Gartner Day 1: Janelle Hill

More tough decisions on which session to attend, but I’m here in Janelle Hill’s BPM: A Change From Business As Usual.

Hill talks about four sea changes that are currently impacting organizations:

  • Globalization requires agility
  • Information transparency accelerates product and service commoditization, which requires innovation if you’re going to survive
  • Rising importance of the consumer, since we all as consumers have more and more choice on where we give our business
  • Information overload, mostly due to a flood of information being available over the internet but out of any appropriate context

So what’s really new in BPM, both as a management discipline and a technology? First of all, process orientation isn’t a replacement for everything that’s currently in place, like BPR was touted to be, but complements a functional orientation. Second, we’re moving beyond just process improvement to process visibility in order to become more effective. Third, we need to bring back some of those transformational ideas that we flung out when abandoning radical BPR (although not the techniques), and look beyond just incremental improvement to an iterative implementation of transformative change. Lastly, you have to have process agility, because the market is changing and you need to respond to it.

What else is changing is the way that we create these applications: we’ve moved from building it all ourselves to customizing packaged applications, and are starting to move to composing applications using agile methods rather than coding. And although BPM suites aren’t exactly new news, they are starting to be used more widely in order to more readily model, automate and monitor processes.

Hill discusses why explicit processes are the new imperative —¬†processes that are visible to all stakeholders, and are independent of their implementation — in order to drive visibility, agility, synchronization of design and execution and all those other good things that we need from processes these days. BPMS’, by allowing the process model to directly drive the execution, help to drive the implementation of explicit processes. Evaluating BPM suites is done quite differently from evaluating other software products: there’s a blurring of the design and runtime, meaning that a range of composition skills from non-technical business to deeply technical must be supported. Also, external web services and other components are used extensively, so there needs to be different sorts of tools available for more than just orchestration of these components. Since many BPMS are shipped with templates and prebuilt components, there’s also a matter of selecting a suite that has templates that cater to your industry, or making a conscious decision that these templates are not relevant to you since you’re going to build your own processes from scratch anyway. She showed a great chart that mapped 11 business process characteristics (with examples) to architectural implications for BPMS selection, and discussed 7 different process use cases.

She then discussed some details of the roles involved in BPM projects, and the skills required; the business-IT-shared responsibilities is identical to what Gartner’s been saying for a year now, and hopefully we’ll soon start to see some of those short-term shared responsibilities start to shift either to business or IT. The process architect and process analyst are roles that are pretty much new territory, and existing architects and analysts needs to gain some skills before they take this on. I had a call from one of my customer the other day, a large financial services organization, that plans to just have a business analyst with no process experience take on what is essentially a process analyst role; I don’t predict a lot of success in this scenario, and I don’t expect that Hill would either.

Expect a new BPMS magic quadrant from Gartner in September, with some minor shifting of the existing players. Since last time around, Fuego has been acquired by BEA and FileNet has been acquired IBM, and some of the other major and minor vendors may start to make an appearance in the quadrant.

So far, I’ve been successful at blogging the sessions live. I’m off to lunch now and to have some meetings at the vendor booths, so I’m sure to fall behind with some of my notes from this point on.

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