There are two technologies I’d advice watching, as we enter the second half of 2011: Enterprise Streams and Mobile
One of the annoying technical issues BPMS tools need to negotiate with – is Outlook. It’s the rugby player in the middle of the field that we are all trying to avoid, tiptoe around quietly. Most BPMS solutions use emails to deliver tasks. Most organisations use Outlook. Even if there is a tasklist portal, Outlook will still be used.
Outlook is not a technical friendly partner for integration. Yes, you can create an Outlook Add-on, but most organisations will not allow users to download add-ons and change security settings. (And I’m not even talking about those companies that reset security permissions every night) And yes, you can start embedding fancy client side tools, but if you need to deploy them to an organisation with 15,000 users – it’s a nightmare. Different versions, different languages, different browsers… I’m not saying that its not doable… I’m just saying that Outlook is not an integration friendly application.
The new era of social tools like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are changing the communications landscape. Users desire same level of innovation and functionality from their business applications as they get from their home applications. Outlook will not disappear, but will be used less. (Mobile phones did not kill handsets) The idea of using Twitter-like tools inside the organisation is gaining momentum. There are already two BPM vendors that have Enterprise Steam offerings. It’s just a matter of time till more vendors jump on the wagon.
But the competition isn’t between the BPM vendors. The biggest competitor is Google. Google will (one day) offer a great Twitter-like tool for businesses to bypass Outlook. The three functionalities that Enterprise Streams need to have, in order not to be ‘obliviated’ one day by Google are: Workflows, Integration and BI. These will be the three key differentiators between any future Google “Twitter-for-Business” offering and a BPM Enterprise Stream solution.
Don’t think of Mobile BPM as just another way of interacting with the system through a small screen. Think about the things that make your mobile phone different than your laptop.
You talk on your mobile, email, sms and communicate in ways your laptop doesn’t. You take pictures using your mobile. Mobile devices know where you are. Your laptop doesn’t. You never go anywhere without your mobile. Mobile also includes smartphones, tablets, IPods.. the future of communication.
Most BPM vendors “support” mobile. “Support” means that they can send emails to mobile devices. Luckily for them, most organisations are not at the stage where mobile functionality is a deal breaker. It’s more of a “bells and whistles” gizmo for the demos.
From a technical point of view – Any BPM mobile solution needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. We have not reached “the promised land” yet. Every mobile device has its own operating system, its own programming language, even different versions of the same device. Trying to make one BPM mobile application that would fit all mobile devices, all versions, in an mobile industry that hasn’t yet been able to agree on one communication standard – is not (yet) possible.
And anyone that tells you that you don’t need a client application – “you just approve from email links on your mobile” is blowing smoke. If you can’t authenticate the mobile device (see reasons above) then you are using anonymous authentication to enter the BPM system from outside of the company. You don’t need to be an Einstein to understand that this opens the system to abuse. Most BPM systems are secure closed systems, accessible only from inside the company’s domain. If I can click on a link from the mobile and bypass your security, I can also hack my way into your system, expose information or bring it down.
That said, mobile technology is progressing, it won’t be too long till they come up with an industry standard and solve security problems. And any BPM mobile solution offering will enjoy the “fruit” of any future feature that the mobile industry comes up with.
Thank You for reading! And Please feel free to comment!
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