargon or a sales pitch. Now this poses a problem for us in general because it seems we have been preoccupied with the technical aspects of process management and the invention of new and exciting buzzwords that we’re losing our audience. People who are completely new to BPM do not understand what we’re about because the majority of vendor and analyst focus is levelled at the buying market such as the CTO or CIO of an enterprise and not the person struggling to improve and manage their processes at a grass roots level.
If you search on ‘BPM’ in Google you’re given a list of vendors screaming for attention so of course you’re going to explore their links and read what this ‘BPM thing’ is all about. Then you’re met with a wall of technobabble that within an hour of browsing you’re exhausted and wished you’d never bothered. A newcomer doesn’t care about BPMN 2.0, they want to learn how process management can help them understand their business area in a transparent fashion, why a process works and why is doesn’t, why risk mitigation is important, how managing a company through a process strategy and not simply with IT drives success, etc.
The problem is two-fold: vendor brochureware is aimed at the wrong people and there is very little for the absolute beginner to quickly find (without paying money!), and associations are only as good as the message they provide. The person referred to above joined a well known process organisation, reviewed their documentation and regularly attended their chapter meetings for that 6 months yet gleaned nothing that could explain why BPM is good for her company. She got some nice business cards from people though……
During a recent tweet jam held by Clay Richardson from Forrester (hashtag: #bpmradio) this topic raised its head again. There was good discussion around just how simplified the message should be (or whether it should be in the first place). I argued that if you couldn’t explain BPM to a child then the message was wrong. It’s not that it has to be dumbed down to kindergarten level but not everyone needs to hear the Einstein version…after all we can teach science to school children. What we need to do as an industry is extract the value of the message without the dramatic linguistics that go with it, and above all else we need to always remember just who the audience is that we’re talking to. Not everyone is as mature in understanding as we are.
Is it time the industry changed its message so it’s readily accessible to a larger audience ? If I remember correctly the ‘B’ in BPM stands for Business, not Babble.
What’s needed is for us all to go back to school and learn the basics again.
This was an original post from January 2010 on BPMredux and updated following the #bpmradio tweet jam held on the 11th Sept by Forrester’s Clay Richardson