Business Process Management Software: Evolution

Dmitry Melnikov
Jul 9 · 3 min read

It all began in 1993, when Workflow Management Coalition was formed to define business standards for business processes management. In 1995 they already issued their first standard — Workflow Reference Model. That was the moment when a new class of software products emerged. It was called BPMS, or BPM.

According to Wikipedia, business process management (BPM) is a discipline in operations management in which people use various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, and automate business processes. BPM focuses on improving corporate performance by managing business processes.

But giving standard descriptions to processes turned out to be a complex task. In 1998 Workflow Management Coalition released the Workflow Process Definition Language (WPDL) standard and soon translated it into XML, getting the XML Process Definition Language (XPDL) standard as a result. A year before that Object Management Group had decided to expand a well known Unified Modeling Language (UML) standard and add business processes to it. Finally, in 2005 Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI) developed a modern standard of BPMN, supported by Object Management Group.

Thus the concept of business process management was becoming more and more popular, with lots of companies integrating business process management software.

1st generation (1995–2010)

First competent BPM systems started to appear several years after the standard had been developed. One of the true pioneers were TeamWorks by Lombardi Software and French-made WorkflowGen by Advantys. Microsoft joined this race in 2007 with their Windows Workflow Foundation integrated into SharePoint.

It was obvious that BPM systems effectively helped businesses reduce managements systems integration costs and boost internal automation development. However, cost of such BPM solutions was very high, starting from 500 000 and reaching tens of millions of US dollars.

2nd generation (2010–2019)

When first solutions helping to manage business processes were implemented, companies started to make new demands for the software they were dealing with. For example, more and more employees started using advanced smartphones and wanted to get mobile access to their workflows.

Several young and aspiring companies, such as Activiti, Camunda, Pega, Nintex, Mendix, K2, seized the moment and presented different, yet effective BPM solutions which filled this market niche.

Today it is quite clear that BPM systems are becoming simpler and more flexible. They are easy to develop, which means that development and integration costs are dropping. Many companies start offering fully-implemented BPM systems instead of BPM platforms.

2nd generation BPM systems have the following features:

· they are industry-oriented,

· allow remote system access,

· are cloud-based,

· and offer a mobile client.

3rd generation (2019 — ?)

It seems to me that BPM systems of 2019 are bulky and clumsy, like elephants (almost as ERP systems of 10 years ago). They are incredibly expensive in terms of training and integration costs. Looks like BPM vendors missed on several recent trends, such as Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery, Artificial intelligence, Big Data. And businesses became less inclined to buy such solutions and integrated BPM systems as a result. Some vendors (for example Terrasoft with its bpm’online) even started selling out-of-the-box business systems, similar to CRM, but based on the BPM platform.

Most likely, the following trends will influence BPM systems of the 3rd generation:

· CI/CD support;

· different approach to front-end components development (front-end and back-end divided, React/Angular technologies developed);

· code-based integration within one solution;

· simpler knowledge and skill requirements for software developers;

· AI/ML features.

Several months ago I already discussed CI/CD and new UI development trends. I’m going to talk about other trends later, when we add them to DWKit, our most efficient workflow product.

Using these trends and features young companies will get a unique opportunity to find the best place in the market.

Dmitry Melnikov

Written by

CEO of optimajet.com, dwkit.com, workflowengine.io.

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