BPM2023 Utrecht Workshop on BPM and Social Software

It’s been a minute! Last time that I attended the BPM academic research conference was in the “before times”, back in 2019 in Vienna. This week, I’m in Utrecht for this year’s version, and it’s lovely here – beautiful historic buildings and stroopwafels in the conference bag!

I’m starting with the workshop on BPM and social software. This was the first workshop that I attended at my first trip to the BPM conference in 2008 in Milan, also chaired by Rainer Schmidt.

All three of these presentations looked at different aspects of how traditional structured process modeling and orchestration fails at addressing end-to-end process management, and how social (including social media) constructs can help. In the first presentation, processes are too unstructured for (easy) automation; in the second, there’s a need for better ways to provide feedback from process participants to the design; and in the third, organizations can’t even figure out how to get started with BPM.

The first in the workshop was Joklan Imelda Camelia Goni, who was accompanied by her supervisor Amy van Looy, on “Towards a Measurement Instrument for Assessing Capabilities when Innovating Less-Structured Business Processes”. Some of the background research for this work was a Delphi study that I participated in during 2021-2022, so it was interesting to see how her research is advancing. There is a focus on capabilities within organizations: how capable are certain people or departments at determining the need for innovation and creating the innovation in (often manual) processes.

Next was Mehran Majidian Eidgahi on “Integrating Social Media and Business Process Management: Exploring the Role of AI Agents and the Benefits for Agility” (other paper contributors are Anne-Marie Barthe-Delanoë, Dominik Bork, Sina Namaki Araghi, Guillaume Mace-Ramete and Frédérick Bénaben). This looks at the problem of structured business process models that have been orchestrated/automated, but that need some degree of agility for process changes. He characterizes BPM agility at three stages: discovering, deciding and implementing, and sees that much of the work has focused on discovery (process mining) and implementing, but not as much on deciding (that is, analysis or design). Socializing BPM with the participants can bring their ideas and feedback into the process design, and they propose a social BPM platform for providing reactions, feedback and suggestions on processes. I’ve seen structures similar to this in some commercial BPM products, but one of the main issues is that the actual executing model is not how the participants envision it: it may be much more event-driven rather than a more traditional flow model. He presented some of their other research on bringing AI to the platform and framework, which provides a good overview of the different areas in which AI may be applied.

The last presentation in the workshop was by Sebastian Dunzer on “Design Principles for Using Business Process Management Systems” (other paper contributors Willi Tang, Nico Höchstädter, Sandra Zilker and Martin Matzner). He looks at the “pre-BPM” problem of how to have organizations understand how they could use BPM to improve their operations: in his words, “practice knows of BPM, but it remains unclear how to get started”. This resonates with me, since much of my consulting over the years has included some aspect of explaining that link between operational business problems and the available technologies. They did an issue-tracking project with a medium-sized company that allowed them to use practical applications and simultaneously provide research insights. Their research outcome was to generate design principles that link IT artifacts and users through functional relationships.

Many thanks to the conference chair, Hajo Reijers, for extending an invitation to me for the conference. I’ll be at more workshops later today, and the rest of the conference throughout the week.

Virtual conference best practices: 2020 in review

Wow, it’s been over two months since my last post. I took a long break over the end of the year since there wasn’t a lot going on that inspired me to write, and we were in conference hiatus. Now that (virtual) conferences are ramping up again for 2021, I wanted to share some of the best practices that I gathered from attending — and in one case, organizing — virtual conferences over 2020. Having sent this information by email to multiple people who were organizing their own conferences, I decided to just put it here where everyone could enjoy it. Obviously, these are all conferences about intelligent automation platforms, but the best practices are applicable to any technical conference, and likely to many non-technical conferences.

In summary, I saw three key things that make a virtual conference work well:

  1. Live presentations, not pre-recorded. This is essential for the amount of energy in the presentation, and makes the difference between a cohesive conference and a just a bunch of webinars. Screwups happen when you’re live, but they do at in-person conferences, too.
  2. Separate and persistent discussion platform, such as Slack (or Pega’s community in the case of their conference). Do NOT use the broadcast vendor’s chat/discussion platform, since a) it will disappear once your conference is over, and b) it probably sucks.
  3. Replays of the video posted as soon as possible, so that people who missed a live session can watch it and jump into the discussion later the same day while others are still talking about it. Extra points for also publishing the presentation slides at the same time.

A conference is not a one-way broadcast, it’s a big messy collaborative conversation

Let’s start with the list of the virtual conferences that I wrote about, with links to the posts:

What I saw by attending these helped me when I was asked to organize DecisionCAMP, which ran in late June: we did the sessions using Zoom with livestreaming to YouTube (participants could watch either way), used Slack as a discussion platform (which is still being used for ongoing discussions and to run monthly events), and YouTube for the on-demand videos. Fluxicon used a similar setup for their Process Mining Camp: Skype (I think) instead of Zoom to capture the speakers’ sessions with all participants watching through the YouTube livestream and discussions on Slack.

Some particular notes excerpted from my posts on the vendor conferences follow. If you want to see the full blog posts, use the tag links above or just search.


  • “Every conference organizer has had to deal with either cancelling their event or moving it to some type of online version as most of us work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these have been pretty lacklustre, using only pre-recorded sessions and no live chat/Q&A, but I had expectations for Camunda being able to do this in a more “live” manner that doesn’t completely replace an in-person event, but has a similar feel to it. They did not disappoint: although a few of the CamundaCon presentations were pre-recorded, most were done live, and speakers were available for live Q&A. They also hosted a Slack workspace for live chat, which is much better than the Q&A/chat features on the webinar broadcast platform: it’s fundamentally more feature-rich, and also allows the conversations to continue after a particular presentation completes.”
  • “As you probably gather from my posts today, I’m finding the CamundaCon online format to be very engaging. This is due to most of the presentations being performed live (not pre-recorded as is seen with most of the online conferences these days) and the use of Slack as a persistent chat platform, actively monitored by all Camunda participants from the CEO on down.”
  • “I mentioned on Twitter today that CamundaCon is now the gold standard for online conferences: all you other vendors who have conferences coming up, take note. I believe that the key contributors to this success are live (not pre-recorded) presentations, use of a discussion platform like Slack or Discord alongside the broadcast platform, full engagement of a large number of company participants in the discussion platform before/during/after presentations, and fast upload of the videos for on-demand watching. Keep in mind that a successful conference, whether in-person or online, allows people to have unscripted interactions: it’s not a one-way broadcast, it’s a big messy collaborative conversation.”
  • Note that things did go wrong occasionally — one presentation was cut off part way through when the presenter’s home internet died. However, the energy level of the presentations was really high, making me want to keep watching. Also hilarious when one speaker talked about improving their “shittiest process” which is probably only something that would come out spontaneously during a live presentation.


  • “Alfresco Modernize didn’t have much of a “live” feel to it: the sessions were all pre-recorded which, as I’ve mentioned in my coverage of other online conferences, just doesn’t have the same feel. Also, without a full attendee discussion capability, this was more like a broadcast of multiple webinars than an interactive event, with a short Q&A session at the end as the only point of interaction.”


  • “A few notes on the virtual conference format. Last week’s CamundaCon Live had sessions broadcast directly from each speaker’s home plus a multi-channel Slack workspace for discussion: casual and engaging. Celonis has made it more like an in-person conference by live-broadcasting the “main stage” from a studio with multiple camera angles; this actually worked quite well, and the moderator was able to inject live audience questions. Some of the sessions appeared to be pre-recorded, and there’s definitely not the same level of audience engagement without a proper discussion channel like Slack — at an in-person event, we would have informal discussions in the hallways between sessions that just can’t happen in this environment. Unfortunately, the only live chat is via their own conference app, which is mobile-only and has a single chat channel, plus a separate Q&A channel (via in-app Slido) for speakers that is separated by session and is really more of a webinar-style Q&A than a discussion. I abandoned the mobile app early and took to Twitter. I think the Celosphere model is probably what we’re going to see from larger companies in their online conferences, where they want to (attempt to) tightly control the discussion and demonstrate the sort of high-end production quality that you’d have at a large in-person conference. However, I think there’s an opportunity to combine that level of production quality with an open discussion platform like Slack to really improve the audience experience.”
  • “Camunda and Celonis have both done a great job, but for very different reasons: Camunda had much better audience engagement and more of a “live” feel, while Celonis showed how to incorporate higher production quality and studio interviews to good effect.”
  • “Good work by Celonis on a marathon event: this ran for several hours per day over three days, although the individual presentations were pre-recorded then followed by live Q&A. Lots of logistics and good production quality, but it could have had better audience engagement through a more interactive platform such as Slack.”


  • “As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks of virtual conferences, I don’t like pre-recorded sessions: they just don’t have the same feel as live presentations. To IBM’s credit, they used the fact that they were all pre-recorded to add captions in five or six different languages, making the sessions (which were all presented in English) more accessible to those who speak other languages or who have hearing impairments. The platform is pretty glitchy on mobile: I was trying to watch the video on my tablet while using my computer for blogging and looking up references, but there were a number of problems with changing streams that forced me to move back to desktop video for periods of time. The single-threaded chat stream was completely unusable, with 4,500 people simultaneously typing “Hi from Tulsa” or “you are amazing”.”
  • “IBM had to pivot to a virtual format relatively quickly since they already had a huge in-person conference scheduled for this time, but they could have done better both for content and format given the resources that they have available to pour into this event. Everyone is learning from this experience of being forced to move events online, and the smaller companies are (not surprisingly) much more agile in adapting to this new normal.”


  • “This was originally planned as an in-person conference, and Appian had to pivot on relatively short notice. They did a great job with the keynotes, including a few of the Appian speakers appearing (appropriately distanced) in their own auditorium. The breakout sessions didn’t really grab me: too many, all pre-recorded, and you’re basically an audience of one when you’re in any of them, with little or no interactivity. Better as a set of on-demand training/content videos rather than true breakout sessions, and I’m sure there’s a lot of good content here for Appian customers or prospects to dig deeper into product capabilities but these could be packaged as a permanent library of content rather than a “conference”. The key for virtual conferences seems to be keeping it a bit simpler, with more timely and live sessions from one or two tracks only.”


  • “Signavio has a low-key format of live presentations that started at 11am Sydney time with a presentation by Property Exchange Australia: I tuned in from my timezone at 9pm last night, stayed for the Deloitte Australia presentation, then took a break until the last part of the Coca-Cola European Partners presentation that started at 8am my time. In the meantime, there were continuous presentations from APAC and Europe, with the speakers all presenting live in their own regular business hours.”
  • “The only thing missing is a proper discussion platform — I have mentioned this about several of the online conferences that I’ve attended, and liked what Camunda did with a Slack workspace that started before and continued after the conference — although you can ask questions via the GoToWebinar Question panel. To be fair, there is very little social media engagement (the Twitter hashtag for the conference is mostly me and Signavio people), so possibly the attendees wouldn’t get engaged in a full discussion platform either. Without audience engagement, a discussion platform can be a pretty lonely place. In summary, the GTW platform seems to behave well and is a streamlined experience if you don’t expect a lot of customer engagement, or you could use it with a separate discussion platform.”


  • “In general, I didn’t find the prerecorded sessions to be very compelling. Conference organizers may think that prerecording sessions reduces risk, but it also reduces spontaneity and energy from the presenters, which is a lot of what makes live presentations work so well. The live Q&A interspersed with the keynotes was okay, and the live demos in the middle breakout section as well as the live Tech Talk were really good. PegaWorld also benefited from Pega’s own online community, which provided a more comprehensive discussion platform than the broadcast platform chat or Q&A.”


  • “The format is interesting, there is only one presentation each day, presented live using YouTube Live (no registration required), with some Q&A at the end. The next day starts with Process Mining Café, which is an extended Q&A with the previous day’s presenter based on the conversations in the related Slack workspace (which you do need to register to join), then a break before moving on to that day’s presentation. The presentations are available on YouTube almost as soon as they are finished.”
  • “The really great part was engaging in the Slack discussion while the keynote was going on. A few people were asking questions (including me), and Mieke Jans posted a link to a post that she wrote on a procedure for cleansing event logs for multi-case processes – not the same as what van der Aalst was talking about, but a related topic. Anne Rozinat posted a link to more reading on these types of many-to-many situations in the context of their process mining product from their “Process Mining in Practice” online book. Not surprisingly, there was almost no discussion on the Twitter hashtag, since the attendees had a proper discussion platform; contrast this with some of the other conferences where attendees had to resort to Twitter to have a conversation about the content. After the keynote, van der Aalst even joined in the discussion and answered a few questions, plus added the link for the IEEE task force on process mining that promotes research, development, education and understanding of process mining: definitely of interest if you want to get plugged into more of the research in the field. As a special treat, Ferry Timp created visual notes for each day and posted them to the related Slack channel.”


  • “The broadcast platform fell over completely…I’m not sure if Bizagi should be happy that they had so many attendees that they broke the platform, or furious with the platform vendor for offering something that they couldn’t deliver. The “all-singing, all-dancing” platforms look nice when you see the demo, but they may not be scalable enough.”

Final thoughts

Just to wrap things up, it’s fair to say that things aren’t going to go back to the way that they were any time soon. Part of this is due to organizations understanding that things can be done remotely just as effectively (or nearly so) as they can in person, if done right. Also, a lot of people are still reluctant to even think about travelling and spending days in poorly-ventilated rooms with a bunch of strangers from all over the world.

The vendors who ran really good virtual conferences 2020 are almost certain to continue to run at least some of their events virtually in the future, or find a way to have both in-person and remote attendees simultaneously. If you run a virtual conference that doesn’t get the attendee engagement that you expected, the problem may not be that “virtual conferences don’t work”: it could be that you just aren’t doing it right.

Can the for-profit conferences make it in an online world?

I’ve attended a lot of online conferences so far in 2020, and even helped to run one. We’re in the summer lull now, and I expect to attend several more in the fall/winter season. With only a few exceptions, the online events that I’ve attended have been vendor conferences, and they have all offered free access for attendees. That works well because for vendors, since conferences are really part of their marketing and sales efforts, and most of them only charge enough for in-person events to cover costs. That equation changes, however, with the conferences run by professional organizers who make their money by charging (sometimes quite high) fees to conference attendees, presumably for higher-quality and less-biased content than you will find at a vendor conference.

I had the first inkling of the professional conference organizers dilemma with the Collision conference that was supposed to be held in Toronto in June. I had purchased a ticket for it, then in early March they decided to move to a virtual format. They automatically transferred by ticket to an online ticket, meaning that they intended to charge the same price for the online event as the in-person event, and it took several requests to get a refund for my ticket. The event was mostly about in-person networking as well as being able to see some big names presenting live; as soon as this becomes online, it’s just not as interesting any more. I do fine with online networking in a number of other ways, and those big names have a lot of published videos on YouTube where I can see the same content that they may have presented at the (now virtual) conference. I suspect many others made the same decision.

Now the fall conference season is almost upon us, and although the BPM academic conference and the vendors (TIBCO, OpenText, Camunda) long ago announced that they were going virtual, there were a few obvious holdouts from the professional conference organizers until just a few days ago:

  • APQC announced on July 23 — barely two months before their October 6-8 event — that the Houston-based Process and Performance Management conference would be moving to a virtual format. APQC members have access for free, but non-members pay $275. This is a decrease from the in-person non-member price of $1,595 plus $950 per day of workshop (up to three), with early bird discounts. I was scheduled to keynote at this event, and that’s now cancelled; their schedule is just time blocks without specific speakers as of today.
  • On the same day, Building Business Capability announced that BBC 2020 on October 19-23 will now be virtual, instead of in Las Vegas. They have a full speaker agenda listed on their site, but also a somewhat eye-watering price for a virtual conference: $1,357 for the tutorials and conference if you pay before September 11, or $1,577 if you wait until closer to the date. If you only want to watch live and not have access to on-demand recordings, then the price drops by $300, and another $300 if you don’t want the tutorials. That means that their lowest price is the early bird livestream-only, conference-only (no tutorials) for $717. Pricing for their in-person conference was significantly higher, with the top price of $3,295 for the non-discounted conference and tutorials, and the lowest price of $1,795 for the early bird conference-only pass.

Almost every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, and conferences are no exception. Vendor conferences can actually be every effective online if done right, and save a lot of money for the vendors. The professional conference organizers are going to be making a harder transition, since they need to offer content that is clearly valuable and unique in order to charge any significant amount. If a large number of the speakers already have content available elsewhere (e.g., YouTube, webinars), the value of having them behind a conference paywall is much lower; however, if they don’t already have content available, they may not be enough of a draw.

Personally, I’m just happy to be able to avoid Vegas for the foreseeable future.

What’s on your agenda for 2017? Some BPM conferences to consider

I just saw a call for papers for a conference for next October, and went through to do a quick update of my BPM Event Calendar. I certainly don’t attend all of these events, but like to keep track of who’s doing what, when and where. Here’s what I have in there so far; if you have others, send me a note or add them as a comment to this post and I’ll add to the calendar. I’m posting just the major conferences here, not every regional seminar.

Many vendors are eschewing a single large annual conference in favor of several regional conferences, easing the travel concerns of attendees; since these are usually just one day long, they aren’t announced this far in advance. It will be interesting to see if more vendors decide to go this way, or do more livestreaming to allow people to participate in more of the conference content remotely.

At this point, I don’t have confirmed attendance or speaking spots at any of these, although I will almost certainly be attending bpmNEXT and a few of the vendor conferences, either as a speaker or as an analyst/blogger. If you’re interested in having me attend your conference, let me know; I require that my travel expenses are covered (otherwise they come out of my own pocket in addition to the billable days that I’m giving up to attend), and a speaking fee if you want me to do a keynote or other presentation.

Avoiding a surfeit of conferences

This time of year, I’m usually flying back and forth to Las Vegas to engage in the fall conference season: software vendors hold their annual user conferences, and invite me to attend in exchange for covering most of my travel expenses. They don’t pay me to attend unless I give a presentation – in fact, many are not even my clients – and since I’m self-employed, that means I’m giving up billable days to attend. Usually, I consider that a fair trade, since it allows me to get a closer look at the products and talk to the vendor’s employees and customers, and I typically blog about what I see.

This year, however, I stepped away from most of the conferences, including the entire slate of fall events. A couple of family crises over the summer required a lot of my attention and energy, and when I started getting requests to attend fall conferences, I just didn’t feel that they were worth my time.

Many vendors have become overly focused on the amount of blogging that I do at their conference, rather than on strengthening our relationship. My conference blogging, described as “almost like being there”, is seen by some vendors as a savant party trick, and they consider themselves cheated in some way if I don’t publish enough content during the conference. What they forget is that by attending their conference, I’m gaining insights into their company and products that I can use in future discussions with enterprise clients, as well as in any future projects that I might do with the vendor. I generate revenue as a consultant and industry analyst; blogging is something that I do to analyze and solidify my observations, to discuss opinions with others in the field, and to expand my business reach, but I’m never paid for it, and it is never a condition of attending an event – at least in my mind.

Another factor is the race to the bottom in travel expenses. Many vendors require that they book my air travel, and when booking the one conference that I was going to attend this fall, I asked their travel group to pay the $20 fee to select a decent (economy) seat for the 5-hour tourist-class flight, but they refused. Many times in the past I’ve just paid for seat assignments and upgrades out of my own pocket, but this time it became about the principle: the vendor in question, who is not an active client of mine, placed that little value on my attendance.

So if you’re a vendor, here’s the deal. A paid client relationship with me is not a prerequisite of me attending your conference, and has never been in the past, but there has to be a mutual recognition of the value that we each bring to the table. I bring 25 years of experience and opinions as a systems implementer, consultant and industry analyst, and I offer those opinions freely in conversation: consider it free consulting while I’m at your conference. I expect to gain insights into your company, products and customers, through public conference sessions and private discussions. I may blog about what I see and hear (at least the parts not under non-disclosure), or use that information in future discussions with enterprise clients. Or I may not, if I don’t find it relevant or interesting. Lastly, when you ask me to fly somewhere, keep in mind that it is not a treat for me to travel to Las Vegas or Orlando, and at least make sure that I’m not in the middle seat at the back of a 50-row aircraft.

As always, everything after the bar opens is off the record.

KofaxTransform 2015 In Pictures

As I prepared to depart Las Vegas, I flicked through some of my photos from the past couple of days and decided to share. First, the great work of the ImageThink team of graphic recorders:

There were more of these that I didn’t capture; great idea and nice execution. 

We had a fun evening event on Monday at Tao nightclub at the Venetian, with an impressive turnout considering that it wasn’t in the same hotel:

I also captured some Vegas day and night shots from my hotel room at the Aria:

Lastly, our Kofax-branded tiramisu dessert from the awards dinner last night:

A good mix of work and play!

SAP TechEd Keynote with @_bgoerke

I spent yesterday getting to Las Vegas for SAP TechEd && d-code and missed last night’s keynote with Steve Lucas, but up this morning to watch Björn Goerke — head of SAP Product & Innovation Technology — give the morning keynote on putting new technology into action. With the increasing rate of digital disruption, it’s imperative to embrace new ways of doing business, or risk becoming obsolete; this requires taking advantage of big data and real-time analytics as well as modern platforms. SAP’s current catch phrase is “Run Simple”, based in part on the idea of “one truth”, that is, one place for all your data so that you have a real-time view of your business rather than relying on separate sources for operations and analytics. You can’t run — and respond — at the speed that business requires if your analytics are based on yesterday’s transactions.

SAP HANA — their in-memory data store — allows for real-time analytics directly on operational transaction data, events, IoT machine data, social media data and more, all in a single data store. With the release of SAP HANA SPS09, they are adding support for dynamic tiering, streaming, enterprise information management, graphing, Hadoop user-defined functions, and multi-tenancy; these improve the management capabilities as well as the functionality. SAP deploys all of their business software solutions on HANA (although some more traditional databases are still supported in some products) with the goal to providing the basis for the “one truth” within business data.

Goerke was joined on stage by a representative from Alliander, an energy distribution company based in the Netherlands, and he demonstrated a HANA-based analytical dashboard based on geographic data that reduces the time required for geospatial queries — such as filtering by pipelines that are within a certain distance from buildings — from hours using more traditional database technology, to seconds with HANA. Geospatial data is one of the areas where in-memory data and analytics can really make a difference in terms of performance; I did a lot of my early-career software development on geospatial data, and there are some tough problems here that are not easily addressed by more traditional tools.

Another part of the simplicity message is “one experience” via the SAPUI5-based Fiori, providing for a more unified experienced between desktop and mobile, including management and distribution of mobile apps. They’ve added offline capabilities for their mobile apps – a capability widely ignored or dismissed as “unimportant” by developers who live and work only in areas blanketed in 4G and WiFi coverage, but critical in many real-world applications. Goerke demonstrated using some of the application development services — with some “help” from Ian Kimbell — to define an API, use it to create a mobile app, deploy it to a company app store, then install and run it: not something that most executives do live on stage at a keynote.

SAP now has a number of partnerships with hardware and infrastructure vendors to optimize their gear for SAP and especially for HANA: last week we saw an announcement about SAP running on the IBM cloud, and today we heard about how sgi is taking their well-known computational hardware capabilities and applying them to running transactional platforms such as SAP. SAP has also partnered with small software development shops to deliver the innovations in HANA-based applications needed to drive this forward. Applications developed on HANA can run on premise or in SAP’s managed cloud (and now IBM’s managed cloud), where they manage HANA and the SAP applications including Business Suite and Business Warehouse. Through a number of strategic acquisitions, SAP has much more than just your ERP and financials, however: they offer solutions for HR management, procurement, e-commerce, customer engagement and more. They also offer a rich set of development tools and application services for software development unrelated to SAP applications, allowing for applications built and deployed on HANA with modern mobile user interfaces and collaboration. In keeping with Goerke’s Star Trek theme in the keynote, very Borg-like. 🙂

Lots more here than I could possibly capture; you can watch the keynotes and other presentations online at SAP TechEd online.

Fall 2013 Conferences: Where I’ll Be

I’ve had a summer of tending to my enterprise customers, but October and November are when I kiss the hubby (and cat) goodbye and head for the vendor conferences. In some cases, I’m giving a presentation; in others, just checking things out and possibly blogging about what I see and hear there.

Here’s where I’ll be this fall:

If you’re going to be at one of these events, ping me so that we can meet up, or drop by my presentation.

That looks a bit crazy (especially the part about three trips to Vegas in a month), but there are others that I’ll be missing out due to conflicts: iBPMS Expo and IBM’s IOD, to name two. Also, a couple of local Toronto events that I’ll miss because I’m travelling, including AIIM’s Information Governance seminar and IBM’s Smarter Content Summit.

Disclosure: As I discuss on my Legal page, if I attend a vendor conference to watch and blog, I am not paid but my travel expenses are covered by the vendor unless it’s in the Toronto area; if I give a presentation, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m being paid a fee to do so. In either case, I am not compensated for anything that I write here on my blog (which the exception of the publication of my presentation slides), although it’s fair to say that vendors who host me at their conferences get more coverage simply because I have greater exposure to their products and customers. If you’re interesting in having me attend or present at one of your events in the future, drop me a line.

IBMImpact Next Week

I’m off to IBM Impact next week, where I’m speaking on a panel on Monday afternoon about “What’s Next For BPM”, along with Neil Ward-Dutton, Bruce Silver, Eric Herness and Pierre Haren, hosted by Irene Lyakovetsky. I’ll also be attending the analyst briefings and will post about what’s new with IBM BPM, Blueworks Live and related products. Annoyingly, there doesn’t appear to be any way to see the agenda unless you’re signed up for the conference, meaning that I can’t link directly to session descriptions, but will blog about whatever I attend if I have time.

It will be a pretty crammed few days, but if you’re going to be there and want to say hi, let me know and we can try to connect. And speaking of connecting, get yourself invited to the BP3 Connect cocktail hour on Tuesday evening (I’m sure that Scott Francis can help you with that), I’ll be there for sure [and everything will be off the record, if you know what I mean 🙂 ].

IBMConnect (Lotusphere) 2013 Highlights: Product Updates, Smarter Workforce and Smarter Commerce

A couple of weeks ago, IBM had two analyst calls about the announcements this week at IBM Connect 2013; since I’m not at the conference, I wrote most of this at that time but only published today due to embargo restrictions. It’s the 20th anniversary of Lotusphere, although the conference is no longer branded as Lotusphere since the “smarter workforce” and “smarter commerce” streams are beyond just products with a Lotus heritage or brand.

The first briefing featured Jeff Schick, who heads up social software at IBM. He discussed new software and cloud services to put social business capabilities in the hands of C-level executives in HR and marketing, covering the dual goals of managing corporate intranets and talent, and managing external marketing campaigns. The catchphrases are “Activate the Workforce” and “Delight Customers”, enabled by IBM social business solutions for Smarter Workforce and Smarter Commerce, built on the social integration capabilities of IBM WebSphere Portal.

Specific product releases coming up in the next several weeks:

  • IBM Connections v4.5, with FileNet ECM now available as a native service: documents and their processes (processes within FileNet, I assume, not within IBM BPM) can be integrated into a Connections community, exposing FileNet functionality such as metadata and foldering through Connections, and providing fully integrated social capabilities such as tagging, commenting and liking, making content a first-class social citizen. This is hot. It will not include records management or Case Manager: it appears that these functions would be available on the FileNet side, but not exposed (at this time) through Connections. Quickr customers are being offered a migration path to IBM Connections Content Manager, which is a bundled FileNet repository that can be upgraded to the full ECM suite if you wanted to use it outside the Connections context. Connections can also integrate with SharePoint and Outlook, so is an option even if you’re a Microsoft customer in those areas.
  • IBM Notes 9 Social Edition, competing against Outlook 2013 with social-enabled email, activity Streams and other social capabilities.
  • IBM Docs for web-based collaboration, now available on-premise as well as in the cloud. This competes against Office 365 and Google Docs, but offers better collaboration than O365 (which requires passing control of a document between collaborators) and better rendering/conversion of Office documents than GDocs. IBM Docs is integrated with Connections for social features and sharing, in the same sort of way as Content Manager.
  • IBM Sametime replaces their existing meeting service in the cloud, including iOS and Android support. It uses the Polycom framework for video and audio support.
  • Deployment of all of this can be public cloud, private cloud, on-premise (not really sure of the distinction there) or a hybrid of these. Their SmartCloud for Social Business provides for the cloud deployment and adds wiki, blogs and other social authoring functionality. SmartCloud has Safe Harbor certification, making it a bit mire immune to government snooping, and can be private-labeled, with two telelcom companies already using this to provide these capabilities to their customers.

Everything is focused on mobile: mobile meetings, chat, Connections including Content Manager access, Docs and more.

Jonathan Ferrar, who heads up strategy for the Smarter Workforce business area, gave us an update on what they’re providing to support attracting, empowering and motivating employees. They have just completed their acquisition of Kenexa, and offer a portfolio of HR and workforce management products that includes behavioral sciences plus the entire platform for social business that Schick talked about, including analytics, collaboration and content management.

There are three main functional areas related to workforce management: attract (including recruitment, hiring, onboarding), empower (including learning and intranet content such as benefits and procedures), and motivate (including surveys, assessments and talent management). An integrated employee and HR portal uses existing IBM portal technology to expose Kennexa functionality and social features. There are also workforce analytics to monitor, provide insight and predict based on demographic, qualitative and social data, using both Cognos for dashboards and SPSS for analysis. There’s also some features related to outsourcing but not a lot of details; I was left with the impression that this was a strong capability of Kennexa prior to the acquisition.

I don’t know a lot about HR systems, although I’m seeing a huge potential to integrate this with operational systems such as BPM to drive analytics from the operational systems to the HR systems (e.g., employee performance measures), and even some from HR to the operational systems (e.g., learning management to push training to people at the point in their work when they need the training).

In the second briefing, we heard from Larry Bowden, VP of Web Experience software at IBM, covering the website building and user experience sides of Smarter Commerce and Social Business. He started out the the same “smarter workforce/exceptional customer experience” catchphrases as we heard on the earlier call, then went on to highlight some of their customers recognized for exceptional web experience awards in 2012. Web experience includes the smarter workforce (employee engagement, workplace social portal) and smarter commerce (web presence and brand marketing, buy, sell, market) areas, but also can include direct business uses (e.g., online banking, claims), engaging a broad variety of constituents (e.g., e-government), and customer self-service. The core of the IBM customer experience suite, however, is on the buy, market, sell  and service capabilities under their Smarter Commerce umbrella. They are working at putting the web marketing/commerce capabilities directly into the hands of business users (although if this is anything similar to how most vendors put BPMS capabilities directly into the hands of business users, I wouldn’t be too worried if I were a web developer), including both web content management/analytics and campaign management.

The Smarter Workforce and Smarter Commerce solutions are built on the IBM Social Business Platform, as we heard from Schick earlier, which includes WebSphere Portal, Web Content Manager, Connections, Notes & Domino Social Edition, Sametime, Social Analytics Suite, ECM, Web Experience Factory and Forms. That’s nine products just in the platform, then the Customer Experience Suite and Employee Experience Suite solutions built on top of that. Whew. There are other products that come in at the higher level, such as Worklight for mobile enablement.

There’s been a refresh on all of their web experience capabilities, resulting in a new IBM Web Experience “Next”, providing for faster content creation, social content rendering and multi-channel publishing. This is not so much a product as the list of everything across their product base that is being updated, and a more consistent user interface.

There’s a new digital asset management system for rich media management (part of a WCM Rich Media Edition?), although that’s currently in tech preview rather than released.

They’ve also done some PureSystems updates that make it faster to deploy and optimized complex configurations of the multiple IBM products required to support these capabilities – arguably, they should have spent some time on refactoring and reducing the number of products, rather than working out how to make bigger and better hardware to support these patterns.

As always after an IBM briefing, I’m left with a sense of almost overwhelming complexity in the number — and possible combinations — of products that make up these integrated solutions. Powerful: yes. But expect some rough edges in the integration.