Whatever Happened To Business Process Management Software?

In a recent article, I took a critical look at the burgeoning robotic process automation (RPA) market – and found that in many cases, vendor promises were well ahead of functionality for this relatively new automation market category.

In spite of this surprising level of immaturity, automation software has been with us for years, and we can trace much of its history to the business process management software (BPMS) market.

It doesn’t take long, however, until BPMS itself becomes confusing – partly because BPM is confusing. “The Workflow Management Coalition [WfMC] has been working to standardize terminology for process oriented thinking for 20 years,” claims the WfMC web site. “Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline involving any combination of modeling, automation, execution, control, measurement and optimization of business activity flows, in support of enterprise goals, spanning systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.”

Fair enough – chose one from column A and another from column B and perhaps you have BPM – but that’s not the same as BPMS. The ‘S’ at the end indicates the software that either makes BPM work, or runs processes, or manages processes, or helps you model them, or perhaps something else entirely.

Confused yet? It gets worse. Even if we stick to the software story alone, BPMS is either a mature, growing category – or yesterday’s news, depending on whom you ask.

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