There are certain individuals in the BPM stream who seek to disrupt the status quo. Some of them are blatantly provocative with what they say, others are more subtle and seek to try and influence people. They have made it their mission in life (sometimes as individuals, sometimes as heads of companies) to be deliberately inflammatory in their comments. Usually this is done to provoke a reaction and start a dialogue or a conversation.
This isn’t to say that they are wrong. Far from it. Many of the ideas they espouse are just what the discipline needs to move itself forward. But in this post I’d like to talk about this disruption and analyse what it means for our particular skill set.
What sort of disruption are we talking about?
Disruption in this sense refers to those bloggers who advocate completely rethinking how we work. They turn accepted principles on their head and attempt to make us consider things from a different point of view.
Some bloggers are less forceful and will suggest alternatives to commonly accepted practices in areas such as workflow design and case management, for example.
The tone taken by these individuals can vary from the basic “Maybe we should be considering…” right to “Why the hell don’t you just wake up and smell the coffee!”.
A simple example of this is the basic ‘What is BPM?’ conversation. It is one that I have had with several people both as an individual blogger and as the head of the now defunct BPM Nexus. We were looking to define BPM as a discipline and unite several different factions within the industry. Sadly it never came together. Others have tried to deal with this with manifestos and similar. But there are bloggers and practitioners who will look at this and say ‘Now isn’t the time to start defining what BPM is currently. We should be looking at what we want it to be and completely redefining the whole concept.’ An excellent challenge, I think, and one which perfectly fits the concept of disruption.
Is the BPM industry in need of disruption?
The question then arises about whether the BPM industry needs such disruption. After all it is an industry which has been in its current state (or very nearly) for several years. Standards have been defined (BPMN, for example), market leaders have been established for software provision, and lots of System Integration companies have made a healthy living from implementing solutions for companies that probably have no idea whether the correct solution is being advocated or not. Does this need disruption?
It’s a great question. History has shown us that industries which maintain the status quo are apt to be swallowed up by those that attempt to disrupt it. Only recently in England two major high-street shopping chains (HMW and Blockbuster Video) have filed for bankruptcy protection after their underlying business model was eroded by companies such as Apple and Amazon. The disruptor identified a potential niche, filled it and expanded to the point where the incumbents were forced to react. Those that reacted were able to survive, those that didn’t, failed. More recently Microsoft - once THE major player in the world of personal computers and technology - is now languishing as an also-ran in the world of tech, its recent hardware/software launch with Windows 8 and the Surface failing to excite consumer attention. Indeed, Microsoft (and computer manufacturers such as Dell) are barely mentioned as tech players nowadays with companies such as Google having taken much of the wind out of their sales (sic). No doubt, as we move on, Google will become complacent over time and be usurped by another company with a different business model that attracts user attention.
Is the BPM industry in need of similar disruption? Hard to say. One thing is for certain, if the industry sees itself as immune to innovation there is every chance that it will follow the likes of HMW, Blockbuster and Microsoft and be overtaken by some now innovation.
Is at appropriate - should we tolerate this?
So the question arises ‘Is the disruption of BPM by such bloggers something that should be tolerated?’ On a base level there’s nothing we can do about it. The First Amendment in the US, and similar laws in free countries around the world, allow for anyone to say what they want both in person, on broadcast and print media, and on the internet. So there’s nothing we can do to stop them saying what they want.
But should we listen to them?
That’s the important question. Whether you agree with what they say or not the key factor is always ‘Do they have anything interesting to say?’. They may be seeking the removal of workflow diagrams, for example, or advocating the dissolution of non-standardised training certifications, or any of a hundred other bug-bears that bloggers (myself included) have written about. You may not agree with any given idea, but if the idea is something which has merit to someone then of course they should be heard. A true civilisation is one where all voices are listened to and all voices are heard. Once we get into the practice of suppressing opinions we are on a long, slippery slope
Summary.Voices with dissenting opinions have always been around in free society. One of the key definers of a free society is how it treats people who differ in their views to those advocated by the leaders. We may not like what they say, or we may like what they say but not how they say it, but as has been shown time and time again “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”.
Can there be too much inappropriate BPM disruption?
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