Positioning Business Modeling panel at bpmNEXT

We had a panel of Clay Richardson of Forrester, Kramer Reeves of Sapiens and Denis Gagne of Trisotech, moderated by Bruce Silver, discussing the current state of business modeling in the face of digital transformation, where we need to consider modeling processes, cases, content, decisions, data and events in an integrated fashion rather than as separate activities. The emergence of the CMMN and DMN standards, joining BPMN, is driving the emergence of modeling platforms that not only include all three of these, but provide seamless integration between them in the modeling environment: a decision task in a BPMN or CMMN model links directly to the DMN model that represents that decision; a predefined process snippet in a CMMN model links directly to the BPMN model, and an ad hoc task in a BPMN model links directly to the CMMN model. The resulting models may be translated to (or even created in) a low-code executable environment, or may be purely for the purposes of understanding and optimizing the business.

Some of the points covered on the panel:

  • The people creating these models are often in a business architecture role if they are being created top down, although bottom-up modeling is often done by business analysts embedded within business areas. There is a large increase in interest in modeling within architecture groups.
  • One of the challenges is how to justify the time required to create these models. A potential positioning is that business models are essential to capturing knowledge and understanding the business even if they are not directly executable, and as organizations’ use of modeling matures and gains visibility with executives, it will be easier to justify without having to show an immediate tangible ROI. Executable models are easier to justify since they are an integrated part of an application development lifecycle.
  • Models may be non-executable because they model across multiple implementation systems, or are used to model activities in systems that do not have modeling capabilities, such as many ERP, CRM and other core operational systems, or are at higher levels of abstraction. These models have strategic value in understanding complexity and interrelationships.
  • Models may be initiated using a model derived from process/data mining to reduce the time required to get started.
  • Modeling vendors aren’t competing against each other, they’re competing against old methods of text-based business requirements.
  • Many models are persistent, not created just for a specific point in time and discarded after use.

A panel including two vendors and an analyst made for some lively conversation, and not a small amount of finger-pointing. 🙂

Bruce Silver Now Stylish With DMN As Well As BPMN

I thought that Bruce Silver’s blog had been quiet for a while: turns out that he moved to a new, more representative domain name, and my feed reader wasn’t updating from there. He’s rebranding his business, including his blog, under Method & Style, mirroring the title of his popular book and training BPMN Method and Style , and now his new book and training options for DMN: DMN Method and Style: The Practitioner’s Guide to Decision Modeling with Business Rules .

His blog has a ton of new content on DMN, starting with a great piece that compares the path of the DMN standard with that of BPMN, which is considerably more mature. He discusses the five key elements of DMN, then goes into each of those in detail in the next five posts: Decision Requirements Diagrams, Decision Tables, FEEL (a new expression language developed for DMN), Boxed Expressions and the Metamodel and Schema. It’s really interesting to read his analysis comparing the evolution of the two standards: there was a time when everyone thought that BPMN was just about the visual notation, but to make it really useful, the interchange format and execution semantics have to come along at some point. Still, it’s useful to get started in DMN now with DRDs and decision tables, since that at least makes the decision models explicit instead of being buried in text requirements.

Once you’ve brushed up on his posts covering the five key elements, you can also read about conformance levels that vendor can choose to implement, and what didn’t make it into DMN 1.1, which is the first real version of the standard.

He doesn’t pull any punches in his discussion, and is not very complimentary on some aspects of the standard and how some vendor choose to implement it. Just as he is with BPMN. Smile

Smarter Mobile Apps Webinar with Me and @jamet123

I wrote a paper last year with James Taylor on smarter mobile apps that leverage process and decision management technologies, and we’re giving a webinar on the topic next Tuesday, January 19, at 1pm ET. You can read James’ more detailed post on this, or just head over and sign up for the webinar. We will be releasing the paper after the webinar.

Day 2 Keynote at BPMCM15

Second day at the BPM and Case Management summit in DC, and our morning keynote started with Jim Sinur — former Gartner BPM analyst — discussing opportunities in BPM and case management. He pointed out the proven benefits of process and case management, in terms of improving revenue, costs, time to market, innovation and visibility, while paving a path to digital transformation. However, these tried-and-true ROI measures aren’t just enough these days: we also need to consider customer loyalty, IoT, disruptive companies and business models, and in general, maintaining competitive differentiation in whatever way necessary to thrive in the emerging marketplace. In order to accommodate this, as well as attract good workers, it’s necessary to break the specialist mindset and allow people to become knowledge workers. I gave a workshop last week at the IRM BPM conference on the future of work, and I agree that this is a key part of it: more of the routine work is being automated, leaving the knowledge work for the people in the process; this requires a work environment that allows people to do the right thing at the right time to achieve a goal, not just work at a pre-defined task in a pre-defined way. Sinur cited a number of examples of processes that are leveraging emerging technologies, including knowledge workers’ workbenches that incorporate smart automated agents and predictive analytics; and IoT applications in healthcare and farming. The idea is to create goal-driven and proactive “smarming” processes that figure out on their own how to accomplish a goal through both human and automated intelligence, then assemble the resources to do it. Instead of pre-defining processes, you provide goals, constraints, analytics and contexts; the agents — including people, services, bots and sensors — create each process instance on the fly to best meet the situation. Although his case studies included a number of other technologies, he finished with a comment on how BPM and case management can be used to coordinate and orchestrate these processes as we move to a new world of digital transformation of the customer experience.

Next up was Tom Debevoise, now with Signavio to help promote their recently-released DMN modeler; we had a sneak peek of the DMN modeler at bpmNEXT. He talked about three levels of decisions — strategic (e.g., should we change our business model), tactical (e.g. which customers to target) and operational (e.g., which discount to apply to this transaction) — and how these tend to be embedded within process models and business application logic, rather than externalized into decision models where they can be explicitly managed. Most organizations manage their decisions very poorly, both human and automated, resulting in inconsistent or just plain wrong decisions being made. In other words, our business decisions are at the same point now as business processes were a decade or more ago, before BPM systems became widespread, and the path to improving this is to consider decision management as a discipline as well as the systems to model and automate decisions. We now have a decision modeling standard, DMN 1.0; this is expected to drive the adoption of decision modeling in organizations in the same way that BPMN did for process modeling. He proposed a decision management lifecycle similar to a BPM lifecycle, starting with decision discovery that allows modeling using the DMN-standard elements of a decision, input data, knowledge sources, information requirements, authority requirements and knowledge requirements. He wrapped up with the linkage between process and decision models, particularly using the Signavio BPMN and DMN modelers: how decisions that are defined external to a process can be used to assign process activity participants, decide on next steps, select the process pathway, define data access control, or detect and respond to events. We saw yesterday how Trisotech’s tools combine BPMN, CMMN and DMN, and today how Signavio combines BPMN and DMN; as more process modeling vendors expand to include decision modeling, we are going to see more implementations of these modeling standards integrated.

The last speaker in the keynote was Lloyd Dugan, on how business architecture and BPM work together, in response to a paper that he wrote last year with Neal McWhorter. Although dense (I recommend checking out the paper at the link), his presentation discussed some of the issues with reconciling business architecture and BPM, such as reconciling value stream, balanced scorecard and other BA models with activities within a process model. He reviewed a number of definitions and model types, cutting a wide swath through pretty much everything even remotely related to process and architecture, and highlighting some of the failures of mapping enterprise architecture frameworks to BPMN. He finished with a spectrum from business model perspectives (what the business is doing) to the operational model perspective (how the business is doing it), and how the business architecture versus BPM viewpoints differ, but can still both use BPMN as a modeling language. Pretty sure of two things from this: 1) I missed a lot of the detail 2) Dugan has never heard that you’re supposed to have less than 500 words on each PowerPoint slide.

BPMN, CMMN and DMN with @denisgagne at BPMCM15

Last session of day 1 of the BPM and Case Management Summit 2015 in DC, and Denis Gagne of Trisotech is up to talk about the three big standards: the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN), the Case Management Model & Notation, and the Decision Model & Notation. BPMN has been around for a few years and is well-established — pretty much every business process modeling and automation vendor uses BPMN in some form in their process modelers, and it is OMG’s most-adopted standard — but CMMN and DMN are much newer and less widespread in the market. There are a few vendors offering CMMN modelers and even fewer offering DMN. There are two major benefits to standards such as BPMN, CMMN and DMN, in addition to the obvious benefit of providing an unambiguous format for modeling processes, management and decisions: they can be used to create models that can be interchanged between different vendors’ products; and they provide a common and readily-transferable “language” that is learned by analysts. This interchangeability, both of models and skills, means that organizations don’t need to be quite so worried about which modeling tool that they use, or the people that they hire to use it. Denis was at the Model Interchange Working Group (MIWG) OMG meeting in Berlin last week, where they showed all types of interchange for BPMN; with luck, we’ll be seeing the same activities for the other standards as they become widely adopted.

There are some grey areas about when to use BPMN versus CMMN, since both are (sort of) process-based. However, the main focus in BPMN is on activities within processes, whereas CMMN focuses on events that impact cases. He showed a chart comparing different facets of the three standards:

BPMN CMMN DMN
Processes Cases Decisions
Activities Events Rules
Transitional Contextual Applied
Data Information Knowledge
Procedural Declarative Functional
Token Event Condition Action (ECA) First Order Logic (FOL)

The interesting part (at least to me) comes when we look at the bridges between these standards: in BPMN, there is a business rule task that can call a decision in DMN; in CMMN, there is a process task that can call a process defined in BPMN. Trisotech’s version of all of these modelers (not yet in the standards, but count on Denis to get them in there) also provides for a case task type in BPMN that can call a CMMN case, and a decision task in CMMN that can call a DMN decision. There are some patterns to watch for when modeling that might indicate that you should be using another model type:

  • In BPMN, if you have a lot of gateways expressing business logic, then consider moving the gateway logic to DMN
  • In BPMN, if you have a lot of events especially boundary events, then consider encapsulating that portion into a CMMN case
  • In BPMN, if you have a lot of ad hoc subprocesses, then consider using CMMN to allow for greater specification of the ad hoc activities
  • In CMMN, if you have a lot of task interdependencies, consider using BPMN to replace the temporal dependencies with flow diagrams

The recognition and refactoring of these patterns is pretty critical for using the right model type, and are likely a place where a more trained technical analytical eye might be able to suggest improvements to models created by a less-technical analyst who isn’t familiar with all of the model types or how to think about this sort of decomposition and linking.

He demonstrated integration between the three model types using the Trisotech BPMN, CMMN and DMN modelers, where a decision task in the BPMN modeler can link directly to a decision within a model in the DMN modeler, and a case task in BPMN can link directly to a case model in the CMMN modeler. Nice integration, although it remains to be seen what analyst skill level is required to be able to model across all three types, or how to coordinate different analysts who might be modeling in only one of the three model types each, where the different models are loosely coupled with different authors.

Disclosure: I’m doing some internal work with Trisotech, which means that I have quite a bit of knowledge about their products, although I have not been compensated in any way for writing about them here on my blog.

bpmNEXT 2015 Day 2 Demos: Sapiens Decision, Signavio

We finished the morning demo sessions with two on the theme of decision modeling and management.

Sapiens: How to Manage Business Logic

Michael Grohs highlighted the OMG release of the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard, and how the decision model is really a business logic model. However, business rule management systems are typically technical solutions, and don’t do much for business users and analysts trying to model their decision logic and rules based on their policies and procedures. Decision-aware processes extract declarative knowledge from process models, greatly simplifying the process models and moving the declarative information to a model format more suitable to business logic, such as a decision table. BPMS and DMS are complementary, and can be combined to create a complete model of the business process. He provided a demo of their decision modeling and repository tooling, which starts with the definition of a community space that shares a glossary, attributes and models, and has governance workflows for decision model approval and deployment. The glossary allows for the definition of fact types, including multiple synonyms to allow different stakeholders to use their own terminology. The decision models are made up of rule families that capture the business logic, with a visual syntax that indicates the rules and conditions that make up a particular decision. This can be expanded into a full decision table style that shows the if-then-else logic using the business terms. Different instances of decisions and rules sets can be created — in his demo example, the insurance policy renewals base logic versus that for a hurricane-prone state such as Florida — and visually compared in the graphical or tabular view, with changes highlighted or listed in detail in a report. Rule sets can be validated to highlight conflicts and missing information, then exported in a variety of formats for importing into a DMS for execution.

Signavio: Business Decision Management

Gero Decker talked about their collaborative process design and SAP upgrade tools as an introduction, but mainly addressed decision modeling and how they are embracing the DMN standard: modeling decisions, inputs and knowledge sources, then linking that to a decision activity in a BPMN model. DMN provides a graphical model form, and also allows for decision tables for detailed steps. Like Sapiens, Signavio does only decision modeling, not execution, and exports in standard formats for importing to a DMN such as Drools for execution. They are releasing the Signavio Decision Manager in a few weeks, and he gave us a preview demo of modeling and testing rules integrated with their process modeling environment. Similar to the modeling that we saw from Comindware earlier this morning, Signavio can be used to model higher-level enterprise architecture constructs such as value chains plus full BPMN models for specific capabilities within those models; he used a BPMN model as a jumping-off point for demonstrating decision modeling by creating a business rule task. From that point, you can specify a decision table directly in situ, or choose to create a DMN model at that point, which launches the DMN modeler with the top-level question/answer in the DMN model linked to the business rule activity from the BPMN model. The DMN model can be built out graphically, data objects defined and rules added with decision tables, and sub-decisions added as required. The DMN modeler can make use of the existing glossary in the Signavio environment for data objects and attributes. The decision tables can be validated to detect conflicts, and can export test cases in a spreadsheet format to drive manual or automated testing. They are also doing some work on detecting complex decision logic within BPMN models, with the goal to refactor the models to externalize the decision logic into DMN models where it makes the BPMN model unnecessarily complex.

IBM BPM and ODM Analyst Event

IBM decided to entertain the industry analysts far from the madding crowds of the Impact conference, and invited a group of us to San Francisco for a day to their discuss business process management and operational decision management offerings. David Millen, VP of BPM & DM (assuming the role from Phil Gilbert, who has moved on to General Manager of Design), started the day with some stats on the continued importance of improving process in the minds of managers, plus how the trend towards the consumerization of IT is driving more power to change into the hands of the business users. He continued with their message of how visibility, collaboration and governance are required to effectively manage change, and the emerging roles required to manage operations, such as chief customer officer.

BPM and ODM have been effectively bundled as part of the same product suite, which includes the three pillars of IBM BPM, IBM ODM and IBM Case Manager, with IBM Blueworks Live and IBM Business Monitor as horizontal components that (if you believe the graphic) support all three of the pillars in their marketecture diagram:

IBM Blueworks Live

IBM BPM

IBM ODM

IBM Case Manager

IBM Business Monitor

This brings Case Manager more into the BPM fold, although it will remain to be seen whether there is a closer merging of the technologies or if this is mostly a marketing exercise. However, when the various product specialists discussed the roadmaps (under NDA so not detailed here), IBM Case Manager was the only one that was not discussed, although Dave Caldeira (Director, ECM Strategy) is here to wave the flag. I see that it’s a fundamental problem that FileNet/Case Manager is in a completely separate software business unit within IBM: I’ve been saying for a while that integration between the products would be easier if they were all part of the same group. Bruce Silver later referred to the lack of information about Case Manager as the elephant in the room: in his opinion, the one gaping whole in the content at today’s sessions.

I spent the middle part of the day in several small meetings with IBM and a couple of their customers, some of which was undoubtedly off the record so I won’t be sharing that either, then we all came back to finish the day with a bit on IBM’s BPM/ODM-related services and a final Q&A.

Having analyst days separate from major vendor conferences makes a lot of sense: much easier to set up the meetings and see the people who you need to see, and no conflicts with other sessions. Definitely a valuable day for me to get caught up on the BPM/ODM roadmaps.

You can also see coverage of the day from James Taylor and Jim Sinur, who have already published their notes from the day; lots of other analyst bloggers here (Bruce Silver, Clay Richardson, Mark McGregor) so there will likely be more over the next day or two.

Update: Bruce Silver’s coverage here.

TIBCO TUCON2012 Day 1 Keynotes, Part 1

The keynotes started with TIBCO’s CEO, Vivek Ranadivé, talking about the forces driving change: a massive explosion of data (big data), the emergence of mobility, the emergence of platforms, the rise of Asia (he referenced the Gangnam Style video, although did not actually do the dance), and how math is trumping science (e.g., the detection and exploitation of patterns). The ability to harness these forces and produce extreme value is a competitive differentiator, and is working for companies like Apple and Amazon.

Raj Verma, TIBCO’s CMO, was up next, continuing the message of how fast things are changing: more iPhones were sold over the past few days than babies were born worldwide, and Amazon added more computing capacity last night than they had in total in 2001. He (re)introduced their concept of the two-second advantage – the right information a little bit before an event is worth infinitely more than any amount of information after the event – enabled by an event-enabled enterprise (or E3, supported by, of course, TIBCO infrastructure). Regardless of whether or not you use TIBCO products, this is a key point: if you’re going to exploit the massive amounts of data being generated today in order to produce extreme value, you’re going to need to be an event-enabled enterprise, responding to events rather than just measuring outcomes after the fact.

He discussed the intersection of four forces: cloud, big data, social collaboration and mobility. This is not a unique message – every vendor, analyst and consultant are talking about this – but he dug into some of these in detail: mobile, for example, is no longer discretionary, even (or maybe especially) in countries where food and resources are scarce. The four of these together all overlap in the consumerization of IT, and are reshaping enterprise IT. A key corporate change driven by these is customer experience management: becoming the brand that customers think of first when the product class is mentioned, and turning customers into fans. Digital marketing, properly done, turns your business into a social network, and turns customer management into fan management.

Matt Quinn, CTO, continued the idea of turning customers into fans, and solidifying customer loyalty. To do this, he introduced TIBCO’s “billion dollar backend” with its platform components of automation, event processing, analytics, cloud and social, and hosted a series of speakers on the subject of customer experience management.

We then heard from a customer, Chris Nordling, EVP of Operations and CIO of MGM Resorts and CityCenter, who use TIBCO for their MLife customer experience management/loyalty program. Their vision is to track everything about you from your gambling wins/losses to your preferences in restaurants and entertainment, and use that to build personalized experiences on the fly. By capturing the flow of big data and responding to events in realtime, the technology provides their marketing team with the ability to provide a zero-friction offer to each customer individually before they even know that they want something: offering reduced entertainment tickets just as you’re finishing a big losing streak at the blackjack tables, for example. It’s a bit creepy, but at the same time, has the potential to provide a better customer experience. Just a bit of insight into what they’re spending that outrageous $25/day resort fee on.

Quinn came back to have a discussion with one of their “loyalty scientists” (really??) about Loyalty Lab, TIBCO’s platform/service for loyalty management, which is all about analyzing events and data in realtime, and providing “audience of one” service and offerings. Traditional loyalty programs were transaction-based, but today’s loyalty programs are much more about providing a more holistic view of the customer. This can include not just events that happen in a company’s own systems, but include external social media information, such as the customer’s tweets. I know all about that.

Another customer, Rick Welts of the Golden State Warriors (who, ironically, play at the Oracle stadium) talked about not just customer loyalty management, but the Moneyball-style analytics that they apply to players on a very granular scale: each play of each game is captured and analyzed to maximize performance. They’re also using their mobile app for a variety of customer service initiatives, from on-premise seat upgrades to ordering food directly from your seat in the stadium.

Mid-morning break, and I’ll continue afterwards.

As an aside, I’m not usually wide awake enough to get much out of the breakfast-in-the-showcase walkabout, but this morning prior to the opening sessions, I did have a chance to see the new TIBCO decision services integrated into BPM, also available as standalone services. Looked cool, more on that later.

Best Practices For Modeling Processes And Rules With @Ronald_G_Ross

Ron Ross presented in the first breakout session of the BPM track, discussing best practices for creating better (and fewer) process models by modeling business rules together with processes. I’ve talked on this subjet quite a bit, although I come at it from the process modeling side whereas Ron is from the rules side. His business partner, Gladys Lam, was also in the audience; their book Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules and Ron’s earlier book Business Rule Concepts covers these concepts in much more detail.

I used to joke that process modelers tend to create process models wherein the business rules are just huge networks of flow logic directly in the process, whereas rules modelers create process models with a single task that just calls a rules engine. Ron isn’t going quite that far, but definitely advocates reducing the modeling of rules directly in a process notation (as BPMN gateways, for example) to create more concise and smarter process models. Rules should be expressed in business language; rules models are fundamentally different than process models, although the decisions made in the rules models can then be used within the process model. In his example, an insurance claim process included a conditional flow path when the claim is valid, but doesn’t explicitly show what rules are applied to determine if a claim is valid – that’s a job for the rules model.

He discussed some different patterns for harvesting rules from processes – conditional flows, maximum inter-task timing, and minimum inter-task timing – and introduced their RuleSpeak guidelines for expressing the resultant business rules in concise business language. He made a distinction between behavioral rules and decision rules; the former relies on a governor to watch for the rules being met or violated (often implemented in processes as an interrupting event of some sort), while the latter is about applying a decision at a point in a process. In short, rules are the embodiment of your business policies that ensure that you get consistently achieve the right results; in the rules world, processes are just a way of connecting the rules.

The key is to externalize the rules from the processes, and (primarily) model the high-volume standardized transactions. Low-volume, specialized processes don’t need to be modeled prior to execution, but can be informed and guided by rules: this is the basis of adaptive case management. This moves the need for agility into business rules – which are typically easier to change on the fly – and both simplify and stabilize business models.

Increasing Revenue Through Multi-Channel Decisioning

John DeMarchis from PNC Financial Services gave the final morning keynote on how they’re using multi-channel decisioning to increase revenue through a personalized customer experience. They looked at some of the compelling user experiences in the consumer space that are setting expectations of how people want to interact with service providers – Amazon and Google, for example – but also had to consider the loss of confidence in the US financial system that many consumers have experienced through the financial crisis. This led them to develop a customer interaction management system that uses Pega decision management to inform and direct customer interactions through all of their engagement channels. This provides centralized decisioning for consistency, real-time decisioning to allow next best action capabilities during the interaction, and adaptive learning to adjust the models based on market and customer behaviors.

Key to this is determining each customer’s current state so that they can be appropriately targeted for offers and notifications without annoying them, using the channel of their choice. Seriously, I wish my bank could do this.

The results: they are at the top of the customer experience rankings in specific geographic regions, and are ranked highly in terms of how they interact with their customers for marketing purposes. Interestingly, they started this with the simple idea to do cross-selling, but found that using the data and decisioning capabilities, they could do much, much more.

We finished up with some closing thoughts from Alan Trefler, since this is the last of the general keynotes; it’s all breakout sessions from here on in. I have (paper) notes from my meetings with executives yesterday, and a few more meetings today, which I’ll try to summarize here later today or tomorrow.