Upcoming conferences

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

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

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

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

OMG’s Maximizing BPM Investments with SOA Workshop

OMG has a workshop coming up on January 14-17 in Orlando on Maximizing BPM Investments with SOA, and they’ve extended their early bird pricing of $695 until today. I’m not sure how late you can go while still calling it “early bird”; this extension probably means that everyone is too busy recovering from the holiday season to register for conferences in January.

BPM Think Tank Day 1: Derek Miers

Derek Miers started the afternoon with an overview of OMG’s BPM standards.

Adopted specifications

  • BPM (Business Motivation Metamodel)
  • BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation)
  • BPDM (Business Process Definition Metamodel)
  • SBVR (Semantics of Business Vocabulary & Rules)
  • BPMM (Business Process Maturity Model)

Specifications in progress:

  • OSM (Organizational Structure Metamodel)
  • BPRI (Business Process Runtime Interfaces)
  • BPMN 2.0 (Merged notation and metamodel)
  • PRR (Production Rules Representation)

BPMM is concerned with the evolutionary improvement path that organizations take from immature, inconsistent processes to a more mature set of business processes, and is targetted for use by the business side within organizations.

BMM is an integrated approach for deciding, documenting, communicating and managing key elements in business design, intended for use by business managers.

SVBR is more of a vendor-focussed standard for business rules: like other serialization and interchange standards, this is something that is built into products but isn’t much seen by business managers/analysts.

BPDM is an interchange format for moving between process model types: a metamodel that allows, for example, XPDL to be translated to BPDM and on to BPEL. Interesting to note that OMG puts XPDL in the same layer as BPEL, WS-CDL and ebBP, that is, execution models, with BPMN and BPDM being up in the business models layer. I’m not sure how much of this representation is political in nature, to allow BPEL and XPDL to be included in a BPDM world; since BPDM does serialization for the purposes of interchange, XPDL would only be used for interfacing with systems that don’t support BPDM, and BPEL would be used only when it was required as an execution language. This is a technical standard: business analysts won’t really care except that it provides them with interchange between tools as required.

BPMN we all pretty much know about: a graphical process notation standard, used by business analysts and others who need to create or understand process models. Version 1.1 will be released within the next few weeks, and 2.0 (which rolls in BPDM to provide notation, metamodel and interchange in a single standard) is targetted for the end of 2008.

OSM is a standard for modelling (essentially) the organizational chart: organizational units, position, authority, responsibility, relationships, contact information, organization rules, and matrix structures. A current de facto standard that covers part of this is LDAP, for example. OSM is targetted at business managers, but will need adoption by the modelling tools and BPMS vendors. There was a decision made to separate the process (BPMN/BPDM) and resource (OSM) architecture, although they are closely related: OSM will tie into BPMN concepts such as swimlanes.

BPRI is a standard providing an interface to process execution artifacts in order to extract information for monitoring and analysis. I think that this is a prime target for RSS feeds as a standard way of extracting runtime data from executing systems; that would at least provide a standard transport, leaving still the development of the standard for the payload. Derek indicated that this is one working group that is having trouble getting participation and traction in the industry, so if you’re interested in participating in this (or in any of the other OMG BPM standards), contact OMG.

On his summary slide, he has one line that says “Don’t leave it to the vendors to control your destiny”, yet the room is full of vendors with a sprinkling of independent like Bruce, Brenda and I, and I’m not sure that the end-user organizations that this is obviously targetted at are even in attendance.

OMG specification documents are freely available to the public, although I’ve always found it difficult to find them on their website. Apparently there’s a link from the OMG home page to the specifications catalog, and all of the specifications are linked from there.

Through a fog of BPM standards

If you’re still confused about BPM standards, this article by Bruce Silver at BPMInstitute.org may not help much, but it’s a start at understanding both modelling and execution languages including BPMN, UML, XPDL, BPEL and how they all fit together (or don’t fit together, in most cases). I’m not sure of the age of the article since it predates the OMG-BPMI merger that happened a few months ago, but I just saw it referenced on David Ogren’s BPM Blog and it caught my attention. David’s post is worth reading as a summary but may be influenced by his employer’s (Fuego’s) product, especially his negative comments on BPEL.

A second standards-related article of interest appeared on BPTrends last week authored by Paul Harmon. Harmon’s premise is that organizations can’t be process-oriented until managers visualize their business processes as process diagrams — something like not being able to be truly fluent in a spoken language until you think in that language — and that a common process modelling notation (like BPMN) must be widely known in order to foster communication via that notation.

That idea has a lot of merit; he uses the example of a common financial language (such as “balance sheet”), but it made me think about project management notation. I’m the last person in the world to be managing a project (I like to do the creative design and architecture stuff, not the managing of project schedules), but I learned critical path methods and notation — including hand calculations of such — back in university, and those same terms and techniques are now manifested in popular products such as MS-Project. Without these common terms (such as “critical path”) and the visual notation made popular by MS-Project, project management would be in a much bigger mess than it is today.

The related effect in the world of BPM is that the sooner we all start speaking the same language (BPMN), the sooner we start being able to model our processes in a consistent fashion that’s understood by all, and therefore the sooner that we all starting thinking in BPMN instead of some ad hoc graphical notation (or even worse, a purely text description of our processes). There’s a number of modelling tools, as well as the designer modules within various BPMS, that allow you to model in BPMN these days; there’s even templates that you can find online for Visio to allow you to model in BPMN in that environment if you’re not ready for a full repository-based modeling environment. No more excuses.

BPMI and OMG merge BPM interests

A press release from BPMI and OMG announced recently that they’re merging their BPM standards activities:

The combined activities will continue BPMI’s and OMG’s ground-breaking work and focus on all aspects of Business Process Management, including:

  • Refinement and promotion of BPMI’s Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) as the basis for business modeling,
  • Delivery of BPMI’s Business Process Definition Metamodel (BPDM), Business language, vocabulary, and rules,
  • BIM (Business Information Management),
  • EAI (Enterprise Application Integration),
  • B2B (Business to Business collaboration),
  • Web Services Information and Processes,
  • Security Policy and Management, and
  • Refinement, promotion and education of the principles, approaches and tenets of Business Process Management within the broader business community.

OMG will continue its tradition of innovation by integrating and reusing complementary business integration and web services standards such as WS-BPEL from OASIS, WSDL and XML Schema from W3C.

BPM standards just became one degree less confusing.