camunda Community Day technical presentations

The second customer speaker at camunda’s community day was Peter Hachenberger from 1&1 Internet, describing how they use Signavio and camunda BPM to create their Process Platform, which is in turn used by their clients’ developers for building and executing automated processes. His presentation was primarily about the details of their technical implementation of the platform; they have built some fairly comprehensive tools for monitoring and managing executing processes, many of which are facilitated by changes that they made to the core process engine, including retry behavior, process ID generator, multiple business keys, an asynchronous process starter API, an extended REST API and a few new commands. Since camunda BPM is open source, any customer such as 1&1 can take a copy of the code and make changes to it, optionally returning them to the community if they are valuable to others. There’s a bit of danger in this, in that if you make changes to core functionality (such as the engine) rather than create an extension or plug-in, and those changes do not end up back in the community version, you’re not only on your own for future development on those components but may not be able to upgrade to future versions.

We had a number of short (10 minute) presentations from community members to discuss extensions that they are working on:

  • Grails plugin to add camunda functionality to Grails applications
  • OSGi module extension for greater flexibility and configurability at runtime, including sharing process engines as services
  • Elasticsearch extension to write camunda BPM history data to an elasticsearch cluster to allow full-text searching, enabling more comprehensive analytics
  • camunda mocking extensions for process testing with mockito
  • Cockpit plugin to add interactive graphs and some statistical calculations (e.g., aggregation, regression, min/max) for process monitoring directly on the camunda history database

Some of these extension projects were done by camunda employees, but great to see the external community contributions as well.

PegaWORLD Gets Big

My attendance at PegaWORLD has been spotty the past few years because of conflicts with other conferences during June, so it was a bit of a surprise to show up in DC this week to a crowd of more than 3,000 attendees — definitely now the biggest BPM conference around. The opening keynote started with Alan Trefler (Pega’s founder and CEO) talking about change, and how organizations need to become digital enterprises with the power to engage, the power to simplify and the power to change. Interestingly, SAP used the same “simplicity” message at SAPPHIRE last week: typically, this translates to a combination of hiding complexity from the business (which is not really simplification, just better window dressing) and platform rationalization (which is actually technological simplification).

As Trefler described it, Pega sees three major contributors to becoming digital enterprises: case lifecycle management as an alternative to a pure process view for the complexity of real-world business operations; next best action to predict what a customer might do based on their engagement history; and omni channel to provide a consistent customer experience on multiple channels simultaneously in an integrated fashion. These three capabilities provide a digital context based on a unified architecture, bridging (internal) work and (external) customer.

Pega has reached a size now — 3,000 employees and over a half billion in revenue — where they are fueling some of their growth through acquisitions; this is likely to challenge their ability to avoid a “Frankenstack” of technologies weirdly bolted together. They’re hitting all the buzzwords: social, mobile, analytics, cloud and internet of things, with a story of how they’re addressing each. Incidentally, I found it interesting that they still have less than 100 cloud-based production customers, although many times more are using it for development and test systems; that’s going to have to step up if they’re going to really engage with increasingly diverse organizations.

Anette Bronder from Vodaphone’s enterprise delivery group took the stage to talk about their ongoing business transformation program: working to achieve simplification, standardization, digitization and globalization. They are improving their enterprise operations and infrastructure, with the goal of a set of standard products that can be delivered across all segments. Enterprise customers, making up almost 30% of their business, include big names including Amazon and Bosch; these include the communications required for logistics, manufacturing, fulfillment, the internet of things and much more, with the ultimate goal of putting a SIM card in pretty much everything. Transformation of their enterprise delivery processes is based on several factors: sourcing the right people both internally and externally; standardized processes with a common methodology leveraging best practices; governance with a single operating and delivery model across all markets with a consistent set of metrics; and common technology for order management, project management and product catalog. They are moving from manual to automated operations, and from local siloed approaches to globally standardized products and processes. They want to improve customer engagement through a case management approach, where all customer information is available for decision-making and pro-active problem resolution, while improving operational efficiency and business agility. Pega is one of their technology partners, but obviously there’s a lot more involved here, including significant change management. They’re two years into their journey; it will be interesting to see this again in a year or two when they’re starting to see some real results.

The Case For Smarter Process At IBMImpact 2014

At analyst events, I tend to not blog every presentation; rather, I listen, absorb and take some time to reflect on the themes. Since I spent the first part of last week at the analyst event at IBM Impact, then the second half across the country at Appian World, I waited until I had to pull all the threads together here. IBM keeps the analysts busy at Impact, although I did get to the general session and a couple of keynotes, which were useful to provide context for the announcements that they made in pre-conference briefings and the analyst event itself.

A key theme at Impact this year was that of “composable business” (I have to check carefully every time I type that to make sure I don’t write “compostable business”, but someone did point out that it is about reuse…). I’m not sure that’s a very new concept: it seems to be about assembling the building blocks of business capabilities, processes and technologies in order to meet the current needs without completely retooling, which is sort of what we’ve all been saying that BPM, ODM and SOA can do for some years now.

Smarter Process is positioned as an enabler of composable business, and is IBM’s approach for “reinventing business operations” by enabling the development of customer-centric applications that push top-line growth, while still providing the efficiency and optimization table stakes. Supporting knowledge workers has become a big part of this, which leads to IBM’s biggest new feature in BPM: the inclusion of “basic” case management within BPM. The idea is that you will be able to support a broader range of work types on a single platform: pre-defined “structured” processes, structured processes with some ad hoc activities, ad hoc (case) work that can invoke structured process segments, and fully ad hoc work. I’ve been talking about this range of work types for quite a while, and how we need products that can range across them, because I see so few real-world processes that fit into the purely structured or the purely unstructured ends of the spectrum: almost everything lies somewhere in the middle, where there is a mix of both. In fact, what IBM is providing is “production case management”, where a designer (probably not technical, or not very technical) creates a case template that pre-defines all of the possible ad hoc activities and structured process fragments; the end user can choose which activities to run in which order, although some may be required or have dependencies. This isn’t the “adaptive case management” extreme end of the spectrum, where the end user has complete control and can create their own activities on the fly, but PCM covers a huge range of use cases in business today. Bruce Silver

“But wait,”, you say, “IBM already has case management with IBM Case Manager. What’s the difference?” Well, IBM BPM (Lombardi heritage) provides full BPM capabilities including process analytics and governance, plus basic case capabilities, on the IBM BPM platform;  IBM Case Manager (FileNet heritage) provides full content and case capabilities including content analytics and governance, plus basic workflow capabilities, on the IBM ECM platform. Hmmm, sounds like something that Marketing would say. The Smarter Process portfolio graphic includes the three primary components of Operational Decision Management, Business Process Management and Case Management, but doesn’t actually specify which product provides which functionality, leaving it open for case management to come from either BPM or ICM. Are we finally seeing the beginning of the end of the split between process management in BPM and ICM? The answer to that is likely more political than technical – these products report up through different parts of IBM, turning the merging/refactoring of them into a turf war – and I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m guessing that we’ll gradually see more case capabilities in BPM and a more complete integration with ECM, such that the current ICM capabilities become redundant, and IBM BPM will expand to manage the full spectrum of work types. The 1,000th cut may finally be approaching. Unfortunately for ICM users, there’s no tooling or migration path to move from ICM to BPM (presumably, no one is even talking about going the other way) since they are built on different infrastructure. There wasn’t really a big fuss made about this new functionality or how it might overlap with ICM about this outside the BPM analyst group; in fact, Bruce Silver quipped “IBM Merges Case into BPM but forgets to announce it”. Winking smile

The new case management functions are embedded within the BPM environment, and appear fairly well integrated: although a simple web-based case design tool is used instead of the BPM Eclipse authoring environment, the runtime appears within the BPM process portal. The case detail view shows the case data, case document and subfolders, running tasks, activities that can be started manually (including processes), and an overall status – similar enough to what you would see with any work item that it won’t be completely foreign, but with the information and controls required for case management. Under the covers, the ad hoc activities execute in the BPM (not ICM) process engine, and a copy of ECM is embedded within BPM to support the case folder and documents artifacts.

The design environment is pretty simple, and very similar to some parts of the ICM design environment: required and optional ad hoc activities are defined, and the start trigger (manual or automatically based on declarative logic or an event) of each activity is specified. Preconditions can be set, so that an activity can’t be started (or won’t automatically start) until certain conditions are met. If you need ad hoc activities in the context of a structured process, these can be defined in the usual BPM design environment – there’s no real magic about this, since ad hoc (that is, not connected by flow lines) activities are part of the BPMN standard and have been available for some time in IBM BPM. The case design environment is integrated with Process Designer and Process Center for repository and versioning, and case management is being sold as an add-on to IBM BPM Advanced.

Aside from the case management announcement, there are some new mobile capabilities in IBM BPM: the ability to design and playback responsive Coaches (UI) for multiple form factors, and pushing some services down to the browser. These will make the UI look better and work faster, so all good there. IBM also gave a shout out to BP3’s mobile portal product, Brazos, for developing iOS and Android apps for IBM BPM; depending on whether you want to go with responsive browser or native apps as a front-end for BPM, you’re covered.

They also announced some enhancements to Business Monitor: a more efficient, high-performance pub-sub style of event handling, and the ability to collect events from any source, although the integration into case management (either in BPM or ICM) at design time still seems a bit rudimentary. They’ve also upgraded to Cognos BI 10.2.1 as the underlying platform, which brings more powerful visualizations via the RAVE engine.  I have the impression that Business Monitor isn’t as popular as expected as a BPM add-on: possibly by the time that organizations get their processes up and running, they don’t have the time, energy or funds for a full-on monitoring and analytics solution. That’s too bad, since that can result in a lot of process improvement benefits; it might make sense to be bundling in some of this capability to at least give a teaser to BPM customers.

In BPM cloud news, there are some security enhancements to the Softlayer-based BPM implementations, including 2-factor authentication and SAML for identity management, plus new pricing at $199/user/month with concurrent user pricing scenarios for infrequent users. What was more interesting is what was not announced: the new Bluemix cloud development platform offers decision services, but no process services.

Blueworks Live seemed to have the fewest announcements, although it now has review and approval processes for models, which is a nice governance addition. IBM can also now provide Blueworks Live in a private cloud – still hosted but isolated as a single tenant – for those who are really paranoid about their process models.

AWD Advance14: Product Strategy

I presented earlier today so I haven’t been doing any blogging, but I didn’t want to miss the repeat of the product strategy session with Roy Brackett, Mike Lovell and John Vaughn.

They’re hitting all the industry hot buzzwords – smart process applications, intelligent business operations, case management – but to be fair, they’re actually doing a lot of it. Although they’re just starting to bring in the dynamic and collaborative capabilities in recent versions, and their customers tend to drag their feet moving to new capabilities, AWD has long been a platform on which you build and deliver integrated business applications.

Their new(ish) case management, although based on the shared process and task engine as their structured processes, is based on research on how knowledge workers work, and they seem to be placing a lot of focus on evidence-based research into what they should be building, and Agile and SCRUM methods for building it.

A minor release (10.7.1) is due soon, and they have included some features that people in the audience were pretty excited about: variable timers (as opposed to having to define the timer duration at design time; multi-recipient outbound communications; AWD widgets, such as worklist and search, that can be deployed within other applications.

The next major release, 10.8, has a number of new features:

  • Processing work space updates, including worklist grid view that can be personalized by the end user, and adding attachments directly from the desktop
  • Communications content migration
  • Creating a case from capture
  • Tracking presentation flow time within monitoring
  • Technical server improvements around session management, batch processing and clustering

In 2015, they are focusing on a number of themes:

  • Dynamic processes for transactions, where process fragments may be assembled at runtime based on the specific conditions for that process instance
  • Milestones and timeline management for cases, allowing predefined process fragments to be easily triggered from case milestones
  • A new responsive user interface design tool that better accommodates what customers are actually doing with mobile apps – it sounds like they originally misunderstood how their customers would actually use presentation flows and mobile apps
  • Improvement to multi-channel servicing
  • Predictive analytics and services
  • Architectural refactoring, including splitting the process and content management capabilities so that they are still tightly integrated, but both are not required – 70% of their deals now do not include imaging, which is pretty amazing considering that AWD started as an imaging and workflow product

Some ambitious targets, and certainly not all to be delivered in 2015, but it gives an idea of how they’re moving forward.

AWD Advance14: Case Management And Unpredictability

I finished off the first day at DST’s AWD Advance conference with Judith Morley’s presentation on case management, which dealt with knowledge work and the unpredictable processes that they deal with every day. She presented last year about their case management, which was pretty new and a strong theme throughout last year’s conference. As I wrote back then, AWD case management is a set of capabilities built on top of their structured BPM, not a separate tool, that manifests through a user workspace that can be enabled for specific users. These capabilities include concepts of case ownership (including team ownership), tasks within cases, task and case prioritization, and collaboration. Their roadmap for case management includes some new mobile case views, more sophisticated case templates, more automation and better reporting.

They don’t have any customers live on case management yet, but some are pretty close. The applications that they are seeing being developed (or considered) at their clients include:

  • New retirement plan onboarding
  • Mutual fund corporate actions, e.g., new fund setup, mergers
  • Transfer of assets
  • Complaints, which involve both structured process and unstructured cases
  • Securitized debt
  • Health insurance appeals and grievances at their BPO operation
  • Immigration services

The key thing for them is to get some of these customers up and running on case management to prove their capabilities and the expected benefits; without that, it’s all a bit academic.

There’s probably not really anything groundbreaking compared to any other case management products, but the fact that it’s built on the standard AWD platform means that it’s completely integrated with their structured process applications, allowing for a mix of transactional workers and knowledge workers on the same piece of work, sharing the security layer and other underlying models. For the huge amount of work that lies in the middle of the structured to unstructured process spectrum, this is essential.

That’s it for day 1 of AWD Advance 2014 – I’m off to enjoy a bit of that Florida sunshine, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Blogging may be a bit light since I’m presenting in the afternoon.

AWD Advance 2014: A Morning Of Strategy, Architecture And Customer Experience

I still think that DST is BPM’s best kept secret outside of their own customer base and the mutual fund industry in which they specialize: if I mention DST to most people, even other BPMS vendors, they’ve never heard of them. However, they have the most fiercely loyal customers that I’ve ever seen, in part because Midwest friendliness and generosity permeates their corporate culture and is reflected in how they care about their customers. In 2012, I think I was the first industry analyst ever to attend their annual user conference, and now they invite a few of us to speak alongside their customers and their own team here at AWD Advance. They also have a lot of fun at the conference: last night they hosted a St. Patrick’s Day bash, and tomorrow is John Vaughn’s special treat for the customers: a concert where the band is masked in mystery (even to other senior management) until the event, although he apparently dropped a hint during the keynote and the conference hashtag lit up with guesses.

Although DST has made their mark in back-office transaction processing with origins in imaging and workflow, the functionality in the current AWD10 platform is more like what Forrester calls a Smart Process Application platform: dynamic and collaborative capabilities, analytics-driven recommendations and actions, integration with transactional systems including their TA2000 shareholder recordkeeping system, correspondence management, and more. For many of their existing customers, however, AWD is part of their “business as usual”, and they’re more concerned with keeping thing running smoothly than looking at new functionality; this is starting to change as the consumer market drives toward a more mobile and social experience, but it feels like the uptake for the new functionality is much slower than DST wished it were. One advantage that they have is their huge business process outsourcing business – back in the 90s when I first visited their operation, they processed about 1/3 of all mutual fund transactions in the US, and now they handle health insurance and other verticals – which is a ready recipient for field-testing new features. I had a brief chat with Mike Hudgins, who I heard present last year on microwork, on how they’re rolling that out in the BPO.

The opening keynote for the conference featured Steve Hooley (CEO), John Vaughn (VP Business Process Solutions) and Kyle Mallot (VP Global Insights/Analytics), with a focus on insight, action and results by using big data and analytics to inform processes. They pointed out that we’ve already squeezed out a lot of the inefficiencies in the back office, and that we now need to change the game by offering better customer experiences and deepening customer relationships.

After the keynote, I attended the AWD architecture session where Richard Clark outlined their technology updates: UI standards including jQuery, CSS3 and HTML5; portal functionality and widgets, including mobile support; server updates to allow for a more cloud-like elasticity; additions to REST services; and web services for check processing functions to replace some of their eStub capabilities. A lot of technical detail intended for current system administrators and developers, with a few glimpses of the continuing refactoring of their platform.

I moved over to the product track to see Kari Moeller, Joel Koehler (who provided the screen shots below – thanks Joel!), Brian Simpson and Laura Lawrence show off some use cases for the new(er) capabilities of AWD10. They’re doing a quarterly webinar on this as well, in part to address the issue that I mention above: a lot of current customers just aren’t using the features yet, even though they’ve moved to the new platform. We saw a self-service solution developed by the DST solution consultants based on their experiences with customers, driven by those customers’ customers’ needs: 55% of customers now prefer self-service over calling into a call center (myself included), and 85% will use online functionality to manage their account or relationship. The solution that they demonstrated allows customers to directly manage certain things in their accounts by linking that customer-facing portal directly to AWD: an action on the website such as an address change or account opening kicks off an AWD process to trigger back-office actions, set a timer event for future-dated updates, generate outbound correspondence, or hold for rendezvous with inbound paper documents that require a signature. In addition to allowing customers to initiate transactions, they can also track the transaction – much like courier package delivery tracking – which can significantly reduce calls to the call center. Customers are offered recommendations of other things that they can do, based on what they’ve done in the past and what similar customers have done, bringing analytics into play. The result: a customer online experience that improves customer retention and reduces the load on the back office and call center. Win-win.

DST customer-facing demo

Disclosure: DST is my client, and they have paid my travel expenses to be here as well as a speaking fee for my presentation tomorrow. They have not paid me to blog (or tweet), and they have no editorial control over what I write here.

Oracle BPM 11g – The View From Afar

You know where I’m not this week? Oracle OpenWorld. You know why? Because after an email conversation where I said that I could attend if my travel expenses were covered, and having them register me for the conference, I was informed that “PR doesn’t cover any hotel rooms or air travel”. Whatever.

However, I did have an in-depth briefing and demo recently on the latest release of Oracle BPM 11g, covering their Business Process Composer modeling tool and the integrated WebCenter Portal for end-user experience, and this seemed like a timely week to publish it.

Front and center is the new release of the Business Process Composer, targeted at business/process analysts, used for modeling and collaborating around business processes. As with many other BPMS, Oracle BPM has one (web-based) tool for the semi-technical analysts to do process discovery and modeling, then another (Eclipsedesktop) environment for the technical developer to complete the design and implementation of the process application. In previous versions, the process could be modeled in the Composer, but the UI could only be created in the JDeveloper IDE; with this release, the analyst can now create the UI directly in the Composer, and play it back as a prototype to show to users and other stakeholders. The Composer functionality doesn’t include complex data transformations or integration requirements, or creating web services, which must still be done in JDeveloper, but it moves the bar considerably for what can be done before developers are (inevitably) engaged in an Oracle BPM project. The Composer also includes simulation based on manual scenarios or runtime data, although it doesn’t show the animations as in the IDE.

We went through a travel request process application to demonstrate some of the UI and modeling capabilities of the Composer:

  • Portal view of projects, with links for favorites, projects owned by me, and projects shared with me. From within an open project, there is a presence indicator for other active viewers on the project.
  • Supports most of the BPMN 2.0 standard, except for some of the less-common activities, such as conversation handler and escalation handler. What the analyst uses is not fully standard BPMN, however: there are some obvious extensions in the “Interactive” (human) tasks, and in fact, the human task management is very reminiscent of their BPEL4People implementation heritage although they claimed that they are executing BPMN natively.
  • The properties available for any given task can be quite technical, although there appear to be some logical defaults if the analyst doesn’t want to (or can’t) specify all of the details in the Composer.
  • A UI form can be created for a human task, and can either be based on the payload (process instance parameters) or completely freeform. Although eventually many of the form parameters have to be attached to instance variables, business analysts often think about UI before data, so it’s good not to have to keep jumping out to define an instance variable just to put a field on a form.
  • The UI form composer is pretty standard: drag and drop controls, including a wide variety of formatted controls such as email addresses and telephone numbers; dropdowns can be populated with values entered at design time, or called from a database or REST service.
  • The process and forms can be played back within the Composer, making it a good tool for prototyping and reviewing with end users: it animates the path through the process, provides the option to launch the form at each human task as a specific user, and can discover and invoke services .

The general idea, as with many other BPMS, is that the business analysis will create the initial forms and processes, then a technical developer will add rules, invoke services, and generally make the application executable. The Composer and IDE can share process models via a common repository, but if I understood it correctly, there’s a bit of a kludge: the IDE must manually move models back to the repository since it uses a different format.

Oracle BPM 11g 2013 - BPM Composer

The second major enhancement in this release of Oracle BPM 11g is production case management functionality, enabled through greater integration of ECM capabilities into the BPM product. We went through a demo of the end-user case management functionality within the WebCenter Portal (a restricted-use license of the portal is provided with BPM), which has several panels of information:

  • Case information, with tabs for the audit trail (events and comments), data, attached documents (WebCenter Content based on Stellent acquisition, restricted license included with BPM, or any CMIS-compliant ECM), and discussion (forums/wikis).
  • Milestones and status; these can be marked complete or reopened based on user permissions.
  • Stakeholders, for access control to this class of cases. Permissions are defined in the context of case design, not predefined for entire system.
  • Activities, which can be filtered by status, where “Available” means activities that the current user is permitted to start.
  • Linked and referred cases; cases can be linked automatically by a model-driven parameter (e.g., account number), or by the user searching and creating a manual connection at runtime.

The JDeveloper IDE is used for modeling cases: defining milestones, outcomes, instance variables, user events and stakeholders, then defining rulesets (either in decision tables, or if-then code) and enabling each rule for different milestones within the case definition. Rules can be self-contained, or can invoke services or trigger processes. Case activities can be manually or automatically activated, and may be human tasks, BPMN processes, or exit to Java. Unfortunately, the case definition environment is still pretty technical, so unlikely to be done by a non-technical analyst.

Oracle BPM 11g 2013 - Case Management

Oracle is allied with the CMMN case modeling notation standards efforts, which puts them at about the right time in the CM standards wave, although I think that we may eventually see this merge with the BPMN standard.

It feels like Oracle is doing a bit of catching up with the competition: analyst tools for form-based UI design as part of a process application have been available in other BPMS for some time, and the technical nature of the case management designer is behind the times. However, these significant improvements in the Business Process Composer now allow for a complete prototype model to be created and approved by the business before developer involvement.

I haven’t heard any updates on the BPM product coming out of OpenWorld this week, but if you’re there in person, you’ll hear about it before I do. 🙂

Smarter Process At IBM Impact 2013

Day 1 at IBM Impact 2013, following a keynote full of loud drums, rotating cars and a cat video, David Millen and Kramer Reeves gave a presentation on IBM’s vision for Smarter Process, which focuses on improving process effectiveness with BPM, case management and decision management. There are a number of drivers that they mentioned here that we’ll address in our panel this afternoon on “What’s Next For BPM” — the big four of mobile, social, cloud and big data — with the point that the potential for these is best seen when tied to mission-critical business processes. Not surprisingly, their research shows that 99% of CIOs looking to transform their business realize that they have to change their processes to do so.

Processes are not just about internal operations, but extend beyond the walls of the organization to take the customers’ actions into consideration, binding the systems of record to the systems of engagement. Therefore, it’s not just about process efficiency any more: we’re being forced to move beyond automation and optimization by the aforementioned disruptive forces, and directly address customer-centricity. In a customer-centric world, processes need to be responsive, seamless and relevant in order to engage customers and keep them engaged and well-served, while still maintaining efficiencies that we learned from all those years of process automation.

This isn’t new, of course; analysts (including me) and vendors have been talking about this sort of transformation for some time. What is new (-ish) is that IBM has a sufficiently robust set of product functionality to now have some solid case studies that show how BPM, CM and/or DM are being used with some configuration of mobile, social, cloud and big data. They’re also emphasizing the cross-functional approach required for this, with involvement of operations as well as IT and line of business teams.

Their key platforms for Smarter Process are BPM, Case Manager and ODM, and we had a summary of the relevant new features in each of these. BPM and ODM v8.5 are announced today and will be available in the next month or so. Here’s some of the key enhancements that I caught from the torrent of information.

BPM v8.5:

  • Dashboards that allow you to click through directly to take action on the process. The dashboards provide a much better view of the process context, both for instance information such as the process timeline and activity stream, and for insights into team performance. This is now a more seamless integration with their “Coach” UI framework that is used for task UI, including presence, collaboration and social activity. I think that this is pretty significant, since it blurs the line between the inbox/task UI and the report/dashboard UI: analytics are context for actionable information. The process timeline provides a Gantt chart view — similar to what we’ve seen for some time in products such as BP Logix — and includes the beginnings of their predictive process analytics capabilities to predict if a specific instance will miss its milestones. There’s so much more than can be done here, such as what-if simulation scenarios for a high-value instance that is in danger of violating an SLA, but it’s a start. The team performance view provides real-time management of a team’s open tasks, and some enhanced views of the team members and their work.
  • Mobile enhancements with some new mobile widgets and sample apps, plus a non-production Worklight license bundled in for jumpstarting an organization’s mobile application development. You would need to buy full Worklight licenses before production deployment, but so many organizations are still at the tire-kicking stage so this will help move them along, especially if they can just modify the sample app for their first version. The design environment allows you to playback the mobile UI so that you can see what it’s going to look like on different form factors before deploying to those devices. As expected, you can take advantage of device capabilities, such as the camera and GPS, within mobile apps.
  • Social/collaboration enhancements, including presence indicators.
  • Integration into IBM Connections and IBM Notes, allowing for task completion in situ.
  • Blueworks Live integration, providing a link back to BWL from a BPM application that was originally imported from BWL. This is not round-tripping; in fact, it’s not even forward-tripping since any changes to the process in BWL require manual updates in BPM, but at least there’s an indication of what’s connected and that the changes have occurred.
  • Integration with the internal BPM content repository now uses the CMIS standard, so that there is a single consistent way to access content regardless of the repository platform.
  • A new BPM on SmartCloud offering, providing a full IBM BPM platform including design and runtime tools in IBM’s cloud. This can be used for production as well as development/test scenarios, and is priced on a monthly subscription basis. No official word on the pricing or minimums; other BPM vendors who go this route often put the pricing and/or minimum license numbers prohibitively high for a starter package, so hoping that they do this right. Applications can be moved between cloud and on-premise BPM installations by networking the Process Centers.

ODM v8.5:

  • MobileFirst for business rules on the go, with RESTful API adapters inside the Worklight environment for building mobile apps that invoke business rules.
  • Decision governance framework for better reusability and control of rules, allowing business users to participate in rule creation, review, management and release. Considering that rules are supposed to be the manifestation of business policies, it’s about time that the business is given the tools to work with the rules directly. There’s a full audit trail so that you can see who worked on and approved rules, and when they were promoted into production, and the ability to compare rule and decision table versions.

Blueworks Live, for the enhancements already released into production a couple of weeks ago:

  • Decision discovery through graphical models, using the emerging decision modeling notation (DMN) from OMG. Decisions can now be documented as first-class artifacts in BWL, so that the rules are modeled and linked with processes. Although the rules can be exported to Excel, there’s no way to get them into IBM ODM right now, but I’m sure we can expect to see this in the future. The graphical representation starts with a root decision/question, and breaks that down to the component decisions to end up with a decision table. Metadata about the decisions is captured, just as it is for processes, leveraging the glossary capability for consistency and reuse.
  • Natural language translation, allowing each user to specify their language of choice; this allows for multi-language collaboration (although the created artifacts are not translated, just the standard UI).
  • Process modeling and discovery

Case Manager v5.1.1:

  • Enhanced knowledge worker control and document handling, bringing better decision management control into the case environment.
  • Modeling complex cases.
  • Two solutions built on top of Case Manager: intelligent (fraud) investigation management, and patient care and insight.

Integration Bus v9.0:

  • Decision services built in so that decisions can be applied to in-flight data.
  • Policy-driven workload management to manage traffic flow on the ESB based on events.
  • Mobile enablement to allow push notifications to mobile devices.

The Case Manager stuff went by pretty quickly, and wasn’t included in my pre-conference briefing last week, but I think that it’s significant that we’re (finally) seeing the FileNet-based Case Manager here at Impact and on the same marketecture chart as BPM and ODM. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the level of integration that they’re going to achieve, and whether the products actually combine.

Underlying the main product platforms, they’re leveraging Business Monitor and ODM to develop operational intelligence capabilities, including predictive analytics. This can gather events from a variety of sources, not just BPM, and perform continuous analysis in real-time to aid decision-making.

They are also including their services offerings as part of the Smarter Process package, supporting an organization’s journey from pilot to project to program. They offer industry solution accelerators — I assume that these are non-productized templates — and can assist with the development of methodologies and a BPM COE.

There are a number of breakout sessions on the different products and related topics over the next couple of days, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see given the hectic schedule that they’ve given me as part of the analyst program.

Apologies for those who saw (briefly) an earlier version of this post; the new version of the WordPress Android app has a new button, and I went ahead and clicked it.

Smart Process Apps with Kofax and Forrester

Kofax sponsored a webinar this week (replay here) featuring Andy Bartels of Forrester Research speaking about Smart Process Applications (SPA): a term introduced by Forrester to describe collaborative, process-based packaged applications for human-centric work. In their terms: “a new generation of applications to help make human-centric, collaborative business activities be more effective”, with the goal to “help people be smarter in executing critical business activities”. You can check out their report on this from last year; the name is still struggling to gain acceptance, but vendors such as Kofax and OpenText (for whom I did a webinar and white paper on this topic last month) are helping to push it as a slice of the ECM/BPM/CM market where they have product offerings [by CM, I mean case management, including advanced CM (ACM), adaptive CM (also ACM), production CM (PCM) and dynamic CM (DCM), the latter term preferred by Forrester].

Forrester makes the distinction between transactional process apps and SPAs: transactional process apps tend to have standardized processes and little collaboration, whereas SPAs have a greater degree of collaboration as well as decision-making by the participants. If that was all, then this would just fall into the case management category – probably production case management – but an important focus of SPAs is that they are packaged applications for a specific activity: contract lifecycle management, customer support, procurement and the like. Bartels described them as filling in the gaps between the transactional apps, rather than using email and spreadsheets to bridge those gaps. He kept referring to these apps as “making people smarter”, which I think is a slightly awkward way of saying that they provide informational context for human decision-making, providing the right information to people at the right time to do their work.

He pointed out that BPM/DCM platforms provide an application development environment for companies to build their own SPAs, and that companies can then keep that app to themselves as a competitive differentiator, give it back to the vendor to incorporate into the base product, or sell it themselves (possibly in conjunction with the vendor). I think that a lot of these apps will come from the vendors directly, possibly via code developed for customer projects.

Kofax Smart Process AppsMartyn Christian of Kofax took the second part of the webinar to talk about Kofax solutions that fit into the Smart Process Apps envelope: capture of content as it moves from systems to engagement to systems of record is definitely their sweet spot. He overlaid their technology portfolio on Forrester’s “jigsaw” graphic to show that they offer something in all five pieces, although they are really pushing a platform for building SPAs, not the fully packaged SPAs that we’re seeing from some other vendors that are starting from a more comprehensive platform. That being said, Kofax is offering a customer onboarding SPA for capturing information at the point of origination, automating NIGO (not in good order) resolution and integrating with line of business and ECM systems; this sort of capture-focused SPA, or what they call “First Mile Solutions” is what we’re likely to see from Kofax in the future, especially as they continue to integrate the functionality of the Singularity (BPM/CM) and Altasoft (BI/analytics) acquisitions.

Forrester has a brand new Wave for SPAs; you can get this from the Kofax site here (registration required), plus a copy of a Forrester market analysis of multichannel capture, BPM and SPA, commissioned by Kofax. I’m sure that many of the other vendors in the Wave will have the report available as well, and it’s an interesting group of vendors: some horizontal BPM/ECM vendors, Salesforce, and a supply chain software vendor. This category is still such a mixed bag, and it does have the feeling of Forrester running a clustering algorithm on characteristics of existing solutions to see what they had in common, then “creating” the SPA category to describe them. Whether this is a true market category or just a speed bump on the way to a new age of applications and their development platforms remains to be seen.

Thinking Beyond Traditional BPM Webinar Replay And Slides

The webinar that I did on Smart Process Applications (a Forrester term, but one that is being adopted by a number of case management/application development vendors) was broadcast today, sponsored by OpenText, and is available for replay here.

You can also check out my slides below: