TechnicityTO 2018: Innovative Toronto

The second session at today’s Technicity conference highlighted some of the technology innovation going on at the city, with a panel featuring Grant Coffey, director of strategy and program management at the City of Toronto; Tina Scott, Blockchain proof of concept lead for the city; and Gabe Sawhney, executive director of Code for Canada and a representative for Civic Hall Toronto. Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada, moderated.

There are a number of different technology innovations underway at the city: some of them are public services, such as public WiFi and the offerings of Code for Canada and Civic Hall, while others are about how the city does business internally and with its commercial partners, such as blockchain in procurement processes.

Civic Hall has some interesting programs for connecting city government with other organizations for the purpose of building solutions together — I’ve been aware of and involved in things like this over several years, and they can yield great results in conjunction with the open data initiative at the city. Toronto also has a Civic Innovation Office as an in-house accelerator to help come up with innovative solutions to tough problems. These private and public programs aren’t in competition: they both foster innovation, and support different constituents in different ways.

Blockchain is starting to gain a foothold in the city through some training and an internal hackathon earlier this year to develop proofs of concept; this provided exposure to both business and technology areas about the potential for blockchain applications. Now, they are trading ideas with some of the other levels of government, such at provincial ministries, about using blockchain, and developing use cases for initial applications. They’re still just coming out of the experimental stage, and are looking at uses such as cross-jurisdictional/cross-organizational information sharing as near-term targets.

It’s not all positive, of course: challenges exist in evolving the city employee culture to take advantage of innovation and do things differently (which is pretty much the same as in private industry), as well as changing policies and governance best practices to be ready for innovation rather than playing catch-up. Sharing success stories is one of the best ways to help promote those changes.

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!

DSTAdvance16 Day 1 Keynote with @PeterGSheahan

I’m back at DST‘s annual AWD ADVANCE user conference, where I’ll be speaking this afternoon on microservices and component architectures. First, however, I’m sitting in on the opening keynote where John Vaughn kicked things off, then passed off to Steve Hooley for a market overview. He pointed out that we’re in a low-growth environment now, with uncertain markets, making it necessary to look at cash conservation and business efficiencies as survival mechanisms. Since most of DST’s AWD customers are financial services, he talked specifically about the disruption coming to that industry, and how current companies have to drive down costs to be positioned to compete in the new landscape. Only a few minutes into his talk, Hooley mentioned blockchain, and how decentralized trust and transactions have the potential to turn financial services on its ear: in other words, the disruptions are technological as well as cultural.

He turned things over to the main keynote guest speaker, Peter Sheahan, author of several business innovation books as well as head of Karrikins Group. Sheahan talked about finding opportunity in disruption rather than fighting it. He presented four strategies for turning the challenge of disruption into opportunity: move towards the disruption; focus on higher order opportunities; question assumptions; and partner like you mean it. These all depend on looking beyond the status quo to identify where the disruption is happening to drive recognition of the opportunities, not just trying to do the same thing that you’re doing now, just better and faster. Some good case studies, such as Burberry — where the physical stores’ biggest competition is their own online shopping site, forcing them to create unique in-store experiences — with a focus on how the convergence of a number of disruptive forces can result in a cornucopia of opportunities. It’s necessary to look at the higher order opportunities, orienting around outcomes rather than processes, and not spend too much time optimizing lower-level activities without looking at how the entire business model could be disrupted.

A dynamic and inspiring talk to kick off the conference. Not sure I’ll be attending many more sessions before my own presentation this afternoon since I’m doing some last-minute preparations, although there are some pretty interesting ones tempting me.