bpmNEXT – WebRatio, TidalWave

Full bpmNEXT program here. The format is 30 minutes per speaker: 20 minutes of demo, 10 minutes of Q&A.

Day 1, fourth session: More social!

Model-Driven Generation of Social BPM Applications, Emanuele Molteni, WebRatio

WebRatio, in conjunction with the Politecnico Milano, have developed WebML, a modeling language for defining applications. There are a number of core components for BPM, content, SOA and more, plus optional components available from the WebRatio store including a package of social components. This allowed process such as reading, analyzing and posting Facebook and Twitter updates as part of a process or application page. This is beyond simple posting: there are actions for finding all users tweeting on a specific hashtag, for example, and for interrogating attributes such as number of likes on Facebook comments. They’ve also created a voting application for the conference sessions that we will be able to all try out tomorrow.

Social Process in the Cloud with Facebook, Stuart Browning, TidalWave Interactive

TidalWave has a Facebook application builder for launching processes in their cloud-based BPM. TidalWave for Facebook creates the processes behind the scenes, so that the designer of the Facebook app doesn’t need to understand process modeling. Starting with a template, such as a customer service request form, the designer selects layout and color scheme, then allows customization by adding/editing fields on the form, adding images and other branding. The new application is deployed to a Facebook page, where it appears as a link to the application page where the end user can fill out the form and submit it. Behind the scenes, a TidalWave process is running, populated with the data filled in by the user as well as their Facebook-provided information such as name and email address. In the case of the new customer service application demonstrated, submitting the form sent an email to both the submitter and the Facebook page owner, and also kicked off a TidalWave process. On the TidalWave portal, someone who is not necessarily on Facebook can resolve the case or reassign it to someone else, completing the activities in the process model. The process model associated with each of the Facebook application templates needs to be created in their regular BPM environment, but the application templates provide a way for a non-BPM (and non-technical) user to create and deploy Facebook applications that trigger processes.

That’s it for day 1 of bpmNEXT. Big kudos to Bruce and Nathaniel for putting together a great program, and to all the presenters for participating. A great environment of sharing ideas and talking about innovation in BPM, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

bpmNEXT – BP3, OpenText, BonitaSoft

Full bpmNEXT program here. The format is 30 minutes per speaker: 20 minutes of demo, 10 minutes of Q&A.

Day 1, third session. Repeat after me: Mobile. Social. Mobile. Social.

BPM for Mobile, Mobile for BPM, Scott Francis, BP3 Global, Inc.

Problems with existing mobile BPM: an unprioritized activity stream as an interface for business processes is no better than email: everything is mixed together in a single view, with no process context; using desktop HTML instead of native apps ignores device constraints and capabilities. Rethinking that requires a more responsive UI to adjust to size/orientation/touch aspects of mobile screens, hybrid apps to leverage native capabilities while sharing some code with the desktop, and REST APIs to provide process-specific context. Demo shows their add-ons to IBM BPM, allowing new UI components to be added to UIs created within the IBM BPM design environment that better support mobile devices through automatic form factor (size/orientation) adjustment, gestures (e.g., iPhone swipe), and use of device capabilities (e.g., camera). Although the trend is towards native HTML5 and responsive UIs, hybrid and native apps are bridging the gap in the interim; having a common IDE for all development means that there don’t have to be separate desktop/mobile development teams that use different tools. They also advocate specific apps for major process-related functions rather than a common task list, reducing the number of clicks required to complete a task.

Social and Mobile Computing for BPM and Case Management, Rhonda Gray, OpenText

A new project at OpenText, called Touch, is looking at capturing and engaging new BPM participants, including mobile field personnel and customers. Their social BPM includes both socially-enabled software (collaborating within a complex case management environment) and social applications (activity stream task interface). Their cloud-based Touch server will provide an interface point for mobile and desktop devices to their source systems (P360, MBPM, C360, pV, mV), although desktop applications can also access the source systems directly. The iPad app demo showed the activity stream interface, controlling it through subscriptions to specific people and topics, microblogging and collaboration on cases. A user can request that another user follow a specific topic; topics can be pinned to the menu or added to the activity stream. The app uses device features including camera and GPS. The same social activity stream can be embedded in a desktop web application, e.g., alongside standard case management functions, allowing it to be a common source of social activity across all platforms.

Connecting BPM to Social Feeds Improves User Adoption, Mac McConnell, BonitaSoft

BPM exists in different social contexts, including both internal collaboration and responding to social media mentions and complaints. For internal collaboration, the demo showed notifications of pending process tasks exposed in Chatter: essentially, Chatter is acting as an inbox for process tasks, if the users are already using that as their most common access point. Task completion still required going to the Bonita screens, hence Chatter (or Yammer) is just used as a notification inbox. For external social media monitoring, tweets to a specific account were monitored, allowing the user to either respond directly and mark the situation as resolved, or kick off a process to route the tweet to someone who can deal with the situation. By integrating social listening directly into the Bonita application, instantiating processes is a single-click operation rather than having to transfer information from a social monitoring tool to a BPM environment. First live demo by a non-technical marketing guy, bravo!

bpmNEXT – IBM, IMSC, camunda

Full bpmNEXT program here. The format is 30 minutes per speaker: 20 minutes of demo, 10 minutes of Q&A.

Day 1, second session

Data-Centric BPM, John Reynolds, IBM – process improv

Define attributes and rules of data elements, and create a data lifecycle model; similar to document lifecycles from products such as FileNet, but at a finer scale. When data changes, trigger the rules and lifecycle accordingly, which may create human tasks. A managed data interface (MDI) creates an integrating layer between business apps (including BPM) and the underlying connections to systems of records, which allows the full information context to be presented in the business application to support the knowledge work. Knowledge workers do unscripted work to complete tasks, within that information context, with the rules enforced; if they cause data to change, then other tasks (and users) may be notified based on trigger rules defined for those data elements. Adding data as a first class citizen in processes makes is easier to deal with unscripted work. First non-live demo of the day.

Extreme BPMN: Semantic Web Leveraging BPMN XML Serialization, Lloyd Dugan and Mohamed Keshk, IMSC US – searching for meaning in processes

BPMN modeling tool with RDF triple store, SPARQL query engine using Jena API, and BPMN-to-OWL generator for an ontological representation; based on ongoing research and being applied at US DoD and Veterans Affairs. Required the BPMN 2.0 specification for the full metamodel and serialization, but offers advantages over the XML form of a BPMN model with the addition of semantic concepts. Showed an interesting example of using a BPMN model as an architecture model for a system: collapse all pools except the system pool, the linkages in/out of the pool represent user interfaces, and the functions internally are the system specification. By translating the BPMN XML to OWL, it’s possible to do different types of queries on processes, such as identifying all services used in the model, or style conformance. The demo (a bit old skool, a text application in a command line window, and also not live) showed sample queries for finding all tasks assigned to a certain role, finding the task preceding a named task, and finding all diverging gateways. Can also be used to link process instance data with the original model to allow business process monitoring in a standards-based fashion, that is, without vendor lock-in to the specific log format and monitoring tool.

Model-BPMS Roundtripping, Jakob Freund, camunda services GmbH – a meeting of the models

Zero-code approaches to model-driven development (i.e., having a business user create their own executable process models, which can then be technically augmented by a developer) are too complicated, too restrictive, and have some proprietary aspects, making them problematic for both the business and IT participants. camunda BPM does not attempt to be a zero-coding environment, but is an embeddable framework intended to be used as part of application development. It uses BPMN 2.0 natively, which is exposed to the developer in their Eclipse environment, but the business user can use any compliant BPMN modeling tool. Traditionally, the problem with this is that if the developer changes the model (augmenting it for execution), the business user doesn’t see those changes in their model; camunda Cycle connects the business user’s BPMN modeler with the camunda Modeler for roundtripping. In Cycle, create a roundtrip and add a connection to the business BPMN model — demonstrated with the Signavio cloud modeler — to a specific model in the camunda Modeler; this does the forward-tripping to create the developer’s model in camunda from the Signavio model. The developer can now open and edit this in the Eclipse modeler, typically to edit technical attributes on activities and add service tasks. Cycle now shows that the models are out of sync since the model was changed by the developer in camunda; the model can be synchronized back to Signavio, including a commit message, which creates a new revision of the model in the Signavio repository. The business person can see the changed model (and the diff with the previous revision, since that functionality is provided by Signavio), and make further revisions. Cycle shows the last sync, as well as a thumbnail view of the process on either side.

Breaking for lunch and brain reboot. Have already seen more cool stuff in a half day than normally seen in an entire conference.

bpmNEXT: Fluxicon, PeopleServ, Signavio, itp commerce

Full bpmNEXT program here. The format is 30 minutes per speaker: 20 minutes of demo, 10 minutes of Q&A.

Day 1, first session: it’s Model Morning!

Process Mining: Discovering Process Maps from Data, Anne Rozinat and Christian Gunther, Fluxicon – uncovering the secrets within your processes

Process mining, beginning with an analogy of analyzing wind and currents to optimize sailing routes. The process reality is always more complex than the ideal model. The model is helpful for understanding the overall flow, but you need to see what’s actually happening if you want to understand – and optimize – it in more detail. Demo of their Disco product, starting with a log file in a spreadsheet that includes a case ID, start and end timestamp, activity name, resource and role for each activity in a process (resource and role are not required, but can help with the analysis). Imported this into Disco, identify the fields, and Disco reconstructs the process as it was actually executed. The colors, thickness of arcs and numbers indicate the frequency of each path – great for identifying exceptions and non-compliance. Interactive filters can remove less frequent paths to show the main flow. Statistics views show aggregate information for the data set, such as case (process instance) duration and mean wait time. Filters can be added, e.g. to identify the cases with the longest duration, then switch back to the process diagram view to see the flow for that filtered set of cases to identify the bottlenecks and loopbacks. Performance view of process diagram shows the time for each path. Animation view feeds the actual log data through the process diagram to help with visualization of bottlenecks. Clicking on a path creates a filter for only those cases that follow that path — the example shown is to find the small number of cases that bypassed a mandatory compliance step — then view the actual log data to identify the cases and resources involved. Can also generate a performance view of the log data rather than a process view, that shows the path between roles, indicating handoffs in the process and allowing for identification of resource bottlenecks. They’re working with a simulation vendor to link the models that they generate with simulation capabilities, which would allow for what-if scenarios. A number of questions about the log file: obviously, if the data’s not there, you can’t analyze it, and you might have to massage the log file prior to importing to Disco.

Managing Process Roles and Relationships, Roy Altman, PeopleServ – putting people into context

People in today’s organizations may assume multiple roles and have complex relationships with others, with can make it difficult to manage an organizational view of the company as well as people’s responsibilities within processes. Most organizations have some sort of matrix structure when it comes to projects, for example, so that a person’s manager on a project is not the same as their reporting manager. Issues such as delegation can make things more complex. PeopleServ’s Connexxions uses a rules-based approach to determine the correct role for each resource in the context of each process; it creates a functional integration between people and a technical integration between systems. Within the tool, create a context, then add a person and department and create the relationship between them (e.g., manages). Add another person and create relationship between then, (e.g., peer). Add rules, which may include links to data from other systems such as HR systems (e.g., all of the people actively working in that department), LDAP and other sources of organizational information. Contexts can be nested, so one context can be added as a node in another context. The context can be traversed starting at a node (e.g., find a person’s manager in that context, or find all people reporting to a person): this is where a lot of the power comes in, since allows identification of someone’s role and relationships in each individual context, e.g., projects, teams and departments. These contexts/traversals can be accessed/consumed from applications in order to control access and establish contextual reporting structure. People throughout the organization could create and edit contexts as appropriate: HR may manage the overall organization chart, departmental and project managers may manage roles within their teams, and anyone may manage roles for more casual groups such as social teams.

Lowering the Barriers to BPMN, Gero Decker, Signavio – BPMN made easy, and cool

Signavio is used not just for BPMN process modeling for IT projects such as ERP, CRM and BPMS implementations; in fact, that’s only 30% of their business. 40% of customers use it purely for process analysis and improvement, and the remaining 30% used it as part of their certification, risk or compliance efforts. They focus on providing capabilities for both easy creation of an initial graphical process model, then more complex tools for validation, understanding and refinement of the model, in order to lower the barriers to good process modeling. For people less familiar with graphical modeling, they can use Quick Model to enter the activities in a spreadsheet-style format, and see the diagram generated as each activity is entered or edited. The columns in the activity entry table are What, Who, How, IT Systems, Input documents, and Output documents; only the What is required (which becomes the activity name), specifying the How causes swimlanes to appear. At any point, you can switch to the full graphical editor, which allows addition of gateways and other elements, and also supports voice input. The shape palette can be filtered by the BPMN 2.0 specification, e.g., core elements only, and there is a tool to validate against Bruce Silver’s BPMN Method and Style conventions, which displays the improper usages and suggests fixes. They can also apply best practices and other style guides, such as DODAF, and can show a list of the rules and which are violated by the model. The tool can maintain and compare different versions of a model, much like a code diff either for subsequent revisions on the same model, or variants that are branched off. Models can be exported in BPMN XML and other formats, and their tool is integrated and/or OEMed into several BPM automation tools as the front-end modeler. They have an experimental feature — not yet, or possibly ever, part of the core product — using a device that detects hand movements and gestures (or, as we saw accidentally, head movements) to edit the process models; although this would not work for fine-grained modeling, it would be cool when presenting and doing some minor edits on a model in front of a larger group. They’re also working on vocabulary analysis for refactoring/correcting element labels, which would ensure that standardized language is used within the models.

Automated Assessment of BPMN 2.0 Model Quality, Stephan Fischli and Antonio Palumbo, itp commerce – a quality engineer’s dream

itp commerce is a long-standing process modeling and analysis product that uses Microsoft Visio with their add-on as the front end graphical environment, which provides a transition for existing Visio users to create BPMN 2.0 standard process models. Bruce Silver uses this in his training (he also now uses Signavio, not sure if he’ll be maintaining both), since they were the first to provide validation of models against his style guide. They also provide a number of process model quality metrics — validation, conformance, complexity, consistency and vagueness — some of which are difficult or fuzzy or both. Looking at the model quality pop-up (from their Visio add-on), it shows overall model quality with a long list of checks to turn on/off, and preset filters for process analysis, process execution, diagram interchange, and process simulation to show the quality for those intended activities for the model. Models can also be assessed for maturity level, which is an indicator of an organization’s overall process maturity; obviously, models are only one aspect of organizational maturity, but looking at a maturity model such as OMG’s BPMM can yield requirements for process models at each maturity level, e.g., KPIs would be required in models at process maturity level 4. In their Repository Explorer tool, you can run a quality report on a process chain (a set of related processes), which generates a full spreadsheet of all of the individual metrics for each process, plus aggregate statistics on quality, conformance, maturity and much more.

Awesome first session at bpmNEXT. It’s only the mid-morning break on the first day, lots more to come.

bpmNEXT Opens With Paul Harmon Keynote

There’s a select group of about 80 BPM industry experts gathered together this week at the Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove, CA, attending a new conference organized by Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer: bpmNEXT, billed as “defining the next generation of process innovation”. The first afternoon was mostly just for getting here and getting settled, but before we got down to the serious business of enjoying some local wines, we had a welcome from Bruce and a keynote from Paul Harmon of BPTrends. This conference is mostly about BPM technology innovation, and Paul — who focuses more on the practitioner side — spoke about how that innovation is impacting business process practices.

Business process management is the broader category that includes business management, process improvement methodologies, and technology such as BPMS. Although a recent BPTrends survey found that 16% of companies think that BPM is synonymous with BPMS, it’s really the much bigger picture of how companies use process to improve their business. A number of different practices and technologies are needed to make this happen: Lean (to cut out waste steps), human performance management (to determine if the people in the process are doing a quality/efficient job, decision management (to decide what steps need to be done, and when), BPMS (for process automation), Six Sigma (to measure deviation from the quality metrics) and more. He walked us through the CMMI-style business process maturity model from level 1, with no organized processes to level 5, where processes are continuously being improved. He pointed out (quite rightly) that most BPM technology vendors are selling the ability to implement level 5, yet most organizations are at level 1 or 2, and struggling to improve their process maturity.

There’s been a lot of BPM evolution in the past 10 years: the problems have become more interesting, with the technology chasing (or driving) these problems, and new platforms being added all along. Most (western) businesses today are in the service industry, so the problems that process managers and practitioners face are no longer standardized processes: it’s a much more complex and dynamic environment, with a collaboration within and across companies, and social media impacting and driving processes.

Paul sees the biggest issue for practitioners is the chasm between levels 2 and 3 in process maturity, since that jump from tactical to strategic requires an enterprise commitment to process, not just departmental process improvement efforts. If you can’t get the senior company management sold on the value of BPM to the enterprise, and to make a long-term investment in it, then you’re never going to cross that chasm. For vendors, the challenges are the wide range of technologies that are now considered part of (or need to be tightly integrated with) BPMS, and the platforms that need to be supported. If you consider a company that grows through acquisitions, such as IBM or TIBCO, there’s an additional challenge of how to integrate and refactor these disparate products into a unified experience.

The good news: the BPTrends 2011 survey showed the first uptick in corporate interest in BPMS, and Paul estimates that the market is growing by 15% per year. It’s not the hockey stick projections that the vendors like to show, but it’s not bad. Has BPMS crossed Moore’s chasm of adoption? Not in his opinion, and in part that’s due to the complexity of the market and the technology offerings.

There was a really great Q&A/discussion at the end, as you might expect in a room full of people who are deeply involved in BPM, and where everyone in the room is probably at no more than two degrees of separation from anyone else in the room. A good indication of what the atmosphere is going to be like for the next two days.

I’m blogging here using a Google Nexus 7 tablet, a Logitech bluetooth keyboard and the WordPress Android app, so if the formatting is a bit wonky, I’ll fix it up later. I’m testing this out as a travel platform, since I bring the Nexus along anyway as my ebook reader and general entertainment device; just having to bring along a keyboard instead of the whole netbook makes the load a bit lighter. Definitely not quite as fast for creating posts, especially for adding links, but overall seems to be working out fine.

What’s Next For BPM? bpmNEXT!

Sometime last year, I ran into Bruce Silver at a conference, and he told me about a new conference that he was planning together with Nathaniel Palmer, called bpmNEXT. As Bruce described it then, and as it says on the recently launched website, “Part TED, part DEMO, part Think Tank, bpmNEXT is not your usual BPM conference”. The concept is to see and discuss BPM innovation, not the same old stuff that we see at so many BPM vendor and analyst conferences every year, and to do it through demonstrations of new technology and ideas as well as presentations. I remember chatting with him at the time about how we needed to have something like the BPM Think Tanks back in the day when they were really about vendors, analysts and hard-core practitioners getting together to hash through ideas about how the industry needed to evolve. Then 2008 came, Think Tank tried to become a business-focused BPM conference with lots of case studies from customers, and it died a quick death – you can look back through my posts on three years of BPM Think Tank to see how it evolved.

We need a place where people involved in creating the next generation of BPM software can get together and collaborate, even if they’re competitors outside the conference. bpmNEXT has the potential to become that place.

bpmNEXT is now ready to go for March 19-21 at the Asilomar resort in Pacific Grove (Monterey), a 2-hour drive south San Francisco. The speaker list is impressive: these are all vendors, but the topics are focused on emerging capabilities. Process mining, analytics, simulation, internet of things, mobile, cloud, ACM and more; Bruce has a summary of the program in his latest blog post. Lots of people who I know, and many who I know virtually and look forward to meeting face-to-face.

You’ve already missed the extreme early bird pricing that they had last fall, but there is still a chance to sign up at a discount until February 19th – note that the price includes two nights lodging and meals. You can download a brochure here; I’m listed as a media sponsor, which means that I will be blogging from bpmNEXT, but I am only being comped the conference portion of the fee, not any travel and living expenses, and I’m definitely not being paid for my time.

I hope to see you there. If you’re in the Bay area and want to connect with me that week outside the conference days, let me know early enough that I can make extended travel arrangements.