Two disappointing BPM webinars

Maybe it’s the January blahs. Maybe I’ve seen too many of these things. Maybe they actually were as bad as I perceived. Maybe I’m just cranky because I’m missing Mashup Camp. In any case, I was not impressed by either of the two webinars that I sat in on today.

Making Your People More Effective Through Business Process Management (BPM) Technology

This was the 2-hour web marathon that included a keynote from Colin Teubner of Forrester, followed by several Microsoft partners who all have BPM technology that also ties into Microsoft in some way. I’ve enjoyed hearing Colin speak before, both on webinars and in person, but this time was definitely nothing special. The material seemed to be all retreaded stuff from past presentations by Colin or by Connie Moore: how human-centric BPM evolved from workflow, how integration-centric BPM evolved from EAI; I think I wrote that stuff already.

He did make a very cute analogy between between services and Lego for the (presumed) business-oriented audience. He also made the critical point “BPM doesn’t need SOA; SOA needs BPM” that really needs to be understood by everyone involved in both of these fields, especially as they start to merge into one (several years after Gartner called them all one when they actually weren’t).

Then he made an uncomfortable segue into using Microsoft Office applications as part of the whole BPM picture (I wasn’t convinced), as a prelude to what promised to be several vendor presentations; I lasted through part of the first one before I bailed out due to the double frustration of an over-large screen shared on the meeting (didn’t anyone tell the presenters to scale down to 1024×768?) and a fairly significant lack of content.

BPM 302: BPM and Six Sigma

This was one of the Appian webinars from the BPM Basics site. I’ve commented on these before: some good basic material if you’re just getting started with BPM, but today’s was an exception in that I would not recommend it due to the errors in definition around Six Sigma. If you can’t even define your subject matter accurately, then you shouldn’t be speaking about it.

It all started going downhill when the first speaker said “There are six levels of Sigma”, as if it were some sort of CMM-like certification. That shows such an incredibly fundamental misunderstanding of Six Sigma and statistical measures in general, I’m practically speechless. Not meaning to sound like too much of a techie snob, I should have figured that there could be a problem when she was introduced as having a arts degree, and I don’t think that statistics was her major or minor. She also said “sigma is the number of defects per million”, which isn’t at all correct either; sigma (for all of us who did suffer through stats class) represents standard deviation, and you can check any of number of other sources to find that Six Sigma’s goal is to have six standard deviations between the process mean and the specified limit. In other words, a higher value of sigma means that more of the data (whatever it is that you’re measuring) fits between the mean and the limit (beyond which things are classified as errors).

The second speaker was talking more about BPM technology and seemed to know what he was talking about, but was horribly unprepared and oscillated between overly-fast reading of a prepared script and pause-laden bits where he was either winging it or totally losing his concentration.

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