bpmNEXT 2018: All about bots with Cognitive Technology, PMG.net, Flowable

We’re into the afternoon of day 2 of bpmNEXT 2018, with another demo section.

RPA Enablement: Focus on Long-Term Value and Continuous Process Improvement, Cognitive Technology

Massimiliano Delsante of Cognitive Technology presented their myInvenio product for analyzing processes to determine where gaps exist and create models for closing those gaps through RPA task automation. The demo started with loading historical process data for process mining, which created a process model from the data together with activity resources, counts and other metrics; then comparing the model for conformance with a reference model to determine the frequency and performance of conformant and non-conformant cases. The process discovery model can be transformed to a BPMN model, and simulated performance. With a baseline data set of all manual activities, the system identified the cost of each activity, helping to identify which activities would result in the greatest savings if automated, and fed the data for actual resources used into the simulation scenario; adjusting the resources required by specifying the number of RPA robots that could be deployed at specific tasks allows for a what-if simulation for the process performance with an RPA implementation. An analytics dashboard provides visualization of the original process discovery and the simulated changes, with performance trends over time. Predictive analytics can be applied to running processes to, for example, predict which cases will not meet their deadlines, and some root cause analysis for the problems. Doing this analysis requires that you have information about the cost of the RPA robots as well as being able to identify which tasks could be automated with RPA. Good integration of process discovery, simulation, analysis and ongoing monitoring.

Integration is Still Cool, and Core in your BPM Strategy, PMG.net

Ben Alexander from PMG.net focused on integration within BPM as a key element for driving innovation by increasing the speed of application development: integrating services for RPA, ML, AI, IoT, blockchain, chatbots and whatever other hot new technologies can be brought together in a low-code environment such as PMG. His demo showed a vendor onboarding application, adding a function/subprocess for assessing probability of vendor approval using machine learning by calling AzureML, user task assignment using Slack integration or SMS/phone support through a Twilio connector, and RPA bot invocation using a generic REST API. Nice demo of how to put all of these third-party services together using a BPM platform as the main application development and orchestration engine.

Making Process Personal, Flowable

Paul Holmes-Higgin and Micha Keiner from Flowable presented on their Engage product for customer engagement via chat, using chatbots to augment rather than replace human chat, and modeling the chatbot behavior using standard modeling tools. In particular, they have found that a conversation can be modeled as a case with dynamic injection of processes, with the ability to bring intelligence into conversations, and the added benefit of the chat being completely audited. The demo was around the use case of a high-wealth banking client talking to their relationship manager using chat, with simultaneous views of both the client and relationship manager UI in the Flowable Engage chat interface. The client mentioned that she moved to a new home, and the RM initiated the change address process by starting a new case right in the chat by invoking a context-sensitive digital assistant. This provided advice to the RM about address change regulatory rules, and provided a form in situ to collect the address data. The case is now progressed through a combination of chat message to collaborate between human players, forms filled directly in the chat window, and confirmation by the client via chat by presenting them with information to be updated. Potential issues, such as compliance regulations due to a country move, are raised to the RM, and related processes execute behind the scenes that include a compliance officer via a more standard task inbox interface. Once the compliance process completes, the RM is informed via the chat interface. Behind the scenes, there’s a standard address change BPMN diagram, where the chat interface is integrated through service activities. They also showed replacing the human compliance decision with a decision table that was created (and manually edited if necessary) based on a decision tree generated by machine learning on 200,000 historical address change cases; rerunning the scenario skipped the compliance officer step and approved the change instantaneously. Other chat automated tasks that the RM can invoke include setting reminders, retrieving customer information and more using natural language processing, as well as other types of more structured cases and processes. Great demo, and an excellent look at the future of chat interfaces in process and case management.

bpmNEXT 2018: Application Development with ProcessMaker, Capital BPM, Camunda

Next-Generation Backendless Workflow Orchestration API for ISVs, ProcessMaker

Brian Reale and Taylor Dondich from ProcessMaker presented their new ProcessMaker.io product for a BPMN 2.0 workflow microservice API in the cloud, targeted at ISVs to add process management capabilities into their vertical products. This is intended to solve the problem of software vendors who want customized workflow features without having to embed a full BPMS platform. They provide a simplified Javascript process designer that ISVs can use to present to their end users, although a full BPMN designer could be used and the results imported into the environment, and there’s a simple task invocation interface that can be called from pretty much any language or environment via language-specific SDKs and generalized REST APIs. The demo showed creating a new environment, and walked through a Slack integration application where Slack becomes the task list user interface, and simple HTML forms are used as the task processing UI (which could be any UI environment). This is a developer tool, not an end-user or low-code tool; check out their github for SDK and connector code as well as samples, and their own site for videos and descriptions of use cases. There was some pushback on the use of the term “microservice”; it’s really a lean cloud-based BPPM engine in the cloud that provides fast, scalable, enterprise-grade workflow capabilities. Although I haven’t done any direct comparison, there’s at least some overlap with Camunda’s Zeebe.io offering.

CapBPM’s IQ no-code BPM development – Turning Ideas into Value, Capital BPM

Max Young from Capital BPM talked about their no-code code generator: a graphical environment that can import industry-standard models (including BPMN, but also from IBM BPM’s application format), augment with functions such as service calls and user interfaces, and export as a BPM application in a number of different formats including those that can be imported into BPMS vendors’ products, or open source code. The demo showed how they can start with an application template that includes process and data models, then have the tool use AI to suggest UI layouts and other application parameters. There are a number of analysis tools for simulating processes, visualizing interactions between components (such as between a process model and a decision model). He created a process application from scratch, defining data fields, allowing auto-layout to suggest a visual form which he then modified to add logic to fields, and defining a BPMN process model to create an application shell. He then exported to both IBM BPM and Camunda BPM, which deployed the application to each of those environments and created application dashboards. The goal of this product appears to be to allow a broader range of people to rapidly develop BPM apps without being trained in the specific target BPM tool, with the resulting application passed off to a development team that will maintain it in the long term. For low-code tools such as IBM BPM, that may not be a perfect use case, but for products that are targeted at developers, such as Camunda, it might be a better fit as a UI and application code generator.

Monitoring Transparency for High-Volume, Next-Generation Workflows, Camunda

Ryan Johnston of Camunda presented on their Zeebe.io product, which (like the new ProcessMaker.io offering discussed above), is a microservice orchestration engine, but more specifically monitoring the performance of Zeebe by pairing it with Camunda Optimize to create heatmaps and other reports. The demo is based on a stock market pairs trading arbitrage use case, where a third-party process detects arbitrage opportunities and sends a signal that instantiates a Zeebe process; this process calls services to calculate the risk, calculate the long/short positions, and execute the trade. Speed and volume are key since rapidly changing market conditions could impact the effectiveness of the trade, hence the requirement for a high-performance engine like Zeebe, but also the need to monitor performance. The Zeebe Simple Monitor is the first of the administration tools being ported to this environment from the main Camunda product, providing a lighter-weight version of Cockpit. Camunda Optimize is used directly to view Zeebe performance, with the ability to create reports and assemble them into dashboards that show metrics such as flow node distribution (in pie chart, heatmap and tabular format), process instance count, and raw process instance data. He also demonstrated alerts, which can notify (by email) when specific values hit certain milestones, such as process instance count exceeding a value. He finished with one of Camunda’s fun add-ons, which is a video game view of a process model that allows you to walk through a 3D representation and shoot to kill process instances. Interesting audience question on using Zeebe as a smart event bus in addition to standard process applications at high volume.

bpmNEXT 2018 day 2 keynote with @NathanielPalmer

Nathaniel Palmer kicked off day 2 of bpmNEXT 2018 with his ever-prescient views on the next five years of BPM. Bots, decisions and automation are key, with the three R’s (robots, rules and relationships) defining BPM in the years to come. More and more, commercial transactions (or services that form part of those transactions) will happen on servers outside your organization, and often outside of your control; robots and intelligent agents will be doing a big part of that work. He also believes that we’re seeing the beginning of the death of smartphones, to be replaced with other devices and other interfaces such as conversational UI and wearable technology. This is going to radically change how apps have to be designed, and will leave a lot of companies scrambling to catch up with this change as people move more of their interactions off smartphones and laptops. Although more conservative organizations — including government agencies — will continue to support the least common denominator in interaction style (probably email and traditional websites), commercial organizations don’t have that luxury, and need to rethink sooner. He envisions that your fastest-growing competitors will have fewer employees than robots, although some interesting news out of Tesla this week may indicate that it’s premature to replace some human functions.

He spoke about how this will refine application architecture to four tiers: a client tier unique to each platform, a separate delivery tier that optimizes delivery for the platforms, an aggregation tier that integrates services and data, and a services tier that pulls data from both internal and external source. This creates an abstraction between what a task is and how it is performed, and even whether it is automated or performed by a person. Decision as a service for both commercial and government services will become a primary delivery model, allowing decisions (and the automation enabled by them) to be easily plugged into applications; this will require more of a business-first, model-driven approach rather than having decisions built in code by developers.

His Future-Proof BPM architecture — what others are calling a digital transformation platform — brings together a variety of capabilities that can be provided by many vendors or other organizations, and fed by events. In fact, the core capabilities (automation, machine learning, decision management, workflow management) also generate events that feed back into the data flooding into these processes. BPM platforms have the ability to become the orchestrating platforms for this, which is possibly why many of the BPMS vendors are rebranding as low-code application development environments, but be aware of fundamental differences in the underlying architecture: do they support modularity and microservices, or are they just lifting and shifting to monolithic containers in the cloud?

Finishing up, he returned to the concept that intelligent agents can act autonomously in complex transactions, and this will be becoming more common over the next few years. Interestingly, an interview that I did for a European publication is being translated into German, and the translator emailed me this morning to tell me that they needed to change some of my comments on automating loan transactions since that’s not permitted in Germany. My response: not yet, but it will be. We all need to be prepared for a more automated future.

Great audience discussion at the end on how this architecture is manifesting, how to model/represent some of these automation concepts, the role of a smarter event bus, the future of the word “bot” and more. Max Young from Capital BPM took over to discuss the development of a grammar for RPA, with an invitation for the brain trust in the room to start thinking about this in more detail. RPA vendors are creating their own notation, but a vendor-agnostic standard would go a long ways towards helping business people to directly specify automation.

Since they’re pumping out the video on the same day as the presentations, check the bpmNEXT YouTube channel later for a replay of Nathaniel’s presentation.

bpmNEXT 2018 day 1 videos are up!

In an amazing feat of real-time editing, the videos from yesterday’s sessions were posted yesterday evening. I tweeted a link to the YouTube channel, but here’s the full list sent to us by Nathaniel Palmer. In his words, “It is a rougher product than we’ve had in the past, and we will continue to edit after the event.  But we’re excited to have these videos available immediately” – as are we all.

The Future of Process in Digital Business: Jim Sinur, Aragon Research
https://youtu.be/iBJBbXeVYUA

A New Architecture for Automation: Neil Ward-Dutton, MWD Advisors
https://youtu.be/-AeijpL4b98

Secure, Private, Decentralized Business Processes for Blockchains: Vanessa Bridge, ConsenSys
https://youtu.be/oww8zMzxvZA

Turn IoT Technology into Operational Capability: Pieter van Schalkwyk, XMPro
https://youtu.be/G7C01e8qyac

Business Milestones as Configuration: Joby O’Brien and Scott Menter, BPLogix
https://youtu.be/D_heO33fyC0

Timing the Stock Market with DMN: Bruce Silver, methodandstyle.com
https://youtu.be/vHCIC1HGbHQ

Smarter Contracts with DMN: Edson Tirelli, Red Hat
https://youtu.be/tdpZgbQbF9Q

Decision as a Service (DaaS): The DMN Platform Revolution: Denis Gagné, Trisotech
https://youtu.be/sYAIcBhVhIc

Designing the Data-Driven Company: Elmar Nathe, MID GmbH
https://youtu.be/zb__xVsOEA0

Using Customer Journeys to Connect Theory with Reality: Till Reiter and Enrico Teterra, Signavio
https://youtu.be/ov0SqJCMmoY

Discovering the Organizational DNA: Jude Chagas Pereira, IYCON; Frank Kowalkowski, KCI
https://youtu.be/NsCDgKPsTCs

bpmNEXT 2018: Complex Modeling with MID GmbH, Signavio and IYCON

The final session of the first day of bpmNEXT 2018 was focused on advanced modeling techniques.

Designing the Data-Driven Company, MID GmbH

Elmar Nathe of MID GmbH presented on their enterprise decision maps, which provides an aggregated visualization of strategic, tactical and operational decisions with business events. They provide a variety of modeling tools, but see decisions as key to understanding how organizations are driven by data and events. Clearly a rich decision modeling environment, including support for PMML for including predictive models and other data scientist analysis tools, plus links to other model types such as ERDs that can show what data contributes to which decision model, and business process models. Much more of an enterprise architecture approach to model-driven design that can incorporate the work of data scientists.

Using Customer Journeys to Connect Theory with Reality, Signavio

Till Reiter and Enrico Teterra of Signavio started with a great example of an Ignite presentation, with few words, lots of graphics and a bit of humor, discussing their new notation for modeling an outside-in view of the customer journey rather than just having an undifferentiated “customer” swimlane in a BPMN diagram. The demo walked through their customer journey mapping tool, and how their collaboration hub overlays on that to allow information about each component of the journey map to be discussed amongst process modeling users. The journey map contains a lot of information about KPIs and other process metrics in a form most consumable by process owners and modelers, but also has a notebook/dashboard view for analysts to determine problems with the process and identify potential resolution actions. This includes a variety of analysis tools including process discovery, where process mining techniques are applied to determine which paths in the process model may be contributing to specific problems such as cycle time, then overlay this on the process model to assist with root cause analysis. Although their product does a good job of combing CJMs, process models and process analysis, this was more of a walkthrough of a set of pre-calculated dashboard screens rather than an actual demo — a far cry from the experimental features that Gero Decker showed off in their demo at the first bpmNEXT.

Discovering the Organizational DNA, IYCON and Knowledge Consultants

The final presentation of this section was with Jude Chagas Pereira of IYCON and Frank Kowalkowski of Knowledge Consultants presenting IYCON’s Afterspyre modeling tool for creating a catalog of complex business objects, their attributes and their linkages to create organizational DNA diagrams. Ranking these with machine learning algorithms for semantic and sentiment analysis allows identification of process improvement opportunities. They have a number of standard business analysis techniques built in, and robust analytics focused on problem solving. The demo walked through their catalog, drilling down into the “Strategy DNA” section and into “Technology Solutions” subsection to show an enumeration of the platforms currently in place together with attributes such as technology risk and obsolescence, which can be used to rank technology upgrade plans. Relationships between business objects can be auto-detected based on existing data. Levels including Objectives, Key Processes, Technology Solutions, Database Technology and Datacenter and their interrelationships are mapped into a DNA diagram and an alluvial diagram, starting at any point in the catalog and drilling down a specific number of levels as selected by the modeling analyst. These diagrams can then be refined further based on factors such as scaling the individual markers based on actual performance. They showed sentiment analysis for a hotel rank on a review site, which included extracting specific phrases that related to certain sentiments. They also demonstrated a two-model comparison, which compared the models for two different companies to determine the overlap and unique processes; a good indicator for a merger/acquisition (or even divestiture) level of difficulty. They finished up with affinity modeling, such as the type used by Amazon when they tell you what books that other people bought who also bought the book that you’re looking at: easy to do in a matrix form with a small data set, but computationally intensive once you get into non-trivial amounts of data. Affinity modeling is most commonly used in marketing to analyze buying habits and offering people something that they are likely to buy, even if that’s what they didn’t plan to buy at first — this sort of “would you like fries with that” technique can increase purchase value by 30-40%. Related to that is correlation modeling, which can be used as a first step for determining causation. Impressive semantic data-driven analytics tool for modeling a lot of different organizational characteristics.

That’s it for day one; if everyone else is as overloaded with information as I am, we’re all ready for tonight’s wine tasting! Check the Twitter stream for opinions and photos from other attendees.

bpmNEXT 2018: All DMN all the time, with Trisotech, Bruce Silver Associates and Red Hat

First session of the afternoon on the first day of bpmNEXT 2018, and this entire section is on DMN (decision management notation) and the requirement for decision automation based on DMN.

Decision as a Service (DaaS): The DMN Platform Revolution, Trisotech

Denis Gagne of Trisotech, who knows as much about DMN and other related standards as anyone around, started off the session with his ideas on the need for decision automation driven by requirements such as GDPR. He walked through their suite of decision-related products that can be used to create decision services to be consumed by other applications, as well as their conformance to the DMN standards. His demo showed a decision model for determining the best price to offer a rental vehicle customer, and walked through the capabilities of their platform with this model: DMN style check, import/export, execution, team collaboration, and governance through versioning. He also showed how decision models can be reused, so that elements from one model can be used in another model. Then, he showed how to take portions of the model and define them as a service using a visual wrapper, much like a subprocess wrapper visualization in BPMN, where the relationship lines that cross the service boundary become the inputs and outputs to the service. Cool. The service can then be deployed as an executable service using (in his demo) the Red Hat platform, test its execution using from a generated HTML form, generate the REST API or Open API interface code, run predefined test cases based on DMN TCK, promote the service from test to production, and publish it to an API publisher platform such as WSO2 for public consumption. The execution environment includes debugging and audit logs, providing traceability on the decision services.

Timing the Stock Market with DMN, Bruce Silver Associates

Bruce Silver, also a huge contributor to BPMN and DMN standards, and author of the BPMN Method & Style books and now the DMN M&S, presented an application for buying a stock at the right time based on price patterns. For investors who time the market based the pricing, the best way to do this is to look at daily min/max trends and fit them to one of several base type models. Bruce figured that this could be done with a decision table applied to a manipulated version of the data, and automated this for a range of stocks using a one-year history, processing in Excel, and decision services in the Trisotech cloud. This is a practical example of using decision services in a low-code environment by non-programmers to do something useful. His demo showed us the decision model for doing this, then the data processing (smoothing) done in Excel. However, for an application that you want to run every day, you’re probably not going to want to do the manual import/export of data, so he showed how to automate/orchestrate this with Microsoft Flow, which can still use the Excel sheet for data manipulation but automate the data import, execute the decision service, and publish the results back to the same Excel file. Good demonstration of the democratization of creating decisioning applications by through easy-to-use tools such as the graphical DMN modeler, Excel and Flow, highlighting that DMN is an execution language as well as a requirement language. Bruce has also just published a new book, DMN Cookbook, co-authored with Edson Tirelli of Red Hat, on getting started DMN business implementations using lightweight stateless decision services called via REST APIs.

Smarter Contracts with DMN, Red Hat

Edson Tirelli of Red Hat, Bruce Silver’s co-author on the above-mentioned DMN Cookbook, finished this section of DMN presentations with a combination of blockchain and DMN, where DMN is used to define the business language for calculations within a smart contract. His demo showed a smart land registry case, specifically a transaction for selling a property involving a seller, a buyer and a settlement service created in DMN that calculates taxes and insurance, with the purchase being executed using cryptocurrency. He mentioned Vanessa Bridge’s demo from earlier today, which showed using BPMN to define smart contract flows; this adds another dimension to the same problem, and likely no reason why you wouldn’t use them all together given the right situation. Edson said that he was inspired, in part, by this post on smart contracts by Paul Lachance, in which Lachance said “a visual model such as a BPMN and/or DMN diagram could be used to generate the contract source code via a process-engine”. He used Ethereum for the blockchain smart contract and the Ether cryptocurrency, Trisotech for the DMN models, and Drools for the rules execution. All in all, not such a far-fetched idea.

I’m still catching flak for suggesting the now-ubiquitous Ignite style for presentations here at bpmNEXT; my next lobbying effort will be around restricting the maximum number of words per slide. 🙂

bpmNEXT 2018: Here’s to the oddballs, with ConsenSys, XMPro and BPLogix

And we’re off with the demo sessions!

Secure, Private Decentralized Business Processes for Blockchains, ConsenSys

Vanessa Bridge of ConsenSys spoke about using BPMN diagrams to create smart contracts and other blockchain applications, while also including privacy, security and other necessary elements: essentially, using BPM to enable Ethereum-based smart contracts (rather than using blockchain as a ledger for BPM transactions and other BPM-blockchain scenarios that I’ve seen in the past). She demonstrated using Camunda BPM for a token sale application, and for a boardroom voting application. For each of the applications, she used BPMN to model the process, particularly the use of BPMN timers to track and control the smart contract process — something that’s not native to blockchain itself. Encryption and other steps were called as services from the BPMN diagram, and the results of each contract were stored in the blockchain. Good use of BPM and blockchain together in a less-expected manner.

Turn IoT Technology into Operational Capability, XMPro

Pieter van Schalkwyk of XMPro looked at the challenges of operationalizing IoT, with a virtual flood of data from sensors and machines that needs to be integrated into standard business workflows. This involves turning big data into smart data via stream processing before passing it on to the business processes in order to achieve business outcomes. XMPro provides smart listeners and agents that connect the data to the business processes, forming the glue between realtime data and resultant actions. His demo showed data being collected from a fan on a cooling tower, bringing in data the sensor logs and comparing it to manufacturer’s information and historical information in order to predict if the fan is likely to fail, create a maintenance work order and even optimize maintenance schedules. They can integrate with a large library of action agents, including their own BPM platform or other communication and collaboration platforms such as Slack. They provide a lot of control over their listener agents, which can be used for any type of big data, not just industrial device data, and integrate complex and accurate prediction models regarding likelihood and remaining useful life predictions. He showed their BPM platform that would be used downstream from the analytical processing, where the internet of things can interact with the internet of people to make additional decisions required in the context of additional information such as 3D drawings. Great example of how to filter through hundreds of millions data points in streaming mode to find the few combinations that require action to be taken. He threw out a comment at the end that this could be used for non-industrial applications, possibly for GDPR data, which definitely made me think about content analytics on content as it’s captured in order to pick out which of the events might trigger a downstream process, such as a regulatory process.

Business Milestones as Configuration, BPLogix

Scott Menter and Joby O’Brien of BPLogix finished up this section on new BPM ideas with their approach to goal orientation in BPM, which is milestone-based and requires understanding the current state of a case before deciding how to move forward. Their Process Director BPM is not BPMN-based, but rather an event-based platform where events are used to determine milestones and drive the process forward: much more of a case management view, usually visualized as a project management-style GANTT chart rather thana flow model. They demonstrated the concept of app events, where changes in state of any of a number of things — form fields, activities, document attachments, etc. — can record a journal entry that uses business semantics and process instance data. This allows events from different parts of the platform to be brought together in a single case journal that shows the significant activity within the case, but also to be triggers for other events such as determining case completion. The journal can be configured to show only certain types of events for specific users — for example, if they’re only interested in events related to outgoing correspondence — and also becomes a case collaboration discussion. Users can select events within the journal and add their own notes, such as taking responsibility for a meeting request. They also showed how machine learning and rules can be used for dynamically changing data; although shown as interactions between fields on forms, this can also be used to generate new app events. Good question from the audience on how to get customers to think about their work in terms of events rather than procedures; case management proponents will say that business people inherently think about events/state changes rather than process. Interesting representation of creating a selective journal based on business semantics rather than just logging everything and expecting users to wade through it for the interesting bits.

We’re off to lunch. I’m a bit out of practice at live-blogging, but hope that I captured some of the flavor of what’s going on here. Back with more this afternoon!

bpmNEXT 2018 kicks off: keynotes with @JimSinur and @NeilWD

It’s the first day of bpmNEXT, the conference for BPM visionaries and free thinkers to get together, share ideas, show their cool new stuff, meet new friends and get reacquainted with old ones. This is an opportunity for technologists (primarily senior technical people from BPM vendors) to give demos in a very structured format, but it’s not really a place for customers: more like the BPM Think Tanks of old. Organized by Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer, themselves both long-time contributors to the industry, with content provided by a lot of people who are loud and proud about their technology.

That very structured format, in case you haven’t read about or attended bpmNEXT before, is a strictly limited Ignite-style presentation followed by a live demo. This limits the amount of time that presenters can spend showing slides and forces them to get to the good stuff.

You can see the the agenda here, and we started out the first day with a few keytnoes from industry thought leaders before getting to the demo presentations. I’ll cover those in this post, then do individual posts for each section of demos (usually three in a section). These will be rough notes since there’s a lot of information that goes by quickly; you’ll be able to see video of all of the sessions, most likely on the bpmNEXT YouTube channel (where you can also see previous years’ sessions).

The Future of Process in Digital Business, Jim Sinur

Jim Sinur, a long-time Gartner analyst who is now with Aragon Research, spoke about trends in digital businesses. Most of this was a plug for Aragon and their research reports that seemed focused on customer organizations, which doesn’t seem like a good fit with this audience where most of the people in the room are well-versed in these technologies and how to apply them in real life.

I’d really like to see more conversational sessions rather than presentations for the keynotes, or at least content that is more directly relevant to the audience.

A New Architecture for Automation, Neil Ward-Dutton

Neil Ward-Dutton, who heads up MWD Advisors, presented a distillation of the conversations that they’re having with customer organizations, starting with the difficult choices that they have to make in terms of which technologies to choose: for example, when RPA vendors tell them that they don’t need BPM any more. he went through some insights into the technologies that are impacting CIOs’ strategic decisions — no surprises there — then presented a schematic model for how work happens in organizations as a basis for understanding how different technologies impact different parts of their work. The framework categorizes work into exploratory, transactional and programmatic, and he walked through what each of those types defines up front, and how the technologies are used within that. Good view of how to help organizations think about their work and how to develop automation strategies that address different work styles and applications.

Although a lot of his presentation was aimed at a general audience that could include customers, Neil finished up with a bit on next moves for vendors and technologists as the technology market changes: there are a lot of mergers and acquisitions going on, and older technologies are being replaced with newer ones in specific instances. He had some recommendations about rearchitecting products and adding value, shifting from one-size-fits-all products to collections of independent runtime services in order to support cloud architectures (especially elastic computing requirements) and provide more flexibility in product offerings.

Obligatory futurist keynote at AIIM18 with @MikeWalsh

We’re at the final day of the AIIM 2018 conference, and the morning keynote is with Mike Walsh, talking about business transformation and what you need to think about as you’re moving forward. He noted that businesses don’t need to worry about millenials, they need to worry about 8-year-olds: these days 90% of all 2-year-olds (in the US) know how to use a smart device, making them the truly born-digital generation. What will they expect from the companies of the future?

Machine learning allows us to customize experiences for every user and every consumer, based on analysis of content and data. Consumers will expect organizations to predict their needs, before they could even voice it themselves. In order to do that, organizations need to become algorithmic businesses: be business machines rather than have business models. Voice interaction is becoming ubiquitous, with smart devices listening to us most (all) of the time and using that to gather more data on us. Face recognition will become your de facto password, which is great if you’re unlocking your iPhone X, but maybe not so great if you don’t like public surveillance that can track your every move. Apps are becoming nagging persuaders, telling us to move more, drink more water, or attend this morning’s keynote. Like migratory birds that can sense magnetic north, we are living in a soup of smart data that guides us. Those persuasive recommendations become better at predicting our needs, and more personalized.

Although he started by saying that we don’t need to worry about millenials, 20 minutes into his presentation Walsh is admonishing us to let the youngest members of our team “do stuff rather than just get coffee”. It’s been a while since I worked in a regular office, but do people still have younger people get coffee for them?

He pointed out that rigid processes are not good, but that we need to be performance-driven rather than process-driven: making good decisions in ambiguous conditions in order to solve new problems for customers. Find people who are energized by unknowns to drive your innovation — this advice is definitely more important than considering the age of the person involved. Bring people together in the physical realm (no more work from home) if you want the ideas to spark. Take a look at your corporate culture, and gather data about how your own teams work in order to understand how employees use information and work with each other. If possible, use data and AI as the input when designing new products for customers. He recommended a next action of quantifying what high performance looks like in your organization, then work with high performers to understand how they work and collaborate.

He discussed the myth of the simple relationship between automation and employment, and how automating a task does not, in general, put people out of work, but just changes what their job is. People working together with the automation make for more streamlined (automated) standard processes with the people focused on the things that they’re best at: handling exceptions, building relationships, making complex decision, and innovating through the lens of combining human complexity with computational thinking.

In summary, the new AI era means that digital leaders need to make data a strategic focus, get smart about decisions, and design work rather than doing it. Review decisions made in your organization, and decide which are best made using human insight, and which are better to automate — either way, these could become a competitive differentiator.

Transforming compliance at Farmers Insurance with @rafael_moscatel

In the last Thursday breakout of AIIM 2018, I attended a session on initiatives within the compliance department at Farmers Insurance to modernize their records management, presented by Rafael Moscatel. Their technology includes IGS’ Virgo to manage retention schedules, Legal Hold Pro for legal holds and custodian compliance, and Box for content governance. They started in 2015 with an assessment and plan, then built a new team with the appropriate expertise going forward, then updated their policy and governance, and finally brought in the three new key technology components in 2017. For an insurance company, that’s pretty fast.

Their retention policy is based on 12 big buckets, which are primarily aligned with business functions, making it easy for employees to understand what they are from a real-world standpoint. Legal Hold Pro replaced an old customized SharePoint system, and works together with Box Governance for e-discovery. He went through a lot of the details of how the technologies work together and what they’re doing with them, but the key takeaway for me is that an insurance company — what I know through a lot of experience to be an extremely conservative industry that’s struggling to transform themselves — is realizing that they need to shake things up in terms of how compliance of digital records are managed in order to move forward into the future. He ended up with some great comments on how to work with the business people, especially the executives, to bring programs like this to fruition.

Great talk by a knowledgeable and well-spoken presenter; my end-of-the-day writing doesn’t do it justice.