The BPM world has been buzzing with the recent IBM announcement that Lombardi’s Blueprint product will be rebadged and merged into IBM Blueworks and more importantly some cool new features are going to be added in November.
The feature that seems to be generating the most excitement is the addition or significant expansion of Twitter-like social media tools in Blueworks. As Adam Deane pointed out on Friday, IBM is not the first BPM vendor to build a social tools to tap into the enterprise activity stream. Tibco has been developing and testing Tibbr for nearly a year now and, in the CRM space, Salesforce launched Chatter earlier in the year.
Although these tools travel a well-worn path from mass-consumer adoption into enterprise software, it is not obvious to me that any of them will be more than tactically successful.
Tibbr & Yammer: The Tale of Two Corporate Twitter Clones
Tibbr might be a best-considered technology of the three but it is not part of Tibco’s Activematrix BPM product. It is actually a standalone offering and, as such, probably has the steepest hill to climb to be commercially successful.
Try this thought experiment: Compare Tibbr head-to-head with Yammer
Tibbr has the advantage of Tibco’s installed base, engineering prowess and salesforce. All formidable advantages but Yammer has a head start in deployment and a bigger web 2.0 buzz. If a business is going to centrally deploy a twitter-clone, Tibco will probably win everytime. Yammer will still clean up in all the instances where only the marketing department wants the tool and no one wants to bother IT about it.
Which sales model is the dominant one currently?
Blueworks and Chatter: Social Add-ons
Blueworks and Chatter offer a slightly different value proposition. They add social media capabilities to existing products. This represents a huge advantage in gaining traction in the enterprise. Unlike Tibbr and Yammer which are bought separately, the social media capabilities in Blueworks and addition of Chatter to Salesforce improves your experience in those products.
Obviously, Blueworks is a niche tool in most organizations but the added social features will be well-received. Process modelling and design is an inherently collaborative activity and any additional tools, even if they aren’t greatly used, will be welcomed by that user base.
Salesforce is the only application discussed that has mass adoption in some organizations. How many service desks or contact centres have Salesforce open all-day, every-day? Chatter is the one tool in this article that has a significant deployed mass in many organizations by default. That might see it power its way to greater adoption.
The Future: A Separation of Information and Clients
I think the future is less about adding social capabilities to existing products and more about getting socially relevant events (with context) out of more tools.
Salesforce is perhaps leading the way by building on the Twitter ecosystem. You can view your chatter stream in the Seesmic twitter client. This separation of activity and events and end-user tools is well-worn in the consumer space. Twitter and Facebook have an active ecosystem of desktop and mobile clients to help people experience the underlying data.
I would expect the future of enterprise activity streams or social tools in BPM applications to follow this pattern. The killer feature in a BPM system will be more about getting a stream of your data out of the system rather than the social tools built into the system. The problem today is that this ecosystem is too underdeveloped in enterprise software for people to see that pattern clearly.
The future might be logging into tibbr to see a combine view of your Blueworks and your Salesforce data.