Free online digital transformation courses from @TheMasterChnnl

E-learning platform The Master Channel (which inexplicably has only 8 Twitter followers after I followed them, so get over there and connect) is offering free courses, exams, certificates and downloads to anyone affected by COVID-19. That is pretty much everyone on the planet by now. You can find out more details at the link above and in a recent LinkedIn post by Jan Moons, and he writes in more detail about e-learning in the time of the current pandemic in another post.

There’s a very real possibility that a lot of people will be “on the bench” in the near future: either their work requires travel, or their company has to make tough decisions about staffing. This is a great time to consider skilling up, and The Master Channel has courses on process and decision modeling, business analysis, analytics and more. I have never taken one of their courses so can’t vouch for the quality, and I am not being compensated in any way for writing this post, but probably worth checking out what they have to offer.

Their current offer is only until April 5th, although it’s clear to most people that our period of confinement is going to last much longer than that. Get them while you can.

If you know of other e-learning companies making similar offers, please add them in the comments of this post (including a link if you have one). I know of several universities that offer free online courses for related topics although they tend to be longer and much more detailed — I had to dedicate four weeks and relearn a lot of forgotten graph theory to get through the Eindhoven University of Technology’s course in process mining, which is more than a lot of people have time (or patience) for.

Snap! @Celonis offers free process mining in the cloud

I attended a webinar today where Celonis showed Snap, the new free tier of their cloud-based process mining platform. It can work with flat files (CSV) or manually connect to ServiceNow, Google Sheets and a few other data sources directly, plus it supports teams for collaboration. You’re limited to uploading 500MB of data (which is a lot of records you’re uploading just case ID, activity name, resource, start and end time), and there’s no continuous data integration for event collection the way there is with their full-blown IBC Enterprise version; additionally, several functions from the main product are visible but not enabled. However, if you want to dip your toe into process mining with real-sized datasets, this is a good choice.

The process mining functionality is similar to what you see with competitive products, plus some nice dashboard capabilities for visualizing not just the overall discovered process flow, but for drilling into problem areas to do root cause analysis.

You can sign up for a free Celonis Snap account on their website. It self-deploys within a couple of minutes, creating a team account and setting you up as the admin, with the ability to add other users to the team. It doesn’t support everything in the paid platform, but definitely a good way to get started with process mining. There’s also an online community to ask (and answer) questions.

They are also offering free online training (not sure if that’s just now or if they will do this on an ongoing basis) that covers their full paid product suite; if you’re using Snap, the parts of the training related to process discovery and analysis will be relevant. They are launching free Snap-specific training next week, and adding new features to the product such as connectors to SAP Ariba. Obviously, they’d like to leverage free accounts into paid accounts, but this is more than just a 30-day trial or non-functional demo account; you can do some real work with the free version and move to the paid version when your data or processing needs exceed that.

My new post on the @Trisotech blog: the case for a business automation center of excellence

I’m doing a series of posts on the Trisotech blog, and this month I’m digging into the concept of a broader center of excellence (CoE) around business automation because I’ve seen a lot of problems when CoEs are implemented around a specific methodology, technology or tool, e.g., a BPM CoE, or even worse, a [insert vendor name here] BPMS CoE.

In addition to my consulting practice, where I see CoEs in practice and help organizations to create them, I work with a lot of vendors. I included a diagram of how most vendors see themselves relative to their market:

Head on over to the Trisotech blog to read the entire article.

Tune in on March 10 for my webinar on intelligent insurance processes

I’ve been sponsored by Signavio for a short webinar series. The first, on intelligent banking processes, was last month; this month on March 10, I’ll be presenting on intelligent insurance processes:

With customer churn rates approaching 25% in some insurance sectors, insurers are attempting to increase customer retention by offering innovative products that better address today’s market. The ability to create and support innovative products has become a top-level goal for many insurance company executives, and requires agile and automated end-to-end processes for a personalized customer journey.

I’m focusing these webinars on very real use cases that I’ve observed in my years working with financial and insurance customers, linking up the top-level goals in organizations with process tools that can help to achieve those goals. There’s such a confusion in the landscape of intelligent automation tools, and many of the vendors don’t help this much by obfuscating the differences between product categories (not just differences between products in the same category). I’ll try to bring a bit of clarity to all of that, plus walk through an insurance use case to see how different types of process tools can be applied.

Head over to the link above to register for the webinar; even if you can’t attend next week, you’ll get a follow-up link to the recorded webinar for viewing later.

Replay of my webinar on banking processes with @Signavio

I did a webinar last week, sponsored by Signavio, that focused on banking processes. In particular, I looked at the top-level goals such as revenue, costs, compliance and competitive differentiation, and lined those up with some of the departmental goals and the process-related tools that can help to reach those goals. As usual, you can find my slides on Slideshare:

The replay is up, you can find it on the Signavio website (registration required). If you registered prior to the webinar, you will have already received an email with a link to the replay.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 2: content services

Fred Sass, Marc Diefenbruch and Michael Cybala presented a breakout session on the content services portfolio. OpenText has two main content services platforms: their original Content Suite and the 2016 acquisition of Documentum, both of which appear to be under active development. They also list Extended ECM as a “content services platform”, although my understanding is that it’s a layer that abstracts and links Content Suite (and to a lesser extent, Documentum) to exist within other business workplaces. I’m definitely not the best source of information on OpenText content services platform architecture.

In many cases, their Content Suite is not accessed via an OpenText UI, but is served up as part of some other digital workplace — e.g., SAP, Salesforce or Microsoft Teams — with deep integration into that environment rather than just a simple link to a piece of content. This is done via their Extended ECM product line, which includes connectors for SAP, Microsoft and other environments. They are starting to build out Extended ECM Documentum to allow the same type of access via other business environments, but to Documentum D2 rather than Content Suite. They are integrating Core Share in the same way with Salesforce, allowing for secure sharing of content with external participants.

They discussed the various cloud options for OpenText content (off cloud, public cloud, managed services on OpenText private cloud, managed services on public cloud, SaaS cloud), as well as some general benefits of containerization. They use Docker containers on Kubernetes, which means that they can deploy on any cloud platform as well as an on-premise environment. They also have a number of content-related services available in the OT2 SaaS microservices environment, including Core Share and Core Capture applications and the underlying capture and content services. Core has been integrated with a number of different SaaS applications (e.g., SAP SuccessFactors) for document capture, storage and generation.

The third topic covered in the session was intelligent automation, including the type of AI-powered intelligent categorization and filing of documents with Magellan. We saw a demo of Core Capture with machine learning, where document classification and field recognition on the first pass of a document type were corrected manually, then the system performed correct recognition on a subsequent similar document. A second demo showed a government use case, where a captured document created a case management scenario on Extended ECM that is essentially a template-based document approval workflow with a few case management features including the ability to dynamically add steps and participants. As we get a bit deeper into the workflow, it’s revealed to be OpenText Process Suite, as part of AppWorks.

Lastly we looked at information governance, with a renewed interest due to privacy concerns and compliance-related legislation. They have a new solution, Core for Federated Compliance, that provides centralized records oversight and policy management over multiple platforms and repositories. It’s currently only linking to their own content repositories, but have some plans to extend this to other content sources such as file shares.

There’s another breakout plus a wrap-up Q&A with the executive leadership team, but this is the end of my coverage of the 2020 OpenText Analyst Summit. If something extraordinary happens in either of those sessions, I’ll tweet about it.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 2: Digital Accelerants

Although technically a product breakout, the session on OpenText’s Digital Accelerants product collection was presented to the entire audience as our last full-audience session before the afternoon breakouts. This was split into three sections: cloud, AI and analytics, and process automation.

Jon Schupp, VP of Cloud GTM, spoke about how information is transforming the world: not just cloud, but a number of other technologies, a changing workforce, growing customer expectations and privacy concerns. Cloud, however, is the destination for innovation. Moving to cloud allows enterprise customers to take advantage of the latest product features, guaranteed availability, global reach and scalability while reducing their operational IT footprint. OpenText provides a number of different deployment platforms: “off-cloud” (aka on-premise), public cloud, private cloud, managed services, and SaaS.

Dave Moyers and Paul O’Hagan were up next to talk about AI and analytics, and how they are addressing data variety, ease of use, embedding AI/ML in processes, and deploying anywhere that it’s required. Their AI and analytics capabilities are provided by the Magellan product, and have been integrated with other OpenText products as well as built into vertical solutions. Magellan has been integrated into the ECM products with AI-augmented capture and the AI-powered “magic folder” auto-categorization and filing; into the Business Network products with asset performance optimization and predictive maintenance; into AppWords by instantiating processes based on insights; and several other integrations. They also have some new standard features for identifying PII (personal identifiable information), which is crucial for compliance and privacy. In addition to the analysis capabilities, there is a wide range of dashboard and visualization options, and full-fledged ETL for connecting to enterprise and third-party data sources and organize data flows. We also saw some examples yesterday of using Magellan for e-discovery and sentiment analysis. Interestingly, this is one of the product portfolios where they’ve taken advantage of integrating with open source tools to extend the core products.

Saving the best for last (okay, maybe that’s just my bias), Lori McKellar and Nick King presented on business process automation. This is not just about back-office automation, but includes customer-facing processing, IoT and other more complex intelligent processes. AppWorks, which includes the process automation capabilities, is an application development environment for use by semi-technical citizen developers (low-code) as well as professional developers (pro-code). We saw the all-new developer experience last year, and now they’ve had a chance to integrate the actual customer usage to fine-tune both the developer and end-user AppWorks experience. One significant change is that as their customers start to build larger apps, they now allow more granular access to the entities under development to allow multiple developers to be working on the same application simultaneously without collisions. They’ve added some new UI capabilities, such as a card view option and an optimized tablet view. Integration with Documentum has been improved for easier document check-in and repository access. Privacy features, including dynamic instance-level permissions and document redaction, are now available in AppWorks. In the upcoming 20.2 version, they’ll be adding an RPA connector framework, then expanding the RPA integrations in 20.3.

The session finished with a Q&A with all of the participants, including discussions on RPA connectors, operationalization of machine learning, hybrid cloud models, the role of unstructured content in AI training, and natural language processing.

This afternoon, I’ll be attending the breakout session on content services, so stay tuned for those final notes from the OpenText Analyst Summit 2020.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 2: sales, finance and operations

We started the second day of the OpenText analyst summit with EVP of sales Ted Harrison outlining their sales value proposition, both through their direct sales force and their partner channel. Customers tend to start with one OpenText product, but often expand to additional product lines to create more of a strategic partnership. OpenText is a prolific user of their own technology, providing a good template for some of their large customers in how their products can be used throughout an organization. With the growth in their cloud platform, they expect cloud to be their largest business in FY21. Harrison finished his presentation with a couple of customer case studies: Pacific Life doing a huge migration to OpenText Cloud, and JPMorgan Chase using AI for automated redaction, and Google using TeamSite for their partner portal.

James McGourlay, EVP of customer operations, covered their support, professional services and customer experience teams. They’ve done more than 40,000 engagements, which has created a depth of knowledge in successful deployment of their products. To fuel the move to the OpenText Cloud, professional services is helping customers with “Cloudification” strategy, migration, integration and adoption. McGourlay spoke about their commitment to data sovereignty, especially for European customers that have strict location regulations for certain data types. They perform customer satisfaction surveys for both professional services and technical support, with the goal to constantly improve their approval rating — currently at 96.4% for their technical support, for example, which he considers “not good enough”.

The last presentation in this session was CFO Madhu Ranganathan with a business and financial update. You can get more of the investor and financial details on their website (or read something written by one of the many blue-suited financial analysts in the audience), and she provided a summary of that publicly-available information: profitable and cash flow-positive, 25+ years of solid performance, and a proven M&A track record which is their dominant growth strategy. They have specific criteria for acquisitions: market leadership, value for OpenText’s customers, mission-critical capabilities, financially compelling, larger customer base, and longer operating history. Ranganathan showed a timeline of successful acquisitions; interestingly, none of the three BPM/workflow buys (Global360 and Metastorm in 2011, Cordys in 2013) were mentioned. It’s probably fair to say that workflow is not a primary product category for OpenText; it’s really just functionality within their AppWorks application development platform, most often used content-centric applications such as document lifecycle and case management. In summary, OpenText is solid financially, and has cash in the bank to leverage more acquisitions as part of their growth strategy.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 1: technology strategy

After the break, OpenText EVP and Chief Product Officer Muhi Majzoub took the stage at the analyst summit to talk about innovation within their products, a strategic projects update and a bit of a roadmap. They have innovation that comes from customer requirements as well as their own drivers, but they also have a lot to do in order to integrate new acquisitions.

He stressed that Documentum and Content Suite are both being maintained, with innovation (e.g., UI, Core Share integration) being applied to both product lines; although this is probably a great relief for customers of either product, I can’t believe that this will go on forever. This is the real challenge for OpenText going forward: how to consolidate some of their overlapping/competing acquisitions without alienating customers, especially in the content space where information is persistent for a long time. Branding everything as “Cloud Edition” doesn’t fix the problem, it just obscures it.

Majzoub spoke about their four strategic projects:

  • Cloud Edition (CE) is their cloud-native platform for running all manner of solutions and applications, which runs on a variety of cloud vendor platforms (OpenText, Google, AWS, Azure, Anthos) and includes containerized deployment models.
  • OT2 is their cloud-native application development platforms, including 231 of their own services and pre-built SaaS applications. This includes their Core services and applications, such as content and workflow services and many others.
  • Business Network, which includes a range of B2B services from fax to EDI, plus a huge directory of global trading partners that can be linked via OpenText’s platform.
  • Carbonite integration, which brings some new capabilities in cybersecurity, as well as SMB/consumer content management.

He finished with five new innovations to watch for from OpenText, including new features in Documentum, IoT connected supply chain, Exstream, Magellan, and Encase.

Craig Stilwell, formerly Chief Revenue Officer at Carbonite and now OpenText’s EVP and GM of the SMB and Consumer division, was on next to highlight some (more) of what Carbonite is bringing to OpenText. This acquisition is obviously energizing a lot of people, since we’ve heard about it in every presentation so far today. Carbonite, through their original product and their acquisition of Webroot last year, covers two of the main concerns of many SMBs: backup/disaster recovery, and endpoint protection. Unlike large organizations that own their own data centers, SMBs (and consumers) were much earlier adopters of cloud storage and computation, and therefore some of the early victims of downtime due to disaster or cyber attack.

We finished the day with SVP of product management Stephen Ludlow and demos by his four VPs of product management, each of which is responsible for a different product category. With their broad range of products, they obviously didn’t cover everything, but each showed an interesting capability with a large potential business impact:

  • Marc Diefenbruch demonstrated the intelligent folder in the content suite, which is AI-powered content classification and filing.
  • Dawn Andre demonstrated the identification and connection with potential trading partners based on multiple qualification criteria in the Trading Grid global partner directory.
  • Guy Hellier demonstrated personalized omnichannel communications with Extream for improving customer satisfaction, using customer data sources and Magellan speech analytics tied together with Core Experience Insights.
  • Michael Cybala demonstrated secure cloud sharing, collaboration and signing of documents using Core Share and Core Signature working with Content Server.

That’s it for our first (half) day at the 2020 OpenText analyst summit. We’ll be back tomorrow for another full day.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 1: corporate strategy and customer spotlight

I’m in Boston for the next two days for OpenText’s annual analyst summit; Patty Nagle, CMO, kicked things off in the first session, then we had a keynote from CEO/CTO Mark Barrenechea. They’re coming up on 30 years in existence, which is definitely a milestone for any technology company, and they’ve grown to 15,000 employees in over 30 countries, in part through their pattern of growth through acquisition. They sell through a large direct salesforce, as well as through their 27,000 partners and directly from their website.

The latest acquisition is Carbonite, which seems a pretty good fit with their cloud/edge content strategy, and Barrenchea discussed where Carbonite fits into their strategy some detail: decentralized computing, small/medium business and consumer audience, and cyber-resilience. OpenText has promoted the term enterprise information management (EIM) in the past, and now are dropping the “E” to be just information management as they enter the smaller end of the market.

They are following the lead of smaller (arguably more nimble) vendors with a move to quarterly product releases for their core content management, and their product versioning will reflect that with a YY.Q version number (e.g., 20.2). Their release 16 will become Cloud Edition 20.2 with the April release, with OT2 and Business Network following the same version numbering. The push to the cloud continues, and if you go to their website now, you’ll see a link to their cloud logins. I’m not sure that having quite so many different logins is a good thing, but I get that there are different audiences for this.

He also covered their business network and cyber resilience offerings, which are a bit peripheral to my interests; then on to their digital accelerants, which is a mixed bag of capabilities including low-code development, AI, IoT, process automation and analytics. They showed a demo of Magellan analytics visualizing World Health Organization data on COVID-19 — a timely example — showing the trends of the disease spread in human healthcare terms, but also the impact on business and markets.

Their key corporate priorities include maintaining market leadership in information management, with expansion to all size of customers; continued move to the cloud; and becoming more of an applications company. I’ve seen a few horizontal technology vendors fail spectacularly on building applications, so it will be interesting to see what they can accomplish there.

We heard briefly about BrightCloud Threat Intelligence, part of the Carbonite acquisition, and saw a demonstration of the Webroot BrightCloud Threat Investigator. Webroot was only acquired by Carbonite less than a year ago, and the branding didn’t even have time to change to Carbonite before becoming part of OpenText. OpenText plans to integrate this into their other offerings to provide better security for content and access to third-party sites and services.

Barrenechea ended with a call to arms to address climate change, ethical supply chains, overuse of plastics and other issues threatening society at large. Not what you usually hear from a technology CEO, but they are pushing a brand of “technology for the good”.

Ted Harrison, EVP of sales, finished the session by hosting a customer panel featuring Peter Chen of Stericycle, Shyam Pitchaimuthu of Chevron, and Gurreet Sidhu of BMO Financial Group. Stericycle and Chevron are both OpenText content management customers, with broad usage across their organizations and deep integration into other systems and processes. BMO is using the OpenText Trading Grid for B2B payment solutions, and appreciate the elastic scalability of the platform as business sectors expand and contract. Stericycle and Chevron both moved to cloud content management as part of their cloud-first strategy, with Chevron doing a conversion from on-premise Documentum to Azure. BMO went with OpenText’s managed services to allow them greater customization and security without running the core infrastructure themselves. Good discussion of how they’re using OpenText products, and the transition to their current state.