OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 2: Digital Accelerants

Although technically a product breakout, the session on OpenText’s Digital Accelerants product collection was presented to the entire audience as our last full-audience session before the afternoon breakouts. This was split into three sections: cloud, AI and analytics, and process automation.

Jon Schupp, VP of Cloud GTM, spoke about how information is transforming the world: not just cloud, but a number of other technologies, a changing workforce, growing customer expectations and privacy concerns. Cloud, however, is the destination for innovation. Moving to cloud allows enterprise customers to take advantage of the latest product features, guaranteed availability, global reach and scalability while reducing their operational IT footprint. OpenText provides a number of different deployment platforms: “off-cloud” (aka on-premise), public cloud, private cloud, managed services, and SaaS.

Dave Moyers and Paul O’Hagan were up next to talk about AI and analytics, and how they are addressing data variety, ease of use, embedding AI/ML in processes, and deploying anywhere that it’s required. Their AI and analytics capabilities are provided by the Magellan product, and have been integrated with other OpenText products as well as built into vertical solutions. Magellan has been integrated into the ECM products with AI-augmented capture and the AI-powered “magic folder” auto-categorization and filing; into the Business Network products with asset performance optimization and predictive maintenance; into AppWords by instantiating processes based on insights; and several other integrations. They also have some new standard features for identifying PII (personal identifiable information), which is crucial for compliance and privacy. In addition to the analysis capabilities, there is a wide range of dashboard and visualization options, and full-fledged ETL for connecting to enterprise and third-party data sources and organize data flows. We also saw some examples yesterday of using Magellan for e-discovery and sentiment analysis. Interestingly, this is one of the product portfolios where they’ve taken advantage of integrating with open source tools to extend the core products.

Saving the best for last (okay, maybe that’s just my bias), Lori McKellar and Nick King presented on business process automation. This is not just about back-office automation, but includes customer-facing processing, IoT and other more complex intelligent processes. AppWorks, which includes the process automation capabilities, is an application development environment for use by semi-technical citizen developers (low-code) as well as professional developers (pro-code). We saw the all-new developer experience last year, and now they’ve had a chance to integrate the actual customer usage to fine-tune both the developer and end-user AppWorks experience. One significant change is that as their customers start to build larger apps, they now allow more granular access to the entities under development to allow multiple developers to be working on the same application simultaneously without collisions. They’ve added some new UI capabilities, such as a card view option and an optimized tablet view. Integration with Documentum has been improved for easier document check-in and repository access. Privacy features, including dynamic instance-level permissions and document redaction, are now available in AppWorks. In the upcoming 20.2 version, they’ll be adding an RPA connector framework, then expanding the RPA integrations in 20.3.

The session finished with a Q&A with all of the participants, including discussions on RPA connectors, operationalization of machine learning, hybrid cloud models, the role of unstructured content in AI training, and natural language processing.

This afternoon, I’ll be attending the breakout session on content services, so stay tuned for those final notes from the OpenText Analyst Summit 2020.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 1: corporate strategy and customer spotlight

I’m in Boston for the next two days for OpenText’s annual analyst summit; Patty Nagle, CMO, kicked things off in the first session, then we had a keynote from CEO/CTO Mark Barrenechea. They’re coming up on 30 years in existence, which is definitely a milestone for any technology company, and they’ve grown to 15,000 employees in over 30 countries, in part through their pattern of growth through acquisition. They sell through a large direct salesforce, as well as through their 27,000 partners and directly from their website.

The latest acquisition is Carbonite, which seems a pretty good fit with their cloud/edge content strategy, and Barrenchea discussed where Carbonite fits into their strategy some detail: decentralized computing, small/medium business and consumer audience, and cyber-resilience. OpenText has promoted the term enterprise information management (EIM) in the past, and now are dropping the “E” to be just information management as they enter the smaller end of the market.

They are following the lead of smaller (arguably more nimble) vendors with a move to quarterly product releases for their core content management, and their product versioning will reflect that with a YY.Q version number (e.g., 20.2). Their release 16 will become Cloud Edition 20.2 with the April release, with OT2 and Business Network following the same version numbering. The push to the cloud continues, and if you go to their website now, you’ll see a link to their cloud logins. I’m not sure that having quite so many different logins is a good thing, but I get that there are different audiences for this.

He also covered their business network and cyber resilience offerings, which are a bit peripheral to my interests; then on to their digital accelerants, which is a mixed bag of capabilities including low-code development, AI, IoT, process automation and analytics. They showed a demo of Magellan analytics visualizing World Health Organization data on COVID-19 — a timely example — showing the trends of the disease spread in human healthcare terms, but also the impact on business and markets.

Their key corporate priorities include maintaining market leadership in information management, with expansion to all size of customers; continued move to the cloud; and becoming more of an applications company. I’ve seen a few horizontal technology vendors fail spectacularly on building applications, so it will be interesting to see what they can accomplish there.

We heard briefly about BrightCloud Threat Intelligence, part of the Carbonite acquisition, and saw a demonstration of the Webroot BrightCloud Threat Investigator. Webroot was only acquired by Carbonite less than a year ago, and the branding didn’t even have time to change to Carbonite before becoming part of OpenText. OpenText plans to integrate this into their other offerings to provide better security for content and access to third-party sites and services.

Barrenechea ended with a call to arms to address climate change, ethical supply chains, overuse of plastics and other issues threatening society at large. Not what you usually hear from a technology CEO, but they are pushing a brand of “technology for the good”.

Ted Harrison, EVP of sales, finished the session by hosting a customer panel featuring Peter Chen of Stericycle, Shyam Pitchaimuthu of Chevron, and Gurreet Sidhu of BMO Financial Group. Stericycle and Chevron are both OpenText content management customers, with broad usage across their organizations and deep integration into other systems and processes. BMO is using the OpenText Trading Grid for B2B payment solutions, and appreciate the elastic scalability of the platform as business sectors expand and contract. Stericycle and Chevron both moved to cloud content management as part of their cloud-first strategy, with Chevron doing a conversion from on-premise Documentum to Azure. BMO went with OpenText’s managed services to allow them greater customization and security without running the core infrastructure themselves. Good discussion of how they’re using OpenText products, and the transition to their current state.

Process is cool (again), and the coolest kid on the block is process mining

I first saw process mining software in 2008, when Fujitsu was showing off their process discovery software/services package, plus an interesting presentation by Anne Rozinat from that year’s academic BPM conference where she tied in concepts of process mining and simulation without really using the term process mining or discovery. Rozinat went on to form Fluxicon, which developed one of the earliest process mining products and really opened up the market, and she spent time with me providing my early process mining education. Fast forward 10+ years, and process mining is finally a hot topic: I’m seeing it from a few mining-only companies (Celonis), and as a part of a suite from process modeling companies (Signavio) or even a larger process automation suite (Software AG). Eindhoven University of Technology, arguably the birthplace of process mining, even offers a free process mining course which is quite comprehensive and covers usage as well as many of the underlying algorithms — I did the course and found it offered some great insights and a few challenges.

Today, Celonis hosted a webinar, featuring Rob Koplowitz of Forrester in conversation with Celonis’ CMO Anthony Deighton, on the role of process improvement in improving digital operations. Koplowitz started with some results from a Forrester survey showing that digital transformation is now the primary driver of process improvement initiatives, and the importance of process mining in that transformation. Process mining continues its traditional role in process discovery and conformance checking but also has a role in process enhancement and guidance. Lucky for those of us who focus on process, process is now cool (again).

Unlike just examining analytics for the part of a process that is automated in a BPMS, process mining allows for capturing information from any system and tracing the entire customer journey, across multiple systems and forms of interaction. Process discovery using a process mining tool (like Celonis) lets you take all of that data and create consolidated process models, highlighting the problem areas such as wait states and rework. It’s also a great way to find compliance problems, since you’re looking at how the processes actually work rather than how they were designed to work.

Koplowitz had some interesting insights and advice in his presentation, not the least of which was to engage business experts to drive change and automation, not just technologists, and use process analytics (including process mining) as a guide to where problems lie and what should/could be automated. He showed how process mining fits into the bigger scope of process improvement, contributing to the discovery and analysis stages that are a necessary precursor to reengineering and automation.

Good discussion on the webinar, and there will probably be a replay available if you head to the landing page.

Show me the money: Financials, sales and support at @OpenText Analyst Summit 2019

We started the second day of the OpenText Analyst Summit 2019 with their CFO, Madhu Ranganathan, talking about their growth via acquisitions and organic growth. She claimed that their history of acquisitions shows that M&A does work — a point with which some industry specialists may not agree, given the still overlapping collection of products in their portfolio — but there’s no doubt that they’re growing well based on their six-year financials, across a broad range of industries and geographies. She sees this as a position for continuing to scale to $1B in operating cash flow by June 2021, an ambitious but achievable target, on their existing 25-year run.

Ted Harrison, EVP of Worldwide Sales, was up next with an update on their customer base: 85 of the 100 largest companies in the world, 17 of the top 20 financial services companies, 20 of the top 20 life sciences companies, etc. He walked through the composition of the 1,600 sales professionals in their teams, from the account executives and sales reps to the solution consultants and other support roles. They also have an extensive partner channel bringing domain expertise and customer relationships. He highlighted a few customers in some of the key product areas — GM for digital identity management, Nestle for supply chain management, Malaysia Airports for AI and analytics,and British American Tobacco for SuccessFactors-OT2 integration — with a focus on customers that are using OpenText in ways that span their business operations in a significant way.

James McGourlay, EVP of Customer Operations, covered how their global technical support and professional services organization has aligned with the customer journey from deployment to adoption to expansion of their OpenText products. With 1,400 professional services people, they have 3,000 engagements going on at any given time across 30 countries. As with most large vendors’ PS groups, they have a toolbox of solution accelerators, best practices, and expert resources to help with initial implementation and ongoing operations. This is also where they partner with systems integrators such as CGI, Accenture and Deloitte, and platform partners like Microsoft and Oracle. He addressed the work of their 1,500 technical support professionals across four major centers of excellence for round-the-clock support, co-located with engineering teams to provide a more direct link to technical solutions. They have a strong focus on customer satisfaction in PS and technical support because they realize that happy customers tend to buy more stuff; this is particularly important when you have a lot of different products to sell to those customers to expand your footprint within their organizations.

Good to hear more about the corporate and operations side than I normally cover, but looking forward to this afternoon’s deeper dives into product technology.

Product Innovation session at @OpenText Analyst Summit 2019

Muhi Majzoub, EVP of Engineering, continued the first day of the analyst summit with a deeper look at their technology progress in the past year as well as future direction. I only cover a fraction of OpenText products; even in the ECM and BPM space, they have a long history of acquisitions and it’s hard to keep on top of all of them.

Their Content Services provides information integration into a variety of key business applications, including Salesforce and SAP; this allows users to work in those applications and see relevant content in that context without having to worry where or how it’s stored and secured. Majzoub covered a number of the new features of their content platforms (alas, there are still at least two content platforms, and let’s not even talk about process platforms) as well as user experience, digital asset management, AI-powered content analytics and eDiscovery. He talked about their solutions for LegalTech and digital forensics (not areas that I follow closely), then moved on to the much broader areas of AI, machine learning and analytics as they apply to capture, content and process, as well as their business network transactions.

He talked about AppWorks, which is their low-code development environment but also includes their BPM platform capabilities since they have a focus on process- and content-centric applications such as case management. They have a big push on vertical application development, both in terms of enabling it for their customers and also for building their own vertical offerings. Interestingly, they are also allowing for citizen development of micro-apps in their Core cloud content management platform that includes document workflows.

The product session was followed by a showcase and demos hosted by Stephen Ludlow, VP of Product Marketing. He emphasized that they are a platform company, but since line-of-business buyers want to buy solutions rather than platforms, they need to be able to demonstrate applications that bring together many of their capabilities. We had five quick demos:

  • AI-augmented capture using Captive capture and Magellan AI/analytics: creating an insurance claim first notice of loss from an unstructured email, while gathering aggregate analytics for fraud detection and identifying vehicle accident hotspots.
  • Unsupervised machine learning for eDiscovery to identify concepts in large sets of documents in legal investigations, then using supervised learning/classification to further refine search results and prioritize review of specific documents.
  • Integrated dashboard and analytics for supply chain visibility and management, including integrating, harmonizing and cleansing data and transactions from multiple internal and external sources, and drilling down into details of failed transactions.
  • HR application integrating SAP SuccessFactors with content management to store and access documents that make up an employee HR file, including identifying missing documents and generating customized documents.
  • Dashboard for logging and handling non-conformance and corrective/preventative actions for Life Sciences manufacturing, including quality metrics and root cause analysis, and linking to reference documentation.

Good set of business use cases to finish off our first (half) day of the analyst summit.

Upcoming webinar on digital transformation in financial services featuring @BPMdotcom and @ABBYY_USA – and my white paper

Something strange about receiving an email about an upcoming webinar, featuring two people who I know well…

 …then scrolling down to see that ABBYY is featuring the paper that I wrote for them as follow-on bonus material!

Nathaniel Palmer and Carl Hillier are both intelligent speakers with long histories in the industry, tune in to hear them talk about the role that content capture and content analytics play in digital transformation.

bpmNEXT 2018: All about bots with Cognitive Technology, PMG.net, Flowable

We’re into the afternoon of day 2 of bpmNEXT 2018, with another demo section.

RPA Enablement: Focus on Long-Term Value and Continuous Process Improvement, Cognitive Technology

Massimiliano Delsante of Cognitive Technology presented their myInvenio product for analyzing processes to determine where gaps exist and create models for closing those gaps through RPA task automation. The demo started with loading historical process data for process mining, which created a process model from the data together with activity resources, counts and other metrics; then comparing the model for conformance with a reference model to determine the frequency and performance of conformant and non-conformant cases. The process discovery model can be transformed to a BPMN model, and simulated performance. With a baseline data set of all manual activities, the system identified the cost of each activity, helping to identify which activities would result in the greatest savings if automated, and fed the data for actual resources used into the simulation scenario; adjusting the resources required by specifying the number of RPA robots that could be deployed at specific tasks allows for a what-if simulation for the process performance with an RPA implementation. An analytics dashboard provides visualization of the original process discovery and the simulated changes, with performance trends over time. Predictive analytics can be applied to running processes to, for example, predict which cases will not meet their deadlines, and some root cause analysis for the problems. Doing this analysis requires that you have information about the cost of the RPA robots as well as being able to identify which tasks could be automated with RPA. Good integration of process discovery, simulation, analysis and ongoing monitoring.

Integration is Still Cool, and Core in your BPM Strategy, PMG.net

Ben Alexander from PMG.net focused on integration within BPM as a key element for driving innovation by increasing the speed of application development: integrating services for RPA, ML, AI, IoT, blockchain, chatbots and whatever other hot new technologies can be brought together in a low-code environment such as PMG. His demo showed a vendor onboarding application, adding a function/subprocess for assessing probability of vendor approval using machine learning by calling AzureML, user task assignment using Slack integration or SMS/phone support through a Twilio connector, and RPA bot invocation using a generic REST API. Nice demo of how to put all of these third-party services together using a BPM platform as the main application development and orchestration engine.

Making Process Personal, Flowable

Paul Holmes-Higgin and Micha Keiner from Flowable presented on their Engage product for customer engagement via chat, using chatbots to augment rather than replace human chat, and modeling the chatbot behavior using standard modeling tools. In particular, they have found that a conversation can be modeled as a case with dynamic injection of processes, with the ability to bring intelligence into conversations, and the added benefit of the chat being completely audited. The demo was around the use case of a high-wealth banking client talking to their relationship manager using chat, with simultaneous views of both the client and relationship manager UI in the Flowable Engage chat interface. The client mentioned that she moved to a new home, and the RM initiated the change address process by starting a new case right in the chat by invoking a context-sensitive digital assistant. This provided advice to the RM about address change regulatory rules, and provided a form in situ to collect the address data. The case is now progressed through a combination of chat message to collaborate between human players, forms filled directly in the chat window, and confirmation by the client via chat by presenting them with information to be updated. Potential issues, such as compliance regulations due to a country move, are raised to the RM, and related processes execute behind the scenes that include a compliance officer via a more standard task inbox interface. Once the compliance process completes, the RM is informed via the chat interface. Behind the scenes, there’s a standard address change BPMN diagram, where the chat interface is integrated through service activities. They also showed replacing the human compliance decision with a decision table that was created (and manually edited if necessary) based on a decision tree generated by machine learning on 200,000 historical address change cases; rerunning the scenario skipped the compliance officer step and approved the change instantaneously. Other chat automated tasks that the RM can invoke include setting reminders, retrieving customer information and more using natural language processing, as well as other types of more structured cases and processes. Great demo, and an excellent look at the future of chat interfaces in process and case management.

bpmNEXT 2018: Here’s to the oddballs, with ConsenSys, XMPro and BPLogix

And we’re off with the demo sessions!

Secure, Private Decentralized Business Processes for Blockchains, ConsenSys

Vanessa Bridge of ConsenSys spoke about using BPMN diagrams to create smart contracts and other blockchain applications, while also including privacy, security and other necessary elements: essentially, using BPM to enable Ethereum-based smart contracts (rather than using blockchain as a ledger for BPM transactions and other BPM-blockchain scenarios that I’ve seen in the past). She demonstrated using Camunda BPM for a token sale application, and for a boardroom voting application. For each of the applications, she used BPMN to model the process, particularly the use of BPMN timers to track and control the smart contract process — something that’s not native to blockchain itself. Encryption and other steps were called as services from the BPMN diagram, and the results of each contract were stored in the blockchain. Good use of BPM and blockchain together in a less-expected manner.

Turn IoT Technology into Operational Capability, XMPro

Pieter van Schalkwyk of XMPro looked at the challenges of operationalizing IoT, with a virtual flood of data from sensors and machines that needs to be integrated into standard business workflows. This involves turning big data into smart data via stream processing before passing it on to the business processes in order to achieve business outcomes. XMPro provides smart listeners and agents that connect the data to the business processes, forming the glue between realtime data and resultant actions. His demo showed data being collected from a fan on a cooling tower, bringing in data the sensor logs and comparing it to manufacturer’s information and historical information in order to predict if the fan is likely to fail, create a maintenance work order and even optimize maintenance schedules. They can integrate with a large library of action agents, including their own BPM platform or other communication and collaboration platforms such as Slack. They provide a lot of control over their listener agents, which can be used for any type of big data, not just industrial device data, and integrate complex and accurate prediction models regarding likelihood and remaining useful life predictions. He showed their BPM platform that would be used downstream from the analytical processing, where the internet of things can interact with the internet of people to make additional decisions required in the context of additional information such as 3D drawings. Great example of how to filter through hundreds of millions data points in streaming mode to find the few combinations that require action to be taken. He threw out a comment at the end that this could be used for non-industrial applications, possibly for GDPR data, which definitely made me think about content analytics on content as it’s captured in order to pick out which of the events might trigger a downstream process, such as a regulatory process.

Business Milestones as Configuration, BPLogix

Scott Menter and Joby O’Brien of BPLogix finished up this section on new BPM ideas with their approach to goal orientation in BPM, which is milestone-based and requires understanding the current state of a case before deciding how to move forward. Their Process Director BPM is not BPMN-based, but rather an event-based platform where events are used to determine milestones and drive the process forward: much more of a case management view, usually visualized as a project management-style GANTT chart rather thana flow model. They demonstrated the concept of app events, where changes in state of any of a number of things — form fields, activities, document attachments, etc. — can record a journal entry that uses business semantics and process instance data. This allows events from different parts of the platform to be brought together in a single case journal that shows the significant activity within the case, but also to be triggers for other events such as determining case completion. The journal can be configured to show only certain types of events for specific users — for example, if they’re only interested in events related to outgoing correspondence — and also becomes a case collaboration discussion. Users can select events within the journal and add their own notes, such as taking responsibility for a meeting request. They also showed how machine learning and rules can be used for dynamically changing data; although shown as interactions between fields on forms, this can also be used to generate new app events. Good question from the audience on how to get customers to think about their work in terms of events rather than procedures; case management proponents will say that business people inherently think about events/state changes rather than process. Interesting representation of creating a selective journal based on business semantics rather than just logging everything and expecting users to wade through it for the interesting bits.

We’re off to lunch. I’m a bit out of practice at live-blogging, but hope that I captured some of the flavor of what’s going on here. Back with more this afternoon!

The collision of capture, content and analytics

Martyn Christian of UNDRSTND Group, who I worked with back in FileNet in 2000-1, gave a keynote at ABBYY Technology Summit 2017 on the evolution and ultimate collision of capture, content and analytics. He started by highlighting some key acquisitions in the industry, including the entry of private capital, as well as a move to artificial intelligence in the capture space, as harbingers of the changes in the capture market. Since Gartner declared enterprise content management dead — long live content services platforms! — and introduced new players in the magic quadrant alongside the traditional ECM players, while shifting IBM from the leaders quadrant back to the challengers quadrant.

Intelligent capture is gaining visibility and importance, particularly as a driver for digital transformation. Interestingly, capture was traditionally about converting analog (paper) to digital (data); now, however, many forms of information are natively digital, and capture is not only about performing OCR on scanned paper documents but about extracting and analyzing actionable data from both analog and digital content. High-volume in-house production scanning operations are being augmented — or replaced — with customers doing their own capture, such as we now see with depositing a check using a mobile banking application. Information about customer actions and sentiment is being automatically gleaned from their social media actions. Advanced machine learning is being used to classify content, reducing the need for manual intervention further downstream, and enabling straight-through processing or the use of autonomous agents.

As a marketing guy, he had a lot of advice on how this can be positioned and sold into customers; UNDRSTND apparently ran a workshop yesterday for some of the channel partner companies on bringing this message to their customers who are seeking to move beyond simple capture solutions to digital transformation.

Strategy to execution – and back: it’s all about alignment

I recently wrote a paper sponsored by Software AG called Strategy To Execution – And Back, which you can find here (registration required). From the introduction:

When planning for business success, corporate management sets business strategy and specifies goals in terms of critical success factors and key performance indicators (KPIs). Although senior management is not concerned with the technical details of how business operations are implemented, they must have confidence that the operations are aligned with the strategy, and be able to monitor performance relative to the goals in real time.

In order to achieve operational alignment, there must be a clear path that maps strategy to execution: a direct link from the strategic goals in the high-level business model, through IT development and management practices, to the systems, activities and roles that make the business work. However, that’s only half the story: there must also be a path back from execution to strategy, allowing operational performance to be measured against the objectives in order to guide future strategy. Without both directions of traceability, there’s a disconnect between strategy and operations that can allow a business to drift off course without any indication until it’s far too late.

I cover how you need to have links from your corporate strategy through various levels of architecture to implementation, then be able to capture the operational metrics from running processes and roll those up relative to the corporate goals. If you don’t do that, then your operations could just be merrily going along their own path rather than working towards corporate objectives.