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What can BPM Vendors Learn From the iPhone?

Blog: Mark McGregor's Process Performance Blog

Over the past few weeks I have been in contact with a lot more BPMS vendors than I would normally speak with. I have found it fascinating to see and hear how many of them are wrestling with the same issue. How can I make my product stand out from the crowd and get more sales?

Now it is not for me to judge in detail, but to my simple mind it appears that so many of these products essentially behave in the same way (I know there are things sold as different, but when one looks at the key functionality they are all getting nearer and nearer to each other). Of course some of the differential depends on the platforms you wish to run on, but in essence they appear to be sailing in a sea of sameness, with convergence being the order of the day.

This set me thinking that perhaps this was similar to the mobile phone market. Mobile phones have been around for many years now and whilst some people prefer Nokia, others Blackberry, or HTC or… handsets. Largely the handset market is pretty similar (and very crowded!), sure we can choose up market phones or basic phones, but in essence you would think that most of the angles had been covered. Major manufacturers have invested many millions of dollars developing their phone platforms and trying to make profit from them. The making profit increasingly be the hard part.

So it is into this market that Apple steps just a few years ago. A market that by all accounts was saturated and filled with manufacturers all struggling to make the returns they need. Whether you love iPhones or loathe them, you can’t argue that they are an absolute phenomenon and are driving amazing revenues and profits for Apple.

So what might lie behind this success? Well in the first instance Apple focused on the aesthetics, they designed a quality product that looked both different and enabled people to interact with it in new ways. So tick box one, they understood that having a great platform was only one piece of the jigsaw, making it look nice and work in a way people found more intuitive, was equally if not more important.

If you have ever seen the quick demos of BPM products you will know that to date very few vendors have actually invested in User Interface design, either for their design tools or in their generated applications. Interestingly enough, this is an area where Global 360 with their “Persona based BPM” are taking a different approach. They have engaged with a design agency and are now in the process of delivering new interfaces with a greater focus on aesthetics and natural ease of use. The approach has still to reach deep into their design tools, but it certainly looks fantastic on the generated applications. The idea is simple, if we can generate applications that the user finds easy and pleasing to engage with, then our clients will be more successful and we will sell more of our own product.

This leads us on very nicely to the second tick box in Apple’s success. Applications! Apple realized at once that it was not the technology platform that would stand alone, other companies are quickly trying to mimic the intuitive interface of Apple and as a phone it has pretty well the same (in some cases actually less!) functionality than other phones. It would be applications that would make the difference; Apple very quickly built or helped others to build a wide range of applications for the iPhone. As well as making money, it was the applications that made the phone successful. Those who have and love their iPhones are increasingly spending more and more time using the device for a wider and wider range of tasks and activities. (Of course this brings in to focus the challenge of battery life! But we can’t have everythingJ)

So, perhaps in order to break out from the pack, BPM vendors need to focus less on their technology stack, their platform and instead focus more on creating or having created libraries of applications. Perhaps the time has come for component based BPM. The idea that we can simply build and assemble BPM applications from various vendors and assemble them together seems to make some sense. Not so easy I know, but if Apple proved that User Interface and applications are what generates sales and profits, even in a crowded market, then perhaps that is what it will take for a BPM vendor or two to break from the pack. We all know that swimming in a sea of sameness is a recipe for disaster and as SAP also proved you don’t have to have the best technology underpinning your software product to succeed.

 

The People Side of Change

Watford 25th/26th November and Redditch 1st/2nd December

A new workshop designed to help you deliver your BPM and Process Projects more effectively

So much of the focus today is on technology, but such projects are largely about change! And change more often than not revolves around people. This highly interactive workshop will provide you with knowledge, skills and insight into how people work and how you can harness this in order to be more effective. Thanks to sponsorship from Casewise, Lanner Group and Global 360, there are a limited number of places available at the highly discounted price of £175.00 per person.

To find out more or to book your place please visit “The People Side of Change” – you will also find a short video which will provide you with the thoughts from others who have participated in the program.

 

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