BPM Think Tank: On-Demand BPM Vendor Panel

George Barlow of Appian, Jim Rudden of Lombardi, Bino Jos of Intalio and Derek Miers of BPM Focus discussed the intersection of BPM and SaaS. Appian has Appian Anywhere and Lombardi has Blueprint, Derek has opinions about everything, but I’m not sure why a process expert from Intalio (who appears to have little understanding of where they fit from a SaaS standpoint, which is more a matter of being able to use cloud-based servers such as EC2 rather than a multi-tenanted hosted offering, and talked about everything except SaaS) ended up on this panel.

Paul Vincent of TIBCO popped up with a question about whether everyone would soon be doing BPM in the cloud; the panel responded that that’s not really the target, but rather to lower the entry costs for SMBs or departments within larger enterprises, or to provide some of the inter-enterprise collaborative functionality.

There was a discussion about the need for standards in a SaaS offering (I think triggered by Fred Cummins); BPMN is seen as important, although that’s really independent of on-demand versus on-premise.

BPM is perceived as being good in a down market, when companies are trying to cut headcount and become more efficient; SaaS is also good in a down market since there’s little or no capital outlay. In some cases, where the full BPMS is available both on-demand and on-premise (as with Appian), SaaS is the gateway drug to on-premise licensing.

George and Jim are the big contributors here: first of all, they’re both pretty smart guys, they have some major points of disagreement to liven up the conversation, and they’re the only two on the panel who actually have on-demand BPM services.

As always, it’s difficult to blog about a panel since it’s a bit disjointed, plus I had to do a wrapup of my roundtable sessions immediately following and had to comb through my notes with one brain while listening to the panel with the other. Oh, wait, maybe that’s the problem…

BPM Think Tank: Business Benefits of BPM Standards

Derek Miers gave a short session that was supposed to be about the business benefits of BPM standards, but ended up as a bit of a BPM standards bun fight. As I mentioned in my first post this morning, I think that Think Tank needs more about standards, I’m just not sure that a few minutes of unstructured debate — mostly from vendors who are involved in the standards process — really satisfies the need.

BPM Think Tank: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Pat Steinmann of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who I saw speak at the Appian conference last month, was here to retell the story of their IT services requests process.

Go back and read my original post for some of the details, I won’t repeat them here, but it’s important to understand the significant benefits that they’ve seen from this: the lag time for opening IT requests decreased from 3+ days to 2 hours, and employee training decreased from 9 months on their old AS/400-based system to 1 hour. Their focus was to allow employees to focus on performing activities that add value, and not on the administration and management of those activities.

Pat was in my roundtable this morning on achieving collaboration between business and IT in BPM projects, and provided good insight into how they’ve done this. I’ll be summing up the roundtable at the end of the day, since we’re running the same subjects a second time immediately after this.

BPM Think Tank: Jim Sinur Keynote

Jim’s back at Gartner, and one of his first public presentations since his return was here at the opening keynote, talking about the economics of business process and how global competition leverages local benefits. He wrote this material before the past two weeks of financial market Armageddon, but it’s general enough that it works across a wide variety of economic climates: the rise of the East, extreme competition, and the need for greater productivity through working smarter, not harder.

He looked at how BPM delivers productivity at both a macro and micro level. At the macro level:

  • Looking at process helps understand current productivity rates on end-to-end processes
  • Projecting processes under new strategies helps understand where productivity might go
  • Implementing new policies/rules will guide how productivity will improve
  • Processes have to operate within business constraints and governance policies
  • Processes show that productivity-driven approaches are as important as market-based approaches

Processes occur across all boundaries, whether internal to an organization or across the firewall to partners, suppliers and customers.

At the micro level, BPM delivers productivity in a number of ways, as shown in a recent Gartner survey:

  • Improves process quality
  • Improves customer satisfaction
  • Engenders continuous process improvement
  • Reduces costs
  • Improves the customer experience
  • Improves business agility

Further down on the list was “supports moving to SOA”, something that’s stressed by the vendors but not considered so important (yet) to the customer organizations.

He showed that processes occur in multiple contexts, such that one person’s process is another person’s subprocess; this highlights the benefit of having a BPM center of excellence to encourage the development of reusable subprocesses.

There were additional results from that recent survey, such as the market penetration of BPM (38% of large organizations have it or are planning for it, although I take “planning for” numbers with a huge grain of salt), top five results (most BPM adopters experience those from the list above), funding (mostly from the business side), and amount of change (83% have significant change). There’s so much that isn’t said in this summary, however, such as the nature of the processes being implemented, and how the “significant change” is enacted.

Others in this industry will be interested (although maybe not pleased) to hear that Jim used the terms “human interaction management” and “BPM 2.0”, but with his own definitions.

Jim has a very friendly, folksy style, but I found his presentation a bit too meandering and unfocused, as well as light on new content.

As for the conference in general, there’s only 40 people in the room, which is a horrendously low turnout; I’ve heard that there are only 70 registered in total, including all the vendors who are just here to run their booth. That means that the 12 simultaneous roundtables coming up next will have at most 6 people each, and more likely 3-4 each (including the moderator), which may not be sufficient critical mass for a good discussion.

I think that Think Tank needs to return to a more standards-focused agenda, where people who are already involved in BPM can meet to exchange ideas on BPM standards and other deeper issues, rather than trying to put forward a more general, business-focused BPM conference that competes (and not very well at all) with other general BPM conferences such as Gartner, Brainstorm and IIR. I’m as much to blame for this as anyone, since I was on the program planning committee for Think Tank, but I wasn’t as involved in the agenda development as I should have been due to other commitments, and by the time that I noticed the direction it was taking, it was too late to do much other than fine-tuning.

There’s conference wifi in the meeting rooms but it requires a conference code that we don’t have (FAIL) but there’s more open wifi in the public areas of the hotel so I’ll be posting sporadically throughout the day when I get a chance to wander into a hot zone.

The fall schedule

I have my fall schedule mostly sorted out, and here’s my confirmed lineup so far:

  • OMG BPM Think Tank, October 6-7, Chicago. I’m on the program committee, and will be leading a roundtable on achieving collaboration between business and IT in BPM on the first day.
  • PegaWorld, the Pegasystems user conference, October 19-21, Washington DC. I’m just there as an observer and analyst/blogger.
  • Ultimus user conference, October 22-24, San Antonio. I’ll be giving a keynote on the afternoon of the first day. And yes, I know that you can’t get from DC to San Antonio.
  • Business Rules Forum, October 26-30, Orlando. I’ll be giving a presentation on mixing rules and process on the 28th.
  • SAP BPM, November 17-19, Las Vegas. I’m giving a Jumpstart pre-conference session, an introduction to BPM, on the 16th.

Look me up if you’re at any of these events.

Disclosure: with the exception of the OMG event, my travel expenses are paid for by the conference organizers; in the case of the SAP conference, I’m also being paid to deliver this half-day training session.

Upcoming conferences

I’ve been sticking close to home for the summer, but my fall lineup is about to begin. So far, I’m definitely attending the following:

  • Business Objects Influencer Summit and SAP SME Day, August 12-13, Boston. This is an analyst/press event, not a public conference, but I’ll be blogging from there.
  • International Conference on BPM, September 1-4, Milan. I’m very excited to be attending this conference since it represents a lot of the academic research going on in BPM, not just what the vendors and analysts have to show. There are some great workshops lined up, such as BPM and social software; interesting sessions; and demos from some of the universities and research labs. You can find last year’s proceedings here.
  • The Appian user conference, September 8-10, Washington DC. This is the first time that I’ve attended an Appian conference, and I’m looking forward to seeing what all those new marketing dollars are buying.
  • The Gartner BPM summit, September 10-12, Washington DC. I’ve been to enough of these lately that I don’t need to attend the whole summit, but since I’m in DC that week for Appian’s conference, I’m adding one more day for Gartner. I think that it’s pretty clever for Appian to schedule like this: it should drive up attendance at their conference, since Appian customers/partners flying in for Gartner will figure that it’s only a couple of extra days to do both.
  • OMG BPM Think Tank, October 6-7, Chicago. I’m on the program committee, and will be leading a roundtable on achieving collaboration between business and IT in BPM on the first day.
  • Business Rules Forum, October 26-30, Orlando. I’ll be giving a presentation on mixing rules and process.
  • SAP BPM, November 17-19, Las Vegas. I’m giving a Jumpstart pre-conference session, an introduction to BPM, on the 16th.

Given that I fly everywhere on Star Alliance, this will bump me over the 35,000 miles for the year that gives me Aeroplan Elite status for 2009, without which I really don’t want to fly.

From a disclosure standpoint, my expenses are being paid for the Appian conference, the Business Rules Forum, and two SAP events; for the latter SAP event, I’m also being paid to deliver the half-day training session.

BPM Think Tank wiki

The wiki for the recent BPM Think Tank has been opened up for public viewing, and Derek Miers has pre-loaded it with links to some of the related documents as well as links to my coverage of the sessions.

If you attended, you should have received an editing password for the wiki, which allows you to add your own notes on any of the pages — please do, since it enriches the experience for all readers.

BPM Think Tank Day 3: Roundtable wrapup

Last BPM Think Tank post, I’ll summarize the notes on the roundtables that I didn’t attend, based on the 3-5 minute summary that each facilitator presented.

Rules and Process (Paul Vincent):

  • Defined types of rules
  • Handling business decisions within processes
  • How to separate and model rules from process at design time

BPM and Microsoft Technologies (Burley Kawasaki):

  • My commentary on the notes from this session: seemed to be an ad for Microsoft technologies rather than much to do with BPM. Not sure why the Think Tank agreed to hold such a vendor-specific roundtable.

ERP and BPM (Dave Frankel):

  • Goal to break down silos in ERP to enable BPM
  • Orchestration of reusable services is not sufficient for processes; need event-driven layered process delegation
  • Need a common data exchange model for ERP system, and an accepted scope for that common model

Goals of BPM Standards (Bruce Silver):

  • Standards reduce risk but never seem to quite get there in terms of portability of process models and interoperability
  • What’s required for portability? The following were suggested, although not everyone agrees on the last two:
    • Identical business meaning
    • Identical graphical view
    • Identical at execution point
  • How standards gets created: a small group of people who are passionate about it and have employers who pay their salary (and usually expenses) to get involved


  • Types of metrics: time, quality, cost, value
  • Measures tend to be lagging but would be more effective if they were leading/real-time

BPM in the Federal Government (George Thomas):

  • [I assume that this means the US Federal Government…]
  • Much of the BPM work is to operationalize activity-based costing, and requires integrated BI
  • Horizontal interoperability required across government departments
  • Need to institutionalize knowledge before the boomers retire
  • Problems with immaturity of current tools and standards
  • BPM is today’s version of a monolithic application, and needs to decouple model from execution
  • Struggles with ongoing legacy modernization

Competencies/Skills for BPM:

  • Mapping target population (business, IT, process experts that span business-IT) to organizational results; use this to create training program
  • Top management needs to believe in a process-centric organization: must understand how jobs are accomplished, how IT Is used to achieve goals, and enough knowledge to understand IT decisions
  • Line management must become metric-driven and knowledgeable about the processes in which they participate, and collaborate across functional silos
  • Performers must be expert at process execution and be workflow-savvy

BPM and Business Frameworks:

  • Like some other groups, spent half of their time defining BPM
  • Lots of noise in the industry about BPM and frameworks
  • Need to understand how to engage the business

BPM Think Tank Day 3: Enterprise 2.0/BPM Mashups Roundtable

I facilitated one of the last roundtables of on the conference, about Enterprise 2.0 and BPM mashups.

Mashups (considered a part of Enterprise 2.0) are lightweight integration of web-based services and data, often in ways that the service providers never intended them to be used; personally, I think that as mashup techniques get easier, mashups will become the technology of choice for what’s referred to as “end-user computing”, that is, all the stuff that is created within business units (typically now using Excel or Access) because it’s either too small for IT to take on as a project or they can’t turn it around in a timely manner. I see software-as-a-service BPM and other services as having an impact on the ability to do mashups, since these platforms are often designed with a bit more openness in mind.

I’ve looked a lot in the past at Enterprise 2.0 and BPM, and the features that are (or should be) creeping into BPM under the influence of Enterprise 2.0: RSS, tagging, SaaS, mashups, collaboration, and all sorts of user-created content in general. There’s a lot of challenges around this, many of the cultural, since Enterprise 2.0 decentralizes control of IT assets and requires a certain level of user participation.

We spent most of the session talking about BPM mashups, not Enterprise 2.0 in general. At one level, a BPMS can be considered to be a mashup platform, given the right business services available for assembly.

BPM mashups can take several forms:

  • Lightweight assemblies of subprocesses and services
  • User-facing information at a step in the process, e.g., Google maps mashed up with BPM data and presented to a user in a form in order to complete a task
  • BPM as a component within a portal, possibly assembled by a user

Issues around mashup adoption include IT not trusting something that is user-created, and business analysts not understanding the concept of mashups as well as not yet having easy enough tools to do mashups. There are also issues around discoverability of services (as I discussed the previous week in a Mashup Camp session) and the use of internal versus external services, where both types require some sort of SLA to be included in any sort of production mashup.

By lowering the barrier to entry, mashups can play an important role as application prototypes, or emergent applications that IT wouldn’t have thought to build for the business; IT can learn from what the business creates for itself in order to create more structured applications and processes.This is similar to the concept of how a folksonomy is used to gradually become a taxonomy: allow the users to do it themselves, then observe and detect the patterns. My favourite phrase that someone used at this point was to “intelligently stumble upon the future” and the whole idea of unintended consequences of mashups, although there was some discussion as to whether is was closer to serendipity or Frankenstein. Along this line, we talked about how to keep bad things from happening in mashups, and agreed that the services and data to be mashed up had to be controlled in some way (by IT) so that, for example, someone couldn’t do an unindexed full text search on a multi-million record database.

Without a doubt, mashups enable agility in application development, and BPM stands to benefit from enabling all types of BPM mashups.

There was some discussion around whether business users/analysts were asking for this, and whether they really wanted a full mashup capability, or just some parameterized configuration. I think that they don’t even know what’s possible through mashups, and if they did, they’d want it.