Camunda Community Day: community contributions

Two years ago, I attended Camunda’s open source community day, and gave the opening keynote at their enterprise user conference the following day. I really enjoyed my experience at the open source day, and jumped at the chance to attend again this year – and to visit Berlin.

The first day was the community day, where users of Camunda’s open source software version (primarily developers) talk about what they’re doing with it, plus some of the contributions that the community is making to the project and updates from Camunda on new features on the horizon. To break this up a bit – since I’m already a week after the conference and want to get something out there – I’ll cover the community sessions in this post, then the Camunda technical sessions and a bit about the enterprise conference in a later post.

The first presentation was by Oliver Hock of Videa Project Services, demonstrating robot control using a LEGO Mindstorms robot to solve a Rubix cube. He showed how they used BPMN to define movements and decision tables to determine the move logic, then automated the solution using Camunda BPM. Although you may never want to build a robot to solve a Rubix cube, there are a lot of other devices out there that, like the Mindstorms robot, are controlled via Java APIs; Hock’s design showed how these Java-enabled devices can make use of higher-level modeling constructs such as BPMN and decision tables.

Next up was Jan Galinski of Holisticon to show the Spring Boot community code extension – an example of how the community of Camunda open source users give back to the open source project for everyone’s benefit. Spring Boot is a microservices framework allowing for fast deployment of web applications with a minimal amount of overhead; the Spring Boot starter extension to Camunda allows for using Camunda without a Java application server to essentially provide Camunda apps as microservices. The extension, consisting of about 5,000 lines of code, has been developed over two years with 10 contributors, including both community and Camunda contributors. Galinski showed a live coding demo of replacing JBoss server with Spring Boot starter in a Camunda application to show how this works; he has also written a post on the Camunda community site on the 1.3.0 version of Camunda BPM Spring Boot for more technical details. Although granualar process apps such as this are easier from a devops perspective in terms of deployment and scalability, the challenge is that there is no single point of entry for an end user to look at a worklist (for example). We saw some methods for dealing with this, where a workload service collects information from individual process services with the help of the Camunda BPM Reactor plugin and aggregates them; a federated task list is under development to bring together tasks from multiple process servers into a single list, with a simple completion form. Galinski walked through the general architecture for this, and noted that they are working on making this an official extension. Update: Jan Galinski pointed out in the comments that it was Simon Zambrovski  (also of Holisticon) who did the portion on the presentation on cloud, universal tasklist and event processing — I missed the transition and his name in my hasty note-taking.

Jarl Friis of the Danish tax authority (SKAT) presented their use of the Camunda decision engine: they are using only decision services, and not the BPM capabilities, which likely makes them unusual as a Camunda customer. There are a couple of applications for them: first is to raise data quality in financial reporting to the IRS (for FATCA requirements), where they receive data from Danish financial institutions and have to process it into a specific XML format to send to the IRS. Although many of the data cleansing and transformation rules are in the XML schema definitions, some are not amenable to that format and are being defined in DMN decision tables instead. As this has rolled out, they see that decision tables give them an easier way to respond to annual rule changes, although their business people are not yet trained to make changes to the decision tables. That has resulted in developers having to make the decision table changes and test the results, which is one of the challenges that they have had to deal with: some of the developer test frameworks replicated the original decision table logic in code, which effectively tested the decision table implementation rather than the business logic. That test framework, of course, no longer worked when the decision table was changed, and Friis’ message to the audience was that organizations have to deal with challenges of ownership and responsibility for rules as well as rules testing.

Niall Deehan of Camunda gave a great presentation on on modeling anti-patterns: snaking models that are often used to fit models onto a single sheet of paper (instead, use model with happy path down the centre from left to right); inappropriate use of BPMN versus CMMN (e.g., voting scenarios); inappropriate use of BPMN versus process engine or Cockpit capabilities (e.g., service call with error exceptions for null pointer, bad response, service down); too many listeners on tasks (masks problems and pushes process logic into code, based on concept that analysts’ model should not be changed). He discussed some best practices for consistency: define the symbol set to be used by your analysts and lock down the modeler to remove elements that you don’t want people using; create and maintain your own best practices documentation; use model templates for commonly used activities; and proper training. I would love to see his presentation captured for replay: it was engaging and informative.

The last community presentation was Martin Schimak of plexiti, showing three community extensions used for automating testing of BPMN and CMMN models.  Assert checks and sets the status of tasks in order to drive a process instance through a test scenario. Process Test Coverage visualizes test process paths and checks process model coverage ratio, as covered by individual test methods and entire test classes (e.g., using mockito). Assert Scenario is for writing robust test suites for process models; this was not covered in Schimak’s demo due to time contraints, but you can read more about it on his blog.

Before we started on the Camunda technical presentations, the community award was presented by Camunda as a reward for contributions on extensions: this went to Jan Galinski from Holisticon. It’s really encouraging to see the level of engagement between Camunda and their open source community: Camunda obviously realizes that the community is an important contributor to the success of the enterprise version of the software and the company altogether, and treats them as trusted partners.

Disclaimer: Camunda paid my travel expenses to attend both conference days. I was not compensated in any way for attending or for writing this post, and the opinions here are my own.

Ten years of social BPM

Ten years ago today, I gave my first public presentation on social BPM, “Web 2.0 and BPM”, at the now-defunct BPMG Process 2006 conference in London:

The ideas from consumer social software that I proposed be integrated into BPM — software as a service, user-created processes, collaboration during process design and runtime, lightweight integration models — are all now ubiquitous. I pushed the social business concept further by publicly posting my presentation on Slideshare, a move that other consultants and analysts considered heretical since I was “giving away” my intellectual property. How times have changed.

The attendees likely thought my ideas were a bit crazy; luckily, the BPMS vendors and the big analyst firms started to see the light a few years later. 🙂

10 years on WordPress, 11+ blogging

This popped up in the WordPress Android app the other day:

This blog started in March 2005 (and my online journalling goes back to 2000 or so), but I passed through a Moveable Type phase before settling into self-hosted WordPress in June 2007, porting the complete history over at that time. WordPress continues to be awesome, including a great new visual editor in the latest Android version, although my flaky hosting provider is about to get the boot.

I’ve written 2,575 posts — an average of about one every business day, but quite unevenly distributed — and garnered almost 3,300 comments. Those posts include a total of almost 900,000 words, or 10 good-sized books. Maybe it’s time to actually write one of those books!

Take Mike Marin’s CMMN survey: learn something and help CMMN research

CMMN diagram from OMG CMMN 1.0 specification document
CMMN diagram from OMG CMMN 1.0 specification document

Mike Marin, who had a hand in creating FileNet’s ECM platform and continued the work at IBM as chief architect on their Case Manager product, is taking a bit of time away from IBM to complete his PhD. He’s doing research into complexity metrics for the Case Management Model and Notation standard, and he really needs people to complete a survey in order to complete his empirical research. The entire thing will take 45-60 minutes, and can be completed in multiple sessions; 30-40 minutes of that is an optional tutorial, which you can skip if you’re already familiar with CMMN.

Here’s his invitation to participate (feel free to share with your process and case modeling friends):

We are conducting research on the Case Management Modeling and Notation (CMMN) specification and need your help. You don’t need to be familiar with CMMN to participate, but you should have some basic understanding of process technology or graphical modeling (for example: software modeling, data modeling, object modeling, process modeling, etc.), as CMMN is a new modeling notation. Participation is voluntary and no identifiable personal information will be collected.

You will learn more about CMMN with the tutorial; and you will gain some experience and appreciation for CMMN by evaluating two models in the survey. This exercise should take about 45 to 60 minutes to complete; but it can be done in multiple sessions. The tutorial is optional and it should take 30 to 40 minutes. The survey should take 15 to 20 minutes. You can consider the survey a quiz on the tutorial.

As an appreciation for your collaboration, we will donate $6 (six dollars) to a charity of your choice and we will provide you with early results of the survey.

You can use the following URL to take the tutorial and survey. The first page provides more information on the project.

http://cmmn.limequery.org/index.php/338792?lang=en

He wrote a more detailed description of the research over on BPTrends.

Mike’s a former colleague and a friend, but I’m not asking just because of that: he’s also a Distinguished Engineer at IBM and a contributor to standards and technology that make a huge impact in our field. Help him out, take the survey, and it will help us all out in the long run.

Now available: Best Practices for Knowledge Workers

510DL8BZNlLI couldn’t make it to the BPM and Case Management Summit in DC this week, but it includes the launch of the new book, Best Practices for Knowledge Workers: Innovation in Adaptive Case Management, for which I wrote the foreword. 

In that section, which I called “Beyond Checklists”, I looked at the ways that we are making ACM smarter, using rules, analytics, machine learning and other technologies. That doesn’t mean that ACM will become less reliant on the knowledge workers that work cases; rather, these technologies support them through recommendations and selective automation.

I also cover the ongoing challenges of collaboration within ACM, particularly the issue of encouraging collaboration through social metrics that align the actions of individuals with corporate goals.

You’ll find chapters by many luminaries in the field of BPM and ACM, including some real-world case studies of ACM in action.

Pega 7 roadmap at Pegaworld 2016

I finished up Pegaworld 2016 at a panel of Pega technology executives who provided the vision and roadmap for CRM and Pega 7. Don Schuerman moderated the panel, which included Bill Baggott, Kerim Akgonul, Maarten Keijzer, Mark Replogle and Steve Bixby.

Topics covered:

  • OpenSpan RPA and RDA is the most recent technology acquisition; by next year, the workforce intelligence will be a key differentiator for Pega to help their customers analyze user behavior and detect patterns for potential improvement and automation
  • Questions about Javascript “flavor of the month” technologies come up a lot in competitive situations; they are keeping an eye on what’s sticking in the marketplace and what they can learn from it, selectively including technologies and capabilities where it can add value and fits into their framework
  • Digital channels are now outpacing call center channels in the market, and they are enabling chat and other social capabilities for customer interaction but need to consider how to integrate the text-based social channels into a seamless experience
  • Developing with Pega 7 models isolates the applications from the underlying cloud and/or containerization platforms, so that new platforms and configurations can be put in place without changing the apps
  • New data visualizations based on improved analytics are evolving, providing opportunities for discovery of business practices
  • A simpler modeling environment allows non-technical designers to create and configure apps without accessing the Designer Studio; at this point, technical developers are likely needed for some capabilities
  • They are looking at newer data management technologies, e.g., NoSQL and blockchain, to see how they might fit into Pega’s technology stack; no commitments, but interesting to hear the discussion of the use of blockchain for avoiding conflicts and deadlocks in active-active-active scenarios without having to build it into applications explicitly
  • Some new technology components, developed by Pega or third parties, may be available via Pega Exchange as add-on apps rather than built into the product stack directly
  • They hope to be able to offer more product trials in the future, which can be downloaded (or accessed directly in the cloud) for people to check out the capabilities
  • DevOps is seen as more of a cultural than technology shift, where releases are sped up since code isn’t just thrown over the wall from development to deployment, but remain the responsibility of the dev team; a container strategy is an important component of having this run smoothly
  • UX design is critical in creating an appropriate customer experience, but also in supporting developers who are developing apps; Pega Express is regularly fine-tuned to provide an optimal modeling/design experience, and Pega Design provides insight into their design thinking initiatives
  • All of the data sources, including IoT events, contribute to analytics and machine learning, and therefore to the constant improvement of Next Best Action recommendations
  • They would like to be able to offer more predictive and intelligent customer service capabilities; lots of “wish list” ideas from the entire panel

This is the last session on day 2; tomorrow is all training courses and I’ll be heading home. It’s been a pretty full couple of days and always good to see what Pega’s up to.

American Express digital transformation at Pegaworld 2016

Howard Johnson and Keith Weber from American Express talked about their digital transformation to accommodate their expanding market of corporate card services for global accounts, middle market and small businesses. Digital servicing using their @work portal was designed with customer engagement in mind, and developed using Agile methodologies for improved flexibility and time to market. They developed a set of guiding principles: it needed to be easy to use, scalable to be able to manage any size of servicing customer, and proactive in providing assistance on managing cash flow and other non-transactional interactions. They also wanted consistency across channels, rather than their previous hodge-podge of processes and teams depending on which channels.

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AmEx used to be a waterfall development shop — which enabled them to offshore a lot of the development work but meant 10-16 months delivery time — but have moved to small, agile teams with continuous delivery. Interesting when I think back to this morning’s keynote, where Gerald Chertavian of Year Up said that they were contacted by AmEx about providing trained Java/Pega developers to help them with re-onshoring their development teams; the AmEx presenter said that he had four of the Year Up people on his team and they were great. This is a pretty negative commentary on the effectiveness of outsourced, offshore development teams for agile and continuous delivery, which is considered essential for today’s market. AmEx is now hiring technical people for onshore development that is co-located with their business process experts, greatly reducing delivery times and improving quality.

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Technology-wise, they have moved to an omni-channel platform that uses Pega case management, standardizing 65% of their processes while providing a single source of the truth. This has resulted in faster development (lower cost per market and integration time, with improved configurability) while enabling future capabilities including availability, analytics and a process API. On the business side, they’re looking at a lot of interesting capabilities for the future: big data-enabled insights, natural language search, pluggable widgets to extend the portal, and frequent releases to keep rolling this out to customers.

It sounds like they’re starting to use best practices from a technology design and development standpoint, and that’s really starting to pay off in customer experience. It will be interesting to see if other large organizations — with large, slow-moving offshore development shops — can learn the same lessons.

Rethinking personal data: Pegaworld 2016 panel

I attended a breakout panel on how the idea and usage of personal data are changing was moderated by Alan Marcus of the World Economic Forum (nice socks!), and included Richard Archdeacon of HP, Rob Walker from Pega and Matt Mobley from Merkel.

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The focus is on customer data as it is maintained in an organization’s systems, and the regulations that now drive how that data is managed. The talk was organized around three key themes that are emerging from the global dialog: strengthening trust and accountability; understanding usage-based, individual-centric frameworks; and engaging the individual. Thoughts from the panel:

  • Once you have someone’s data, you remain responsible for it even as you pass it to other parties
  • Customer data management is now regulation-driven
  • It’s not enough to restrict values in a customer data set; it’s now possible to derive hidden values (such as gender or race) from other values, which can result in illegal targeting: how much efforts should be put into anonymizing data when it can be easily deanonymized?
  • Organizations need to inform customers of what data that they have about them, and how it is being used
  • Consumers want the convenience offered by giving up their data more than they fear misuse of the data
  • The true currency of identity for organizations is an email address and one other piece of data, which can then be matched to a vast amount of data from other sources
  • The biggest consumer fear is data privacy violation from a security breach (about which is there is a high level of hysteria), but possibly they should be more afraid of how the companies that they willingly give the data to are going to use it
  • Personal data includes data that you create, data that others create about you, and data that is inferred based on your activities
  • Many people are maintained multiple identities on social media sites, curated differently for professional and personal audiences
  • Personal health data, including genetic data, has an additional set of concerns since it can impact individual healthcare options
  • Unresolved question of when personal data is no longer personal data, e.g., after a certain amount of aggregation and analysis occurs
  • Issues of consent (by customers to use their data) are becoming more prominent, and using data without consent will be counter to the regulations in most jurisdictions
  • Many smaller businesses will find it difficult to meet security compliance regulations; this may drive them to use cloud services where the provider assumes some degree of security responsibility

Food for thought. A lot of unresolved issues in personal data privacy and management.

Pegaworld 2016 day 2 keynote: digital transformation and the 4th industrial revolution

Day 2 of Pegaworld 2016 – another full day on the schedule.

The keynote started with Gilles Leyrat, SVP of Customer and Partner Services at Cisco, discussing how they became a more digital operation in order to provide better customer service and save costs. Cisco equipment provides a huge part of the backbone of the internet, supporting digital transformation for many other organizations, but this was about how they are transforming themselves to keep pace with their customers as well as their competitors. They are using Pega to digitize their business by connecting people and technology, automating processes, and using data for real-time analytics and process change to support their 20,000-strong sales team and 2M orders per year.

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Their digitization has three key goals: operational excellence, revenue growth, and “delightful” customer experience. Customer experience is seen as being crucial to revenue growth, with strong causal links showing up in research. He compared the old world — offshore customer service centers augmented by onshore specialists — with the new digital world, where digitization is a means to achieving their customer experience goal by simplifying, automating and using analytics. By reducing human touch in many standard processes, they are able to reduce wait time for customers while allowing workers to focus on interacting with customers to resolve problems: 93% of cases are now handled with zero touch, saving 2M hours of wait time per year and reducing order resolution time to 6 hours. The employee experience is improved through integrated workplaces and actionable intelligence that support their work patterns. He ended with the advice to understand what you’re trying to achieve, and linking your digital transformation initiatives to those goals.

Next was a panel on digital transformation moderated by Christopher Paquette, Digital Principal at McKinsey, including Alistair Currie, COO at ANZ Bank; Toine Straathof, EVP at Rabobank; Kevin Sullivan, SVP and Head of the Decision Sciences Group at Fifth Third Bank; and Nicole Gleason, Practice Lead for Business Intelligence & Analytics at Comet Global Consulting. A few notes from the panel (I mostly haven’t attributed to the specific speaker since the conversation was free-ranging):

  • Digital transformation is being driven by rapidly-changing customer expectations
  • Banking customers prefer mobile/online first, then ATM, then branch, then call center; this aligns well with operational costs but requires that the digital platforms be built out first
  • Moving internal stakeholders off their old methods and out of operational silos can be more difficult than dealing with regulators and other external parties
  • Making IT and business people responsible for results (e.g., a guiding business architecture) rather than dictating their exact path can lead to innovation and optimal solutions
  • Employee incentives need to be consistent across channels to lessen the competition across them
  • A lot of current digitization efforts are to bridge/hide the complexity of existing legacy systems rather than actual digital transformation

wp-1465322079456.pngAlan Trefler returned to the stage to introduce the concepts of the fourth industrial revolution and workforce disruption; he sees what is happening now as a step change in how society works and how we interact with technology. We heard from Alan Marcus, Head of the Technology Agenda at the World Economic Forum, on this topic, and how new categories of jobs and the required skill sets will completely transform employment markets. Lots of opportunities, but also lots of disruption, in both first world and emerging markets. He covered a timeline of changes and their impacts, and stressed that skill sets are changing quickly: 35% of core skills will change by 2020. wp-1465322062127.pngCompanies need to expose workers to new roles and training, and particularly open doors to women in all roles. Creativity will become a core skill, even as AI technologies gain acceptance. Governments and education systems need to innovate to support the changing workforce. Organizations need to reinvent their HR to help employees to move into this brave new world.

IMG_9803The keynote finished with Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO at Year Up, an organization that helps low-income youth prepare for a professional job. There’s a social justice goal of helping young adults who have no college degree (and no path to get one) to become hireable talent through practical training and internships; but there’s also the side benefit of feeding skilled workers into the rapidly-changing technology-heavy employment market that Marcus discussed earlier. Year Up was contacted by American Express, who needed people trained in Java and Pega in order to re-onshore some of their development work; they created a curriculum targeted at those jobs and trained up a large number of people who then competed successfully for those jobs. IMG_9804Year Up is now in 18 cities across the US, working with large organizations to identify skills gaps and train people to suit the employment pipeline. They’re changing tens of thousands of lives by providing a start on the path to upward mobility, and feeding a need for companies to hire the right skills in order to transform in this fourth industrial revolution.

 

OpenSpan at Pegaworld 2016: RPA meets BPM

Less than two months ago, Pega announced their acquisition of OpenSpan, a software vendor in the robotic process automation (RPA) market. That wasn’t my first exposure to OpenSpan, however: I looked at them eight years ago in the context of mashups. Here at PegaWorld 2016, we’re getting a first peek at the unified roadmap on how Pega and OpenSpan will fit together. Also, a whole new mess of acronyms.

I’m at the OpenSpan session at Pegaworld 2016, although some of these notes date from the time of the analyst briefing back in April. Today’s presentation featured Anna Convery of Pega (formerly OpenSpan); Robin Gomez, Director of Operational Intelligence at Radial (a BPO) providing an introduction to RPA; and Girish Arora, Senior Information Oficer at AIG, on their use of OpenSpan.

Back in the 1990’s, a lot of us who were doing integration of BPM systems into enterprises used “screen scraping” to push commands to and pull data from the screens of legacy systems; since the legacy systems didn’t support any sort of API calls, our apps had to pretend to be a human worker to allow us to automate integration between systems and even hide those ugly screens. Gomez covered a good history of this, including some terms that I had hoped to never see again (I’m looking at you, HLLAPI). RPA is like the younger, much smarter offspring of screen scraping: it still pushes and pulls commands and data, automating desktop activities by simulating user interaction, but it’s now event-driven, incorporating rules and machine learning.

As with BPM and other process automation, Gomez talked about how the goal of RPA is to automate repeatable tasks, reduce error rates, improve standardization, reduce requirement for knowledge about multiple systems, shorten worker onboarding time, and create a straight-through process. At Radial, they were looking for the combination of robotic desktop automation (RDA) that provides personal robots to assist workers’ repetitive tasks, and RPA that completely replaces the worker on an unattended desktop. I’m not sure if every vendor makes a distinction between what OpenSpan calls RDA and RPA; it’s really the same technology, although there are some additional monitoring and virtualization bits required for the headless version.

OpenSpan provides the usual RPA desktop automation capabilities, but also includes the (somewhat creepy) ability to track and analyze worker behavior: basically, what they’re typing into what application in what context, and present it in their Opportunity Finder. This information can be mined for patterns in order to understand how people do their job — much the way that process mining works, but based on user interactions rather than system log files — and automate the parts that are done the same way each time. This can be an end in itself, or a stepping stone to a replacement of the desktop apps entirely, providing interim relief while a full Pega BPM/CRM implementation is being developed, for example. Furthermore, the analytics about the user activities on the desktop can feed into requirements for any replacement initiative, both the general flow as well as an analysis of the decisions made based on what data was presented.

OpenSpan and Pega aren’t (exactly) competitive technologies: OpenSpan can be used for desktop automation where replacement is not an option, or can be used to as a quick fix while performing desktop process discovery to accelerate a full Pega desktop replacement project. OpenSpan paves the cowpaths, while a Pega implementation is usually a more fundamental innovation that may not be warranted in all situations. I can also imagine scenarios where a current Pega customer uses OpenSpan to automate the interaction between Pega and legacy applications that still exist on the desktop. From a Pega sales standpoint, OpenSpan may also act as the camel’s nose in the tent to get into net new clients.

IMG_9784There are a wide variety of use cases, some of them saving just a few minutes but applicable to thousands of workers (e.g., logging in to multiple systems each morning), others replacing a significant portion of knowledge work for a smaller number of workers (e.g., financial reconciliations). Arora talked about what they have done at AIG, in the context of processes that require a mix of human-required and fully automatable steps; he sees their opportunity as moving from RDA (where people are still involved, gaining 10-20% in efficiency) to RPA (fully automated, gaining 40-50% efficiency). Of course, they could just swap out their legacy systems for something that was built this century, but that’s just too difficult to change — expensive, risky and time-consuming — so they are filling in the automation gaps using OpenSpan. They have RDA running on every desktop to assist workers with a variety of tasks ranging from simple to complex, and want to start moving some of those to RPA to roll out unattended automation.

OpenSpan is typically deployed without automation to start gathering user analytics, with initial automation of manual procedures within a few weeks. As Pega cognitive technologies are added to OpenSpan, it should be possible for the RPA processes to continue to recognize patterns and recommend optimizations to a worker’s flow, becoming a sort of virtual personal assistant. I look forward to seeing some of that as OpenSpan is integrated into the Pega technology family.

OpenSpan is Windows-only .NET technology, with no plans to change that at the time of our original analyst briefing in April. We’ll see.