Gartner Day 0: Marc Kerremans

I’m not sure that I get the purpose of these late afternoon registration-day sessions, before most of the conference attendees have even arrived — are they intended to be introductory tutorials for those new to the field? Or a venue for Gartner’s second-string BPM analysts to dip their toe in the water? I don’t have the impression that Kerremans is completely comfortable with his material, much of which I have seen at previous Gartner events.

The material is, after all, pretty standard stuff:

  1. What is a business process?
  2. How much BPM technology is enough?
  3. How will BPM technologies evolve over the next 5-10 years?

He gave a standard, yet succinct definition of a business process: a set of activities and tasks performed by resources (human and machine) using a variety of information (documents, images, expertise) interacting in various way (sequential/predictable and ad hoc) guided by policies and principles (goals, business rules, principles).

He discussed how many business processes are currently embedded in application silos, each of which may contain UI, middleware, rules and data, but that there is little integration across silos. One “solution” to this lack of integration that has been popular in the past is to replace all of the applications with a monolithic ERP system, but that creates larger problems in the long run when you inevitably have to integrate that system with other applications that do what it doesn’t do. A better solution is to tear down the walls between the silos and use BPM technologies (a blanket term that he used to refer to all integration technologies) to integrate the applications directly.

He showed a current Gartner hype cycle for a range of BPM technologies (the hype cycle is a Gartner technique for plotting visibility against maturity for various technologies: from the technology trigger, it rises swiftly to a peak of inflated expectations, drops into a trough of disillusionment, then rises gradually over a slope of enlightenment to a plateau of productivity). There’s an interesting distinction here between more mature technology classes that have BPM as a feature — human workflow automation, document and imaging management, integration brokers, portal servers, application servers, and rule engines — and those where BPM is the actual product: pure-play BPM tools and BPMS tools. Gartner shows pure-play BPM tools, those darlings of last year, about to plunge into the trough of disillusionment, while BPM suites are still climbing up the initial peak of inflated expectations.

In the next section, he takes on the question of how much BPM technology is enough, but never really answers the question. We saw a number of standard Gartner charts showing the functionality of BPM as Gartner defined it in the pure-play period as well as today’s suites trend, and some mapping of business needs to the value that is potentially added by BPMS.

The most important issue in the entire presentation (in my mind) is buried in here, however: do you “roll your own” by assembling best of breed from a variety of vendors, or do you buy a BPMS from a single vendor? Every organization already has some investment in parts of what I consider to be non-core BPM technology, such as content management or business rules management, and may have corporate standards in place for these things. Should they consider replacing some of that functionality with what’s available in the BPMS? Or allowing the BPMS to have some special dispensation to ignore the corporate standard? Although I tend to favour using widespread corporate standards if you have them in place, there are some valid reasons to consider an all-in-one BPMS — such as ease of troubleshooting and any resultant vendor finger-pointing — but ultimately, I think that it comes down to the same arguments as you would have against a monolithic ERP system. If your primary integration technology platform can’t integrate with what you already have, what good is it?

The last point was on how Gartner expects BPM technologies to evolve over the next 5-10 years, and I think that we’ll be hearing more about this over the next three days.

Since analysts (like Gartner) have expanded the definition of a BPM suite to contain practically everything but the kitchen sink, there’s now a problem of too many vendors all claiming to have BPM functionality (of course, you can always hire an analyst to help you sort it all out…), so some convergence and shakeout will certainly occur as players merge and acquire. The big platform players (Oracle, IBM, SAP, Fujitsu, Microsoft) are just starting to enter the market, which will place further pressure on the smaller players to join forces or be consumed by the bigger guys.

At last year’s Gartner BPM summit, I heard Daryl Plummer speak about ISE (integrated service environment) for the first time, and they’re still playing it up as a major part of a further convergence of tool categories between BPMS, ISE and IDE: overlapping product classes that haven’t previously considered to be competitors. I’m still not so sure about this argument; I see some pretty fundamental differences between ISE and BPMS.

On the BPM technology innovation side, Gartner is seeing things primarily around business agility: goal-driven and self-adjusting processes, and complex event processing. They see a future of business process platforms that will completely disrupt the packaged application (e.g., CRM) market, although I’m not seeing the potential for disruption so much as a gradual shift of functionality from packaged applications to BPMS platforms.

On to the evening reception, then an early night as I try to get adjusted to west coast time.

Gartner Day 0: Bill Rosser

I totally forgot that there were some late afternoon sessions today at the Gartner BPM summit until I showed up at registration around 3:30 expecting it to be deserted, and found a lineup of people trying to get registered before the 4pm session started.

This first session of the conference — missed by most attendees, who haven’t even arrived yet due to extremely inclement weather conditions across half the continent — was entitled “BPM: The Discipline”, presented by Bill Rosser of Gartner.

Rosser’s focus is on strategy, planning and modeling, and he recently shifted to BPM from enterprise architecture and other areas. In fact, last year when I saw him speak at the BPM summit, he was talking about EA, and I wasn’t all that impressed with his presentation then because it failed to make an adequate link between EA and BPM.

Rosser defines “discipline” on a number of levels, from “a field of study, knowledge and expertise” to “a system of rules of conduct or methods of practice” to “a method to ensure adherence to the rules”, then spends most of his presentation on the question of whether BPM is a discipline. First of all, to be blunt, who cares? Secondly, from a purely logical perspective, I don’t think that he proves his argument of whether BPM is or is not a discipline.

Although he had some nice slides on why to pursue BPM — performance improvement, greater agility [sic] to change, and stimulus for innovation — plus some on top-down versus bottom-up implementations, there was really nothing here specific to BPM. I had the sense that this was material recycled from other presentations about other topics, since it was really just a general discussion about discipline and implementing strategy: you could replace the words “business process” with “enterprise architecture”, for example, and hardly have to tweak the presentation at all. In fact, one chart was based on an HBS paper on enterprise architecture strategy, making me think that Rosser had just carried these over from his work in EA. Although some of these ideas here are as valid for BPM as they are for any other business/IT strategy area, I would have expected something that is much more specific to BPM.

Gartner BPM summit in San Diego

Thanks to a kind invitation from Jim Sinur when we met at the IDS Scheer user conference last week, I’ll be attending the Gartner BPM summit in San Diego on February 26-28. Watch for my live blogging from there under the Gartner BPM category.

If you’d like to meet up while I’m there, drop me an email. Also consider adding yourself to the event so that others can see that you plan to attend, too.

BPM Think Tank

I’ve just registered for the OMG‘s BPM Think Tank in Washington DC on May 23-25. The program is mostly about standards, which is a big focus for me right now. It will be a chance to see some people who I’ve met before, such as Phil Gilbert and Derek Miers, and meet a few others for the first time face-to-face, such as Bruce Silver, Keith Swenson (who I heard speak at the Gartner BPM Summit) and John Evdemon (who was referred to me by Harry Pierson when I met him at Mashup Camp).

If you’re going, look me up. If you haven’t signed up yet, discount registration fees for the BPM Think Tank are still available until May 1st.

OMG gets full marks for including bloggers when they’re handing out press passes; my thanks to Dana Morris and Stephanie Covert for their forward-thinking press relations policies. I’ll be blogging more about the event before, during and after.

European BPM conferences

I went looking at last year’s BPMG conference webpage to find out about this year’s conference, and was surprised to see that not only have they moved their conference to September, but they’re headlining a European Gartner BPM summit in June on their conference page. I saw Steve Towers at the Gartner summit last week, so there’s obviously some cooperation going on between BPMG and Gartner, but is there really a market in London for two major BPM conferences within three months of each other? Or is this a case of Gartner just barging in, and BPMG scurrying around to try and salvage their mindshare?

The Sins of Patrick Morrissey

With that title, you can just imagine the black-cassocked priest striding across the Irish moors to confront his personal demons… or maybe I have an overactive imagination from watching a rerun of The Thorn Birds last night.

Anyway, this isn’t about Father Pat‘s own sins, but the sins that we all commit during the act of BPM. As a follow-up to Bruce Silver‘s comment on my previous posts about the Seven Deadly Sins of BPM, here they are, hot off the Savvion press:

  • Don’t model your current process
  • Don’t understand people and system requirements
  • Treat BPM as an IT problem
  • Focus on “architecture” in SOA rather than “service”, which ensures that the business doesn’t care about the project
  • Commit unnatural acts with existing applications
  • Hardwire your BPM application
  • Implement automation [of low-value processes] only

I was going to highlight a couple of these as sins that I’ve seen committed, but have to admit that I’ve seen them all, although have rarely committed any of them myself. I can’t even single one out as being the key one: they’re all killers.

The true path to BPM is clear: repent of your sins!

Gartner BPM summit day 3 and wrap-up

The last day at the Gartner conference was a short one for me: I skipped the vendor sessions in the morning, so only attended Daryl Plummer’s session “BPM in the Service Oriented Architecture” and the Andrew Spanyi talk at lunch before I had to leave for the airport.

Plummer’s session description started with the phrase “Is BPM in my SOA or is SOA in my BPM?”where have I heard that before — then asked the questions “Where do BPM and SOA cross paths? How can SOA be leveraged for the business process? How can BPM be leveraged for an SOA?” There was quite a bit of recycled material in here, or maybe I was just getting conferenced-out by that point, but he did introduce a new (to me) acronym: ISE, or integrated service environment, which is apparently the process developer view of composite applications as opposed to BPMS, which is the business view of composite applications. He made a strong point that ISE is not just an IDE plus BPM, but is the following:

  • A development environment that enables creation, assembly, orchestration, deployment, automation and maintenance of composite applications based on services from the perspective of a process-centric developer.
  • Automates and manages the productivity of developers through frameworks, process flow, page flow and service invocations.
  • Provides the development work environment for an application platform suite to assemble services into processes and composite applications.
  • Supports SOA principles and XML Web services standards, as well as traditional component and modular code mechanisms.

First of all, it’s not clear to me why this isn’t just BPM plus some array of development tools. Second, it’s also not clear to me that a BPMS is the business view of composite applications: that’s one aspect of a BPMS, but most of them also provide a huge part of the process developer’s view as well. Is ISE a valid distinction in this ever-changing SOA environment, or just the buzzword du jour?

Spanyi’s talk at lunch was a bit lost in the hub-bub of a room full of people eating and — in the case of two people at my table — carrying on completely unrelated conversations, but I did pick up a copy of his latest book so can presumably get the gist of it from that.

One last note to Matt, who I sat with at lunch on Monday: send me your contact info, I want to hear more about your open source workflow project and I want to connect you to someone who is doing something similar.

Gartner BPM summit day 2: Bill Rosser

I finished up Tuesday at the conference with Bill Rosser’s “Creating a Business Architecture”. I found his enterprise architecture models to be a bit inconsistent: at one point, he includes application architecture in information architecture; later, he splits them out as most of us would tend to do. He did make a great point about architecture up front: architecture is not creating the design, it’s creating the environment/boundary/envelope in which the design can be created. Since many people don’t make the distinction between architecture and design (or even, in some extreme cases, architecture and coding), this was valuable as an explicit statement.

What I did find about Rosser’s talk, like all the other non-BPM “special interest” sessions that I attended (Six Sigma, business rules), is that he failed to make an adequate linkage back to BPM in the presentation. I’ve given presentations on enterprise architecture and BPM in the past, (as well as ones that involve Six Sigma and business rules tied to BPM) and it’s very easy to make a strong link between them, so I consider the lack of tie-in to BPM a critical failing of Rosser’s presentation.

Gartner BPM summit day 2: Jim Sinur

Tuesday’s session by Jim Sinur, “When Will the Power Vendors Offer Credible BPM Solutions?”, was one of the most interesting that I attended all week. For one thing, it left me with the question “which BPM vendor will Oracle buy?”, which is certainly not something that Sinur said but I can see the writing on the wall.

Sinur defines a “power vendor” as a company that has more than $1 billion in annual revenue and is a known brand to the average person: in this case, Fujitsu, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are included in the soon-to-be-released magic quadrant.

I really like Sinur’s presentation style: he started with the summary in order to ease the suspense somewhat, although he did add in a lot of new information throughout the presentation. His big message to the existing BPM vendors: look out, because the power vendors have the ability to crush you within three years if they do everything right and you aren’t sufficiently innovative and financial stable. He sees the power vendors as being 12-18 months away from competing successfully in the full BPM space (as opposed to the integration-focussed side of the space, where most of them started), and that they’ll continue to partner with and OEM other companies’ products (such as SAP OEMing IDS Scheer) to build up capabilities as they mature.

He went through a map of BPM capabilities for each of the vendors (I posted about an earlier version of the generic scoring diagram last August), and I imagine that you’ll be able to get the full scoring details from Gartner soon. Basically, the top part of the map shows human-facing capabilities, the bottom shows integration capabilities, the left indicates incremental improvement and optimization capabilities, and the right shows the ability to make BPM human-friendly (including portals and content management, for example). Interestingly, he shows both the inherent vendor capabilities and the capabilities when combined with their partners on each map, using solid and dotted lines.

There were some surprises in here for me, since I tend to focus on the BPM vendors and not the power vendors. First, who knew that Fujitsu is in the BPM market? Or that both Fujitsu and Oracle have strong support for human task processing? Turns out that Fujitsu is big in Asian markets, but has little presence in North America and Europe, so has more of a marketing than a technical problem. No surprises with IBM or Microsoft, both of whom have strong integration support typical of a platform vendor, but are still building the human-facing side. As for SAP, probably the less said, the better.

He showed charts of the five vendors with a ranking of poor, medium or strong for each of the 10 capabilities in the diagram: one chart with just the vendor product, and one when combined with partner products. In the combined chart, Fujitsu had the highest number of “strong” ratings, at 4/10, but when you add the medium and strong, three vendors tie for a score of 7/10: Fujitsu, IBM and Oracle.

Sinur’s conclusion: Oracle is the best contender to close the gap soonest, with IBM a strong second; Fujitsu needs some serious North American and European marketing push to be a viable contender. Which leads me back to my original question: which BPM vendor will Oracle buy in order to close the gap sooner?

He also went through a list of non-power vendors who could become power vendors if they do everything right — Pegasystems, FileNet and Global 360 — as well as other large vendors who could decide to enter the space, including such wild cards as Yahoo!, eBay and Google. My favourite quote from the presentation came from his somewhat offhand dismissal of JBoss, the open source BPMS: “If you can’t sue them, do you want to buy them?”

Gartner BPM summit day 2: Daryl Plummer

Daryl Plummer’s Tuesday keynote, “How Do You Measure and Justify Business Agility” made a few good points about the completely over-hyped notion of business agility:

  • Agility is a legitimate management practice. If you don’t have people focussed on agility, it’s unlikely to just happen by accident.
  • Agility is as important, or more important, than planning in order to be able to react to the unexpected. Remember “Built To Last“? That’s so last year; now it’s “Built To Change.”
  • Agility and speed are not synonymous. You can very quickly create another legacy environment (and probably already have).

My only major disagreement with what he said is that I see agility as a characteristic that can be measured at any point in an organization’s life, not an end goal to which an organization aspires. He also introduces the Agility Quotient, which is “…calculated by measuring the things that inhibit agility and examining how willing you are to overcome them”, which ultimately strikes me as a new age-y business measurement that does more to increase Gartner’s consulting revenues than their customers’ agility.

He finishes up with some comments on some of the technological components and ideas critical to business agility: decoupled business components related through event passing (“beyond SOA”), mobile access, identity management, and how to bring some of these things together. Although he’s not explicit about it, he seems to indicate that business agility isn’t a problem for the business so much as it is for the IT groups that support them, which is certainly something that I’ve seen playing out in practice.