How to (not) become a digital enterprise – @jakobfreund CamundaCon keynote

I thought that I was done with my CamundaCon coverage, but noticed that Jakob Freund is blogging more details about what he covered in his keynote. I spent most of his keynote behind the curtain waiting for my turn to speak, but was able to see it again when they posted the video of his presentation.

He’s doing a five-part series on the themes that he covered, based in part on their experiences with their clients over the past years, with the first two available here:

  • Part 1: Intro to the four key elements of becoming a digital enterprise
  • Part 2: The first key element, customer-focused innovation

If he keeps to his posting schedule, the next one should be up tomorrow.

bpmNEXT 2019 keynote: @JimSinur on technology combinations that digitally deliver

Our second keynote on the first day of bpmNEXT 2019 is with long-time presenter Jim Sinur, looking at technology combinations that digitally deliver. Unlike his usual focus on future directions, he’s driving down into what technologies work for companies that are undergoing digital transformation. This is a great lead-in to what I’ll be talking about tomorrow morning, and I fully expect to be fine-tuning my presentation before then to incorporate ideas from Jim’s presentation as well as Nathaniel Palmer’s presentation that preceded it.

IMG_3358Digital business platforms – something bigger than a BPMS – provide the real pathway to digital transformation, combining a variety of technologies. The traditional BPMS products are strong in work/process management, but they also need proactive intelligence, integration, automation, IoT enablement and business functionality. He looks at technical streams and their benefits, ranging from computational technologies to consumer delivery channels. He had a draft version of a matrix that he’s working on that shows attributes for these different technologies, from skill level required to get started with the technology to the likelihood of the vendors in this category partnering with other category vendors successfully, IMG_3360leading to a list of top productive pairs and triplets that we’re seeing in the market today: BPM and AI, for example, for processes with smart resources and actions; or architecture, low code and RPA for incremental transformation of legacy.

He finished up with how we will be leveraging the trends for marketplace collaboration between vendor products, and encouraging the vendors in the room (mostly everybody) to collaborate along the lines of his top pairs and triplets. In my opinion, this won’t necessarily being the vendors deciding to partner to offer joint solutions, but larger enterprises deciding to roll their own platforms using a combination of best-of-breed technologies that they select themselves: the vendors will need to make sure that their products can be sliced, diced and re-integrated in the way that the customers want.

Slide decks and videos of all presentations will be online within a day or two; I’ll come back and update all of the posts with links then.

2019 @Alfresco Analyst Day: vision for the future with @JohnNewton

We wrapped up the 2019 Analyst Day with founder John Newton talking about Alfresco’s vision for the future.

Most digital transformation efforts today are focused on external experiences, that is, how a company interacts with its customers. However, there’s more to it than that: the external experience has to interact with employee experiences and operational systems; this linkage is what Newton calls digital operations. Looking at the ubiquitous onboarding use case, digital transformation is not just about the nice app that the customer sees to upload their documents: it’s also about the straight-through processing that manages what happens after the customer does that upload, or request a service. He points out that it’s all about the process, and that content follows the process. This, obviously, is music to my ears.

Customers need to think about their digital business platform, which is not the same as any vendor’s digital business platform: it’s more than that, and it may be made up of more than one vendor’s platform. It needs to handle the digital outside (customer-facing) as well as the digital inside (employee-facing), and the end-to-end processes and content repositories that link them. There are a number of disruptive technologies that are driving digital operations — cloud, microservices, edge computing, blockchain — and there will always be a new one to add to this list.

That took us to their strategic themes:

  1. Process-first digital operations, including process, content, search, governance and insight capabilities
  2. Global-scale, multi-cloud digital operations, which removes the enterprise infrastructure concerns such as scalability and global replication
  3. Artificial intelligence powering digital operations, with the modern range of AI services now widely available from the internet giants being applied to content and process
  4. Empowering business users with targeted solutions, and improved user experience
  5. Empowering builders to accelerate solutions, with development and deployment tools
  6. Differentiate open source and enterprise (note that this is the first mention of open source all day), with add-on capabilities to the open source core services and engines

Always an insightful speaker, and I’m particularly interested in how the layers above the API “surface” (such as the Alfresco Digital Framework and Digital Workspace built on the ADF) are adopted in practice versus direct API usage.

That’s it for the analyst day; I’ll be back tomorrow for the regular user conference.

TechnicityTO 2018: CIO @RobMeikle keynote

Rob Meikle, CIO at the city of Toronto, gave a fast-paced and inspiring keynote to close out the morning at Technicity. I can’t do justice to his talk here (hopefully there will be a video, because he’s a great speaker), but a few points did resonate with me.

  • There’s a correlation between digital access and socioeconomic level, and we need to use technology to drive digital inclusion.
  • Interactions between government and constituents needs to be more digital and more responsive.
  • The most inclusive cities are the most successful.
  • Focus on meaningful and measurable outcomes to make the city prosperous.
  • IT organization is being reworked to support a digital city model.
  • Policies need to be transformed faster to keep up with data usages: innovation is in policies, not just technology.
  • Increasing digital literacy is a mandate for the city in order to benefit residents.
  • The city creates a lot of opportunities, but also needs to focus on outcomes to benefit all residents — such as the one in four children in the city who live in poverty.

Good focus on how public sector technology should focus on social good as well as making government more efficient.

If I see a link to the video published, I’ll come back and update this post.

Update: here’s the video!

TechnicityTO 2018: Administrative Penalty System case study

We had a quick review of the City’s Administrative Penalty System (APS), which lets you pay or dispute your parking ticket online, with a panel made up of Lenny Di Marco, senior systems integrator; Kelli Chapman, director of prosecution services; and Susan Garossino, director of court services.

Technologically, this was a challenge to integrate old COBOL systems and newer systems across both city and provincial agencies, but there was also a cultural change to do some level of dispute resolution online rather than in the courts. Paying online isn’t new (I seem to remember paying a ticket online years ago when I still had a car), but the process of requesting a review and appealing a review result now happens in a matter of weeks rather than years. In addition to the obvious benefit of a timely outcome – which is better for citizens to get things sorted out, for the city in terms of resolving tickets faster, and for police officers who don’t have to attend court if the issue is resolved online — this also frees up court time for more serious charges. It’s still possible to do this in person, but a lot of people don’t have the time to get to a city office during business hours, or don’t want to go through the face-to-face process.

This is not just a matter of keeping up with regular day-to-day parking violations, but managing peaks that occur when the city has ticketing blitzes (usually caused when an elected official wants to make a statement about being tough on parking offenders).

The whole project took 12-14 months from inception to rollout, and is based on integrating and extending their COBOL back end and other existing systems, rather than purchasing new technology or bringing in outside help. Definitely some technology challenges, but also assessing the needs of the stakeholders from the city, the province and the police so that they can do their job including the new online review and adjudication roles.

Cool stuff, even if you don’t like paying parking tickets. Sounds like they’re already working on another integration project for next year related to Vision Zero, although we didn’t get the details.

Unintended consequences (the good kind) of DigitalTransformation with @jkyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO of QRA Corp, spoke at a session at ITWC’s Toronto digital transformation conference on some of the unexpected consequences of technological advances in terms of collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas. QRA is a tech startup in Atlantic Canada, and Kyriakidis’ examples are about how companies in that relatively small (economically) region are encouraging new ways of thinking about solving business problems through these sorts of “collisions”.

Addressing the complexity introduced by advancing technology means that we have to invent new methods and tools: he gave the example in industrial complexity where design moved from paper to computer-aided design, then added electronic design automation when the complexity of where to put which chip overwhelmed human capabilities, and now design verification allows for model-based (requirements-driven) design to be validated before more expensive engineering and production begins.

Another example in precision diagnosis and treatment was around data-driven farming, combining computer vision and big data analytics (plus drone delivery of individual plant treatment) to optimize crop yields.

His third example was of integrating and analyzing a variety of data sources about a specific athlete to allow a coach to optimize training and performance for that athlete in their chosen sport.

His main theme of precision diagnosis and treatment — essentially, doing something different for every case based on the context — can be extended in pretty much any industry: consider the attempts by many consumer-facing companies to customize individual customer experiences. Interesting look at companies that are actually doing it.

FinTech panel at ITWC DigitalTransformation 2018

Lynn Elwood, VP Cloud and Services from OpenText, hosted a panel on FinTech to close out the morning at the ITWC digital transformation conference in Toronto. She started with some background on digital transformation in financial services, where there is still a strong focus on cost reduction, but customer engagement has become more important. She included survey results with a somewhat disappointing view on paperless offices, with more than 75% of the respondents saying that they would not be going paperless for as much as five years or maybe never. Never??!! Maybe just not within the career lifetime of the respondents, but c’mon, never? I understand that digital transformation is not the same as content digitization, but if you’re still running on paper, that’s just going to fundamentally limit the degree of your transformation. At the same time, more than 75% were saying that they plan to use AI already or within the short term (hopefully to replace the people who think that they’re never going to be paperless), and most organizations said that they were equal or better than their peers in digital transformation (statistically unlikely). Unintentionally hilarious.

The panel was made up of Michael Ball, CISO Advisor for a number of firms including Freedom Mobile; Amer Matar, CTO of Moneris (a large Canadian payment processor); and Patrick Vice, partner at Insurance-Canada.ca (an industry organization for P&C insurance). Matar talked about how legacy technology holds back companies: existing companies have the advantage of being established incumbents, but newer players (e.g., Square in the payments market) can enter with a completely new business model and no legacy customers or infrastructure to drag along. Vice talked about how companies can combat this by spinning off separate business units to provide a more streamlined digital experience and brand, such as how Economical Insurance did with Sonnet (a project that I had the pleasure of working on last year), which still uses the established insurance organization behind a modern customer experience. Ball stressed that the legacy systems are evolving at a much slower rate than is required for digital transformation, and the new front ends need to go beyond just putting a friendly UI on the old technology: they need to incorporate new services to present a transformed customer experience.

They had an interesting discussion about security, and how moving to digital business models means that companies need to offer a more secure environment for customers. Many people are starting to look at security (such as two-factor authentication) as a competitive differentiator when they are selecting service providers, and while most people wouldn’t now change their bank just because it didn’t provide 2FA, it won’t be long before that is a decision point. It’s not just about cloud versus on-premise, although there are concerns about hosting Canadian customers’ financial data outside Canada, where financial laws (and government access to data) may be different; it’s about an organization’s ability to assure their customer that their information won’t be improperly accessed while offering a highly secure customer-facing portal. There’s a huge spend on security these days, but that needs to settle down as this becomes just baked into the infrastructure rather than an emergency add-on to existing (insecure) systems.

Good discussion, although it points out that it’s still early days for digital transformation in financial services.

Digital government with @AlexBenay at IT World DigitalTransformation 2018

I’ve attended IT World Canada conferences in Toronto before — easy for me to attend as a local, and some interesting content such as Technicity — and today they’re running a digital transformation conference (that oddly, has the hashtag #digitaltransformation as if that were a unique tag).

Alex Benay, CIO of the government of Canada, gave the opening keynote: with $6B/year in IT spend and more than a few high-profile mistakes under their belt that happened before he arrived in the job in early 2017, he has some views on how to do things better. He’s even written a book about digital government, but given that the federal government takes five years to write requirements, he’ll probably be long retired before we know if any of his predictions come true. He talked about some models of digital government, such as Estonia, and how the government of Canada is attempting to integrate their digital services into our everyday lives by partnering with the private sector: think Transport Canada road alerts built into your GM car, or passport renewal and customs forms triggered by an Expedia booking. He admits to a lot of obstacles, including untrained staff in spite of massive training spends, but also many enablers to reaching their goals, such as changing policies around cloud-first deployments. He finished with five core tenents for any government IT moving forward:

  • Open data by default while protecting citizens
  • Collaborate in the open
  • Grow digital talent
  • Change laws/policies to avoid situations like Facebook/Cambridge Analytica
  • Adapt business models to focus only on meeting user needs (procurement, tech management, service design)

Good principles, and I hope that our government can learn to live by them.

Integrating process and content for digital transformation: my upcoming webinar

As much as I love chatting with the newer crop of entrepreneurs about their products and ideas, sometimes it’s nice to have a conversation with someone who remembers when OS/2 was the cheapest way to buy 3.5” high density disks. You know who’s been hip-deep in the technology of content and process as long as I have? John Newton, founder and CTO of Alfresco, that’s who. John started Documentum back in 1990, around the time that I was selling off my imaging/workflow product startup and starting my services company, and while he’s stayed on the product side and I’ve stayed on the services/industry analyst side (except for a brief period as FileNet’s BPM evangelist), we’re both focused on how this technology helps companies in their digital transformation journey.

John and I will get together on a webinar about integrating process and content on July 24, sponsored by Alfresco, which will combine structured content with a free-ranging conversation. We’re planning to talk about use cases for applications that integrate process and content, some best practices for designing these applications, and overall architectural considerations for process/content applications including cloud and microservices. Add a comment here or on Twitter if there’s something in particular that you’d like us to discuss, and we’ll see if we can work it in.

I wrote a blog post for Alfresco a couple of months ago on use cases for content in process applications, stressing the importance of integrating process and content rather than leaving them as siloed applications; in general, this is what I’ve seen over the years in my practice as a systems architect and consultant helping organizations to get their content digitized and their processes automated. If you have digital content that’s locked up without any way to take actions on it, or automated processes that still require manual lookups of related content, then you should be thinking about how to integrate process and content. Tune in to our webinar for pointers from a couple of industry gray-hairs.

Summer BPM reading, with dashes of AI, RPA, low-code and digital transformation

Summer always sees a bit of a slowdown in my billable work, which gives me an opportunity to catch up on reading and research across the topic of BPM and other related fields. I’m often asked what blogs and other websites that I read regularly to keep on top of trends and participate in discussions, and here are some general guidelines for getting through a lot of material in a short time.

First, to effectively surf the tsunami of information, I use two primary tools:

  • An RSS reader (Feedly) with a hand-curated list of related sites. In general, if a site doesn’t have an RSS feed, then I’m probably not reading it regularly. Furthermore, if it doesn’t have a full feed – that is, one that shows the entire text of the article rather than a summary in the feed reader – it drops to a secondary list that I only read occasionally (or never). This lets me browse quickly through articles directly in Feedly and see which has something interesting to read or share without having to open the links directly.
  • Twitter, with a hand-curated list of digital transformation-related Twitter users, both individuals and companies. This is a great way to find new sources of information, which I can then add to Feedly for ongoing consumption. I usually use the Tweetdeck interface to keep an eye on my list plus notifications, but rarely review my full unfiltered Twitter feed. That Twitter list is also included in the content of my Paper.li “Digital Transformation Daily”, and I’ve just restarted tweeting the daily link.

Second, the content needs to be good to stay on my lists. I curate both of these lists manually, constantly adding and culling the contents to improve the quality of my reading material. If your blog posts are mostly promotional rather than informative, I remove them from Feedly; if you tweet too much about politics or your dog, you’ll get bumped off the DX list, although probably not unfollowed.

Third, I like to share interesting things on Twitter, and use Buffer to queue these up during my morning reading so that they’re spread out over the course of the day rather than all in a clump. To save things for a more detailed review later as part of ongoing research, I use Pocket to manually bookmark items, which also syncs to my mobile devices for offline reading, and an IFTTT script to save all links that I tweet into a Google sheet.

You can take a look at what I share frequently through Twitter to get an idea of the sources that I think have value; in general, I directly @mention the source in the tweet to help promote their content. Tweeting a link to an article – and especially inclusion in the auto-curated Paper.li Digital Transformation Daily – is not an endorsement: I’ll add my own opinion in the tweet about what I found interesting in the article.

Time to kick back, enjoy the nice weather, and read a good blog!