Gartner BPM summit day 2 in review

Hey, I finally made it to blogging about Tuesday, and it’s only Friday.

Tuesday was a pretty full day at the summit: sessions all day and vendor hospitality suites in the evening, a true test of a marathon conference-goer. The day started out with Daryl Plummer’s keynote on “How Do You Measure and Justify Business Agility” — this guy should be an evangelical preacher, he’s so passionate about his subject (and I mean that in a good way.) That was followed by the Six Sigma keynote by Mikel Harry that I left due to a severe lack of interest, although as I noted earlier, I found it odd that he seems to be using Six Sigma as a “brand” of sorts and distancing himself from the original statistical meaning. Certainly there’s some positioning going on with Gartner, BPM and Six Sigma.

In the afternoon, I attended Jim Sinur’s “When Will the Power Vendors Offer Credible BPM Solutions?”, which was fascinating but left out some tantalizing details (which can presumably be purchased from Gartner), and finished up the day at Bill Rosser’s “Creating a Business Architecture”.

The vendor hospitality suites were fun, although I had to lodge a complaint that Lombardi’s Blue Pomegranate Martinis (BPM, get it?) weren’t really blue but some sort of murky purple, and I could never figure out how to turn off the flashing ice cube that I picked up at another vendor’s suite so discarded it before airport security decided that it was something questionable. Between the vendor booths and the hospitality suites, I scored an alarming amount of swag: three jazz CDs from Lombardi, t-shirts from K2 and TIBCO, a 3-d globe puzzle from Global 360 that I’m afraid to take apart, a USB-powered light (perfect for lighting up your keyboard on flights when the overhead light causes glare on the screen) from Singularity, and a flash-when-it-bounces ball from Fujitsu.

The best part was after all the customers bailed out, and the vendors started to visit each other’s suites. I found the smaller vendors more likely to do this, possibly because they don’t have the sort of “us versus them” mentality about their competitors that is encouraged in larger companies, or possibly because they realize (consciously or not) that by next year they could be working together through job changes or corporate acquisitions. A particular thumbs-up to Savvion, whose suite became the “Switzerland of hospitality suites” (according to Rob Risany in their product marketing group) by the end of the night.

Gartner BPM summit day 1: Patrick Morrissey

I managed to squeeze in a couple of vendor sessions on Monday, and particularly enjoyed that by Patrick Morrissey of Savvion on “The Seven Deadly Sins of BPM”. He sees a process-centric future with BPM as a standard part of IT archicture, a view with which I agree, and quoted Simon Hayward from the keynote:

There is no business without process…process is the heart of competitive advantage.

Morrissey stated an alarming statistic (I can’t recall the original source): in the last five years, companies have spent $40 billion on ERP, CRM and HR software, and $650 billion on the services related to that software. That’s more than 16:1 in favour of services, for the math-challenged in the crowd. I see overcustomization happening in all of my customers, where (usually) a large SI sells them on the notion of a huge services contract to customize a system that already meets most of their requirements. This renders a huge disservice to the customers, who pay through the nose for the custom work then for all future maintenance on it, but it’s also a disservice to the product vendors, since the value of their systems is never fully realized in such a situation. In fact, two of the “deadly sins” that Morrissey discussed were “unnatural acts with existing applications” and “hardwire your BPM applications”, both of which are the result of poorly-designed customization: SI’s gone wild, and not in a way that we want to see on video.

In the obligatory plug for Savvion, Morrissey pointed out that Savvion has released its process modeller as a standalone free version, and it was available the booth at the show. You can also download it from their website here. We’re going to see more and more of this, I believe: vendors giving away planning, modelling and analysis tools in order to raise their profile in the marketplace, and potentially drive more interest in the process engines that lie at the heart of their strategy.

Gartner BPM summit day 1: Dale Vecchio

I attended Dale Vecchio’s session on “Using SOA from Legacy in BPMS”, which promised “ways to create web services out of existing systems and use them in BPM solutions”. An interesting tidbit: he claimed that the most common surprise during the application archaeology required for Y2K rework projects was that IT departments didn’t know what was connected to what, and that the requirement to understand legacy linguine still often leads to the decision to do nothing rather than have to understand and unravel the mess.

I also liked his definition of a business process:

A set of activities & tasks performed by resources (humans & machines)
Using a variety of information (structured & unstructured)
Interacting in various ways (predictable & unpredictable)
Guided by business policies and principles (business rules & decision criteria)

since it sums it up nicely for those who still think that an application is a business process. With that as a focus, he talked about the importance of multilevel modelling, where you model a business architectural view, a system architectural (by which I think that he meant application and data/information architectural) view and multiple technical views: not fundamentally different from what we do when using an enterprise architecture approach to BPM.

He went through a couple of different approaches for modernizing legacy systems in order to allow them to be consumed as services by BPM and other systems, lining up nicely with Janelle Hill’s earlier talk on leveraging existing IT assets in BPM. Nothing earth-shattering, but some good stuff on separating the presentation layer and replacing it with a services layer versus just wrapping the legacy app, and on different approaches to determining service granularity that still maintains the philosophy of a service as a business function.

Gartner BPM summit: 15 minutes of fame

The biggest surprise that I had at the Gartner BPM summit this week was opening up the package of attendee materials and finding this ebizQ brochure with my picture printed on it:

I had several “don’t I know you?” looks from people, and a few actually came up to me and told me that they read my blog. Very flattering.

The second biggest surprise was finding out that I have my own fan club inside Lombardi: everyone who I talked to at their booth claims to read my blog. Hi guys!

Gartner BPM summit day 1: Janelle Hill

I know, it’s already the third (and last) day of the Gartner BPM conference and I’m still blogging about day 1 — consider that to be a good reflection on the sessions that I don’t have lots of time to blog about them because I’m too busy listening to them. I’m comfortably ensconced in my “Nashville office”, a.k.a., the women’s restroom right beside the main conference rooms. You men may not realize it, but the women’s facilities in most large hotels include a lounge with comfy chairs, a few side tables, a box of tissues (in case a presentation brings you to tears, I suppose) and sometimes even flowers. This one also happens to have power for my laptop and a full-strength wifi connection — sometimes gender discrimination works in our favour. 🙂

One of my favourite sessions on Monday was by Janelle Hill: “Leveraging Existing IT Assets in BPM Initiatives.” For an analyst, Hill has a very practical view on BPM implementations, and her session was focussed on changing the behaviour of systems by putting a services face on some of those old legacy applications to allow them to participate in BPM. She discussed three basic strategies:

  • Surrond strategy, where the legacy system is wrapped with a services layer and BPM is used to streamline the exceptions that are triggered by the legacy applications. I’ve done an implementation of exactly this strategy in many cases; one example is the claims processing functionality in an insurance company, where exceptions that are raised in their mainframe-based auto-adjudication system are picked up by a BPM system and routed to the appropriate people (and services) for manual adjudication or data repair-and-resubmit.
  • Extend strategy, where the previously unautomated steps are automated — often paper-based steps such as data collection forms, or ad hoc human processes such as collaboration. Case management, something that I work on with all of my insurance customers, as well as other financial services falls into both of those categories: it’s often a loosely structured process that is tracked on paper, since older systems didn’t lend themselves well to enabling this type of functionality.
  • Leverage-what-you-have strategy, where the legacy databases are integrated directly (usually for read-only operations), or the legacy functions are called via EAI-type adapter technology. I see direct access of legacy databases quite commonly for consolidated reporting, for example.

I’m not sure that the lines are so clearly drawn between each of these three strategies: the distinction between the type of functions that would constitute surrond versus extend is fuzzy in a lot of areas, and the technologies used for surrond and leverage-what-you-have can overlap significantly. However, it’s a useful categorization to start looking at how to start eating the legacy system integration elephant.

I also like Hill’s definition of SOA — an architectural style that is modular, distributable and loosely coupled — because it (rightly) takes the focus away from specific products or technologies. She goes on to define a service, or component, as a software process that acts in response to a request, and a web service as a special case that uses specific protocols and standards. Again, this takes the focus away from web services specifically in favour of just services, something that is essential if you want to maintain flexibility in how you create and consume services both inside and outside your organization. Consider that mashups typically consume services that use lighter-weight protocols than web services, for example.

One of the lessons to take away from this is that SOA and BPM can be done independently, but when combined, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. SOA provides the framework for creating services that will be consumed (assembled and orchestrated) by BPM; in turn, BPM puts a human face on SOA which makes it easier for the business to understand.

I’m off to the airport, so this conference is over for me. The blogging, however, goes on…

Gartner BPM summit day 1: Simon Hayward

After Sinur and Melenovsky’s welcome, Simon Hayward gave a great opening keynote yesterday, “Living in a process-centric world”. To quote the session description on the agenda:

Process is now gaining importance as an organizing concept for dealing with change at all levels. We live in a world of processes, becoming conscious of those processes and taking control of them can be the key to personal and corporate effectiveness.

As one attendee mentioned later, everything sounds more intelligent when it’s said with a British accent, and I have to admit to having a soft spot for anyone that says process with an “oh” rather than an “aw”. However, Hayward had some good content for us as well.

He started with the question of why we’re all thinking about process now, and linked it back to the fact that leaders in the industry became that way in part because of their focus on process — especially processes that touch their trading partners and customers. There are challenges around maintaining control over and having visibility into outsourced processes, as well as determining intellectual property rights in cases where the process itself may be a competitive differentiator.

Along the way, he floated the notion that agility (the ability to react to unexpected change) is becoming as, or more, important than innovation, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I interpret this to mean that reacting to market forces can actually be considered innovation if it’s done in the right way.

Another key point was compliance = explicit process management (taken from their 2005 Planning Guidance for Compliance report), which shows how process forms an integral part of compliance. I created a course on compliance for a customer last year, and process was a surprisingly large part of it: I found that if you can’t understand, control and report on your processes, you’re going to have a hard time getting compliant and proving it.

Then something came up for the second time that morning: Six Sigma. It appears that Gartner is making a strong link between Six Sigma and BPM at this conference (and likely in other research of theirs), although I found the Mikel Harry keynote this morning out of place, somehow, especially when he appeared to be using Six Sigma as a “brand” of sorts and distancing himself from the original statistical meaning. BPM certainly helps to provide a “closed loop” environment for Six Sigma’s Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) continuous process improvement cycle through the inclusion of process analytics and simulation, but I think that it’s a bit dangerous to downplay the statistical significance and rigor of Six Sigma to somehow make it friendly to the BPM crowd. Hayward later showed a graph of overlaid hype cycles that showed BPM as the current incarnation of trends that start with quality (process improvement) and migrate through process reengineering to BPM. I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t mean that BPM is the next “version” of Six Sigma somehow.

Getting back to Hayward’s talk, he had a good list of the IT disciplines needed for a process-centric environment, with a necessary focus on impact analysis and selective regression testing: if we’re putting all that emphasis on agility, we’d better be able to understand the ripple effects of changes and be able to test scenarios before deploying them. He talked about how to assess both IT and business for their current state of process centricity, and showed a chart of how to approach the various scenarios:

I like the “Reflect” quadrant, where the business is ready and IT isn’t: that’s when the business needs to do some serious prioritization due to the limited capacity of IT, or find some other ways to do things.

He finished up with a list of great recommendations including having less respect for silos and getting rid of baronial hostility that really point to one of the key issues in a process-centric organization: process is part of the infrastructure, not just embedded in some departmental systems.

Gartner BPM summit day 1: Sinur and Melenovsky

The conference opened with the two key faces of Gartner’s BPM vision — Jim Sinur and Michael Melenovsky — giving a brief welcome talk that focussed on a BPM maturity model, or what they are calling BPM3. There was only one slide for their presentation (if you don’t count the cover slide) and it hasn’t been published for the conference attendees, so I’ll rely on my sketchy notes and somewhat imperfect memory to give an overview of the model:

  • Level 0: Acknowledge operational inefficiences, with potential for the use of some business intelligence technology to measure and monitor business activities. I maintain that there is something lower than this, or maybe a redefinition of level 0 is required, wherein the organization is in complete denial about their operational inefficiences. In CMM (the Capability Maturity Model for software development processes), for example, level 0 is equivalent to having no maturity around the processes; level 1 is the “initial” stage where an organization realizes that they’re really in a lot of trouble and need to do something about it.
  • Level 1: Process aware, using business process analysis techniques and tools to model and analyze business processes. Think Visio with some human intelligence behind it, or a more robust tool such as those from Proforma, iGrafx or IDS Scheer.
  • Level 2: Process control, the domain of BPMS, where process models and rules can now be executed, and some optimization can be done on the processes. They admitted that this is the level on which the conference focusses, since few organizations have moved very far beyond this point. Indeed, almost every customer that I have that uses BPM is somewhere in this range, although many of them are (foolishly) neglecting the optimization potential that this brings.
  • Level 3: Enterprise process management, where BPM moves beyond departmental systems and becomes part of the corporate infrastructure, which typically also opens up the potential for processes that include trading partners and customers. This is a concept that I’ve been discussing extensively with my customers lately, namely, the importance of having BPM (and BRE and BI) as infrastructure components, not just embedded within departmental applications, because it’s going to be nearly impossible to realize any sort of SOA vision without these basic building blocks available.
  • Level 4: Enterprise performance management, which starts to look at the bigger picture of corporate performance management (which is what Gartner used to call this — are they changing CPM to EPM??) and how processes tie into that. I think that this is a critical step that organizations have to be considering now: CPM is a great early warning indicator for performance issues, but also provides a huge leap forward in issues such as maintaining compliance. I just don’t understand why Cognos or other vendors in this space aren’t at this conference talking about this.
  • Level 5: Competitive differentiation, where the business is sufficiently agile due to control over the processes that new products and services can be easily created and deployed. Personally, I believe that competitive differentiation is a measure of how well that you’re doing right from level 1 on up, rather than a separate level itself: it’s an indicator, not a goal per se.

That’s it for now, I’m off to lunch. At this rate, I’ll catch up on all the sessions by sometime next week. 🙂

Gartner BPM summit day 1 in review

I know, I should have posted all this yesterday, but I didn’t realize that there was wifi at the conference until late in the day so left my laptop at the hotel, and Movable Type doesn’t allow me to blog by email from my Blackberry. Today, however, I have my trusty tablet in hand and hope to blog throughout the day when I get a chance. I’ll post all these entries under the category Gartner BPM so that you can more easily find them by clicking on the category in the right sidebar.

Some great sessions at the conference, although I think that it would be greatly improved by opening up the speaking slots a bit. Right now, it’s mostly Gartner analysts, a few select Gartner customers, a few vendors (who apparently pay for the privilege so it’s really just an extension of their booth marketing presence), and a few odd selections such as the keynote by Mikel Harry of the Six Sigma Management Institute (probably a good management consultant but not an inspiring speaker) that I just left early. Gartner has sufficient pull to be able to do a limited call for papers that would result in some really excellent presentations to complement their own analysts’ views without diluting the value of the conference. Maybe another year.

A key theme that I’ve heard in a couple of talks: agility (the ability to react to unexpected change) is becoming as, or more, important than innovation: you don’t need to define and implement everything up front if you have confidence in your ability to react to change. The way that I interpret that is that reacting to market forces is the new innovation. Think about it.

I’ll summarize some of the more interesting sessions in separate posts following this, but suffice it to say that my favourites yesterday were Simon Hayward who delivered the keynote “Living in a Process-Centric World”, Janelle Hill with “Leveraging Existing IT Assets in BPM Initiatives”, and a short but very dynamic presentation by Patrick Morrissey from Savvion on “The Seven Deadly Sins of BPM”.

Today, I’m looking forward to this afternoon’s session by Jim Sinur on “When Will the Power Vendors Offer Credible BPM Solutions?”, which promises:

The power vendors have been lagging behind some of the more technically advanced and assertive BPM vendors, but recently each has made moves on the right direction. We expect the “Giants” to try to out stride some of the more advanced and nimble BPMS players in the long run and become a viable options for more than those who buy in a “best of brand” fashion. This session will outline the progress to date of the power vendors, the expected time lines, and where the best-of-breed vendors will try to widen the gap.

  • Where are the power vendors in relationship with more advanced BPMS players?
  • Who is in the best position to close the gap?
  • What differentiators are likely to keep the power vendors at bay?


I’ve been asking the same questions.