Killing me softly: An industry being crushed by its own jargon?

Over the last few days I’ve had a number of conversations with professionals, clients and vendors concerned about the amount of jargon and acronyms being thrown around in the Business Process Management industry today. BPM, BPMS, BPMN, BPN, iBPMS, BPA, BPR, IBO, Simulation, Social BPM, Cloud BPM, Operational Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Process Mining, Process Discovery, Human-Centric, Accelerators, Adaptive Case, Dynamic Case, Repositories, Suppositories……the list goes ever on.

Two words have emerged constantly from feedback received; simplification and education. I had a 2am iPhone email conversation with someone over Christmas one year who was struggling to see the value of BPM for her organisation because no-one she talked to for over 6 months gave her a straight answer. She was met with either jargon or a sales pitch. Now this poses a problem for us in general because it seems we have been preoccupied with the technical aspects of process management and the invention of new and exciting buzzwords that we’re losing our audience. People who are completely new to BPM do not understand what we’re about because the majority of vendor and analyst focus is levelled at the buying market such as the CTO or CIO of an enterprise and not the person struggling to improve and manage their processes at a grass roots level.

If you search on ‘BPM’ in Google you’re given a list of vendors screaming for attention so of course you’re going to explore their links and read what this ‘BPM thing’ is all about. Then you’re met with a wall of technobabble that within an hour of browsing you’re exhausted and wished you’d never bothered. A newcomer doesn’t care about BPMN 2.0, they want to learn how process management can help them understand their business area in a transparent fashion, why a process works and why is doesn’t, why risk mitigation is important, how managing a company through a process strategy and not simply with IT drives success, etc.

The problem is two-fold: vendor brochureware is aimed at the wrong people and there is very little for the absolute beginner to quickly find (without paying money!), and associations are only as good as the message they provide. The person referred to above joined a well known process organisation, reviewed their documentation and regularly attended their chapter meetings for that 6 months yet gleaned nothing that could explain why BPM is good for her company. She got some nice business cards from people though……

During a recent tweet jam held by Clay Richardson from Forrester (hashtag: #bpmradio) this topic raised its head again. There was good discussion around just how simplified the message should be (or whether it should be in the first place). I argued that if you couldn’t explain BPM to a child then the message was wrong. It’s not that it has to be dumbed down to kindergarten level but not everyone needs to hear the Einstein version…after all we can teach science to school children. What we need to do as an industry is extract the value of the message without the dramatic linguistics that go with it, and above all else we need to always remember just who the audience is that we’re talking to. Not everyone is as mature in understanding as we are.

Is it time the industry changed its message so it’s readily accessible to a larger audience ? If I remember correctly the ‘B’ in BPM stands for Business, not Babble.

What’s needed is for us all to go back to school and learn the basics again.

This was an original post from January 2010 on BPMredux and updated following the #bpmradio tweet jam held on the 11th Sept by Forrester’s Clay Richardson

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Categories: BPM, Disciplines, Process Management, Technology

Author:Theo Priestley

"I had more creative ideas from Theo in 6 months than I have had in 6 years from most people." Theo Priestley is one of the most recognised independent technology industry influencers and evangelists, ranking in the Top 100 thought leaders across Virtual/ Augmented Reality, FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things and future trends. Theo has written insights for Forbes, Wired, The European Magazine, Venturebeat to name a few, and has been interviewed for many online publications including the BBC on his thoughts on technology and the future. A regular paid keynote speaker and panelist at conferences and events, Theo is engaged for his forthright views and isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and the marketing hype surrounding the industry when presenting, never pulling punches to get the message across on how technology can be applied to improve business and the customer experience. He has also successfully organised and run TEDx and Ignite events. Highly active across social networks, he sits in the Top 1% for social media engagement on Kred and Klout and is constantly sharing articles and his analysis that he feels his audience would be interested in. Theo is also active in the startup community, mentoring within UK and US accelerators and sits on a number of advisory boards. Former VP and Chief Technology Evangelist at a Top 25 European enterprise software company with a career spanning both innovation strategy and delivery of software and business change in Financial Services, and as an independent technology industry analyst. Follow Theo on Twitter @tprstly or connect here directly for constant insights on tech and marketing trends. • Top 1% Influencer on Kred (915) • Top 1% Influencer on Klout (70+) • 12,000+ Followers on LinkedIn • 13,000+ Followers on Twitter • Recognised Top Influencer in AI, Virtual/ Augmented Reality, Fintech, IOT and Wearable Tech, Big Data and Analytics.

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9 Comments on “Killing me softly: An industry being crushed by its own jargon?”

  1. September 12, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Nice post. I especially liked the part:

    I argued that if you couldn’t explain BPM to a child then the message was wrong. It’s not that it has to be dumbed down to kindergarten level but not everyone needs to hear the Einstein version…after all we can teach science to school children. What we need to do as an industry is extract the value of the message without the dramatic linguistics that go with it, and above all else we need to always remember just who the audience is that we’re talking to.

  2. September 12, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    It’s a fair point, but maybe also worth noting that BPM is hardly the only biz/tech domain where people are guilty of overcomplicating things with impressive labels that sound like they’ve been created by one of those random management phrase generators. Analytics/BI/Info Management is another area that I know a little about, and it’s exactly the same. As are many others. And don’t get me started on Cloud Computing… BPaas? aPaaS? *Really*?

  3. September 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Love the blog. The term BPM is almost now a turn off – or is such a loaded phrase. I wrote an article called Process Discrimination and Living with Prejudice http://iangotts.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/process-discrimination-and-living-with-prejudice-bpm/ which highlighted the issue with a very funny YouTube video.

  4. September 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Nice Article. The companies sales should be geared to explain BPM in different ways depending on whom they meet.

  5. September 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Let’s see how many bpm acronyms we can come up with? (By the way, did you know BPM stands for Bovine Production Management?)

    This industry is relatively mature from a product standpoint and the customers still don’t understand what it can do for them.

    Let’s just call it the Apple Newton. We are 10 years ahead in product development and years behind in marketing.

  6. September 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on the BPM freak !! and commented:
    Very true…the Jargons definitely make things very complicated and fail to covey the right message as to what BPM is all about. Rightly said, we need to have our thought process and discussion based on the audience we are talking to, than baffling him with tons of abbreviated terms.

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