Scott just made this seemingly peripheral observation on BPM products in his post about how design is going to matter in BPM this decade and puts forth a rather strong argument in favour of better design.
It is peripheral – arguably so, I might add – because to a large extent although design does work in favour of product decisions, it really doesn’t always work as a big plus. Especially when you consider (much as you’d like to believe BPM is more about the business folks) more often than not, it is really the IT that looks at the nuts and bolts during evaluation and has the bigger influence in picking the product.
A geeks view over a users view? Perhaps. The Classic vs. the Romantic, the fallout from Pirsig’s scalpel. Be obsessed and utilitarian about the core or be obsessed about external appearance, its beauty and image.
But then again, the design that Scott is referring to is not just UI or look-and-feel. So it’s not exactly a Classic vs. Romantic argument, but rather a Classic vs. a Romantic-Classic, if you will.
It is about usability. It is about user friendliness. It is about ease of use and how effective a process elicitation exercise is able to capture contextually important and relevant information and how all of that translates to execution.
On that note, design is anything but peripheral. Because as the BPM market matures, vendors are improving their products. They will soon embrace new Social Media and collaborative functionality and many of them already have.
Design is also important from the perspective of adoption. A better design translates into ease of achieving buy-in from users, quicker, more accurate process discovery, and therefore higher value from execution.
I think in that sense, the Pure-plays have had the advantage of starting off with a design that is tailored to the whole BPM life-cycle to start with. I guess that makes it less of a challenge for them to adapt to such new functionality that helps the BPM cause better.
But soon as product capabilities converge and all products begin to offer similar capabilities, design will be key – and as Scott mentions, good design will go deeper than the outer shell.
And that will be by no accident. It will need to come from a deep understanding of end-use. And that really is worthy of being a key differentiator for a product vendor.