Sharepoint Workflow is not BPM - some viewpoints

Since Microsoft introduced some workflow functionality to its Sharepoint product line starting from Sharepoint 2007, those who have not had the opportunity to be introduced to a true BPM platform may often pass-off Sharepoint Workflow as their BPM solution. BPM is not just about the relative ease of being able to build some workflow applications (key word being "some"), anyone who is serious about tapping on what BPM can really offer should take a look at least a couple of the true players in BPM (for a start check out a few of the BPM products identified under Gartner Magic Quadrant for BPM).

David Kelly shares his view in "Traditional BPM vs Sharepoint: there's room for both in the enterprise". I believe he was writing with reference to Sharepoint 2010 then. So some may say that Sharepoint 2013 is much better. Well yes, as Sahil Malik gives us his take in his articles "Workflows in Sharepoint 2013 (Part 1 & Part 2), prior to Sharepoint 2013 the workflow aspect of Sharepoint leaves much to be desired. Now Sharepoint 2013 may be way better at delivering workflow but note that its licensing is less straightforward. Sahil Malik helps us navigate through in Sharepoint 2013 Licensing Simplified

In the Forrester Report "Sharepoint and BPM - Finding the Sweet Spot", Derek Miers shares the overall sentiment above:

"Despite Microsoft's best attempts to position the SharePoint platform for content and collaboration, many people still see it as a business process management (BPM) platform. The process management features of SharePoint 2010 are better than MOSS 2007, but they're more limited than most modern BPM suites." 

Among the limitations listed by Derek in 2010, we feel the following still hold true today:

  • SharePoint processes are best for simple tracking applications
  • Enterprise BPM on SharePoint will require lots of custom code
  • The processes targeted by SharePoint are simplistic; Enterprise processes are not

Start with SharePoint if your needs are around simple processes centered around the objects stored in SharePoint. But do yourself a favour and review BPM systems. Perform a TCO analysis and we are rather certain that you will find a proper BPM system does not need to cost more and yet provides a foundation that offers an much elevated level of delivering workflow applications with much greater agility, scalability and beyond.