BPM Futures



Where are the Process Apps?


Recently reading that 2011 is to be the Year of the App Store,  I visited some App Stores to look for BPM Apps. The results start by unearthing some real BPM Apps and conclude with a vision of the App Store as a whole new paradigm for BPM.

You’ll be amazed to read that there are currently 134 BPM Apps for the iPhone alone, and equally disappointed to learn that nearly all of these relate to music (beats per minute). One of the features of today’s App Stores* is that their search and filter features are remarkably limited considering that a successful search is intended – presumably – to conclude with a sale.  Is there ever going to be a better business case for additional features? Anyway, I digress…

As the table below shows, the type of BPM App best represented in the App Stores I visited could be described as a ‘BPM Participation App’, that is, an App that acts as a client to a remote BPM server allowing the user to start and track cases, and complete work items from an Inbox. Note that the table is simply the result of myself as a ‘mystery shopper’ visiting these stores (which included an Australian filter in some cases) – there may be other BPM vendors with an iPad story (for example), but they just weren’t in evidence in the store on the week that I looked.

BPM Apps Table

(click to enlarge)

 

Leaving aside the final two (which I’ll come back to), the list is interesting in that it includes few BPM household names.  Metastorm is the obvious exception, with an iPad/iPhone client provided by partner BTI’s Nymbul product. Software AG is also there via IDS Scheer, whose APG product is an iPad/iPhone front end to the ARIS Business Server/Process Governance framework (albeit a ‘Preview’ release).

Of the others, Activiti deserves a special mention because it is advertised as being entirely free of charge, including the open source BPM server. Also SPM Workflow, a Taiwanese product that not only has a wonderfully original graphical audit trail, with each step apparently a gatehouse on the Great Wall of China, but also has the first new original and useful native feature I’ve seen for a while (maybe I don’t get out enough) – a manual reminder function. So if you look at the audit trail and see the case is stuck with Jim, you just select the ‘Reminder’ button and a message is shot off telling him to get a move on!

Most importantly all of these require that you host a BPM server before you’ll get any business benefit from the App.

The final two on the list, Cordys and RunMyProcess are different. Each of these is a complete BPM system, cloud-based and accessed through a web browser. They may not be Apps in a technical sense (no download required) but they certainly are in the sense of this article – they are distributed (amongst other channels, no doubt) through the Google Apps Marketplace site, where access can be purchased immediately, on a per user basis.

Cordys is relatively well-known to BPMers and, like Metastorm, features in the Gartner 2010 BPM Magic Quadrant Report. RunMyProcess doesn’t, though its web site states that it was designated a Gartner ‘Cool Vendor’ in 2009, and it certainly looks intriguing. These two are quite clearly not the only cloud-based BPM products out there (Blueworks Live and Tibco Silver come to mind). But if you go shopping at your local App Store, Cordys and RunMyProcess are what you’ll find.

As I understand it, their target market is any organisation, big or small, private or public sector, that wants to build and manage its own processes without actually investing in their own BPM platform. This is essentially the traditional BPM market, expanded down towards SMEs that could not previously afford the upfront investment that BPM has tended to require.

Moving on from this list, what interested me most were the first hints of ‘Process Apps’. Process Apps (my term, as far as I know, but hopefully useful) being self-contained Apps that provide a service to the consumer, with the service actually – or at least potentially – fulfilled through a BPM platform.

For example, a PR professional or copywriter could define and offer a process that combined the manual task of writing a press release with automated updates of the PR (or variants on it) into a range of social networking media. This Process App could be published through an App Store as ‘One Hour PR’, priced at, say, $99.  The potential for adding human tasks to this type of process will expand significantly as service marketplaces, such as eLance, start to provide BPM-compatible services and plug-ins.

So far I’ve found just two examples of Process Apps, both for Insurance Claims (in the iPhones store, search ‘insurance’) – ‘Just Car Insurance iClaim’, and ‘nib Health Insurance’ each support insurance claims through their App. Now I have no way of knowing whether these particular Apps pass off the claim to a claims process in a BPMS or to a dedicated Claims system, or to a hive of busy worker bees using pencils and paper. However, the principle is clearly there – the App, which is provided free of charge, provides the entry point to a remote process with great potential for value-adds (Just Car iClaims provides info on local tow truck services, for example, and case tracking would be an obvious add-on).

Of course ‘insurance claim’ is a classic example of an ‘enterprise’ process, in the sense of scale – if you can afford to underwrite insurance policies, you can probably afford your own BPM system, cloud-based or otherwise.

The individual or small company offering the ‘PR Process’ mentioned earlier would most certainly not have these resources, though. For such an organisation cloud-based BPM is a necessity. And, importantly, it is not sufficient.

The gap in the market today appears to be for a BPM App (provided by a SaaS BPM Platform Provider, perhaps like Cordys or RunMyProcess) that encourages small developers to sign up with a view to developing and reselling their own ‘Process Apps’. Such ‘Process App Developers’  won’t be integrating with an Insurance Policy or ERP system, but they will join simple human services with existing consumer SaaS applications to deliver new, better and above all cheaper business processes, particularly for SMEs.

The benefits from this will flow mainly to the end consumer. In the same way that much software that would previously have been boxed and sold for, say, $20-$50 is now available in App Stores for $4.99, there is no reason why business processes should not provide similar economies of scale. And the profits of the successful Process Apps will be shared by the App Store, the BPM Platform Provider and the Process App Developer.

To support this, App Store owners and BPM Platform Providers will need to combine forces to allow the Process App Developer to

  • Easily publish his or her Process App in one or many App Stores where it may be accessed by individual consumers. This means the BPM Platform Provider developing a ‘Process App Publication’ BPM App for iOS4 (for example) that supports such publication functionality, underpinned by an appropriate commercial agreement with the App Store owner (eg  Apple), if necessary.
  • Easily invoke, and where necessary pay for, third party services called from the Process App. This is means not only providing uniform and very easily used technical interfaces, but also a marketplace in which to buy them, including on a per use basis. In the ‘Web Services Department’ of the App Store, perhaps?
  • Easily publish the Process App as a service that may itself be called by other Process App Developers, in the same ‘Web Services Department’.

Combining the traditional BPM virtues of ease of process build** with new App Store publication and subscription functionality will encourage and support a whole new world of competing micro-processes, benefiting all involved parties.

If 2011 is to be the Year of the App Store, will 2012 be the Year of the Process App?

* In researching this article I used iTunes to search the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad; Zune for the Windows Phone; Ovi Store for Nokia Apps; Chrome App Store and Google Apps Marketplace for the web. I was unable to access many Android Apps via the Android Market site because this requires an Android handset. If anyone can suggest any other Tier 1 app stores, I’d be interested to hear about them.

** I repeated the word ‘Easily’ four times in the previous bullets deliberately – I believe that the platforms that will really succeed in this new mass market in Process App Development will probably re-think process definition usability. A great example of making the complex easy that is completely unrelated to BPM – have you ever wanted to create animated films? Too hard? Well first check out this fun animation on the topic of Quantitative Easing, and then the site that allows you to build one like it. If you have 30 minutes to spare, that’s how long it will take you to create your first film. XtraNormal has an interesting approach to monetising the service for developers, with a contractual solution for commercial film makers apparently in the pipeline.

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Comments

  1. * Glenn says:

    Interesting article. Just a side note, as a BPM vendor there were until recently challenges getting the applications approved in the Apple App store that allowed for programming (Executable processes were classed as programming in the same way that Flash was/is). I essentially created a HTML5 based app for clients to run their processes and is now part of the standard package.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * david moser says:

      Thanks for your comment Glenn. If by any chance you could add a link that gives readers further info on this and other Apple policies that are relevant to developing BPM/Process Apps – a blog, news article or forum, perhaps – that would be great. In any event, thanks again for raising it.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Ben Farrell says:

    David-
    I hope you’ll go back to the App Store, because you’ll see the Appian BPM app available today (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/appian/id417065205?mt=8). This morning we launched the latest version of the Appian BPM Suite which tackles BPM’s next frontiers: mobility, cloud and social. Native mobile BPM will open new levels of value and BPM participation across the enterprise, the supply chain and customers. Any application developed on Appian is now automatically available on a variety of mobile devices with no additional development required. We’d be happy to give you a demo of our native iPad, iPhone, iPOD Touch, Blackberry and Android applications if you are interested.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Ben Farrell says:

    Sorry – first part of my post was deleted. . .the initial URL points to the Appian app on the App Store.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * david moser says:

      Hi Ben – not sure what happened to your first sentence (it was in the email version that reached me), but anyway thank you for the update – your link proves the point!

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  4. David,

    I was interested to see this blog as I’d tried the same search recently with the same initial results. I have been taking a slightly different approach to this need, at least from the task management point of view. What are the possibilities of using of existing internet task management (iCalendar/CalDav) capabilities for a common task management UI, mobile or otherwise? My project site gives some idea of what the possibilities are:

    http://taskcal.sourceforge.net/

    The other alternative might be a WS HumanTask mobile UI.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  5. * david moser says:

    Thanks Adrian. I was involved some years back in the early stages of a project to provide BPM throughout a global consulting firm. The feeling at the time was that the Partners would not be prepared to use a conventional workflow inbox and would instead require tasks to be entered as calendar entries, the position being related to the due date of the task. I don’t know where that particular project ended up, but it does suggest a place for a calendar interface to BPM.

    Your post also makes me wonder whether there would be a market for a ‘universal’ inbox for IOS 4.0, to which BPM vendors or third parties could provide interfaces to individual BPM systems, allowing iPad/iPhone users to participate in processes managed by a range of BPM engines? Interesting.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  6. * Kontra says:

    I don’t mean to be a nitpicker 🙂 but you’re all over the place with acronyms, abbreviations and trademarks.

    For the record, in 2008 Apple has filed a trademark for “App Store”. (See, Apple and Microsoft Fight Over “APP STORE” Trademark App) Microsoft is fighting it. Until it’s rejected, “App Store” refers uniquely to Apple’s service. There’s no such thing as “App Stores” as no other vendor calls its application service an “App Store”, since Apple’s in the process of trademarking it. Various other vendors use names like (Android) “Marketplace,” (BlackBerry) “App World” and so on. Also, the abbreviation for “application” is “app” not “App”.

    Sorry for the intrusion, but these make it hard to parse the references in the piece.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * david moser says:

      Definitely no apologies needed – that’s important, and I can see that anyone who started reading this blog with those distinctions in mind would find it pretty confusing/confused. So – Apple lawyers take note – I shall in future blogs save the term ‘App Store’ to refer to Apple’s own offering.

      A pity, since it’s a good term and, like hoover and sellotape/scotch tape, is likely to be picked up by the population at large. I’m not immediately sure what the generic term for App Store is – App Retailer? (Given that ‘App’ is used by both Apple & Blackberry it’s presumably not protected). Here’s another link to the Microsoft trademark challenge, btw.

      I’m not 100% sure of your final point (‘Also, the abbreviation for “application” is “app” not “App”’) If you’re aiming to draw a distinction between downloadable, mobile-focussed software and browser-based software then I feel that any difference between them is less important than the distribution model that they increasingly have in common – the App Retailer (there – used it!). Android Market, Chrome Web Store and Google Apps Marketplace differ in the technical focus of their Apps, but the distribution model is fast converging and in that context I think we’ll soon be referring to all application software as ‘Apps’.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  7. * Ian Gotts says:

    David

    The problem with BPM (arpart from being Beats Per Minute and the Speaking Clock in China) is that there are 2 different categories of BPM app in your survey. The first are those that are a visual representation of the process ie the Intelligent Operations Manual (Nimbus Control being one of them), and the second category which is and executable application ie workflow/form filling.

    The first category can really take advantage of a touch screen and the real estate esp on tablet to give a far richer experience, as Jim Boots from Chevron talked about in the Financial Times article, or in the blog about a very senior level client meeting last week. The other advantage is sync’g the information for off-line use, as a Carphone Warehouse / Best Buy have found where bandwith in South Africa is poor.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
  8. * Hans Haack says:

    Dear David,

    Great article but with all respect something is lacking in our opinion; two months ago we introduced our innovative bpm iPad Process-Modeller app in the app store.

    As we have discovered in the last 15 years, BPM or Business Process Modelling is an aid that should be able to adapt itself to changing circumstances. Therefore we thought it high time for a Process Modeller tool that meets the wishes of present-day companies. More flexibility and efficiency. It is a user-friendly tool to clarify processes within organizations, and has been rated with an average of 4 **** since it has been launched in the app store.
    http://www.process-modeller.com/en/home/

    We, the initiators of Process Modeller®, have made it our goal to elevate our field. Hence the development of this innovative app.If you have the same ambitions and are also active in BPM, then we’d like to get in touch with you. The fact is, our Process Modeller® can be adapted to your own tools and specific methods. In this way we can combine forces to market Process Management 2.0. Good for you and your clients.

    Anyone who is interested can send an e-mail to info@process-modeller.com and we will contact you shortly.
    Meanwhile, try out our Process=Modeller app for yourself. We hope that you will enjoy it as much as we did making it.

    Hans, Gregor, Sikko and Hans
Initiators Process Modeller app

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  9. Dear David,

    I really like you post. Although it’s been a while since you posted it and a lot happened during that time, I am not sure if 2012 can still become the year of the process app. We created a BPMN 2.0 modeling app, Cubetto BPMN, for iPad an released it a few months ago. We think that the iPad gives you a tremendous opportunity to model in a quick and efficient way. That was one of the main reasons to create Cubetto BPMN.
    I really hope, that mobile devices will be used for more business reasons in the near future, since they are really helpful and easy to use.

    For further information on Cubetto BPMN and a short video you can visit our website: http://www.semture.de/cubetto-bpmn

    Best regards,
    Johannes Büschel

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 10 months ago
  10. * Latha Annur says:

    Dear David,
    Very interesting article and happy to find our new product KiSSFLOW (http://www.kissflow.com), a step closer to your dream of Process Apps.
    We recently launched KiSSFLOW – the workflow creator exclusive for Google Apps Customers. As its name stands, KiSSFLOW is kept simple and smarter, by making its User Interface intuitive enough to be used by process owners themselves. And it is also tightly and seamlessly integrated with Google Apps, hence no coding is necessary. On a wider usage, KiSSFLOW can easily find its place as a ‘process apps’ platform, but currently confined within an organizational boundary.

    Regards,
    Latha Annur

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 8 months ago
  11. Where are the process-apps? If you would look good you would have noticed our innovative bpm iPad app we succesfully introduced last year.
    This is our story…..

    We, the initiators of the Process Modeller® app, have made it our goal to take the field of business process management to a higher level.
    We therefore thought it was high time for a Process Modeller tool that meets the needs of present-day companies, i.e. more flexibility and efficiency.

    This is why we developed our innovative iPad app less than a year ago. Since then we have constantly been improving our app, with success. At the moment we have over 1,000 downloads a week worldwide (and more than 10.000 users already) and this figure is growing. We are getting good reviews all over the world, from Canada to the Philippines and from Russia to India.

    We have noticed that a lot of people like to use the app in their native language. So we have made sure that our new updated version will besides English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish also be available in Russian, Chinese and Portuguese.

    We would like to invite you to visit the App Store and try out our app.
    You can choose between two versions – the Process Modeller Lite (free) and the Process Modeller.
    We hope that you will enjoy using the app as much as we did making it. Please share your experiences with us and do let us know if you have any suggestions for improvement. Feedback from our users is very important to us. We would also like to invite you to become a member of our LinkedIn group, “Process-Modeller group forum”.
    Hans, Gregor, Sikko and Hans
Initiators of the Process Modeller app

    App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/process-modeller/id510454199?mt=8
    Home page: http://www.process-modeller.com/en/home/
    LinkedIn Group: Process-Modeller group forum
    Twitter: @ProcesModeller
    Contact & support: info@process-modeller.com

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 4 months ago
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