Gartner Day 1: Lombardi customer session

Metastorm and Lombardi both did something that I really dislike: instead of running two 30-minute sessions after lunch, as the schedule would indicate, they ran a 1-hour session that spanned the two 30-minute spots. Since I had planned to see one session of each, I ended up feeling a bit unfulfilled by both.

Anyway, I attended the second half of the Lombardi session, Process-Driven: We’ve Only Just Begun, and heard Tim Barnes of Devon Canada (an oil & gas company) speak about how they were trying to improve communication between data, applications, processes, people and companies. For them, this is all about integration, and in fact started with an EAI team. They’ve brought in Lombardi TeamWorks, but are still figuring out how to tie that back to their ESB and their previous integration efforts. They’ve defined their best practices, but are still at the point of developing shared services.

They’ve done three smallish BPM projects so far, and he spoke about the HR onboarding process that they automated, with some degree of difficulty. One of the big problems was that the people on the project knew how to implement applications, but didn’t really get process, which required a complete team refresh — Janelle Hill spoke about exactly this issue this morning of having people on the team who are process-savvy.

Their next steps are to develop their BPM architecture and develop a formal life cycle around BPM initiatives, as well as enhance their existing BPM centre of excellence.

He was followed by Steve Schade of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons) discussing how they’ve applied BPM technology to their extensive geneaology project. They have a ton of family history records on microfiche, but if they were to image all of it (as they have done with some of it), there would be 19 PB (that’s 19,000 TB) of data, so they’re looking for alternatives in the process of putting this data online and searchable on their website. They had been doing some ad hoc scanning and indexing of records, but needed a scalable process where they could pinpoint inefficiences and get some control and visibility over the process.

In their first BPM implementation, they took a process that formerly took weeks to execute, and reduced the time to hours, while moving control of the project setup from IT to the business area. Through an obviously good selection of an initial project, plus good training and rollout plans, they had a big success on their hands. On their second project, they took on something that’s more complex, and which Schade thought might be a bit more than they could handle, but they’re still working away at it. They used Lombardi’s professional services and outside consultants on the first project to get them moving, and consider this essential to their success. They also see having business operations invovled in process modelling as key.

Gartner Day 1: Metastorm customer session

After lunch, we had two short vendor sessions: in some cases, the vendor themselves presented; in others, the vendor’s customer presented. For the first session, I went to see Metastorm’s customer Great Clips talk about The Power of SOA & BPM for Human and System-Based Process Optimization. Jim Waldo and Kathy Wetzel of Great Clips talked about how they analyzed their processes, particularly the process of opening a new (franchised) salon. Their process is very human-intensive, and there were a lot of gaps in the old process.

By applying BPM tools and techniques, they were able to eliminate 20% of the work steps and simplify another 70% of the steps, automate at least 8 handoffs and eliminate status checks. In total, they were able to shave 2 weeks of lag time out of the 16-week salon opening process, which has allowed them to grow the business without increasing the headcount — for five years now. There’s greater visibility into the processes, which provides for better management.

They phased in BPM over 3 years, and have seen an unexpected agility in introducing changes to processes, and find that they spend a lot less time worrying about the paperwork and the processes, and more time concentrating on the things that matter, like increasing their business and promoting their brand.

Gartner Day 1: Janelle Hill

More tough decisions on which session to attend, but I’m here in Janelle Hill’s BPM: A Change From Business As Usual.

Hill talks about four sea changes that are currently impacting organizations:

  • Globalization requires agility
  • Information transparency accelerates product and service commoditization, which requires innovation if you’re going to survive
  • Rising importance of the consumer, since we all as consumers have more and more choice on where we give our business
  • Information overload, mostly due to a flood of information being available over the internet but out of any appropriate context

So what’s really new in BPM, both as a management discipline and a technology? First of all, process orientation isn’t a replacement for everything that’s currently in place, like BPR was touted to be, but complements a functional orientation. Second, we’re moving beyond just process improvement to process visibility in order to become more effective. Third, we need to bring back some of those transformational ideas that we flung out when abandoning radical BPR (although not the techniques), and look beyond just incremental improvement to an iterative implementation of transformative change. Lastly, you have to have process agility, because the market is changing and you need to respond to it.

What else is changing is the way that we create these applications: we’ve moved from building it all ourselves to customizing packaged applications, and are starting to move to composing applications using agile methods rather than coding. And although BPM suites aren’t exactly new news, they are starting to be used more widely in order to more readily model, automate and monitor processes.

Hill discusses why explicit processes are the new imperative — processes that are visible to all stakeholders, and are independent of their implementation — in order to drive visibility, agility, synchronization of design and execution and all those other good things that we need from processes these days. BPMS’, by allowing the process model to directly drive the execution, help to drive the implementation of explicit processes. Evaluating BPM suites is done quite differently from evaluating other software products: there’s a blurring of the design and runtime, meaning that a range of composition skills from non-technical business to deeply technical must be supported. Also, external web services and other components are used extensively, so there needs to be different sorts of tools available for more than just orchestration of these components. Since many BPMS are shipped with templates and prebuilt components, there’s also a matter of selecting a suite that has templates that cater to your industry, or making a conscious decision that these templates are not relevant to you since you’re going to build your own processes from scratch anyway. She showed a great chart that mapped 11 business process characteristics (with examples) to architectural implications for BPMS selection, and discussed 7 different process use cases.

She then discussed some details of the roles involved in BPM projects, and the skills required; the business-IT-shared responsibilities is identical to what Gartner’s been saying for a year now, and hopefully we’ll soon start to see some of those short-term shared responsibilities start to shift either to business or IT. The process architect and process analyst are roles that are pretty much new territory, and existing architects and analysts needs to gain some skills before they take this on. I had a call from one of my customer the other day, a large financial services organization, that plans to just have a business analyst with no process experience take on what is essentially a process analyst role; I don’t predict a lot of success in this scenario, and I don’t expect that Hill would either.

Expect a new BPMS magic quadrant from Gartner in September, with some minor shifting of the existing players. Since last time around, Fuego has been acquired by BEA and FileNet has been acquired IBM, and some of the other major and minor vendors may start to make an appearance in the quadrant.

So far, I’ve been successful at blogging the sessions live. I’m off to lunch now and to have some meetings at the vendor booths, so I’m sure to fall behind with some of my notes from this point on.

Contacting me at Gartner

I know that a few people are trying to reach me here at Gartner to set up meetings. My cell phone is turned off whenever I’m in sessions, and returning voice mails is pretty low priority for me, so the best way to reach me is by email since I am online blogging all the time and all my email is routed to my Blackberry as well.

Gartner Day 1: Benoit Lheureux

I decided on Benoit Lheureux’ session on BPM’s role in multi-enterprise commerce, although we’re had some technical difficulties and started late. This is much more about B2B and middleware than BPM, so it should be interesting to hear the perspective from the B2B viewpoint. If this turns out to be a dog, I’ll be out of here for Process Modelling for Profit, but the slides look interesting and I’m very interested in inter-organization collaboration and process choreography. He just used the word “mashup”, so I think that I’m staying, although the slightly smarmy “my friends” method of address did put me off a bit.

By now, the Gartner presentation framework is clear: each has exactly 20 slides; each has a Key Issues (agenda) slide with exactly 3 points (although Lheureux cheated by inserting a few extra slides that weren’t in the downloaded version of the presentation). People with 120-slide presentations, take note of how the professionals do it.

Lheureux describes his research as looking at multi-enterprise integration, or how to bind your business processes with the business processes of your trading partners. He opens with the question of how tightly you should be binding your applications and business processes with those of your business partners.

He makes the bold statement “EDI software is dead”, having been replaced by B2B gateway software that is more process-aware, and sees B2B projects as proliferating — doubling in the next five years — since there is a widespread recognition that organizations realize that their business processes are not just internal any more, and B2B needs to be a strategy rather than a discrete project. It used to be that you had your applications running internally, with some degree (if you’re lucky) of internal visibility, but no external integration or visibility: you’d need some sort of manual process for providing both integration and visibility to external business partners. Now, however, you can’t be competitive working that way any more. Furthermore, some of the functions done within organizations are being outsourced, further driving B2B requirements.

Gartner predicts that by 2011, 25% of new business software will be delivered as SaaS. Not 25% of what you’re running in total, but 25% of the new stuff; still, that’s huge. And I drink that particular Kool-Aid: I believe that this shift is happening now, and will continue to grow. SaaS is one form of B2B, in that you’re integrating in some way with the SaaS provider, but this also provides the potential to integrate with other trading partners via the SaaS platform itself. In addition to the SaaS model of multi-enterprise integration, there’s also the more traditional EDI-style e-commerce, plus integration via portals or mashups.

Lheureux discusses three approaches for implementing these B2B projects: run your own B2B gateway, outsource the B2B infrastructure (previously “EDI VAN”), or outsource the entire B2B project (previously “managed EDI”). He then dug into the issues of the choreography and monitoring of multi-enterprise BPM.

Gartner also predicts that by 2011, at least 40% of all new multi-enterprise integration projects will use BPMS. I can agree with this one too; besides, I figure if it doesn’t look like it’s going to come true, Gartner will just change the definition of BPM again. 🙂

He then discussed the four multi-enterprise BPM styles:

  1. Blind document/transaction exchange, e.g., exchange purchase orders, to lower transaction cost, latency and errors by increasing automation. No shared process visibility or execution, and the process is difficult to change.
  2. Intelligent document/transaction exchange, e.g., shared view of order-to-cash process, to provide some process visibility.
  3. Multi-enterprise applications, e.g., shared execution of vendor-managed inventory, to centralize process control. This maximizes process visibility since both trading partners are participating in the same process (not just exposing a limited view of an internal process from one to another), but this is a big thing to do and requires a great deal of trust between the trading partners.
  4. Multi-enterprise BPMS and rules, e.g., shared compliance management, in order to centralize the process and rules definition. This increases flexibility considerably, but again requires a great deal of trust and collaboration between the trading partners in order to make this work.

Organizations are going to have to implement more than one of these styles of multi-enterprise integration over the next few years as this field evolves. And if you’re already using B2B, B2B-enabled middleware or BPM, portals, SaaS or a variety of other technologies, then you already have some of the infrastructure in place to get started at this. The support for B2B versions of many of the standard BPM functionalities is just not there yet, however: practically no one is doing B2B process simulation, for example.

He ended up with some recommendations for multi-enterprise BPM strategy, such as synchronizing multi-enterprise and internal BPM projects, and developing a shared B2B infrastructure, with a focus on enabling shared process visibility (via BAM) and shared process control (via business rules).

Open research meeting at Gartner

Before we exited for the breakout sessions, Daryl Plummer outlined their plans for an open research meeting to be held on Wednesday, where we all have a chance to participate in Gartner’s research here on site. He showed us four predictions, of which two will be discussed in the research meeting:

  • By 2010, Business Process Modeling will be widely and routinely used as a planning tool for performance optimization and will grow to become half as popular as the spreadsheet.
  • By 2011, competitive and successful businesses that do not recognize and prepare to take advantage of BPM/SOA/Web enabled Modularized Business Processes will be dangerously exposed to being hunted and assimilated by those that do.
  • By 2010, the artificial separation of transaction processing and decision support workloads will be seen as obsolete, to be replaced by case management as the preferred design pattern.
  • By 2012, technologies to support BPM will have been absorbed into other products and no longer considered a distinct category.

By a show of hands, the first and fourth of these were selected for discussion. Unfortunately, this is at the end of the day on Wednesday, by which time I’ll be on a flight home. Should be an interesting discussion.

Gartner Day 1: Simon Hayward keynote

1100 attendees have signed up for this Gartner BPM summit (although I imagine that some are still stuck trying to get here), not bad for only their third year at it. They’re going to run another BPM summit in Orlando in September due to the popularity; maybe I’ll get organized in time to sign up for that before the last minute.

This first “real” day of the conference kicked off with a short intro by Michael Melenovsky and Jim Sinur, who gave an overview of what to expect at the conference: business process strategy and governance in addition to the technology side, which this year includes more of the peripheral technologies such as business rules. Sinur mentions Web 2.0 and collaboration (although he calls it “web two-dot-zero”) and the importance of what’s happening here, something that I’ve been writing and speaking about for months.

The, Simon Hayward with his keynote Business Processes: The Foundation Linking Business and IT. I really enjoyed his keynote last year, so was looking forward to this year’s presentation: he’s like the Energizer Bunny of BPM, and I mean that in the best way possible. He started with the question “what’s special about this moment in time that makes BPM so relevant?”, which is the same theme that he started with last year, and I think that I even remember some of the same slides being used. He discussed the trend from quality (1980’s) to BPR (1990’s) to BPM (2000’s).

He moved to his “key issues” slide (a.k.a. the presentation agenda), and saw the first point: BPM – what does it mean as a management discipline. It struck me then that “discipline” is an fundamental concept in Gartner’s definition of BP as management practice/discipline: that’s what all the discipline business was about yesterday in Rosser’s presentation.

Hayward continued on with concepts of shifting business values and strategies, and how today’s success is taken as a given and future success has to improve on that: the whole idea of continuous process improvement. That requires that we build systems knowing that they’re going to change, a whole new idea for many organizations that tend to build something and cast it in concrete. The focus of software has to shift to enabling business process innovation, whereas many organizations see the current role of software as hindering rather than helping their business agility. He talked about the emergence of SaaS in process-related activities, and how valuable this is for inter-organization commerce.

He moved on to how people are involved in processes (I’m constantly amazed by how Hayward can give an entire subject talk based on a single slide: many of these slides are loosely related and could be expanded into a separate presentation on their own); as he discusses how the goal of BPM should shift from managing the end-to-end process cycle to enabling process innovation, he brings in the idea of how it also must shift to provide greater empowerment to the people involved in the process. He predicts that by 2012, the value of productivity will become less important than that of visibility, and by 2017, innovation will take over as the key value.

He shows the process improvement cycle that I’ve seen many times before from Gartner, with one interesting addition: a “discovery” task as an entry point into the cycle prior to modelling. Discovery is exactly where Lombardi is positioning Blueprint, for example, but it’s not even on the radar of many BPM vendors.

This all leads up to a discussion of the advantages of being a business-centric organization, what this actually means, and why the enabling technology really matters in terms of decoupling the understanding of the process from the mechanisms that are used to support it, hence providing greater agility, immediacy and visibility, as well as being a foundation for SOA. Whether the technology comes out of the convergence that is the BPMS market, or enterprise applications opened up for integration, the same results can be achieved (a similar point that Marc Kerremans made yesterday).

My favourite point that he made comes near the end of the presentation: “BPM is top-down…and BPM is bottom-up”. That’s exactly right, and exactly what many people don’t understand: it could be either, or it could be both. Although Rosser tried to make the same point yesterday, Hayward actually ties it to BPM and the value of being a process-centric organization, which makes all the difference.

His closing recommendations covered competency actions (what type of people to have), management actions (governance; centre of excellence; management culture) and IT management (IT as enabler, not leader; links between BPM and other technologies), as well as a great closing quote: “If you focus on what stays the same, then you’ll get left behind.”

Decisions get tough from here: there are multiple sessions that I want to attend, although I have a half hour to think about it while we mill around waiting for them to reconfigure the ballroom into smaller rooms.

Corticon Business Rules Foundation

Vendor announcements today seem to have a sci-fi theme: first it was IDS Scheer and Microsoft with the Alliance, and now it’s Corticon with the Foundation: the Business Rules Foundation, that is. I had a sneak preview last week with David Straus, Corticon’s SVP of Marketing, who did the most amazing thing for a guy with the word “marketing” in the title (much less an SVP): about a minute into our phone call, he said “wait, I can show you”, fired up Webex, sent me an invitation, and 2 minutes later he was giving me a product demo.

Corticon’s Studio product is a pretty capable business rules management system, and one of the 3 or 4 standard systems that ends up integrated into everything else, such as BPM suites that lack their own rules engines. You can define rules in a natural language, then use a decision table to map those rules onto conditions and actions, check for ambiguities and generate unconsidered cases. You can save a set of rules as a compiled service to run within their engine or to be called as a web service. You can even import (or create) test data to run against the rules, with the tests showing which rules were triggered in order to explain the decision. So far, so good: standard functionality with some nice features.

What they’ve announced today, however, is a version that separates the underlying services from the user interface, and allows those services to be embedded and tightly bound inside another application. The SDK opens up the ability for any application vendor to embed Corticon’s rules capabilities within their product without having to use any of Corticon’s user interface: they can create their own user interface paradigm for rules definition and integrate this with other parts of their appliation, so that the user is unaware that they are using software from two different vendors. The first big example of this is IDS Scheer’s ARIS, which embeds the Corticon Foundation (essentially) inside its ARIS Business Rules Designer: I saw this demonstrated at the IDS Scheer user conference a few weeks ago, but didn’t realize what I was seeing (although I knew that it was Corticon within ARIS).

Although the decision tables on the right look very much like the standard Corticon product, it’s completely and seamlessly housed within the framework of ARIS: that’s the ARIS repository tree view on the left. Since all of the new Corticon Studio is Eclipse-based, and most of the partner companies are using some sort of Eclipse tooling for their UI, this is a relatively painless integration.

There’s some other interesting applications for this that Straus mentioned, such as Adobe integration for dynamic document creation (e.g., for contract creation with rules-based selection of clauses), and Microsoft Word integration. With it opening up for development as of the announcement today, I’m sure that there will soon be a number of other application vendors trying it out. I’m waiting for the BPM vendors to start embedding this within their process designers instead of the paltry expression builders that most of them have: this seamless integration of business rules with business processes would eliminate the current barriers to using business rules in a BPM environment.

What Corticon is after, of course, is the Holy Grail of business rules: a common rules repository within an organization that is invoked by any enterprise application requiring a decision (think cross-organization compliance). By making it easier to integrate rules directly into any application, they may be that much closer.

Microsoft and IDS Scheer partner for process modelling

Vendor announcements are dropping from the trees around here this week, but I found this one particularly interesting after my trip to the IDS Scheer user conference a few weeks ago: Microsoft has selected IDS Scheer as a preferred business process modelling/monitoring partner in the newly-formed Business Process Alliance. Now, before you get too excited, the press release says “a” preferred partner, not “the one and only”, implying that other business process modelling and monitoring companies might also be invited to the dance; right now, the Alliance lists AmberPoint, Ascentn, Fair Isaac, Global 360, InRule, Metastorm, PNMsoft, RuleBurst and as members, so no other modelling but lots of competing business rules and BPM vendors. (By the way, Microsoft’s incorrect use of “is comprised of” on their page — sloppy editing.)

There’s a real-world example of the ARIS UML Designer (now part of ARIS SOA Architect) being used to model business processes for execution in BizTalk at Siemens IT Operations over the past 2 years, so this is built on a pretty strong success story. This provides BizTalk with a fully functional process designer, which was not a strong suit of theirs in the past.

It’s not clear to me whether this is anything beyond a co-marketing campaign; presumably, the existing BPEL export from ARIS would serve for import into BizTalk, or IDS Scheer may choose to do a closer “standards-based” (but not standard) integration such as they have done with SAP and Oracle.

I have to say, however, that I had strong negative feelings about the term Alliance since I first watched the TV series Firefly: they’re the authoritarian bad guys, right? Or maybe they only look bad from the little guy’s viewpoint. 🙂

Phil Gilbert writes a book…I think

I’m staying at the conference hotel for the Gartner BPM summit, which means that I get the goody bags in my room with some extra vendor spiffs. In tonight’s bag: a rather weird “Top Secret” cardboard mini-briefcase from Global 360 containing a dogtag and some cryptic instructions about a secret identity; a “BPM” (Bottled water, Peanuts, and M&Ms) pack from Appian; and a few vendor glossies.

One of the vendor sheets is from Lombardi, plugging a new book by Phil Gilbert, but unfortunately the link to download the preview chapter takes my information but yields only a “page not found” error. This is the second thing that I’ve failed to get online with Lombardi; I’m starting to get paranoid!