Process Design Slam 2009 – The Final Judgement #SAPTechEd09 #BPXslam09

To wrap up the proceedings from last night, I was asked to critique the efforts of the groups and pick a winner: as it turned out, I was the only judge. Each of the groups did great work, and I want to call out some of the specific efforts:

  • The Business Use Case group had a great written story, including a lot of cultural and social background for our fictional city in order to provide context for the implementation.
  • The BPM Methodologies group had excellent documentation on the wiki, including graphics and charts to make it clear how the methodologies fit with the other groups.
  • The Business Rules group were stars at collaboration with the other groups, in part because everyone quickly realized the importance of business rules to data, UI and process, and solicited their input.
  • The UI and Dashboards group created mockups of monitoring dashboards that provide a starting point for future design slam work.
  • The Collaborative Modeling group led at international collaboration, using Gravity (process modeling within Google Wave) interactively with team members in Europe during the session, and produced a business process model.
  • The Service Implementation group also kicked off implementation, creating a service orchestration process model as a starting point.

In general, everyone seemed to have a good understanding of the importance of data, rules and process, but there could have been better cross-pollination between the groups; in future design slams, that could be helped by requiring some group members to move partway through the evening in order to ensure that there is a better understanding on both sides, something that is fairly common in real-life businesses where people are seconded from one department to another for part of a project. Although a certain amount of collaboration did occur, that was one area that requires more work. I saw one tweet that referred to the design slam as crowdsourced rather than collaborative, although I’m not sure that I would say that: crowdsourcing usually has more of a flavor of individuals contributing in order to achieve their own goals, whereas this was a collaboration with common goals. However, those goals were a bit fragmented by group.

Another issue that I had was the lack of an architectural view of process design: although all of the groups are contributing to a common process (or set of processes), there is little thought around the transformations required to move the process list developed by the Business Use Case group to the process model developed by the Collaborative Modeling group to the process design developed by the Service Implementation group. In enterprise architecture terms, this is a case of transforming models from one layer to another within the process column of the architecture (column 2 if you’re a Zachman fan); understanding these transformations is key so that you don’t reinvent the process at each layer. One of the goals of model-driven design is that you don’t do a business-level process model, then redraw it in another tool; instead, the business-level process model can be augmented with service-level information to become an executable process without recreating the model in another tool. In reality, that often doesn’t happen, and the business analysts draws a process in one tool (such as Visio, or in the case of the design slam, Gravity), then IT redraws it in a tool that will create an executable process (NetWeaver in this case). I have a couple of suggestions here:

  • Combine the Business Use Case and Collaborative Modeling groups into a single group, since they are both doing high-level business analysis. This would allow the process list to be directly modeled in the same group without hand-off of information.
  • Reconsider the use of tools. Although I have a great deal of appreciation for Gravity (I am, after all, a geek), the fact that it does not share a model with the execution environment is problematic since the two groups creating process models were really off doing their own thing using different tools. Consider using NetWeaver 7.2, which has a business analyst perspective in the process composer, and having the business use case/collaborative modeling group create their initial non-technical models in that environment, then allow the service implementation team to add the technical underpinnings. The cool Wave collaboration won’t be there, or maybe only as an initial sketching tool, but the link will be made between the business process models and the executable models.

When it came down to a decision, my choice of the winner was more a product of the early state of the design slam rather than the efforts or skills of the group: I suspect that my view would change if I were judging in Vienna or Bangalore when the process is further along. I selected the Business Use Case group as the winner at this point based on the four judging criteria: although they failed to include alternative media, their story was clear and well-written, it fit well with the other groups’ efforts, and they used good social and collaborative methods within their group for driving out the initial solutions.

The winning team was made up of Greg Chase, Ulrich Scholl and Claus von Riegen, all of SAP, with input from a few others as subject-matter experts on public utilities and electricity production, and started the discussions on pricing plans that ended up driving much of the Business Rules group’s work. Ulrich also has solar cells on his house that connect to the grid, so he has in-depth knowledge of the issues involved with micro-generation, and was very helpful at determining the roles involved and how people could take on multiple roles. They leveraged a lot of the content that was already on the wiki, especially references to communities with experience in micro-generation and virtual power plants. Besides this initial leg up on their work, they were forced to work fast to produce the initial use cases and processes, since that provided necessary input to the other groups to get started with their work, which left them with more of the evening to write a great story around the use case (but, apparently, not enough time to add any graphics or multimedia).

There was a huge amount of effort put into the design slam, both in the preceding weeks through conference calls and content added to the wiki, and at the session last night in Phoenix. I believe that a huge amount of groundwork has been laid for the design slams upcoming in Vienna and Bangalore, including process model, service orchestration diagrams, business rules decision tables, and monitoring dashboard mockups.

I had a great time last night, and would happily participate in a future process design slam.

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