ProcessWorld Day 1: Keynote with Prof. Scheer

The opening keynote this morning was by Prof. August-Wilhelm Scheer, the founder and serious brain-trust behind IDS Scheer. You have to love this guy: not only is he brilliant and able to describe his ideas clearly, he opened and closed his session by playing sax in a jazz trio on stage.

He covered a lot of material in his talk, and I can’t begin to do it justice but will try to hit a few of the high points.

The goal of a modelling tool like ARIS is to support business processes from strategy to model to detailed description to implementation, including changes to any part of that chain and how the changes ripple through the other layers. The design-implementation-control life cycle of business processes, with a current strong focus on the optimization end of things, serves to bring together process modelling and execution like never before.

The business model at the top of any business process is the key competitive differentiator for an organization, requiring identification of the value proposition, supply chain, and target customer. This places the business model, and the surrounding business architecture, as part of an overall enterprise architecture. Looking at the business process architecture stack (think Zachman column 2), the business model leads to the business process, which requires/populates the business process repository. This, in turn, populates the IT-business process repository for the subset of the processes to be automated, through standardized modelling formats like BPMN and serialization formats like BPEL, which in turn connect to the enterprise service repository that documents the underlying services. Surrounding all this is the business process platform for service assembly/orchestration, portals, B2B, WFMS (wow, haven’t heard that term for a while: workflow management systems, for the youngsters in the crowd) and EAI.

IDS Scheer is involved with (or at least concerned with) a number of process-related standards, including ones such as BPMN and IDEF at the business process modelling level. I’m interested to see if they’re involved in the BPM Think Tank that OMG runs, such as the one coming up in July in San Francisco — an email exchange with someone from OMG a few minutes ago indicate that they’re not heavily involved in OMG standards. ARIS’ business model metamodel and their generally high level of innovation could almost certainly contribute to OMG standards development, if they’re not already.

One interesting point that Prof. Scheer finished with (well, before he started playing sax again) was that BPMS (i.e., process execution) vendor platforms will continue to be proprietary in spite of their “commitment” to standards (my quotation marks, since I agree with this thought), so products like ARIS are necessary in order to help facilitate the movement of models between execution systems. The business view needs to be open, while the implementation layer will remain proprietary.

2 thoughts on “ProcessWorld Day 1: Keynote with Prof. Scheer”

  1. Hi Sandy,

    Professor Scheer is wily, that’s for sure. He has based his argument on a false premise: that execution-based BPMSs _only_ execute. The fact is: most of us execution vendors model – and we do it quite well. In fact, we typically do it in a more standards-based way, and in a more business-friendly way than the old-line modeling vendors. So let’s dive in a bit deeper.

    Let’s start with common ground. Here’s something that we can all (most of us anyway: you, Lombardi and IDS Scheer, for example) can agree on: the method(s) of execution are irrelevant if there is fidelity in the execution to the modeled process.

    But Professor Scheer would stop there. We don’t. We think there’s more to being a BPM company than simply drawing a picture, or executing it. Lombardi, and others involved in the standards process, strive for more. We want to see not only execution of the models, but also richness and portability of the models. This isn’t altruistic. We want to see open standards because there are many, many uses of these models well beyond simple documentation, well beyond simple execution – and well beyond what we individually are capable of delivering to the market. We at Lombardi strive for nothing less than the model-driven enterprise. To achieve this will take an entire ecosystem of tooling around the models. Lombardi will provide some. SAP, Cognos, Rational, who knows? There is more to do here than any one company can “own.”

    If these markets open up, then more people model, more people begin transforming their businesses by using the “process prism,” and we all profit.

    On the other end of the scale lies IDS Scheer, and they are not alone among modeling vendors. They prefer to protect their turf by keeping their advanced model formats proprietary. They want to compete based on lock-in, as opposed to usefulness. (Yes, they “export” to a couple of formats, but not their advanced capabilities, and they are not actively working to make these advanced capabilities open… just try exporting that process, changing it in some other tool, and then importing the changed version…).

    So count us as one execution vendor who is competing quite well in the modeling space, and also pursuing open, execution-independent standards in that space, so that all business process maps and models can be freely interchanged for purposes of execution, simulation, optimization, organization, and any other use than some enterprising member of the BPM ecosystem can dream up (and implement).

    (Here’s a plug for OMG: the Business Process Definition Metamodel is the most advanced representation of business process definitions I’ve seen… it is up for adoption at the March OMG meeting in San Diego… I’d encourage everyone interested in business modeling to learn about this specification and then press the vendor community to embrace it… it provides a rich execution-independent serialization format for existing BPMN, plus it is the platform for the many advanced process capabilities needed for businesses to become truly model-driven).


  2. Phil, great comments, thanks for this. I agree that many of the “execution” vendors also have excellent modelling, but there’s a few reasons that you might want to use a standalone modelling tool like ARIS in some cases:

    1. Your process execution vendor *doesn’t* have a great modeller.

    2. You want to include manual tasks as part of your model.

    3. You are modelling for multiple execution engines that don’t interact, and don’t want your business analysts to have to learn a new tool for each of them.

    I don’t know enough about ARIS to comment on their commitment to standards, but I would have to say that I agree somewhat with your view after a few conversations with them about what they’re doing — check out the post on my interview with Trevor Naidoo here.

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