Do we really need another category for BPM?


A few weeks ago, Gartner released it’s updated review of the business process management vendor landscape – the Magic Quadrant for BPMS.  Except this time, it wasn’t called BPMS – they added an “i” in front of it to make a shiny new iBPMS.  Why the extra vowel?  Why not?

Needless to say, the new category has created a bit of a stir with folks, including BPM Redux and a few others.   I’ll leave it to others to discuss the intricacies of the report and how it was made (I work for IBM, and we did okay).  What I find most interesting is how this report is another example of the different categories that pop up around the market for BPM.  Over the years we’ve had event-driven BPM, responsive BPM, agile BPM, smart BPM, cloud BPM, human-centric BPM, integration-centric BPM…. and we now have iBPM, which will be closely followed by “Big Process” BPM.

I know we want to capture the unique aspects of our products and differentiate ourselves.  But instead of creating a new category, why don’t we just evolve the definition? When we create dozens of categories for products that address the same problem domain, all we create is confusion.

Why don’t we just call it “BPM” and go from there? From there, it’s possible to have a meaningful debate on what that means.  In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article looked at customer stickiness and the negative impact of making your products too hard to understand:

 The single biggest driver of (customer) stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity”—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity.

Maybe I’m a simpleton.  But I am constantly bombarded with “new” and completely unneeded categories.  Like the iPad Mini. It’s a tablet, not a mini-tablet.  Or rental cars.  It’s a full-size, four-door, two-door, compact, and death-trap (subcompact). Not the Green Traveler Collection, Prestige Collection, and Adrenaline Collection.  Oh, you haven’t been to Hertz recently?  But the king of too-many-categories is toothpaste.  There was an interesting article in WSJ last year on the proliferation of different kinds of toothpaste.  At the time of writing, there were 359 different types of toothpastes on the market.

It’s a pretty day here in Dallas, so I am off to go for a ride on my time-trial velocipede.  No it’s not a bicycle.  Totally different.