bpmNEXT 2016 retrospective

Concluding with a few impressions from bpmNEXT last week.  While it's impossible to summarize everything that happened there (I guess you could just join next year), here are some of my key takeaways:
  • BPM has reached maturity stage, we're past the hype phase (at least that's what some of the analysts seem to be saying).  Innovation is still there, although more by the smaller players (typically in specific areas).  The main features of BPMS's are well understood.  Big vendors are trying to differentiate in other areas (sometimes even moving away from the BPM name).  As a result, BPM is becoming 'invisible': it's always there, people can always rely on the power it provides, but it has become more mainstream.
  • Are BPM products growing or are they becoming part of a bigger ecosystem?  And what should we call this bigger entity then?  Luckily we didn't go into finding a new name, but there seems to be some agreement that we are (still) struggling with defining what BPM is (even after a few decades!).
  • Open-source is an important aspect of the BPM eco-system, both for commoditization, free entry and for innovative research.
  • A common misunderstanding is that low-code BPM is for business analysts only.  Low-code BPM tries to lower the entry barrier by hiding some of the underlying complexity and offering easier to use user interfaces / experience.  While this is an absolute requirement to get business analysts involved, low-code BPM can be just as useful for the hardcore developer as well (as long as they still have full control and can take advantage of the full power of the engine)!
  • Most BPM vendors seem to moving towards supporting 'adaptive cases' or more 'unstructured processes' as well.  While there might be various approaches (like for example using the ad-hoc sub-process in BPMN2 vs calling a separate CMMN case vs some custom solution), I expect more convergence in the next few years.
     
  • DMN was a hot topic amongst several vendors, gaining a lot of traction it seems.  CMMN seems to be struggling more though, and a healthy part of the discussion was around what we might learn from this and where it should lead us.
  • Fun fact for those that attended: A tractor can actually look like a bison ! During one of the demos, Watson was used to do automatic recognition of images.  After uploading the image of a tractor, Watson decided it might be a bison.  While most of us found that funny (and it made bison one of the buzzwords of the conference), it might seem that Watson was right after all: apparently bison is a brand of tractors as well.  As we probably should have expected, AI is already smarter than us.
I blogged earlier about each of the presentations and demos on-site here: day 1 (part1 and part2), day2 (part3 and part4) and day3 (part5).  Recordings should hopefully be available soon on the bpmNEXT website as well.

Personally, I'd like to thank Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer (and everyone that helped, in or outside the spotlight) on organising this great conference !  And all the attendees as well for the interesting discussions.  It's a unique experience to have vendors discuss strategy in such an open way.  And the venue and conference schedule are ideal to continue discussions over lunch or during the evening (with a nice beer on the rooftop).

Already hoping I'll be able to come back next year !
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