BPM For Product Lifecycle Management At Johnson & Johnson

In this last breakout of Innovation World, simultaneous sessions from Johnson & Johnson and Johnson Controls were going on in adjacent rooms. I’m guessing that a few people might have ended up in the wrong session.

I was in the J&J session, where Pieter Boeykens and Sanjay Mandloi presented on web collaboration and process automation for global product development in the highly regulated health and pharmaceutical industry. They have a standardized set of processes for developing and launching products, with four different IT systems supporting the four parts of the PLM. A lot of this focuses on collecting documents from employees and suppliers all over the world, but there was no control over the process for doing this and the form of the information collected – they had five different processes for this in four regions. They rationalized this into a single standardized global process, modeled in webMethods BPM, then spent a significant amount of time on the human interaction at each step in the process: creating wireframes, then going through several version of the UI design in collaboration with the business users to ensure that it was intuitive and easy to use. They integrated BrainTribe for content management, which apparently handles the documents (the architecture diagram indicated that the actual documents are in Documentum) but also integrates structured content from other systems such as SAP.

In conjunction with this, they performed a webMethods upgrade from 8.2.x to 9 for their existing integration applications, migrating over their existing applications with little impact. Interestingly, this aspect generated far more questions from the audience than any of the functionality of the new BPM implementation, which gives you an idea of the business-technical mix in the audience. Smile

That’s it for Software AG’s Innovation World 2013. Next week, I’ll be in Vegas for TIBCO’s TUCON conference, where I’ll be on an analyst panel on Wednesday, then back to Vegas the following week for SAP TechEd (not next week, as I tweeted earlier) with a detour through Houston on the way home to speak at the APQC process conference. If you’re at any of those events, look me up and say hi.

High-Value Solution Consulting At Amdocs With An ARIS-Based Solution Book

Down to the last two breakout sessions at Innovation World, and we heard from Ophir Edrey of Amdocs, a company providing software for business support, with a focus on the communications, media and entertainment industries. They wanted to be able to leverage their own experience across multiple geographies, leading their customers towards a best practice-based implementation. To do this, they created a solution book that brings together best practices, methodologies, business processes and other information within an enterprise architecture to allow Amdoc consultants to work together with customers to collaborate on how that architecture needs to be modified to fit the customer’s specific needs.

The advantage of this is the Amdocs doesn’t just offer a software solution, but an entire advisory service around the best practices related to the solution. The solution book is created in ARIS, including the process models, solution design, solution traceability, customer collaboration (which they are migrating to ARIS Connect, not Process Live), and review and approval management.

He showed us a demo of the Amdocs Solution Book, specifically the business process framework. It contains four levels of decomposition, starting with a value chain of the entire operator landscape mapped onto the full set of process model families. Drilling through into a specific set of processes for, in this example, a mobile customer upgrading a handset, he showed the KPIs and the capabilities provided by their solution for that particular process; this starts the proof of Amdocs value to the customer as more than just a software provider. Drilling further into the specific process model, the Amdocs consultant can gather feedback from the customer on how this might need to be modified for their specific needs, and comments added directly on the models for others to see and comment.

They have had some pushback from customers on this – some people really just want a paper document – but generally have had very enthusiastic feedback and a strong demand to use the tool for projects. The result is faster, better, value-added implementations of their software solutions, giving them a competitive edge. Certainly an interesting model for the services arm of any complex enterprise software provider.

Still More Conference Within A Conference: ARIS World

The irrepressible Joerg Klueckmann, Director of Product Marketing for ARIS, hosted the ARIS World session, third in the sub-conferences that I’ve attended here at Innovation World.

Georg Simon, SVP of Product Marketing, discussed some of the drivers for ARIS 9: involving occasional users in processes through social collaboration, shortening the learning curve with a redesigned UI, modernizing the look and feel of the UI with new colors and shapes, lowering the TCO with centralized user and license management, and speeding content retrieval with visual and ad hoc search capabilities. There are new role-specific UI perspectives, allowing users to decide what capabilities that they want to see on their interface (based on what they have been allocated by an administrator). There’s a new flexible metamodel, allowing you to create new object types beyond what is provided in the standard metamodel.

He also briefly mentioned Process Live, which moves this newly re-architected ARIS into the public cloud, and went live yesterday, and discussed their plans to release a mobile ARIS framework, allowing some functionality to be exposed on mobile devices: consuming, collaborating and designing on tablets, and approvals on smartphones as well.

Their recent acquisition, Alfabet, is being integrated with ARIS so that its repository of IT systems can be synchronized with the ARIS process repository for a more complete enterprise architecture view. This allows for handoffs in the UI between activities in an ARIS process model and systems in an Alfabet object model, with direct navigation between them.

Software AG Process LiveKlueckmann gave us a demo of Process Live and how it provides social process improvement in the cloud. This is hardly a market leader – cloud-based process discovery/modeling collaboration started with Lombardi Blueprint (now IBM’s Blueworks Live) around 2007 – but it is definitely significant that a leading BPA player like ARIS is moving into the cloud. They’re also offering a reasonable price point: about $140/month for designers, and less than $6/month for viewers, which you can buy directly on their site with a credit card – and there’s a one-month free trial available. Contrast this with Blueworks Live, where an editor is $50/month, a contributor (who can comment) is $10/month, and a viewer is $2/month (but has to be purchased in multiples of 1,000): considerably more expensive for the designer, but likely much more functionality since it brings much of the ARIS functionality to the cloud.

Software AG Process LiveProcess Live offers three templates for create new project databases, ranging from a simple one with four model types, to the full-on professional one with 74 model types. Process Live doesn’t provide the full functionality of ARIS 9: it lacks direct support from Software AG, instead relying on community support; it is missing a number of advanced modeling and analysis features; and can’t be customized since it’s multi-tenanted cloud. You can check out some of their video tutorials for more information on how it works. Data is stored on the Amazon public cloud, which might offer challenges for those who don’t want to include the NSA as a collaborator.

Software AG Process LiveWe heard from Fabian Erbach of Litmus Group, a large consulting organization using Process Live with their customers. For them, the cloud aspect is key since it reduces the setup time by eliminating installation and providing pre-defined templates for initiating projects; furthermore, the social aspects promote engagement with business users, especially occasional ones. Since it’s accessible on mobile (although not officially supported), it is becoming ubiquitous rather than just a tool for BPM specialists. The price point and self-provisioning makes it attractive for companies to try it out without having to go through a software purchasing cycle.

ARIS World ended with a panel of three ARIS customers plus audience participation, mostly discussing future features that customers would like to have in ARIS as well as Process Live. This took on the feel of a user group meeting, which offered a great forum for feedback from actual users, although I missed a lot of the nuances since I’m not a regular ARIS user. Key topics included the redesigned ARIS 9 UI, and the distinction between ARIS and Process Live capabilities.

Managing The Process Of Process Change at Coca-Cola

Petra Burgstaller, who leads the BPM efforts at Coca-Cola, presented on how they are using BPM in the context of an SAP ERP system used at their 250 franchised bottling partner companies worldwide. There are 1.8 billion servings of Coca-Cola beverages consumed each day, in every country except Cuba and North Korea, so having local bottling companies is key to their distribution. The challenge, however, is to establish process best practices, push those best practices out to the independent bottling companies, and continue to innovate on the processes.

They built a “Coke One” template for the core business processes, basically an SAP template with some bolt-ons, and are working to have it adopted by 50% of their worldwide partners to support their 2020 vision of doubling their market. They’re using ARIS to define and document the business processes, then SharePoint for their portal as well as documentation of their SDLC. BPM (or BPA, if you prefer) is used during planning and requirements analysis, then to guide the design and build. They’re using process models – over 1,000 over them – plus a variety of other ARIS capabilities including release cycle management, KPs and performance measures, and publishing that cover the full cycle of process strategy, process design, process implementation and process controlling. Some of the ARIS-SAP synchronization is done manually but they are able to publish some information from ARIS to SAP Solution Manager, effectively isolating the business information and design in ARIS, and the technical design and implementation in SAP.

One key thing is the ability for bottlers in different countries to adopt the processes and the Coke One template for local regulations, although they prefer to keep it as close to the standard as possible to allow changes to processes to flow out from the company to the bottlers. Because Coca-Cola is hosting this for all of their bottlers, it makes it a bit easier to synchronize updates to the standardized processes: if a bottler has made changes, a comparison is done on the models and must be manually reconciled before updating, so that a bottler’s specific changes aren’t lost. They’ve even created a BPM community for sharing ideas and answering questions, allowing them to continue to develop best practices.

The Rise Of The Machines: @BillRuh_GE On The Industrial Internet

Last day of Software AG’s Innovation World, and the morning keynote is Bill Ruh, VP of GE’s Global Software and Analytics Center, on how GE is becoming a digital business. He points out that part of that is what you do internally, but part is also your products: GE is transforming both their products and their operations on their transformation path. For example, their previous aircraft jet engines provided only aggregates measurements about takeoff, cruise and landing; now they have the potential to collect 1TB of measurement data per day from a two-engine aircraft. That’s really big data. Unfortunately, most data is dark: only 0.5% of the world’s data is being analyzed. We don’t need to analyze and act upon all of it, but there’s a lot of missed potential here.

His second point was about the “industrial internet”, where 50 billion machines are interconnected. We saw a revolution in entertainment, social marketing, communications, IT architecture and retail when a billion people were connected, but the much larger number of interconnected machines has the potential to virtualize operational technology, and to enable predictive analytics, automated and self-healing machines, mobilized monitoring and maintenance, and even increased employee productivity. Industrial businesses are starting to change how they get things done, in the same way as retail and other consumer businesses have been transformed over the past decade.

This flood of data is pushing big changes to IT architecture: industrial software now needs real-time predictive analytics, big data, mobile, cloud, end-to-end security, distributed computation, and a consistent and meaningful experience. Analytics is key to all of this, and he pointed out that data scientists are becoming the hardest position to fill in many companies. Behavioral changes around using the analytics is also important: if the analytics are being used to advise, rather than control, then the people being advised have to accept that advice.

Bill Ruh (GE) presentation at Innovation World - architecture for digital industry

The digital enterprise needs to focus on their customers’ outcomes – in their engine case, reducing fuel consumption and downtime, while improving efficiency of the operations around that machine – because at this scale, a tiny percentage improvement can have a huge impact: a 1% savings for GE translates to huge numbers in different industries, from $27B saved by increasing rail freight utilization to $63B saved by improving process efficiency in predictive maintenance in healthcare.

He had some great examples (speaking as a member of a two-engineer household, you can be sure that many of these will be talked about at my dinner table in the future), such as how wind turbines are not just generating data for remote monitoring, but are self-optimizing as well as actually talking to each other in order to optimize within and between wind farms. Smart machines and big data are disrupting manufacturing and related industries, and require a change in mindset from analog to digital thinking. If you think that it can’t happen because we’re talking about physical things, you’re wrong: think of how Amazon changed how physical books are sold. As Ruh pointed out, software coupled with new processing architectures are the enablers for digital industry.

Bill Ruh (GE) presentation at Innovation World - smart wind turbines

It’s early days for digital industry, and there needs to be a focus on changing processes to take advantage of the big data and connectivity of machines. His advice is to get started and try things out, or you’ll be left far behind leaders like GE.

Conference Within A Conference, Part Two: Big Fast Data World

John Bates, who I know from his days at Progress Software, actually holds the title SVP of Big Fast Data at Software AG. Love it. He led off the Big Fast Data World sub-conference at Innovation World to talk about real-time decisioning based on events, whether that is financial data such as trades, or device events from an oil rig. This isn’t just simple “if this event occurs, then trigger this action” sort of decisions, but real-time adaptive intelligence that might include social media, internal business systems, market information and more. It’s where events, data, analytics and process all come together.

The goal is to use all of the data and events possible to appear to be reading your customer’s mind and offering them the most likely thing that they want right then (without being too creepy about it), using historical patterns, current context and location information. For example, a customer is in the process of buying something, and their credit card company or retail partner uses that opportunity to upsell them on a related product or a payment plan, directly to their mobile phone and before they have finished making their purchase. Or, a customer is entering a mall, they are subscribed to a sports information service, there are available tables at a sports bar in the mall, so they are pushed a coupon to have lunch at the sports bar right then. Even recommendation engines, such as we see every time that we visit Amazon or Netflix, are examples of this. Completely context sensitive, and completely personalized.

On the flip side, companies have to use continuous monitoring of social media channels for proactive customer care: real-time event and data analysis for responding to unhappy customers before situations blow up on them. People like Dave Carroll and Heather Armstrong (and sometimes even me, on a much smaller scale) can strike fear in the hearts of customer service organizations who are unable to respond appropriately and quickly, but can cause big wins for these companies when they do the right things to fix things in an expedient manner for their customers.

What do you need to do to make this happen? Not much, just low-latency universal messaging, in-memory unstructured data, real-time predictive analytics, intelligent actions via real-time integration to operational systems, and real-time visual analytics. If you’re a Software AG customer, they’re bringing together Terracotta, Apama and JackBe into a unified platform for this sort of adaptive intelligence, producing intelligent actions from big data, in real time, to/from anywhere.

Software AG Big Fast Data

We then got a bit of a lesson on big data from Nathaniel Rowe, a research analyst at Aberdeen Group: how big is big, what’s the nature of that data, and some of the problems with it. The upshot: the fact that there’s a lot of data is important, but it’s the unstructured nature of it that presents many of the difficult analytical problems. It’s about volume, but also variety and velocity: the data could be coming from anywhere, and you don’t have control over a lot of it such as the social media data or that from business partners. You have to have a clear picture of what you want out of big data, such as better customer insights or operational visibility; Rowe had a number of use cases from e-commerce to healthcare to counterterrorism. The ability to effectively use unstructured data is key: those companies that are best in class are doing this better than average, and it translates directly to measures such as sales, customer satisfaction and net promoter score. He finished up with some of the tools required – automatic data capture, data compression, and data cleansing – and how those translate directly to employees’ ability to find data, particularly from multiple sources at once. Real-time analytics and in-memory analytics are the two high-speed technologies that result in the largest measurable benefits when working with big data, making the difference between seconds (or even sub-second) to see a result or take an action, versus minutes or hours. He ended up with the correlation between investing in big data and various customer experience measures (15-18% increases) as well as revenue measures (12-17% increases). Great presentation, although I’m pretty sure that I missed 75% of it since he is a serious speed-talker and zipped through slides at the speed of light.

And we’re done for the day: back tomorrow for another full day of Innovation World. I’m off to the drinks reception then a customer party event; as always, everything is off the record as soon as the bar opens. Smile

Conference Within A Conference: webMethods World

For a company that focuses on model-to-execute from end to end, it’s a bit strange that Software AG chose to have several sub-conferences within Innovation World, corresponding to some of their products, or at least product categories. Today, I’m checking out webMethods World and Big Fast Data World (seriously, it’s called that); tomorrow, it will be ARIS World. First up: webMethods World.

Peter Carlson, VP Product Development for BPM and mobile solutions, gave us a detailed look at their new BPM mobile apps: first, a mobile process monitoring app, including a list view, a detailed instance view, and even a process model view; this replicates much of the functionality of the current web portal view. The searching features are nice: searching by many of the instance metadata values, including state and dates, then administrator actions available on the process instances.

Software AG social BPMHe showed the creation of a mobile inbox (for a business participant) using SAG Designer. Basically, a mobile project is created from an existing task definition using a wizard, including selecting the handsets to support; this generates code and drops it into the development package, which the developer can then augment with specific functionality. It’s not a “write once, deploy everywhere” development such as we are starting to see from some vendors, but it’s a fairly easy port. I’ll likely drop by the mobile booth later to see some of the demos, including the intriguingly named Mainframe to Mobile. Carlson ended up with a short bit about their social BPM capabilities, including tagging of both tasks and people to support social recommendations and similar functionality.

Software AG EDARob Tiberio, VP and chief architect, took the stage to talk about their event driven architecture, starting with their EDA goals of extensibility, standardization, integration and ease of use. Events and EDA aren’t new; the publish/subscribe paradigm has been around a long time, but it isn’t yet mainstream in a lot of enterprises’ technology stacks. Basically, producers publish events onto a transport layer, and a consumer subscribes to the events that it’s interested in. We used to do this all within the data center on an ESB, but as soon as every application around – not to mention the internet of things – started generating a bazillion events an hour, that just wasn’t good enough. It required a different sort of architecture: an event bus rather than a message bus, and the ability to scoop up the data included in those events and analyze it on the fly. Software AG EDA big data performanceThe result: a BPM process or integration flow can be triggered from an event, and a process or integration can emit events in turn. Events can be used to create real-time dashboards, particularly around the correlation and analysis of those events, and trigger actions so that systems react in real time to events. This isn’t new from a vendor product standpoint, but the more vendors who push EDA, the sooner this is going to make its way into actual customer implementations.

Chistoph Rohland, SVP of R&D was up next to talk about intelligent business operations (IBO), and how it can accelerate the observe-decide-act decision process within businesses. IBO, of course, is enabled by EDA: if you can’t handle the flood of events in real time, then you can’t really do IBO effectively.

Software AG webMethods IBO architecture

IBO increases visibility and transparency, as any good analytics will do, but also improves the response time and therefore the quality (and impact) of decisions.

Subhash Ramachandran, SVP of Product Management, provided a webMethods roadmap including the 9.5 release and some future directions. They’re moving to two full suite releases per year enabled by their own Agile product development methods, timed around Innovation World and CeBIT, in order to push innovation faster. If I were a customer, my concern would be how seamless that they can make this for the customers: they don’t want to have some customers sticking with older versions while webMethods speeds off into the future. He addresses this issue head-on, stating that customers can choose how often they want to upgrade: they can choose to upgrade to take advantage of new features that are relevant to them, but they’re not forced to upgrade too soon.

Software AG webMethods 9.5The webMethods 9.5 release includes a number of new features:

  • In the integration backbone, security enhancements and universal messaging adoption (Nirvana)
  • In BPM, monitoring and archiving performance enhancements, plus rules improvements including rule chaining
  • In UI, visual development and mobile testing support
  • In SOA governance, business UI and API management enhancements
  • In applications and partners, certificate and usability enhancements
  • In IBO, unified user experience and integrated products
  • Automated migrations between versions

Beyond 9.5, Ramachandran touched on a number of other areas that they’re working on:

  • IBO is really being positioned as not just a set of integrated products, but a unified single solution for business visibility and control.
  • Social BPM is becoming a big focus for them. A bit late, but at last.
  • Based on CentraSite, an API developer portal that is customizable and deployable to public or private cloud
  • Integration Live, which we heard about in this morning’s keynote, allowing for integration between systems regardless of where they are: public, private, cloud, on premise

We ended up with a webMethods customer panel including Discovery Communications, Avnet, Alcatel Lucent and Standard Chartered Bank. They took good advantage of the Innovation World app to do some audience polling to add in to the customer discussion, such as which webMethods products that attendees are using, and whether they are adopting a mobile-first strategy for new application development.

Transforming Healthcare At Maccabi With webMethods And ARIS

Israel has a mandatory but mostly privatized healthcare system, and Maccabi Healthcare Services is the country’s second largest and fastest growing health maintenance organization (HMO), with about 1.9 million members using the services of 5,000 physicians. Maccabi’s chief enterprise architect, Irena Kurman, gave a presentation in the Integration and Automation breakout track at Innovation World on how they are putting the model-to-execution message into practice to improve their processes and integrate their legacy systems better.

She talked about three case studies – medical referral follow-up, doctor visit management, and pregnancy tracking – that highlighted the challenges that they had with multiple systems and data sources, as well as uncontrolled and non-standardized processes. For example, their x-ray results process had point-to-point links between 14 different systems, making it very little to understand what was happening, much less consider modifications to the process. When something went wrong, there was no single process owner, and no visibility into the end-to-end process.

They started with webMethods for integration and SOA governance, then have more recently started to model their processes using ARIS and automate some of these processes using webMethods BPMS. That original spaghetti x-ray process still has those same source systems, but now uses an ESB middleware layer, with the BPMS (as well as external partners) accessing the legacy systems via services: changes to the process are made in the BPMS, not by rewiring the legacy systems.

The results in the case studies are pretty striking. In the medical referral follow-up process, they now have the ability to capture life-threatening cases in near real time, and since the entire process is linked and monitored, test samples can’t go missing without notice. For doctor visit management, payments to doctors are more accurate and are calculated in a transparent manner, improving relationships between Maccabi and their physicians. And for pregnancy tracking, a mobile application provides the patient with access to information relevant to her pregnancy stage, as well as view results such as recorded ultrasound video from anywhere.

Along the way, they’ve developed a model for approaching process and integration projects:

  • Start by modeling the business processes with ARIS
  • Integrate systems with webMethods Integration Platform
  • Execute and monitor processes with webMethods BPMS
  • Enable flexibility with the rules engine
  • Manage software services with CentraSite and Insight

Kurman feels that they’ve just started on their journey to process excellence, but it looks like they have a good roadmap on how they’re going to get there.

The Digital Agility Layer: Time To Get Intentionally Digital

Wolfram Jost, CTO of Software AG, started us off on the first full day of Innovation World with a keynote on innovations for the digital enterprise. As I mentioned yesterday, the use of the term “digital enterprise” (and even more, “digitization”) is a bit strange, since pretty much everything is digital these days, it’s just not necessarily the right type of digital. We still need to think about integration between systems to make automation seamless, but more importantly, we need to think about interaction patterns that put control in the hands of customers, and mobile and social platforms that make the digital forms ubiquitous. So maybe the right phrase is that we have to start being intentionally digital enterprises, rather than let it happen accidentally.

Software AG suiteI definitely agree with Jost’s key point: it’s all about the process. We need end-to-end processes at the business/customer layer, but have to interact with a plethora of silos down below, both on premise and in the cloud, some of which are decades old. Software AG, naturally, provides tools to help that happen: in-memory data management, integration/SOA, BPM, EA and intelligent business operations (IBO, including event processing and analytics). Software AG acquisitionsThis is made up of a number of acquisitions – Apama, alfabet, LongJump, Nirvana, JackBe – plus the pre-existing portfolio including ARIS and webMethods. Now, we’re seeing some of that on their Software AG Live PaaS vision for a unified cloud offering: Process Live for modeling and process publishing; Portfolio Live for IT portfolio management; AgileApps Live for application development and case management; and Integration Live for cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on premise integration. Integration Live is coming next year, but the rest of the platform is available as of today.

Software AG cloud offeringWe had a demo of Process Live, which provides cloud-based BPMN process modeling including collaboration; and Portfolios Live to see the systems with which the modeled processes may interact, including a wide variety of portfolio management functions such as assessing the usage and future development potential of any given system or application. We also saw an AgileApps Live application, including an analytics dashboard plus forms data entry and task/case management; interestingly, this is still sporting a longjump.com URL. I last reviewed LongJump in 2007 in conjunction with the Enterprise 2.0 conference, and obviously there have been some advances since then: it’s still an application development tool for web-based apps, but includes a lot of ad hoc task/case management functionality that allows the knowledge worker to create their own multi-step tasks (subprocesses, in effect) as well as perform other case-type functionality such as gathering artifacts and completing tasks related to a case resolution/completion.

Software AG Integration Live deployment stylesAlthough Integration Live isn’t there yet, we did hear about the different deployment styles that will be supported: development and/or operations can be in the cloud; there can be an on premise ESB or direct connections to systems.

Software AG event-driven architectureJost drilled down into several of the specific products, starting out with the overarching premise that Software AG is moving from a more traditional multi-tier architecture into an event-driven architecture (EDA), where everything is based around the event bus. Product highlights included:

  • ARIS positioning and use cases from process modeling to governance, and the radical UI redesign in ARIS 9 that matches the Process Live UI
  • Mobile and social BPM UI
  • Elastic ESB using virtual private cloud as well as public and private cloud
  • API management, representing an extension to the Centrasite concepts
  • Intelligent business operations architecture including in-memory analytics and event processing
  • Terracotta strategy for in-memory data management
  • Integration of Apama, big memory (Terracotta) and messaging for big data/event correlation

Software AG mobile BPM 1 Software AG mobile BPM 2 Software AG mobile BPM 3

I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more about these over the next two days so I’m not trying to cover everything here.

We had a brief demo from John Bates on audience sentiment analysis for price level setting using Apama, then wrapped up with a presentation from Edy Liongosari, Managing Director at Accenture on how to bring some of this into practice. One thing that Liongosari said really resonated: next year, none of us are going to be talking about cloud, because it will be so ubiquitous. Same is true, I believe, of the terms social and mobile. Not to mention digital.

Kicking Off @SoftwareAG @InnovationWorld

For the first time in a few years, I’m at Software AG’s Innovation World conference in San Francisco (I think that the last time I was here, it was still the webMethods Integration World), and the focus is on the Digital Enterprise. At the press panel that I attended just prior to this evening’s opening keynote, one journalist made the point that “digital enterprise” is kind of a dumb term (I paraphrase here) because everything is digital now: we need a more specific term to mean what Software AG is getting at with this. Clay Richardson of Forrester, who I dragged along to the press session, said that his colleagues are talking about the post-digital age, which I take to mean is based on the assumption that all business is digital so that term is a bit meaningless, although “post-digital” isn’t exactly descriptive either.

Terminology aside, Software AG’s heart is in the right place: CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich took the stage at the opening keynote to talk about how enterprises need to leverage this digital footprint by integrating systems in ways that enable transformation through alignment and agility. You can still detect the schisms in the Software AG product portfolio, however: many of the customer case studies were single-product (e.g., ARIS or webMethods), although we did hear about the growing synergy between Apama (CEP and analytics) and webMethods for operational visibility, as well as Apama and Terracotta (in-memory big data number crunching). As with many of the other large vendors that grow through acquisitions,

We heard briefly from Ivo Totev, Software AG’s CMO; saw presentations of two of their customer innovation awards; then had a lengthier talk on the power of mobile and social from Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Digital Leader. Unlike the usual pop culture keynote speaker, Qualman’s stuff is right on for this audience: looking at how successful companies are leveraging online social relationships, data and influence to further their success through engagement: listening, interacting and reacting (and then selling). He points out that trying to sell first before engaging doesn’t work online because it doesn’t work offline; the methods of engagement are different online and offline, but the principles from a sales lead standpoint are the same. You can’t start the conversation by saying “hey, I’m great, buy this thing that I’m selling” (something that a *lot* of people/companies just starting with Twitter and/or blogging haven’t learned yet).

Qualman took the popular Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” example from a couple of years ago, and talked about not just how United changed their policies on damage as a result of this, but the other people who leveraged the situation into increased sales: Taylor Guitars; a company that created a “Dave Carroll” travelling guitar case; and Carroll himself through sales of the song and his subsequent book on the power of one voice in the age of social media. He looked at companies that have transformed their customer experience through mobile (e.g., Starbucks mobile app, which has personally changed my café loyalty) by giving the customer a way to do what they want to do – which hopefully involves buying your product – in the easiest possible way; and how a fast and slightly cheeky social media presence can give you an incredible boost for very little investment (e.g., Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet when the lights went out during the Superbowl). I gave a presentation last year on creating your own process revolution that talked about some of these issues and the new business models that are emerging because of it.

Great to see John Bates here, who I know from his tenure at Progress Software and came on at Software AG with the Apama acquisition, as well as finally meet Theo Priestley face to face after years of tweeting at each other.

Disclosure: Software AG is a customer (I’m in the middle of creating some white papers and webinars for them), and they paid my travel expenses to be at this conference. However, what I write here is my own opinion and I have not been financially compensated for it.