BPM Software vs. Industry-Specific Software

By Michel Braunstein posted 03-13-2014 12:04


BPM (Business Process Management) Software is used today in nearly every industry. To name a few: Manufacturing, Banking, Public Sector, IT, Telecommunications, HR, Travel, Healthcare, Food, Energy, and the list goes on. And yet, organizations within each industry often opt to use industry-specific software (ISS for short) to manage their operations and processes. With that in mind, what works better? BPM software that is customized for an industry-specific scenario, or ISS?

As in many comparisons, each case may be different. That said, I’ll try to provide some pros and cons for each side, and then a few general guidelines.

ISS – Pros

Artifacts: The major advantage of ISS is that it’s been designed with a specific industry in mind, and as such, it already includes the nomenclature, concepts and methodology of that industry. A generic BPM platform can be customized to include these, but the company who designs the ISS usually has more experience in that industry, and therefore, the software is already equipped with these artifacts.

Experience: In ISS, the implementation team will likely have more experience in the field, which is no small benefit. In some highly specialized fields this is critical (for example, pharmaceutical software). Here, advanced knowledge of the topic is essential and brining on a team of newbies can put a project at a grave risk.

That seems like two major points for ISS. Is the battle over? Hardly. Let’s take a look at BPM…

BPM Software – Pros

Process: BPM Software is the king of “process” and “workflow”. Therefore, if the main function of the solution is to map out and implement processes or workflows, then BPM suites already have a major advantage. That is because process modeling, design, implementation and modeling are constantly being improved as BPM suites vie for superiority, and no ISS can come close to a leading BPM suite in this area. To get an idea of how wide the gap is, just take a look at the workflow modeling capabilities in this example.

Customization: On the surface, you might think this is a benefit of ISS, but you’d be wrong. BPM Software, which needs to be flexible enough to be used cross-industry, is much more customizable than ISS. The very nature of BPM Platforms is their flexibility, whereas many ISS solutions can be hard-coded and nearly impossible to change. The very strength of ISS can be its greatest weakness. An ISS may assume that you do things one way, when in practice, you do the opposite. In such cases, you may find that changing a business rule, field, or condition can be done in one click using BPM, while a team of programmers working for weeks is required to rewrite the ISS source code.

Integration, Interfaces, Devices: BPM here normally comes out on top. Leading BPM suites includes a wide range of out-of-the-box integration wizards (with ERP, CRM, SharePoint and more), capability to be run on a wider set of interfaces and devices (e.g. websites, mobile), and more deployment options (cloud, on-premises). For example, this BPM software includes integration with several ERP and CRM systems and has mobile and cloud deployment options. An ISS that is built for one industry may only have only one or two integration options, and you may be quite boxed in – something that can hurt your user adoption or your bottom line.

Training and Design

Here the answer depends. In some cases, since they are more “what you see is what you get”, ISS’s require less time to learn and design, since there is simply less to change. A BPM Software may require more time and a bigger learning curve, though you will reap the benefits of being able to customize and adjust for every extra hour of training, so it may be well worth the investment. Also, BPM suites are getting easier and easier to learn and use for “Power Users” so the gap is closing.


As I said earlier, there are no hard and fast rules. But in general, go for ISS if:

·        The ISS suite is an industry-recognized standard, and has an excellent track record.

·        The field is highly specialized.

·        The ISS implementation team has vast experience in the field.

·        Not much customization or integration is necessary.

Choose BPM Software if:

·        The solution is highly “process-centric”.

·        The field is not so highly specialized.

·        The BPM team has a successful track record in your industry.

·        A significant amount of customization is necessary.

These guidelines will hopefully enable you to make an intelligent decision when choosing between two very different types of solutions for your business.


#BusinessProcessManagement #BPM #iss