Litigating Your Way To BPM Notoriety

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?

Shhhh… PKI Wiki Is Up

I’ve been a bit quiet on the Process Knowledge Initiative front lately due to other commitments, and lack of much public-facing progress in spite of the progress that we’d been making internally.

That’s about to change, because we have a public wiki up and running for the draft Body of Knowledge, and will officially be announcing it soon, along with our initial sponsors. Right now, it only contains the basic knowledge areas that are going to be expanded out into the BoK, but we felt that it was time to open it up for public commentary.

There are currently three levels of access:

  1. Anyone can view all of the BoK content without logging in.
  2. If you want to add comments, you will need to sign up using the link at the top right of the page. Please use your real name. If you use your email address as your username, it will be visible to others via the people directory, so don’t use that for your username if you don’t want it exposed.
  3. Content editing is currently restricted only to those on the content teams. At some point, we’d like to open this up, but we want to get through some of the first editing rounds first and see how it works out.

Once you have an account on the wiki, you can set a watch on individual pages (from the Tools dropdown) or set a watch on the entire space (in the Advanced options under the Browse menu). Setting a watch will send you an email when anything changes. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of the site changes (also in the Advanced options), although it doesn’t work with Google Reader since the feed requires authentication – anyone with a solution to this, please add it in the comments below.

The wiki platform is Atlassian Confluence, using a free community license based on PKI’s not-for-profit status. Martin Cleaver of Blended Perspectives has been our Confluence guru, getting everything set up and helping us to become mostly self-sufficient. Martin and Confluence both rock.

All of the BoK content is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0, meaning that you are free to copy it in its entirety and edit it for your own purposes, but you are required to state that it is based on the BoK and provide a link back to the BoK. That also means that any content you contribute to the BoK will assume the same copyright, so make sure that you don’t include anything that has a more restrictive copyright.

Process Knowledge Initiative Technical Team

When I got involved in the Process Knowledge Initiative to help create an open-source body of knowledge, I knew that the first part, with all the forming of committees and methodology and such, would be a bit excruciating for me. I was not wrong. However, it has been thankfully short due the contributions of many people with more competence and patience in that area than I, and I’m pleased to announce that we’ve put together an initial structure and will soon be starting on the fun stuff (in my opinion): working with the global BPM community to create the actual BoK content.

From our announcement earlier this week:

The month of November was a busy one for the Process Knowledge Initiative. In execution of our startup activities, we defined the PKBoK governance process and technical team structure, recruited our first round of technical experts, and secured preliminary funding via our Catalyst Program.

On the PKBoK development side, the team is actively researching and defining the candidate knowledge (or focus) areas in preparation for a January community review release.

With the knowledge area release, the development of the PKBoK becomes a full community activity, from content contributions, working group collaboration, and public commentary to content improvement and annotation.

It’s impossible to do something like this without some sort of infrastructure to get things kicked off, although we expect most of the actual content to be created by the community, not a committee. To that end, we’ve put forward an initial team structure as follows:

  • Technical Integration Team is responsible for establishing the PKBoK blueprint (scope, knowledge areas, ontology, content templates), recruiting working group leaders, and coordinating content development, publication and review.
  • Methodology Advisory Board provides guidance and support on PKBoK development and review processes. The Methodology Advisory Board does not participate in content creation or review; rather it provides rigor to ensure the final content represents the community perspective.
  • Technical Advisory Board provides expert input to, and review of, deliverables from the Technical Integration Team and Working Groups. Technical Advisors may lead, or contribute content to working groups within their area of specialization.
  • Working Groups develop PKBoK content for a particular knowledge area, task or set of tasks. Working groups will form via public calls for participation. The first call is planned for April 2011.
  • BPM Community reviews, contributes to, and consumes the PKBoK. All BPM community members are welcome to participate in the development of the PKBoK or utilize the delivered content in their individual BPM practices.

You can see the people who are participating in the first three of these in the announcement – including academia, industry analysts, standards associations, vendors and end-user organizations – and we’re looking for more people to join these groups as we move along.

Most of the content creation will be done by the working groups and the global BPM community; the other groups are there to provide support and guidance as required. We’ll soon be putting forward the proposed knowledge areas for discussion, which will kick off the process of forming the working groups and creating content.

I’m also starting to look at wiki platforms that we can use for this, since this really needs to be an inclusive community effort that embraces multiple points of view, not a moderated walled garden. This open model for content creation, as well as a liberal Creative Commons license for distribution, is intended to gain maximum participation both from contributors and consumers of the BoK.

Wrapping Up BPM2010

I’m off on a week’s vacation now, then to speak at the IRM BPM conference in London the week of September 27th, but I wanted to give a final few notes on the BPM 2010 conference that happened this week.

The conference was hosted by Michael zur Muehlen at Stevens Institute in Hoboken, NJ: the first time that it’s been held in North America, and the first time (to my knowledge) that it’s had an industry track in addition to the usual research track. This allowed many people to attend – academics, practitioners, vendors and analysts – who might not normally be able to attend a European conference; that has raised the awareness of the conference significantly, and should help to continue its success in the future. Michael did a great job of hosting us (although I don’t think that he slept all week), with good logistics, good food and great evening entertainment in addition to the outstanding lineup of presenters.

I attended the research track, since it gives me a glimpse of where BPM will be in five years. The industry track, as good as it was, contains material that I can see at any of the several other BPM industry conferences that I attend each year. I started out in the BPM and Social Software workshop on Monday, then attended presentations on business process design, people and process, BPM in practice and BPM in education. Collaboration continues to be a huge area of study, fueled by the entry of many collaborative BPM products into the marketplace in the past year.

A key activity for me this week (which caused me to miss the process mining sessions, unfortunately) was the first organizational meeting for the Process Knowledge body of knowledge (BoK, and yes, I know that the two K’s are a bit redundant). Based on research from the Queensland University of Technology into what’s missing from current BoKs, a small group of us are getting the ball rolling on an open source/Creative Commons BoK, with a wide variety of contributors, and freely available for anyone to repurpose the material. I published an initial call to action, and Brenda Michelson, who is chief cat-herder in this effort, added her thoughts.

BPM 2011 will be in southern France the week of August 29th, so mark your calendar.

Process Knowledge Call to Action

I spent a good part of today with Michael Rosemann and Wasana Bandara of Queensland University of Technology, Paul Harmon and Celia Wolf  of BPTrends, Kathleen Barret and Kevin Brennan of IIBA, and Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links to plan a new initiative around a body of knowledge (BoK) for business process knowledge. The idea for a non-commercial, open source style BoK came from a paper written by Wasana, Michael and Paul, “Professionalizing Business Process Management: Towards a Common Body of Knowledge for BPM”, presented by Wasana in this afternoon’s research session at BPM 2010.

We’ve created a Call to Action for all interested parties, which provides a bit more detail:

Dr. Bandara’s paper, co-authored by Paul Harmon of BPTrends and Dr. Michael Rosemann of QUT, calls for the creation of a comprehensive, extensible, open source, community-driven Business Process Management Body of Knowledge (BoK).  To be deemed successful, the resultant BoK must be understandable and relevant to business process management professionals, academics and industry technology and service providers.

To realize the vision of a truly open, comprehensive and accessible process knowledge base, the entire business process community – practitioners, methodologists, academics, vendors, analysts and pundits – must get involved.

In this call for action stage, we are seeking business process community members who are interested in contributing to, or supporting, the BoK creation effort.

There’s a form on that page for you to indicate your interest, with a number of categories to indicate your primary and secondary interests in being involved with a process knowledge BoK:

  • Advocate
  • BPM Practitioner / End-user
  • Community Reviewer
  • Content Contributor
  • Funding Sponsor
  • Media Sponsor

I’m involved in this because I believe that we need an open source, Creative Commons sort of BoK in BPM, created by a broad community and acting as a meta BoK (pointing to other related BoKs) as well as containing unique content. I’m particularly interested in enabling more community involvement to really open things up, not just in community contributions of content, but also in community tagging for the purposes of creating personalized views onto the BoK as well as generating a folksonomy. I have a hard time getting on board with proprietary walled gardens of any sort, and especially in the area of information that should be freely available to all types of BPM stakeholders (free as in beer), and freely reusable in a variety of contexts (free as in speech) – the idea is that the Process Knowledge BoK is free in both of those respects. And speaking of free, this is not a commercial venture for me: I’m volunteering my time as a special advisor because I think that it’s an important initiative.

In addition to just indicating your interest by filling out the form on the website, we’re looking for a small number of organizations to participate in our Catalyst program over the next three months while we prepare for the official launch: we’ll be getting the initiative set up, expanding the website into a proper collaboration space in preparation for content creation, and sorting out the methodology, process and ontology for the BoK. To be clear, by “participate”, I mean “write a check”, and in exchange for a bit of near-term seed funding, you’ll get a package of goodies including participation in press releases, ads on the BPTrends and OMG websites and newsletters, and a credit towards our ongoing sponsorship program. You also get bragging rights as a thought leader in supporting this new BoK. Ping me if you’re interested.