I’m a firm believer in free and open information exchange – not always a popular view amongst independents like myself who make our living selling our knowledge and experience to organizations – and that principle is why I became involved in the Process Knowledge Initiative and its creation of an open-source body of knowledge for process information. The idea of the PKI’s BoK (or PKBoK as we’ve come to call it, much to the amusement of pedants who love to point out that two of the five letters in the acronym stand for “Knowledge”) is that the BPM community needs a body of knowledge that is freely available to all, and where everyone in the community can contribute. To that end, we’ve launched a public wiki that contains some starting framework pieces for the BoK, and are starting to accept community contributions in the form of public comments. Soon, I hope, we will have enough in place to open this up for community editing; in order to do that, we need to have some safeguards in place to make sure that special interests don’t hijack the conversation.
The idea for this was first launched in September 2010, based on a paper by Wasana Bandara, Paul Harmon and Michael Rosemann on the need for an open, comprehensive process body of knowledge in order to further professionalize BPM. In that paper, the authors discussed the ABPMP BPM CBOK as “the closest BPM BoK the discipline has to date” in terms of completeness, extendibility, understandability, application and utility, and identified a number of core limitations that need to be addressed:
First, the process of deriving and maintaining the BoK should be more systematic and transparent. This will assist the perceived validity and adoption of it. Secondly, the content that forms the BoK needs to be defined and scoped, and most of all, checked for completeness, correctness and relevance to the field. Also, consensus definition of the content of a BoK is needed for it to be accepted as industry standard. Thirdly, the structure of the BoK should be carefully thought about and documented; this will assist in the correct interpretation of the BoK by its adapters and will also support sustainability and growth of the BoK.
They categorized the ABPMP CBOK as “a good starting point”, and proposed initiatives for an ontology-based approach to developing more comprehensive content, and a community approach to populating and maintaining the content.
The ABPMP, however, doesn’t like the idea of an open and freely-available process BoK, since they make money from selling the content ($49.95 from their store, although Amazon discounts it to $39.17) as well as offering certification programs. Attempts by PKI members, many of whom have long-time memberships with the ABPMP, to involve the ABPMP in the PKI were generally rebuffed. In short, for all of you wondering why we aren’t just working with the ABPMP on their BoK: we think the content should be free and community-created, and they don’t.
I’ve been an ABPMP member in the past, and rejoined last year when I was invited to be on the executive of the fledgling ABPMP Toronto chapter. I don’t see that as being in conflict with my PKI involvement: they’re both helping to educate people on BPM, and that’s a good thing for the industry. At PKI, we could even envision a day when ABPMP offered certification courses and exams for the content in the PKI BoK, either in addition to or as a replacement for their own BoK. Imagine my disappointment, then, at two recent developments:
- The ABPMP “Presidents Annual Report 2010” provided a financial and legal update that included the statement “Due to the increase in trademark filings, our legal costs will be an ongoing fixed cost of doing business going forward and will be budgeted on an annual basis to align our trademark filings with our growth strategies outside the US.” In other words, they’re using my membership fees to pay their lawyers to sue others who attempt to create bodies of knowledge in the BPM space where the name might possibly be confused with the ABPMP BPM CBOK. Tony Benedict, president of ABPMP International, already fired a warning shot at the PKI with an email stating “You cannot use BPM BOK in any of your publications, digital or otherwise as it violates our trademark. Please refrain from doing so or ABPMP will take legal action.” This is not how I want my ABPMP membership fees spent. Also, we never used the term “BPM BoK”.
- The president of the Toronto ABPMP chapter was told by ABPMP International that they can’t help us with our chapter startup costs (which are mostly just incorporation and initial marketing to draw in members), and that we would need to obtain money from sponsors, or incorporate as a for-profit organization and take capital contributions from the shareholders – in spite of the fact that less than 15% of the local members’ fees actually flow to the local chapter. Considering that our startup costs are likely worth about 1 hour of ABPMP International’s trademark lawyers’ fees, I would rather that a bit of that money be directed here so that we can get a local chapter started to promote BPM in Toronto, rather than focusing on suing other people.
I’m just not okay with the idea that you can litigate your way to fame and fortune when you’re trying to create something like the body of knowledge. I know it’s the American way, but I’m Canadian, eh?