Yesterday we learned that Lexmark, best known for its printers, had acquired Netherlands-based BPM (Business Process Management) vendor Pallas-Athena. This follows in the path of Lexmark's acquisition of Perceptive Software, a document management company (evaluated in our Document Management reviews).
It is not a big financial deal ($50 million US) -- but still significant for Lexmark if previous experience is any guide. The company has tried agressively to take Perceptive beyond its comfortable North American home market and raise its stature in case management-centric industries such as Government and Healthcare worldwide.
From Perceptive's perspective Pallas-Athenas has some interesting products, "BPMone" being the flagship. What differentiates this product from other small BPM vendors is its focus on process mining and analytics, capabilities more often found in much more expensive product sets that target Case Management. I think the challenges here are going to not only be the obvious one of integrating two disparate product sets (BPMone will make little sense as a standalone product at Lexmark) but rather in selling Case Management to Lexmark's existing customer base of SMBs (small and medium businesses). Of course, it doesn't matter to me whether Lexmark is successful here or not.
What is of concern and interest to me is the rapid rise in demand for process-driven Case Management in larger organizations. This is an application-based approach to Document Management that has come with an equally rapid drop in interest in using the same software as an enterprise platform. The E in ECM is quickly becoming anachronistic, with a back-to-basics approach from buyers of the technology. Buyers seems to be saying, "To hell with my broad enterprise needs, I have a very specific problem -- application processing, accounts payable, contract management, and so on -- and I want it fixed now."
Case Management applications theoretically answer that call by building on workflow and document management technology. This is not something particularly new, but in the past building such applications was massively complex and an onerous task to take on at all. But there have been huge improvements over the past couple of years in terms of basic usability, a move toward configuration over customization, and most importantly insight (via analytics) into active and planned processes. Together these make Case Management relatively easy to use and able to deliver some kind of value on the initial investment. Case Management is a trend I don't see falling off soon, but then again everything is cyclic -- like the size of a collar or the length of a skirt. In a few years time perhaps disillusionment will have set in and we will be back to talking about document management as an infrastructure component once again...