What is Zero Code BPM ? Is it a myth, a reality, or just wishful thinking in the world of Business Process Management sales and marketing? Zero code hypothesis was one of the hottest topics discussed at bpmNEXT 2014. Lots of debate and discussion going around on Zero Code BPM in the BPM industry.
Even the meaning of Zero Code BPM has been interpreted with different viewpoints. Before moving any further with an in depth analysis on Zero Code BPM, it is quite important for us to understand some of the most critical viewpoints already presented by BPM experts on the topic.
What is the Meaning of Zero Code BPM?
The literal meaning of zero code BPM can be stated as a Business Process Management system that can be designed without the need of code inclusion by the implementer. It should offer a workable solution using out-of-the-box functionality. Now, considering this definition of Zero Code BPM, a big question pops up about what we mean by coding.
Does it means typing the source code in a given programming language? If it is so, then what shall we call a BPM system that can be designed by dragging and dropping shapes? Can it be termed as a Zero Code BPM?
Does Eliminating Code Result in Zero Code BPM?
Considering the issue of Zero Code BPM at a microscopic level, it would not be difficult for us to understand that coding does not literally mean typing, rather it also includes logical design, even if it can be done by simply using drag and drop functions.
Moreover, the terminology of Zero Code BPM comes from two different thought processes; one thought process comes from the marketing guys while the other and more technical thought process comes from the technical guys.
Creating an illusion about something by simply creating a hype to sell is something absolutely different from designing a core technical system to deliver whatever has been promised to the process owners.
Keith D. Swenson states in his blog post Zero Code BPM Systems
“Dragging and dropping symbols on a map to tell the system exactly what to do is still coding, and it is just as hard as typing the code in text, because the hard part is figuring out what should be done in what situation. You have not eliminated coding, you just disguised it.”
Taken at face value, the above statement very clearly eliminates any confusion related with the meaning and interpretation of coding in the context of BPM.
Zero Code BPM Must Fit into Any Business Process Perfectly
Considering the definitions, arguments, debates and discussions going along the topic, I understand Zero Code BPM as a Business Process Management system that can be customized to meet an end-user’s requirement without appending even a single line of code, neither in terms of typed words nor in terms of using drag and drop symbols.
Zero Code BPM means a business process management system that can be used out-of-the-box by end users to manage different types of business processes. Moreover, Zero Code BPM must be capable to fit itself into any business process context. Now, it sounds quite an abstract concept as none of us could agree that an ideal one size fits all solution is a reality, at least in the software industry.
What BPM Could do Without Customization?
Pick up any application software available in the market and scan its features and applications. Take an extra mile to analyze the functions incorporated in such a system. You cannot deny that in order to create a perfect fit for a given situation, you will need at least some customization features in some form.
It is practically not feasible to design a software that takes care of almost infinite permutations and combinations resulting out of a given situation.
Customization is one of the most important features that makes a BPMS adaptable to any given case scenario. On a second thought, we may argue that why not put all the possible permutations and combinations in the complete BPM product by embedding all the functions which are required to manage different types of business processes.
Planning to Integrate All Business Functions into a single BPM Product!
Let us take an analogy of Transportation System to understand why the concept of including a complete set of functions is a highly flawed model even at the foundation level. What do you think about an idea to design a hybrid vehicle which is capable of driving on surface, on water, under water as well as in the air!
I can buy this kind of hybrid vehicle to drive on the streets, while you can buy to sail over the sea and someone else can buy it to fly from one place to another. It may sound like a great idea, but the reality is somewhat different when you consider the following:
- Incorporating all the features to support different modes of transportation in a single vehicle would increase its manufacturing costs exponentially.
- Would a customer expect to pay for expensive major features that they are never going to use? After all, he may need a vehicle only to drive on the street.
Develop a Feasible Zero Code BPM Infrastructure First
Also imagine the investment required in terms of time and effort behind developing such a huge and complex system. Even if someone tries to build such a system and if we consider it in the context of BPM market, then think about its size and resource requirement.
Is BPM industry ready to invest in such expensive Zero Code BPM systems, even if a company is ready to take the responsibility of developing an ideal Zero code Business Process Management system?
Need Analysis of Business Process Management Systems
Doing a reality check about the feasibility of Zero Code BPM motivated me to take an in-depth analysis about the reasons behind the existence of Business Process Management systems.
Let me ask you a few questions before we analyze the topic any further – Why do you need BPM? What is the objective of BPM deployment in an organization? What are the problems that we intend to solve by deploying Business Process Management systems in an organization? Answering above questions will help us perform a reality check about the feasibility of Zero Code BPM.
The basic design of BPM is based on creating a functional operating boundary and exercising control to ensure that the processes are performed well in line with guidelines laid down for specific processes. Business Process Management is focused on defining the work process on first hand and controlling the workflow to take the natural and pre-defined course of action on the second hand.
Reality Check of Zero Code BPM Systems
Zero Code BPM tends to shift the focus to somewhere else. It appears to advocate the concept of self-learning and learning by examples. Moreover, the concept of Zero Code BPM also tends to free up the BPMS from all its pre-defined rules and regulations.
The set of these rules and regulations is the real essence of any Business Process Management system. BPM is more about exercising control on business processes.
E-mail, Google Translate, Google Page Rank are some of the many examples which are in line with the concepts of Zero Code BPM system. By understanding the roots on which a Zero Code BPM system grows, we can clearly see that such a system negates the entire concept of BPM.
BPM and Zero Code BPM Seem to be Contradictory Concepts
BPM never works in isolation with the external systems, rather it is more about creating an interface with many other systems already functional in an organization. The integration of BPM with the existing systems in an organization helps it to integrate business processes for creating seamless workflow.
No two organizations in the world are similar to each other, neither in the form of structure nor in the form of functions. As soon as you think about the integration of BPM with other systems, the inclusion of customization code becomes a necessity. On the other hand, when you talk about Zero Code BPM, you are blocking the whole concept of integration.
The true essence of BPM and the concept of Zero Code BPM appears to be contradictory. When you try to achieve one, you are compromising the other.
BPM solutions are Based on Pre-defined Rules and Regulations
As soon as we talk about exercising control over anything, we have our own set of rules and regulations. Rules and regulations extends the power of decision making capacity. It ensures that all the tasks are performed within the pre-defined framework.
Now, the issue is about framing these rules and regulations as we cannot even think about a generalized set of rules which can guide my business process as well as your business process.
Every business process is unique in nature and so they need to be handled in its individual capacity. It is the uniqueness of business processes that demands its customization, which can happen only with the inclusion of some customized code to modulate the course of actions as per the requirement of organizations.
Reducing Code Seems Better than Developing Zero Code BPM
Rather than talking about Zero Code BPM, we should think about reducing the volume of code required to customize a business process solution. Let us make business process customization much more flexible rather than trying to eliminate it completely from the system.
At least in the current scenario and within the given limitations, Zero Code BPM does not appear to be a reality.
Is Zero Code BPM a Current Myth or Future Reality?
The future is full of uncertainties and these uncertainties are at its peak in technology domain. We never know which technology may bring a light of hope for us to materialize the concept of Zero Code BPM in reality. I like the idea of intelligent decision support systems developed by IActive.
No doubt, it is basically designed for case management but the similar concepts can be applied to BPM scenarios by incorporating AI technologies into BPM to manage business processes more efficiently. Developing a BPM that gives an array of alternatives to choose from and one which also presents a predictive analysis to evaluate the outcomes could be a welcome addition to any BPMS.