Gartner Day 1: Janelle Hill

My third time today for hearing Janelle Hill speak, but I usually find her to be pretty interesting. This time, her topic is “BPM: A Change from Business as Usual”, taking a look at what’s really new in BPM, how BPM can change the way a company operates, and some BPM use cases.

She started out with a great chart showing what’s new and the implications of each of these points; for example, the fact that processes must be effective and transparent, not just efficient, implies that processes must be explicit and not embedded within applications. In discussing the harmonization of incremental improvement and transformative change, she comes back to the phrase “design for change”, which I’ve heard several times today already; interestingly enough, the subtitle of the Forrester IT Leadership Forum where I’m speaking next week is “Design for People, Build for Change”, indicating that the analysts are really setting the focus on this concept. This is, of course, the heart of business agility: if something isn’t designed and built with the intention that it would be changed frequently, then you’re not going to be changing it much.

Similar to her earlier comments in the opening keynote, the focus is really coming back to the people in the process: the goal of BPM is no longer to automate everything and eliminate people, but also to orchestrate what people are doing. Okay, that’s not really different than the view that those of us dealing with a lot of human-facing processes have had for some time, but it’s a wake-up call for the SOA vendors and IT departments that are focussed on straight-through processing that they have to start looking at the human side.

There’s a lot that has to change with the addition of BPM to a business environment: management based on real-time events, not just transactions; collaboration amongst team members and the team performance rewards that can drive that; and using tools such as simulation and optimization for modeling process improvements.

One important point that she makes about the current state of BPM technology is the explicit process models and their direct link to the executing systems. Although she doesn’t insist on a single shared model, the requirement for real-time round-tripping between the modelling and execution environments is implied in what she says about real-time synchronization between the model and the executing process. In order to make all this work, there are new roles for both business and IT people: the business needs to get involved in some of the analysis and modelling, and IT has to consider how to create reusable components to better enable this.

Hill then moves on to some real-life use cases covering six basic styles of business processes: case management, form-driven/STP workflow, content creation, transactional, guided navigation, and network organization. For each of these, she maps out eight different characteristics of the processes, e.g., what triggers the work to start, and talked about how you can use the combinations of these characteristics to help determine what type of BPMS product that you need. She pointed out that there is no single vendor here at the show (or likely anywhere) that does all six of these types equally well.

She then highlighted the three most common types — case management, STP and guided navigation — and listed common use cases for each of them as well as the expected benefits for each of these patterns. I really liked this section of the talk; it’s a more expansive view than the simpler set of BPM design patterns that I’ve talked about in some of my courses and webinars.

She finished up with a new BPM hype cycle, showing that the technologies are much more mature than the management and methodologies, and some good closing recommendations:

  • Start introducing process modelling, analysis and simulation to business leaders to get them ready for what’s coming in BPM.
  • Start hiring business process analysts and architects with process skills and experience.
  • Look at the characteristics of your process, based on the type of chart that she showed in the presentation, to determine what BPM functionality is required.

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