Category Archives: BPM

business process management

bpmNEXT 2016 demo: Capital BPM and Fujitsu

Our final demo session of bpmNEXT — can’t believe it’s all over.

How I Learned to Tell the Truth with BPM – Gene Rawls, Capital BPM

Their Veracity tool overlays architecture and process layers using visual models, integrated with a few different BPMS (primarily IBM); create models in the tool for process and underlying technical architecture (SOA, rules and data) layers, and create linkages between them to indicate interactions. Direct integration of IBM ODM into rules layer.

Business Process and Self-Managed Teams – Keith Swenson, Fujitsu and WfMC

wp-1461264472735.jpgFinishing bpmNEXT with a presentation on self-managed teams in the context of BPM, not a demo. Contrasting organizational styles of “early structured” (aka “structured”) versus “late structured” (aka unstructured), with respective characteristics of centralized versus decentralized, and machine-style versus garden-style. Concepts of sociocracy (on which holocracy is based): a formal method for running self-managed teams that are structured around social relationships, aka dynamic governance. Extremely agile, allows ideas to boil up from the bottom. Replaces voting with consensus, where there is open discussion of options and everyone must consent that it is acceptable; objections must require a better proposal. Defining principles: consent governs policy decision making; organizing in circles; double-linking; and elections by consent. Self-managed organizations are inherently agile since good decisions are made where needed and everyone agrees. May be implications on DMN as to how decisions are modeled and captured. wp-1461264490831.jpgBPMN and CMMN can cover some of the domains of predictability; we saw other demos this week using other model types that extend further into unpredictable work, such as a process timeline view. Outstanding issues of whether BPMN should be extended to handle less predictable work, or if CMMN can handle this. Keith ended with the observation that this was the year of DMN at bpmNEXT, and issued a call to action for an open-source implementation of DMN execution with conformance suite; likely more possible than for BPMN since it is more constrained. A lot of great discussion ensued, and Keith will be spearheading a WfMC committee to look at this.

bpmNEXT 2016 demos: Appian, Bonitasoft, Camunda and Capital BPM

Last day of bpmNEXT 2016 already, and we have a full morning of demos in two sessions, the first of which has a focus on more technical development.

Intent-Driven, Future-Proof User Experience – Malcolm Ross and Suvajit Gupta, Appian

Appian’s SAIL UI development environment. Build interfaces with smart components that detect the capabilities of the runtime device (e.g., camera, Bluetooth) and enable/disable/configure components on the fly. Supports a variety of UI rendering architectures/frameworks for desktop, and generates native mobile apps for Android and iOS. Directly supports their underlying constructs such as Records and process models when building forms. Dynamic content based on selections and data on form. Fast rebranding of forms with color and logos. Full functionality on mobile devices, and offline support via caching data down to device, and saving any offline transactions to automatically synchronize when reconnected. Switch between design (tree/graphical) view and code view in IDE to support different technical capabilities of UI designers. Not a focus on BPM per se, since Appian is repositioning as more of a process-centric application development tool than BPMS, although used as the UI development environment for their process applications.

Continuous Integration: Tools to Empower DevOps in Process-Based Application Development – Charles Souillard, Bonitasoft

Embodying continuous integration for live updates of applications, enabling easier development and automated testing supported by Docker images. Demo of simple shopping cart application created using BonitaBPM, with a combination of forms, pages, layouts, custom widgets and fragments that can be rendered on desktop and mobile devices. Underlying BPMN process model with human activities connected to UI artifacts. Versioned using Subversion. The continuous integration functionality monitors checked-in changes to the application and integrates them into the dev/test repository to allow immediate testing; in the demo, a new input parameter was added to a process step; the updated code was detected and tested, with testing errors raised due to the unknown parameter. Potential to accelerate the dev-test cycle, since code can be checked in by developers several times each day, with the results automatically tested and fed back to them.

Combining DMN with BPMN and CMMN: The Open Source Way – Jakob Freund, Camunda

wp-1461259584764.pngCamunda’s “developer-friendly” BPM for developers to add process, case and decision capabilities to their applications. Their DMN decision tables allows changing decision tables at runtime for increased agility, depending on binding specified by process designer. Decisions executed as decision tasks from a process are logged as part of process history, and visible in their admin Cockpit interface to trace through decisions for a specific process instance. DMN engine also available outside decision tasks in a process, such as a REST API call from a form to dynamically update values as parameters change; when deploying a table, both a public ID for executing the table and a private ID for editing the table are generated for the REST access. Nice traceability directly into the decision table, and fast changes to production decision tables. Open source, with a free (non-production) DMN cloud version. Extra points for creating an online dungeon game using BPMN, and playing a round during the demo.

bpmNEXT 2016 demos: IBM, Orquestra, Trisotech and

On the home stretch of the Wednesday agenda, with the last session of the four last demos for the day.

BPM in the Cloud: Changing the Playing Field – Eric Herness, IBM

wp-1461193672487.jpgIBM Bluemix process-related cloud services, including cognitive services leveraging Watson. Claims process demo that starts by uploading an image of a vehicle and passing to Watson image recognition for visual classification; returned values show confidence in vehicle classification, such as “car”, and sends any results over 90% to the Alchemy taxonomy service to align those — in the demo, Watson returned “cars” and “sedan” with more than 90% confidence, and the taxonomy service determined that sedan is a subset of cars. This allows routing of the claim to the correct process for the type of vehicle. If Watson has not been trained for the specific type of vehicle, the image classification won’t be determined with a sufficient level of confidence, and it will be passed to a work queue for manual classification. Unrecognized images can be used to add to classifier either as example of an existing classification or as a new classification. Predictive models based on Spark machine learning and analytics of past cases create predictions of whether claim should be approved, and the degree of confidence in that decision; at some point, as this confidence increases, some of the claims could be approved automatically. Good examples of how to incorporate cognitive computing to make business processes smarter, using cognitive services that could be called from any BPM system, or any other app that can call REST services.

Model, Generate, Compile in the Cloud and Deploy Ready-To-Use Mobile Process Apps – Rafael Bortolini and Leonardo Luzzatto, CRYO/Orquestra

Demo of Orquestra BPMS implementation for Rio de Janeiro’s municipal processes, e.g., business license requests. From a standard worklist style of process management, generate a process app for a mobile platform: specify app name and logo, select app functionality based on templates, then preview it and compile for iOS or Android. The .ipa or .apk files are generated ready for uploading to the Apple or Google app stores, although that upload can’t be automated. Full functionality to allow mobile user to sign up or login, then access the functionality defined for the app to request a business license. Although an app is generated, the data entry forms are responsive HTML5 to be identical to the desktop version. Very quick implementation of a mobile app from an existing process application without having to learn the Orquestra APIs or even do any real mobile development, but it can also produce the source code in case this is just wanted as a quick starting point for a mobile development project.

Dynamic Validation of Integrated BPMN, CMMN and DMN – Denis Gagné, Trisotech

wp-1461196893964.jpgKommunicator tool based on their animation technology that animates models, which allows tracing the animation directly from a case step in the BPMN model to the CMMN model, or from a decision step to the DMN model. Also links to the semantic layer, such as the Sparx SOA architecture model or other enterprise architecture reference models. This allows manually stepping through an entire business model in order to learn and communicate the procedures, and to validate the dynamic behavior of the model against the business case. Stepping through a CMMN model requires selecting the ad hoc tasks as the case worker would in order to step through the tasks and see the results; there are many different flow patterns that can emerge depending on the tasks selected and the order of selection, and stages will appear as being eligible to close only when the required tasks have been completed. Stepping through a DMN model allows selecting the input parameters in a decision table and running the decision to see the behavior. Their underlying semantic graph shows the interconnectivity of all of the models, as well as goals and other business information.

Simplified CMMN – Lloyd Dugan,

wp-1461198272050.jpgLast up is not a demo (by design), but a proposal for a simplified version of CMMN, starting with a discussion of BPMN’s limitations in case management modeling: primarily that BPMN treats activities but not events as first-class citizens, making it difficult to model event-driven cases. This creates challenges for event subprocesses, event-driven process flow and ad hoc subprocesses, which rely on “exotic” and rarely used BPMN structures and events that many BPMN vendors don’t even support. Moving a business case – such as an insurance claim – to a CMMN model makes it much clearer and easier to model; the more unstructured that the situation is, the harder it is to capture in BPMN, and the easier it is to capture in CMMN. Proposal for simplifying CMMN for use by business analysts include removing PlanFragment and removing all notational attributes (AutoComplete, Manual Activitation, Required, Repetition) that are really execution-oriented logic. This leaves the core set of elements plus the related decorators. I’m not enough of a CMMN expert to know if this makes complete sense, but it seems similar in nature to the subsets of BPMN commonly used by business analysts rather than the full palette.

bpmNEXT 2016 demos: Salesforce, BP Logix and RedHat

Day 2 of bpmNEXT is all demos! Four sessions with a total of 12 demos coming up, with most of the morning focused on case management.

Cloud Architecture Accelerating Innovation in Application Development – Linus Chow, Salesforce

App dev environment that allows integration of Salesforce data with other sources, such as SAP. Schema builder allows data models to be visualized and linked in an ERD format, with field-level security and audit capabilities. Process Builder is an environment for visual creation of Salesforce-related data-driven processes, typically simple update actions triggered by data updates. User experiences created using Lightning App Builder, including support for mobile devices. Work-Relay as a more traditional process orchestration environment leveraging the Salesforce environment. Although mostly live demo, the entire Work-Relay section was a pre-recorded screencast, which was a disappointing violation of the bpmNEXT format.

One Model, Three Dimensions: Combining Flow, Case and Time Into a Unified Development Paradigm – Scott Menter and Joby O’Brien, BP Logix

Process Timeline as a GANTT chart view of process, where highly-parallel tasks must have conditions of precedence, eligibility and necessity met in order to execute, as the underlying structure for case management. An application can include a goal (objective, KPI) that can drive actions and impose conditions while being evaluated independent of any process. Define process as a timeline where activities have “start when” (precedence), “completed when”, “needed when” conditions plus due date, forms and participants. Drag and drop activities on each other to establish precedence dependencies, and group into parent/child relationships to organize sections of process. Can use predictions of completion dates for activities, based on historical data, as triggers for actions. Data virtualization for external data sources, allowing more technical designer to publish the results of queries/views on external sources for other designers to use in applications. Integrated form builder with validation rules based on the shared data and rules previously defined. External events of various types can trigger actions in an event-condition-action paradigm.

Building Advanced Case-Driven Applications – Kris Verlaenen, RedHat

Extension of jBPM from structured process to dynamic case management, seen as a spectrum rather than distinct functionality. Building blocks to add ad hoc choices, milestones, case participants and other case constructs on the core process capabilities. Workbench for authoring case definitions, including creating BPMN process models with ad hoc tasks and structured process snippets, decision tables that can include automatic task triggering. Roles are defined to limit access to data, tasks and functionality. UI for admins, but demonstrated UI built for end users using their UI building blocks that allows selection of the ad hoc tasks in the context of the case data; this extracts the structure data from the case definition that will self-adjust if new data or tasks are added. UI functionality limited, and likely useful more as a prototype than full production UI. As with other open source tools, more targeted at developers than low-code environment. Interesting use of BPMN ad hoc tasks for case tasks rather than CMMN, supporting their basic premise that it’s a spectrum of capabilities rather than two distinct work modes.

bpmNEXT 2016 demo session: 8020 and SAP

My panel done — which probably set some sort of record for containing exactly 50% of the entire female attendees at the conference — we’re on to the bpmNEXT demo session: each is 5 minutes of Ignite-style presentation, 20 minutes of demo, and 5 minutes for Q&A. For the demos, I’ll just try capture some of the high points of each, and I highly recommend that you check out the video of the presentations when they are published after the conference.

Process Design & Automation for a New Economy – Ian Ramsay, 8020 BPM

A simplified, list-based process designer that defines a list of real-world business entities (e.g., application), a list of states unique to each entity (e.g., approved), lists of individuals and groups, lists of stages and tasks associated with each stage. Each new process has a list of start events that happen when a process is instantiated, one or more tasks in the middle, then a list of end events that define when the process is done. Dragging from the lists of entities, states, groups, individuals, stages and tasks onto the process model creates the underlying flow and events, building a more comprehensive process model behind the scenes. This allows a business specialist to create a process model without understanding process modeling or even simple flowcharting, just by identifying the relationships between the different states of business entity, the stages of a business process, and the people involved. Removing an entity from a process modifies the model to remove that entity while keeping the model syntactically correct. Interesting alternative to BPMN-style process modeling, from someone who helped create the BPMN standard, where the process model is a byproduct of entity-state modeling.

Process Intelligence for the Digital Age: Combining Intelligent Insights with Process Mining – Tarun Kamal Khiani and Joachim Meyer, SAP, and Bastian Nominacher, Celonis

Combining SAP’s Operational Process Intelligence analytics and dashboard (which was shown in last year’s bpmNEXT as well as some other briefings that I’ve documented) with Celonis’ process mining. Drilling down on a trouble item from the OPInt dashboard, such as late completion of a specific process type, to determine the root cause of the problem; this includes actionable insights, that is, being able to trigger an operational activity to fix the problem. That allows a case-by-case problem resolution, but adding in the Celonis HANA-based process mining capability allows past process instance data to be mined and analyzed. Adjusting the view on the mined data allows outliers and exceptions to be identified, transforming the straight-through process model to a full model of the instance data. For root cause analysis, this involved filtering down to only processes that took longer than a specific number of days to complete, then manually identifying the portions of the model where the lag times or certain activities may be causing the overly-long cycle time. Similar to other process mining tools, but nicely integrated with SAP S4 processes via the in-memory HANA data mart: no export or preprocessing of the process instance history log, since the process mining is applied directly to the realtime data. This has the potential to be taken further by looking at doing realtime recommendations based on the process mining data and some predictive modeling, although that’s just my opinion.

Good start to the demos with some new ideas on modeling and realtime process mining.

Building a Value-Added BPM Business panel at bpmNEXT

BPM implementations aren’t just about the software vendors, since the vendor vision of “just take it out of the box and run it” or “have your business analyst build operational systems with our low-code platform” is rarely realized in practice. Instead, systems integrators and other value-added service companies bring product knowledge, industry knowledge and pre-built solutions to make these implementations happen better and faster. On a panel about value-added BPM businesses, Pramod Sachdeva of Princeton Blue, Scott Francis of BP3 and Jonathan Sapir of SilverTree brought their perspectives on the role of service providers in the BPM market.

Points covered on the panel included:

  • Customers want to integrate multiple systems, not just build using the BPMS; typically, a BPMS vendor’s professional services group will work only with their own systems, whereas the service providers will help to integrate other capabilities.
  • Service providers can identify and harvest the best capabilities from different systems to provide an integrated solution, rather than trying to do everything with the BPMS tool.
  • BPMS software vendors typically underestimate the level of effort — and the skills required — to bring a solution to full implementation. It’s more than just a demo, and involves more than just the BPMS product.
  • Building a BPM product for developers and building a solution for end-users are quite different, and often the BPMS vendors don’t have the skills to do the latter.
  • Service providers often bring business knowledge about the customer’s industry, and can better put themselves in the customer’s position rather than just focus on selling the technology “feeds and speeds”. Part of this is created more innovative and engaging user experiences on top of the core BPMS platform, although (in my opinion), these are more likely to come from the smaller boutique firms than the large systems integrators.
  • Business analysts and end users can be involved in building solutions in low-code environments, although these are often simpler or template-based applications.
  • Service providers choose to work with a BPMS platform because it gives them agility and speed in building solutions. Often, they can build a solution that can be reconfigured by the customer, such as through simple rule changes.

Having run a boutique BPM service provider in the past, I have a lot of my own opinions on this topic too, although many of them were covered on the panel. My experience is that in situations that require full development efforts (as opposed to purely low-code), service providers can typically provide solutions that are superior to those from either the vendor or the customer’s internal development group, in terms of quality and innovation of technology and often in terms of business fit. Also, it’s hard to hire the same type of skills within a customer organization, since the ideal skill set for a service provider employee is a degree of curiosity that spans multiple businesses.

After lunch is the BPM analyst panel that I’m speaking on, so I’ll be back once the demo sessions start after that. In the meantime, follow the #bpmNEXT hashtag to hear the buzz.

bpmNEXT 2016

It’s back! My favorite conference of the year, where the industry insiders get together to exchange stories and show what cool stuff that they’re working on, bpmNEXT is taking place this week in Santa Barbara. This morning is a special session on the Business of BPM, looking forward at what’s coming in the next few years, with an analyst panel just after lunch that I’ll be participating in. After that, we’ll start on the demos: each presenter has a 5-minute Ignite-style presentation as an intro (20 auto-advancing slides of 15 second each) followed by a live demo.

After a brief intro by Bruce Silver, the morning kicked off with Nathanial Palmer providing an outlook of the next five years of BPM, starting with what we can learn from other areas of digital disruption, where new companies are leveraging infrastructure built by the long-time industry players. He discussed how the nature of work (and processes) is becoming data-driven, goal-oriented, adaptive, and containing intelligent automation. His take on what will drive BPM in the next five years is the three R’s: robots (and other smart things), rules, and relationships (really, the data about the relationships). The modern BPMS framework is much more than just process, but includes goal-seeking optimization, event processing, decision management and process management working on events captured from systems and smart devices. We need to redefine work and how we manage tasks, moving away from (or at least redefining) the worklist paradigm. He also suggests moving away from the monolithic integrated BPMS platform in favor of assembling best-of-breed components, although there was some discussion as to whether this changed the definition of a BPMS to steer away from the recent trend that is turning most BPMS into full-fledged application development platforms.

Up next was Neil Ward-Dutton, providing insights into how the CxO focus and influences are changing. Although many companies have a separate perspective and separate teams working on digital business strategy based on their focus — people and knowledge versus processes and things, internal versus external — these are actually all interconnected. The companies most successful at digital transformation recognize this, and create integrated experiences across what other companies may think of as separate parts of their organization, such as breaking down the barriers between employee engagement and external engagement. Smart connected things fill in the gaps of digital transformation, allowing us to not only create digital representations of physical experiences, but also create physical representations of digital experiences. Neil also looked at the issue of changing how we define work and how it gets done: automation, collaboration, making customers full participants in processes, and embracing new interfaces. Companies are also changing how they think about what they do and where their value lies: in the past 40 years, the S&P 500’s market value has changed from primarily tangible assets to primarily intangible assets, with a focus on optimizing customer experiences. In the face of that, there is a high employee turnover in call centers that are responsible for some of those customer experiences, driving the need for new ways to serve and collaborate with customers. He finished with five imperatives for digital work environments: openness, agility, measurability, collaboration and augmentation. Successful implementation of these digital transformation imperatives may allow breaking the rules of corporate strategy, allowing an organization to show excellence in products, customer engagement and operations rather than just along a single axis.

Great start to the conference, with lots of ideas and themes that I’m sure we’ll see echoed in the presentations over the next couple of days.

BPM and IoT in Home and Hospice Healthcare with @PNMSoft

I listened in on a webinar by Vasileios Kospanos of PNMSoft today about business process management (BPM) and the internet of things (IoT). They started with some basic definitions and origins of IoT – I had no idea that the term was coined back in 1999, which is about the same time that the term BPM came into use – as a part of controls engineering that relied on a lot of smart devices and sensors producing data and responding to remote commands. There are some great examples of IoT in use, including environmental monitoring, manufacturing, energy management, and medical systems, in addition to the more well-known consumerized applications such as home automation and smart cars. Gartner claims that there will be 26B devices on the internet by 2020, which is probably not a bad estimate (and is also driving the new IP6 addressing standards).

PNMSoft - Amedar healthcare presentationDominik Mazur from Amedar Consulting Group (a Polish business and technology consulting firm) joined to discuss a case study from one of their healthcare projects, helping to improve the flow of medical information and operational flow that included home care and hospices – parts of the medical system that are often orphaned from an information gathering standpoint – tied into their National Health Fund systems. This included integrating the information from various devices used to measure the patients’ vital statistics, and supported processes for admission and discharge from medical care facilities. The six types of special purpose devices communicate over mobile networks, and can store the data for later forwarding if there is no signal at the point of collection. Doctors and other health care professionals can view the data and participate in remote diagnosis activities or schedule patient visits.

PNMSoft - Amedar healthcare presentationMazur showed the screens used by healthcare providers (with English annotations, since their system is in Polish) as well as some of the underlying architecture and process models implemented in PNMSoft, such as the admitting interview and specialist referrals process for patients, as well as coordination of physician and specialist visits, plus home medical equipment rental and even remote configuration through remote monitoring capabilities. He also showed a live demo of the system, highlighting features such as alarms that appear when patient data falls outside of normal boundaries; they are integrating third-party and open-source tools such as Google for charting data directly into their dashboards. He also discussed how other devices can be paired to the systems using Bluetooth; I assume that this means that a consumer healthcare device could be used as an auxiliary measurement device, although manufacturers of these devices are quick to point out that they are not certified healthcare devices in order to absolve themselves of responsibility for bad data.

He wrapped up with lessons that they learned from the project, which sound much like many other BPM projects: model-driven Agile development (using PNMSoft, in their case), and work closely with key stakeholders. However, the IoT aspect adds complexiy, and they learned some key lessons around that, too: start device integration sooner, and allow 20-30% of time for testing. They developed a list of best practices for similar projects, including extending business applications to mobile devices, and working in parallel on applications, device integration and reporting.

We wrapped up with an audience Q&A, although there were many more questions than we had time for. One of the more interesting ones was around automated decisioning: they are not doing any of that now, just alerting that allows people to make decisions or kick off processes, but this work lays the foundation for learning what can be automated without risk in the future. Both patients and healthcare providers are accepting the new technology, and the healthcare providers in particular find that it is making their processes more efficient (reducing administration) and transparent.

Great webinar. It will be available on demand from the resources section on PNMSoft’s website within a few days.

PNMSoft - Amedar webinar

Update: PNMSoft published the recording on their YouTube channel within a couple of hours. No registration required!

When Lack Of System Integration Incurs Costs – And Embarrassment

BPM systems are often used as integrating mechanisms for disparate systems, passing along information from one to another to ensure that they stay in sync. They aren’t the only type of systems used for integrating and orchestrating – there’s everything from the consumer-focused IFTTT and Zapier to full-on server-side orchestration – but that’s often presented as a primary use case for BPMS.

What happens, however, when you don’t integrate systems, and rely on “swivel chair integration”, where people have to enter the same information twice in two different systems? In many cases, that integration just doesn’t happen on a consistent basis, and that can cost organizations a lot of money. The news headlines here are all about how lawyers were overpaid (really? that’s news? Winking smile), but for me, the real story is buried further down:

[Lawyers’] time-off recorded in a scheduling system known as iCase was not always properly recorded in a parallel payroll system, known as PeopleSoft. Lawyers themselves were supposed to update both systems, but for various reasons did not.

In short, an organization that employs highly-paid professionals expected those people to enter their time (reasonable) – twice, in two different systems (unreasonable). And for some reason, they are surprised that the lawyers didn’t always do this.