Webinar On Collaborative Business Process Analysis In The Cloud

I’m giving a webinar on Wednesday, June 18 (11am Eastern) on social cloud-based BPA, sponsored by Software AG – you can register here to watch it live. I’ve written a white paper going into this theme in more detail, which will be available from Software AG after the webinar. They will also be presenting a bit on the webinar about their Process Live cloud-based BPA service, which is their full-featured ARIS process analysis toolset running in the cloud, with some additional collaboration features.

bpmNEXT 2014 Thursday Session 2: Decisions And Flexibility

In the second half of the morning, we started with James Taylor of Decision Management Solutions showing how to use decision modeling for simpler, smarter, more agile processes. He showed what a process model looks like in the absence of externalized decisions and rules: it’s a mess of gateways and branches that basically creates a decision tree in BPMN. A cleaner solution is to externalize the decisions so that they are called as a business rules activity from the process model, but the usual challenge is that the decision logic is opaque from the viewpoint of the process modeler. James demonstrated how the DecisionsFirst modeler can be used to model decisions using the Decision Model and Notation standard, then link a read-only view of that to a process model (which he created in Signavio) so that the process modeler can see the logic behind the decision as if it were a callable subprocess. He stepped through the notation within a decision called from a loan origination process, then took us into the full DecisionsFirst modeler to add another decision to the diagram. The interesting thing about decision modeling, which is exploited in the tool, is that it is based on firmer notions of reusability of data sources, decisions and other objects than we see in process models: although reusability can definitely exist in process models, the modeling tools often don’t support it well. DecisionsFirst isn’t a rules/decision engine itself: it’s a modeling environment where decisions are assembled from the rules and decisions in other environments, including external engines, spreadsheet-based decision tables, or knowledge sources describing the decision. It also allows linking to the processes from which it is invoked, objectives and organizational context; since this is a collaborative authoring environment, it can also include comments from other designers.

François Chevresson-Aubain and Aurélien Pupier of Bonitasoft were up next to show how to build flexibility into deployed processes through a few simple but powerful features. First, adding collaboration tasks at runtime, so that a user in a pre-defined step who needs to include other users at that point can do so even if collaboration wasn’t built in at that point. Second, process model parameters can be changed (by an administrator) at runtime, which will impact all running processes based on that model: the situation demonstrated was to change an external service connector when the service call failed, then replay the tasks that failed on that service call. Both of these features are intended to address dynamic environments where the situation at runtime may be different from that at design time, and how to adjust both manual and automated tasks to accommodate those differences.

We finished the morning with Robert Shapiro of Process Analytica on improving resource utilization and productivity using his Optima workbench. Optima is a tool for a serious analyst – likely with some amount of statistical or data science background – to import a process model and runtime data, set optimization parameters (e.g., reduce resource idleness without unduly impacting cycle time), simulate the process, analyze the results, and determine how to best allocate resources in order to optimize relative to the parameters. Although a complex environment, it provides a lot of visualization of the analytics and optimization; Robert actually encourages “eyeballing” the charts and playing around with parameters to fine-tune the process, although he has a great deal more experience at that than the average user. There are a number of analytical tools that can be applied to the data, such as critical path modeling, and financial parameters to optimize revenues and costs. It can also do quite a bit of process mining based on event log inputs in XES format, including deriving a BPMN process model and data correlation based on the event logs; this type of detailed offline analysis could be applied with the data captured and visualized through an intelligent business operations dashboard for advanced process optimization.

We have one more short session after lunch, then best in show voting before bpmNEXT wraps up for another year.

Webinar On Business-IT Alignment In Process Applications

This afternoon, I’m giving a webinar (hosted by Software AG) on business-IT alignment when developing process-centric applications: you can sign up for it or see the replay here.

Some interesting stuff on model-driven development and also why we usually need to use separate modeling tools when we’re building applications for complex core processes.

We’re also developing a white paper on this topic, to be released in the next few weeks; I’ll post a link to that when it’s out.

High-Value Solution Consulting At Amdocs With An ARIS-Based Solution Book

Down to the last two breakout sessions at Innovation World, and we heard from Ophir Edrey of Amdocs, a company providing software for business support, with a focus on the communications, media and entertainment industries. They wanted to be able to leverage their own experience across multiple geographies, leading their customers towards a best practice-based implementation. To do this, they created a solution book that brings together best practices, methodologies, business processes and other information within an enterprise architecture to allow Amdoc consultants to work together with customers to collaborate on how that architecture needs to be modified to fit the customer’s specific needs.

The advantage of this is the Amdocs doesn’t just offer a software solution, but an entire advisory service around the best practices related to the solution. The solution book is created in ARIS, including the process models, solution design, solution traceability, customer collaboration (which they are migrating to ARIS Connect, not Process Live), and review and approval management.

He showed us a demo of the Amdocs Solution Book, specifically the business process framework. It contains four levels of decomposition, starting with a value chain of the entire operator landscape mapped onto the full set of process model families. Drilling through into a specific set of processes for, in this example, a mobile customer upgrading a handset, he showed the KPIs and the capabilities provided by their solution for that particular process; this starts the proof of Amdocs value to the customer as more than just a software provider. Drilling further into the specific process model, the Amdocs consultant can gather feedback from the customer on how this might need to be modified for their specific needs, and comments added directly on the models for others to see and comment.

They have had some pushback from customers on this – some people really just want a paper document – but generally have had very enthusiastic feedback and a strong demand to use the tool for projects. The result is faster, better, value-added implementations of their software solutions, giving them a competitive edge. Certainly an interesting model for the services arm of any complex enterprise software provider.

Still More Conference Within A Conference: ARIS World

The irrepressible Joerg Klueckmann, Director of Product Marketing for ARIS, hosted the ARIS World session, third in the sub-conferences that I’ve attended here at Innovation World.

Georg Simon, SVP of Product Marketing, discussed some of the drivers for ARIS 9: involving occasional users in processes through social collaboration, shortening the learning curve with a redesigned UI, modernizing the look and feel of the UI with new colors and shapes, lowering the TCO with centralized user and license management, and speeding content retrieval with visual and ad hoc search capabilities. There are new role-specific UI perspectives, allowing users to decide what capabilities that they want to see on their interface (based on what they have been allocated by an administrator). There’s a new flexible metamodel, allowing you to create new object types beyond what is provided in the standard metamodel.

He also briefly mentioned Process Live, which moves this newly re-architected ARIS into the public cloud, and went live yesterday, and discussed their plans to release a mobile ARIS framework, allowing some functionality to be exposed on mobile devices: consuming, collaborating and designing on tablets, and approvals on smartphones as well.

Their recent acquisition, Alfabet, is being integrated with ARIS so that its repository of IT systems can be synchronized with the ARIS process repository for a more complete enterprise architecture view. This allows for handoffs in the UI between activities in an ARIS process model and systems in an Alfabet object model, with direct navigation between them.

Software AG Process LiveKlueckmann gave us a demo of Process Live and how it provides social process improvement in the cloud. This is hardly a market leader – cloud-based process discovery/modeling collaboration started with Lombardi Blueprint (now IBM’s Blueworks Live) around 2007 – but it is definitely significant that a leading BPA player like ARIS is moving into the cloud. They’re also offering a reasonable price point: about $140/month for designers, and less than $6/month for viewers, which you can buy directly on their site with a credit card – and there’s a one-month free trial available. Contrast this with Blueworks Live, where an editor is $50/month, a contributor (who can comment) is $10/month, and a viewer is $2/month (but has to be purchased in multiples of 1,000): considerably more expensive for the designer, but likely much more functionality since it brings much of the ARIS functionality to the cloud.

Software AG Process LiveProcess Live offers three templates for create new project databases, ranging from a simple one with four model types, to the full-on professional one with 74 model types. Process Live doesn’t provide the full functionality of ARIS 9: it lacks direct support from Software AG, instead relying on community support; it is missing a number of advanced modeling and analysis features; and can’t be customized since it’s multi-tenanted cloud. You can check out some of their video tutorials for more information on how it works. Data is stored on the Amazon public cloud, which might offer challenges for those who don’t want to include the NSA as a collaborator.

Software AG Process LiveWe heard from Fabian Erbach of Litmus Group, a large consulting organization using Process Live with their customers. For them, the cloud aspect is key since it reduces the setup time by eliminating installation and providing pre-defined templates for initiating projects; furthermore, the social aspects promote engagement with business users, especially occasional ones. Since it’s accessible on mobile (although not officially supported), it is becoming ubiquitous rather than just a tool for BPM specialists. The price point and self-provisioning makes it attractive for companies to try it out without having to go through a software purchasing cycle.

ARIS World ended with a panel of three ARIS customers plus audience participation, mostly discussing future features that customers would like to have in ARIS as well as Process Live. This took on the feel of a user group meeting, which offered a great forum for feedback from actual users, although I missed a lot of the nuances since I’m not a regular ARIS user. Key topics included the redesigned ARIS 9 UI, and the distinction between ARIS and Process Live capabilities.

Managing The Process Of Process Change at Coca-Cola

Petra Burgstaller, who leads the BPM efforts at Coca-Cola, presented on how they are using BPM in the context of an SAP ERP system used at their 250 franchised bottling partner companies worldwide. There are 1.8 billion servings of Coca-Cola beverages consumed each day, in every country except Cuba and North Korea, so having local bottling companies is key to their distribution. The challenge, however, is to establish process best practices, push those best practices out to the independent bottling companies, and continue to innovate on the processes.

They built a “Coke One” template for the core business processes, basically an SAP template with some bolt-ons, and are working to have it adopted by 50% of their worldwide partners to support their 2020 vision of doubling their market. They’re using ARIS to define and document the business processes, then SharePoint for their portal as well as documentation of their SDLC. BPM (or BPA, if you prefer) is used during planning and requirements analysis, then to guide the design and build. They’re using process models – over 1,000 over them – plus a variety of other ARIS capabilities including release cycle management, KPs and performance measures, and publishing that cover the full cycle of process strategy, process design, process implementation and process controlling. Some of the ARIS-SAP synchronization is done manually but they are able to publish some information from ARIS to SAP Solution Manager, effectively isolating the business information and design in ARIS, and the technical design and implementation in SAP.

One key thing is the ability for bottlers in different countries to adopt the processes and the Coke One template for local regulations, although they prefer to keep it as close to the standard as possible to allow changes to processes to flow out from the company to the bottlers. Because Coca-Cola is hosting this for all of their bottlers, it makes it a bit easier to synchronize updates to the standardized processes: if a bottler has made changes, a comparison is done on the models and must be manually reconciled before updating, so that a bottler’s specific changes aren’t lost. They’ve even created a BPM community for sharing ideas and answering questions, allowing them to continue to develop best practices.

The Digital Agility Layer: Time To Get Intentionally Digital

Wolfram Jost, CTO of Software AG, started us off on the first full day of Innovation World with a keynote on innovations for the digital enterprise. As I mentioned yesterday, the use of the term “digital enterprise” (and even more, “digitization”) is a bit strange, since pretty much everything is digital these days, it’s just not necessarily the right type of digital. We still need to think about integration between systems to make automation seamless, but more importantly, we need to think about interaction patterns that put control in the hands of customers, and mobile and social platforms that make the digital forms ubiquitous. So maybe the right phrase is that we have to start being intentionally digital enterprises, rather than let it happen accidentally.

Software AG suiteI definitely agree with Jost’s key point: it’s all about the process. We need end-to-end processes at the business/customer layer, but have to interact with a plethora of silos down below, both on premise and in the cloud, some of which are decades old. Software AG, naturally, provides tools to help that happen: in-memory data management, integration/SOA, BPM, EA and intelligent business operations (IBO, including event processing and analytics). Software AG acquisitionsThis is made up of a number of acquisitions – Apama, alfabet, LongJump, Nirvana, JackBe – plus the pre-existing portfolio including ARIS and webMethods. Now, we’re seeing some of that on their Software AG Live PaaS vision for a unified cloud offering: Process Live for modeling and process publishing; Portfolio Live for IT portfolio management; AgileApps Live for application development and case management; and Integration Live for cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on premise integration. Integration Live is coming next year, but the rest of the platform is available as of today.

Software AG cloud offeringWe had a demo of Process Live, which provides cloud-based BPMN process modeling including collaboration; and Portfolios Live to see the systems with which the modeled processes may interact, including a wide variety of portfolio management functions such as assessing the usage and future development potential of any given system or application. We also saw an AgileApps Live application, including an analytics dashboard plus forms data entry and task/case management; interestingly, this is still sporting a longjump.com URL. I last reviewed LongJump in 2007 in conjunction with the Enterprise 2.0 conference, and obviously there have been some advances since then: it’s still an application development tool for web-based apps, but includes a lot of ad hoc task/case management functionality that allows the knowledge worker to create their own multi-step tasks (subprocesses, in effect) as well as perform other case-type functionality such as gathering artifacts and completing tasks related to a case resolution/completion.

Software AG Integration Live deployment stylesAlthough Integration Live isn’t there yet, we did hear about the different deployment styles that will be supported: development and/or operations can be in the cloud; there can be an on premise ESB or direct connections to systems.

Software AG event-driven architectureJost drilled down into several of the specific products, starting out with the overarching premise that Software AG is moving from a more traditional multi-tier architecture into an event-driven architecture (EDA), where everything is based around the event bus. Product highlights included:

  • ARIS positioning and use cases from process modeling to governance, and the radical UI redesign in ARIS 9 that matches the Process Live UI
  • Mobile and social BPM UI
  • Elastic ESB using virtual private cloud as well as public and private cloud
  • API management, representing an extension to the Centrasite concepts
  • Intelligent business operations architecture including in-memory analytics and event processing
  • Terracotta strategy for in-memory data management
  • Integration of Apama, big memory (Terracotta) and messaging for big data/event correlation

Software AG mobile BPM 1 Software AG mobile BPM 2 Software AG mobile BPM 3

I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more about these over the next two days so I’m not trying to cover everything here.

We had a brief demo from John Bates on audience sentiment analysis for price level setting using Apama, then wrapped up with a presentation from Edy Liongosari, Managing Director at Accenture on how to bring some of this into practice. One thing that Liongosari said really resonated: next year, none of us are going to be talking about cloud, because it will be so ubiquitous. Same is true, I believe, of the terms social and mobile. Not to mention digital.

Kicking Off @SoftwareAG @InnovationWorld

For the first time in a few years, I’m at Software AG’s Innovation World conference in San Francisco (I think that the last time I was here, it was still the webMethods Integration World), and the focus is on the Digital Enterprise. At the press panel that I attended just prior to this evening’s opening keynote, one journalist made the point that “digital enterprise” is kind of a dumb term (I paraphrase here) because everything is digital now: we need a more specific term to mean what Software AG is getting at with this. Clay Richardson of Forrester, who I dragged along to the press session, said that his colleagues are talking about the post-digital age, which I take to mean is based on the assumption that all business is digital so that term is a bit meaningless, although “post-digital” isn’t exactly descriptive either.

Terminology aside, Software AG’s heart is in the right place: CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich took the stage at the opening keynote to talk about how enterprises need to leverage this digital footprint by integrating systems in ways that enable transformation through alignment and agility. You can still detect the schisms in the Software AG product portfolio, however: many of the customer case studies were single-product (e.g., ARIS or webMethods), although we did hear about the growing synergy between Apama (CEP and analytics) and webMethods for operational visibility, as well as Apama and Terracotta (in-memory big data number crunching). As with many of the other large vendors that grow through acquisitions,

We heard briefly from Ivo Totev, Software AG’s CMO; saw presentations of two of their customer innovation awards; then had a lengthier talk on the power of mobile and social from Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Digital Leader. Unlike the usual pop culture keynote speaker, Qualman’s stuff is right on for this audience: looking at how successful companies are leveraging online social relationships, data and influence to further their success through engagement: listening, interacting and reacting (and then selling). He points out that trying to sell first before engaging doesn’t work online because it doesn’t work offline; the methods of engagement are different online and offline, but the principles from a sales lead standpoint are the same. You can’t start the conversation by saying “hey, I’m great, buy this thing that I’m selling” (something that a *lot* of people/companies just starting with Twitter and/or blogging haven’t learned yet).

Qualman took the popular Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” example from a couple of years ago, and talked about not just how United changed their policies on damage as a result of this, but the other people who leveraged the situation into increased sales: Taylor Guitars; a company that created a “Dave Carroll” travelling guitar case; and Carroll himself through sales of the song and his subsequent book on the power of one voice in the age of social media. He looked at companies that have transformed their customer experience through mobile (e.g., Starbucks mobile app, which has personally changed my café loyalty) by giving the customer a way to do what they want to do – which hopefully involves buying your product – in the easiest possible way; and how a fast and slightly cheeky social media presence can give you an incredible boost for very little investment (e.g., Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet when the lights went out during the Superbowl). I gave a presentation last year on creating your own process revolution that talked about some of these issues and the new business models that are emerging because of it.

Great to see John Bates here, who I know from his tenure at Progress Software and came on at Software AG with the Apama acquisition, as well as finally meet Theo Priestley face to face after years of tweeting at each other.

Disclosure: Software AG is a customer (I’m in the middle of creating some white papers and webinars for them), and they paid my travel expenses to be at this conference. However, what I write here is my own opinion and I have not been financially compensated for it.

BPM2012: Papers on Process Mining

I had a bit of blog fatigue earlier, but Keith Swenson blogged the session on process cloud concepts for case management that I attended but didn’t write about, and I’m back at it for the last set of papers for the day at BPM 2012, all with a focus on process mining.

Repairing Process Models to Reflect Reality


Dirk Fahland of Eindhoven University presented a paper on process repair, as opposed to process mining, with a focus on adjusting the original process model to maximize fitness, where fitness is measured by the ability to replace traces in the event log: if a model can replay all of the traces of actual process execution, then it is perfectly fit. Their methods compare the process model to the event log using a conformance checker in order to align the event log and the model, which can be accomplished with the methods of Adriansyah et al’s cost-based replayer to find the diagnostic information.

The result includes activities that are skipped, and activities that must be added. The activities to be added can be fed to an existing process discovery algorithm to create subprocesses that must be added to the existing process, and the activities that were skipped are either made optional or removed from the original process model.

Obviously, this is relevant in situations where the process model isn’t automated, that is, the event logs are from other systems, not directly executed from the process model; this is common when processes are implemented in ERP and other systems rather than in a BPMS, and process models are created manually in order to document the business processes and discover opportunities for optimization. However, as we implement more semi-structured and dynamic processes automated by a BPMS, the event logs of the BPMS itself will include many events that are not part of the original process model; this could be a useful technique for improving understanding of ad hoc processes. By understanding and modeling ad hoc processes that occur frequently, there is the potential to identify emergent subprocesses and add those to the original model in order to reduce time spent by workers creating the same common ad hoc processes over and over again.

There are other measurements of model quality besides fitness, including precision, generalization and simplicity; future research will be looking at these as well as improving the quality of alignment and repair.

Where Did I Misbehave? Diagnostic Information in Compliance Checking

[link to pdf paper]

Elham Ramezani of Eindhoven University presented a paper on compliance checking. Compliance checking covers the full BPM lifecycle: compliance verification during modeling, design and implementation; compliance monitoring during execution; and compliance auditing during evaluation. The challenge is that compliance requirements have to be decomposed and used to create compliance rules that can be formalized into a machine-understandable form, then compared to the event logs using a conformance checker. This is somewhat the opposite of the previous paper, which used conformance checking to find ways to modify the process model to fit reality; this looks at using conformance checking to ensure that compliance rules, represented by a particular process model, are being followed during execution.

Again, this is valuable for processes that are not automated using a BPMS or BRMS (since rules can be strictly enforced in that environment), but rather processes executing in other systems or manually: event logs from systems are compared to the process models that represent the compliance rules using a conformance checker, and the alignment calculated to identify non-compliant instances. There were some case studies with data from a medical clinic, detecting non-compliant actions such as performing an MRI and CT scan of the same organ, or registering a patient twice on one visit.

There was an audience question that was in my mind as well, which is why to express the compliance rules in Petri nets rather a declarative form; she pointed out that the best conformance checking available for aligning with event logs use operational models such as Petri nets, although they may consider adding declarative rules to this method in the future in addition to other planned extensions to the research. She also mentioned that they were exploring applicability to monitoring service level agreement compliance, which has a huge potential for business applications where SLA measurements are not built into the operational systems but must be detected from the event logs.

FNet: An Index for Advanced Business Process Querying

[link to pdf paper]

Zhiqiang Yan, also of Eindhoven University (are you seeing a theme here in process mining?), presented on querying within a large collection of process models based on certain criteria; much of the previous research has been on defining expressive query languages (such as BPMN-Q) that can be very slow to execute, but here they have focused on developing efficient techniques for executing the queries. They identify basic features, or small fragments, of process models, and advanced elements such as transitive or negative edges that form advanced features.

To perform a query, both the query and the target process models are decomposed into features, where the features are small and representative: specific sequences, join, splits and loops. Keywords for the nodes in the graphs are using in addition to the topology of the basic features. [There was a great deal of graph theory in the paper concerned with constructing directed graphs based on these features, but I think that I forgot all of my graph theory shortly after graduation.]

The results seem impressive: two orders of magnitude increase in speed over BPMN-Q. As organizations continue to develop large repositories of process models and hope to get some degree of reuse, process querying will become more important in practical applications.

Using MapReduce to scale events correlation discovery for business processes mining


The last paper of this session, and of the day, was presented by Hicham Reguieg of Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand. One of the challenges in process mining and discovery is big data: the systems that are under consideration generate incredible amounts of log data, and it’s not something that you’re going to just open up in a spreadsheet and analyze manually. This paper looks at using MapReduce, a programming model for processing large data sets (usually by distributing processing across clusters of computers), applied to the specific step of event correlation discovery, which analyzes the event logs in order to find relationships between events that belong to the same business process.

Although he didn’t mention the specific MapReduce framework that they are using for their experiments, I know that there’s a Hadoop one – inevitable that we would start seeing some applicability for Hadoop in some of the big data process problems.

BPM2012: Papers on Process Model Analysis

More from day 2 of BPM 2012.

The Difficulty of Replacing an Inclusive OR-Join


Cédric Favre of IBM Research presented the first paper of the session on some of the difficulties in translation between different forms of process models. One specific problem is replacing an inclusive OR join from a language such as BPMN, that supports them, to one that does not, such as Petri nets, while maintaining the same behavior in the workflow graph.

In the paper, they identify which IOR joins can be replaced locally using XOR and AND logic, and a non-local replacement technique. They also identify processes where an IOR join in a synchronization role cannot be replaced by XOR and AND logic.

This research is useful in looking at automated translation between different modeling languages, although questions raised by the audience pointed out some of the limitations of the approach, as well as considering that acyclic models (which were all that were considered in this research) could be easily translated from BPMN to BPEL, and that many BPEL to Petri net translators already exist.

Automatic Information Flow Analysis of Business Process Models

[link to pdf paper]

Andreas Lehmann of University of Rostock presented a paper on detecting where data and information leaks can occur due to structural flaws in processes; they define a data leak as direct (but illegal) access to a data object, while an information leak is when secret information can be inferred by someone who should not have access to that information. This research specifically looks at predefined structured processes within an organization; the issues in collaborative processes with ad hoc participants is obviously a bit more complex.

In a process where some tasks are confidential and others are observable (public within a certain domain, such as within a company), confidential tasks may be prerequisites for observable tasks, meaning that someone who knows that the observable task is happening also knows that the confidential task must have occurred. Similarly, if the confidential and observable tasks are mutually exclusive, then someone who knows that the observable task has not occurred knows that the confidential task has occurred instead. These are both referred to as “interferences”, and they have developed an approach to detect these sorts of interferences, then create extended Petri nets for the flow that can be used to identify reachability (which identifies whether an information leak can occur). Their work has included optimizing the algorithms to accomplish this information leak detection, and you can find out more about this at the service-technology website.

Definitely some interesting ideas here that can be applicable in a number of processes: their example was an insurance claim where an internal fraud investigation would be initiated based on some conditions, but the people participating in the process shouldn’t know that the investigation had begun since they were the ones being investigated. Note that their research is only concerned with detecting the information flows, but does not provide methods for removing information leaks from the processes.