Scrambling down to the conference this morning — I arrived late last night and didn’t get enough sleep, much less a chance to register — I struck up a conversation in the elevator with someone who was already wearing a Gartner conference badge and asked him where the registration area was. He pointed me in the right direction, and said that he hoped that the process was faster than last night, saying that he didn’t know what they were running on their systems but that it was very slow. I tossed off my usual comment about systems that don’t work well — “probably Windows” — then turned to him and saw the Microsoft logo on his shirt. Great, I’m not even at the conference yet, and I’ve made my first enemy. 🙂
The conference kicked off with an welcome from Daryl Plummer, Bill Rosser and Pascal Winckel [all speakers that I reference at this conference are with Gartner unless otherwise noted]. Plummer started off with an audience vote that showed that there are way more business than technical people here, a great (and fairly unusual) thing for a BPM conference. Like most business-focussed conferences, however, the logistics are not blogging-friendly: there’s no wifi, only an internet area where I can plug into a physical cable, and there’s no power at the tables to keep my laptop juiced. In fact, when I ran into Jesper Joergensen from BEA at the break, the first thing that he said to me was “uh oh, no wifi — the conference is going to get a bad review!”
Plummer did tell the best BPM joke of the day so far (not a lot of competition there): What’s the lifecycle of a BPM project? About 2.5 CIOs.
After the preamble and logistics, the opening keynote was given by Janelle Hill. She started out with a great slide on the evolution of process improvement: from scientific management through computerized process flow to our current focus on flexible and adaptive BPM and the start of a focus on SOA (service oriented architecture), BAM (business activity monitoring) and EDA (event driven architecture).
She showed the results of some of their recent research showing that increasing BPM discipline as the second most important business trend affecting the ability to compete during the next five years, second only to better project/portfolio management.
She went on to talk about how software can contribute to business value, and I had to laugh at one of the conclusions that they draw: “The focus of software must shift to enabling business process innovation rather than hindering it.” In theory, that’s what the software is for; what she’s pointing out is that in reality, software — especially large ERP systems — actually hinders business agility and therefore process improvement because of the difficulties in changing the software to meet the current business needs. BPM software provides the opportunity to actually enable process innovation by allowing the business side to make frequent changes to the process to accommodate changing business processes and regulations. This is based on two fundamental bits of functionality that are part of any BPMS: first, the decoupling of the process flow, represented as a graphical process map, from the underlying technology; with a direct link from the process map to an executable flow, the business can now make changes in that graphical environment that can move into production with a minimum of IT involvement. Second, tools to provide a detailed visibility into processes in near real time so that the business can determine where changes need to be made in order to improve processes.
Interestingly, Gartner is bringing the focus back to the people in processes: putting the person-to-process interaction back at centre stage in terms of both process analysis and execution, rather than just seeing people as bots that execute granular tasks in a process. In other words, the SOA view of human-interrupted processes isn’t what’s going to drive the new wave of process improvement; the people in processes are. Maybe that’s an admission that much of the SOA level of improvement is well-understood, so that there’s unlikely to be quantum leaps in process improvement in that area that haven’t already been identified; on the other hand, we’re just starting to discover how some of the human-facing functionality such as collaboration will result in process improvements that we can’t even envision today as the emergent applications of the future. This is exactly what I’m seeing in the Enterprise 2.0 space, namely, that the new generation of technologies provides the tools that allow the business users and analysts to have more control over how their systems work and therefore the effectiveness of their business processes.
Hill discussed the three types of vendors in the BPM market today: traditional packaged application vendors, middleware vendors, and BPM specialists. The market trend, as she points out, is that the BPM pure-play vendors are increasingly being acquired by the first two types of vendors. In spite of the acquisitions, however, she points out that this is not a consolidating market, since the number of companies who claim to have something to do with process management is still increasing.
She finished up with some of the standard Gartner material on what it means to be a process-driven organization and some of the organizational and management issues that need to be addressed in order to enable this; this is very similar to what I’ve seen at previous Gartner conferences and in webinars. With the last BPM conference being only 7 months ago, it’s certainly expected that we’ll see some degree of reused material, but based on this first session, it looks like there will be enough new information to keep everyone happy.