Blasting away the lines between the business and IT: Interview with's Nathaniel Palmer

Business Process Management (BPM) has traditionally been the bridge between business and IT, says Nathaniel Palmer, Editor in Chief at, but recently BPM has been blasting away at that divide and is "forcing business and IT to become one function. "

In this PEX Network interview, a transcript of a video interview recorded earlier this year, Palmer discusses what he sees as the increasingly important role of BPM in the enterprise, the rise of new data-powered processes, and the key trends that he sees driving BPM in the year ahead.

Watch the original video interview here: Business Process Management (BPM) in 2013: Trends and Priorities

Note: this transcription has been edited for readability.

PEX Network: Do you think that BPM is moving higher up the agenda of business executives?

Nathaniel Palmer: We’re seeing a lot of that this week, because we’re now seeing the connection between operational data and business data and the execution of process. Before the only reporting data you had around processes related to BPM related to automated or managed processes – so you had a very narrow view. The vast majority of business data lies outside of those processes, but ultimately shape and form and define those processes in a less structured way.

Blasting away at the demarcation between business and IT

We’re now seeing those come together and that’s the really exciting thing about BPM, is we’re moving into these data-driven big data processes. Talking with individuals here, most of the people I’ve met are not coming from IT; they’re coming from that world where they’re dealing on the big data side and then wanting to see how can they make more manageable or more predictable the processes that surround that data.

PEX Network: So now what do you think is really also causing this move higher up the priority list?

Nathaniel Palmer: It’s having access to information that has been there, but you’ve never had access to before in an actionable way. So it’s putting into the hands of managers, both at a senior level from more of a transparency and visibility standpoint and at more of a middle level from an actionable standpoint, being able to use that data to drive response to process, response to events.

PEX Network: And there are those who have traditionally seen BPM as being owned by the IT department and rather than by the business or by process improvement teams. Do you think that this should and perhaps is becoming less of the case today?

Nathaniel Palmer: It’s becoming less of the case due to a few functions or factors. One is the line of demarcation between business and IT – that’s blurring considerably. That’s providing a career path for those that started in IT, but really want to be Business Process professionals. This becomes a vehicle for them to get engaged more in the business side.

At the same time anybody that’s rising up in business today has to be IT-savvy. There’s nobody today that can... And I’m thinking of Rick Wagner, the famous CEO of GM, just before the bankruptcy bragged about how he didn't even have his own email account. There was an account in his name – he never touched it, he didn't do email, it was printed out, it was brought to him. Basically he was saying I’m this old-school guy, I can deal without all that technology, without the distraction of technology.

Nobody gets away with that today. If you’re not tech savvy you’re not making it as a business executive – so those two are coming together.

BPM really has evolved as a technology, it’s been seen as the bridge between business and IT, and that was from more of a diplomatic standpoint before. Now that’s really from a functional standpoint. It’s blasting away at that line of demarcation and really forcing business and IT to become one function.

PEX Network: What do you see as some of the key BPM trends this year?

Nathaniel Palmer: The currency of big data – of decomposing data and having access to it to inform the business process. Then being able to create that feedback loop or even take data out of operational processes and bring it into a reporting framework where you’re making sense of the causality and the drivers around process.

Business Process Simulation is part of this. The work that everyone can see for the last year had been a big effort, about 14 companies came together to work on the standard called BP SIM, which we talked about at our workshop this week. The idea of it is to provide the means to connect the workings of different systems so you can have a comprehensive simulation model.

Putting that in place and making that part of the actual planning and management exercise of the business is now possible. Rather than simulation and modeling being this fairly discreet function, we’re connecting it to the daily ongoing reporting in the organisation. So that kind of data-driven management is a big trend that I see.

PEX Network: If you had to pick one thing that you think Process professionals should be thinking about in the year ahead, what would it be and why?

Nathaniel Palmer: The biggest issue is recognising how things are changing and the fact that it’s not a matter of managing that change, it’s moving in the direction that change is going because that change is inevitable. When it comes to the BPM managers and Process professionals should be thinking about what can they do with this in place and be moving in that direction whether or not they have implemented those solutions, those methods, those techniques – start with the standpoint of how does this change the business and move in that direction of where that change is going to lead you and allow BPM to fill in the gaps as you make that move.