State of the Insurance Industry

Since I have a lot of insurance clients, I attended this afternoon’s panel on the state of the insurance industry, hosted by Cindy Maike of Progress, and including Dan Benton of Kemper Corporation (former underwriter, now in IT), David Brandeis of Strongwood Insurance Holdings (IT), and Roy Ausberger of Virtusa (formerly IT within insurance and financial organizations, now consulting).

It’s always a challenge to blog panels, and I’ve just captured a list of unattributed points that came out during the discussion:

  • The business has to own the process, not IT, in order to have successful technology implementation projects.
  • The idea that as soon as your insurance policy is bound, you should be able to do anything such as make changes or have ID cards issued, is placing a lot of stress on current batch-based IT systems (and the people who support them). These systems need to become more real-time and event-driven, provide better information faster, and provide mobile interfaces for the end customers.
  • Social media is useful for insurance fraud investigations, but more importantly, can provide the sales agents with social media platforms such as Facebook integration to push into new markets. This requires a more robust and open platform to support integration with external platforms such as this. There’s still a search in many insurance companies to figure out how to make money with social media, rather than just the “cool” factor. One of them said “are we really going to go out and create a [insurance] quoting app in Facebook?”, which implied that that would happen shortly after hell froze over. Good luck with that.
  • My observation is that there’s a lot of confusion between social and mobile: when Maike asked the question about social media, two of the three panelists included mobile platforms as part of their answer, although that’s a bit of a different vector.
  • Progress Software gives them a lot of flexibility, but in general they focus on buy rather than build, then integrate using tools such as Progress. The value of industry-specific accelerators or components from the BPM/middleware vendor depends a lot on how close that component is to what is required, and what customization would have to be done. It’s more important to have the knowledge and understanding internally than to expect a vendor or consultant to provide industry-specific models. Not surprisingly, that created an interesting conversation between the two insurance guys and the Virtusa guy.
  • With the economy tanked, it’s becoming easier to hire good IT and analytical skills into insurance; previously, it was nearly impossible. Insurance doesn’t have a reputation as a glamorous career path, and they are still finding it difficult to hire. They are tending to be more flexible with their IT workforce with respect to geographic location in order to attract the right people.
  • There was not a lot of trust in the public cloud as a platform, primarily for audit reasons.
  • Real-time data is becoming critical for insurance to be able to track events as they unfold, such as natural disasters. Operational insight is the hot topic right now.

Some good insights here.

Beyond BPM: Virtusa’s Experience With Process-Led Transformation

I was late arriving at the breakout session by Virtusa’s Stuart Chandler this afternoon – as Ron Locklin tweeted, we’re over here in the outer Siberia of the conference center, and it was a long trip – so arrived as Chandler was discussing their experiences with customers who are undergoing business transformation powered by BPM and RPM.

Virtusa’s experience with process-led transformation in their customers has manifested in a number of ways:

  • Upsell/cross-sell opportunities to expand into new markets and products
  • Reduce costs and improve quality
  • Create a collaborative work environment to align cross-functional activities and enhance linkages along the supply chain
  • Incorporate the customer into the process to improve service levels
  • Greater transparency and visibility, particularly into real-time activity
  • Empowering the business so that they take ownership of their processes, making their own changes to processes rather than relying on IT
  • Case management and the ability to have a 360 degree view of the customer

Not surprisingly, they’ve seen a number of gaps and emerging needs driven by these transformation efforts, both on the project teams and in the business areas that are being transformed. There are a number of these that I saw highlight in research presented at BPM 2011 in Clermont-Ferrand a few weeks ago: process discovery (automated and manual), multi-platform integration, the impact of events on processes, and dynamic runtime capabilities. There are issues that are seen in any technology-heavy business transformation, not specific to BPM, but change management issues are exacerbated by the rapidly-changing environments that we create with BPM and related technologies.

They are seeing the focus of BPM shifting from reactive to proactive through event handling, interactive process management, sense and respond processes, and fast visualization and definition of new situations and contexts. This, of course, moves far beyond just BPM to more of the RPM portfolio that Progress is promoting, since traditional BPM platforms can’t easily handle the dynamic nature of real business processes, and are unable to handle and provide visibility into exceptions and dynamic processes, especially those that span multiple organizations.

Progress isn’t the only BPM product in Virtusa’s portfolio, but Chandler pointed out how RPM – which integrates BPM, BEP and RTA – is a more effective transformation tool because of its treatment of transactions, events and processes, and due to Control Tower as a common interface for not just monitoring, but effecting change in the underlying components. However, there are some changes that need to be made within organizations in order to properly adopt a transformation RPM implementation, including platform/architecture familiarity, and finding the right methodology, and making the necessary cultural shifts.

Although he gave some lip service to Progress RPM, I have the sense that this is a presentation that he gives at a variety of their BPM partner conferences with just a few slides switched out. He talked about the Virtusa BPM implementation methodology – a waterfall/Agile hybrid – and a case study that probably won the prize for most words ever crammed onto a single PowerPoint slide. Some good information, but like most partner presentations that I see at vendor conferences, a bit too self-serving in parts to be completely credible.

OpenEdge BPM: Modifying an OE Application To Integrate With BPM

I sat in on a breakout session today at the Progress Revolution conference on OpenEdge BPM and migrating existing OpenEdge applications to work with (Savvion) BPM. There are some new ways of doing this that are coming in OE 11 that we are not seeing in this session, but I’ve had a few conversations with people since my blog post yesterday and expect to have a more in-depth briefing on this soon.

Traditionally, in OE development as in many other application development environments, the business process and logic are built directly in the application, intertwined with the user interface and other components. This pre-SOA app dev methodology is pretty old-school, but I think that’s what we’re dealing with in considering a lot of the existing OE apps that have been in production for years: not only where they designed before multi-tiered architecture was generally acceptable practice, in many cases they may have been designed by less-technical business people who weren’t aware of these types of coding standards.

Now that Savvion BPM is integrated with OE, the plan will be that business processes will be made explicit in the BPM layer, and eventually much of the user interface will also be moved to the BPM forms layer, while the more traditional OE code will provide the services layer that is consumed by the process. This creates a more flexible and open service oriented architecture, allowing the BPM processes to consume both the OE services (currently with web services, but presumably with tighter couplings in the future) and services from other systems in an enterprise’s environment in order to orchestrate multiple applications.

If you were starting fresh with a new app, that would not be a significant problem: build your processes and UIs in BPM, build your services in OE, and you’re done. The problem, however, is the huge body of existing OE applications that need to start migrating in this direction. This problem exists far beyond the OpenEdge world, of course: those with legacy code and monolithic applications of any sort are having to deal with this as they struggle to become more service-oriented, and to integrate BPM as an overarching orchestration framework.

Brian Bowman, a Progress senior systems consultant, led this session and gave a demo of creating a process in BPM  – all the while explaining some BPM basics to what I assumed was a room full of OE developers. Like a huge portion of the business/IT world, most OE customers and partners have no idea what BPM looks like or what it can do for them, meaning that Progress has a lot of education to do before anyone actually starts integrating BPM into their OE apps. A huge opportunity for Progress, undoubtedly, but also a huge challenge. I’m also struck by the idea that a lot of the Progress people, particularly the SCs who will be demoing this to customers and partners, need to have some better general process modeling training including a bit more stringent BPMN education, not just training on pushing the mouse around in the BPM tool.

Brian was joined by Sandy (I missed her last name), another SSC, who moved from Brian’s “business analyst” role who created the process in BPM, to a “developer” role in OE. She had a pre-built OE app that had a button that instantiated a process and displayed the process ID; she showed the underlying OE code, which made a CreateInstance call followed by some updateDataSlot calls to update the parameters in the process instance with the OE database parameters. The rest of the integration happened on the BPM side, with the basic points of integration as follows:

  • Create a process instance from an OE app, and populate the data fields. I don’t know OE code, but it appears that it uses a couple of new or repurposed functions (CreateInstance and updateDataSlot) to call BPM.
  • Call an OE function from a process step using a SOAP call. This requires that the function be exposed in OE as a web service, but BPM would not have had to be changed in order to make the call, since that’s a standard functionality in Savvion.
  • Update the OE database from a process step. This is based on the OE database connectivity functionality that has been added to BPM.
  • Embed a WebSpeed form page in a BPM UI form: basically, replacing a BPM UI form with an existing WebSpeed form to complete a BPM step. It is not possible to use an existing OE GUI form in this way, only a WebSpeed form since the HTML can be embedded as a URL. This is done by embedding the search parameters directly in the URL that is called to invoke the embedded WebSpeed form, which may be a security concern in some situations.

There’s definitely an issue with those using the OE GUI (again, I’m not that familiar with OE, but I assume this is a thick client UI) since these can’t be used directly as BPM task UIs as you can with the WebSpeed forms, although you could add API calls to your OE GUI application to update the BPM process instance, effectively creating a shadow process in OE and BPM. Not best practice, I’m sure, but possibly a stop-gap measure for those migrating from the OE GUI either to WebSpeed forms or BPM UI forms.

OE and BPM have separate servers (as you would expect), and deployment is done independently, as far as I can tell. That makes sense, since the eventual goal is to have OE becomes more of the services layer consumed by BPM; there is no real need to have the deployment tightly coupled although you do have to be concerned about dependencies, as you would with any SOA deployment.

Some of the questions at the end were related to how OE functionality would be replicated in BPM, such as roles and security; Progress definitely needs to do some work around educating the customers and partners on how the features that OE developers currently rely on will be done on the BPM side, for those functions such as UI and work management that are expected to move over to this new environment.

7 Reasons To Build Business Apps on BPM by @neilwd

I was late to Neil Ward-Dutton’s session due to another meeting, and ended up arriving just as he started on reason #7. However, in the summary, he did list out his 7 reasons of why you want to build business applications using BPM technology:

  1. Demonstrate value transparently
  2. Support iterative, collaborative changes
  3. Speed up user acceptance
  4. Improve management of customizations
  5. Enable transition to SaaS delivery
  6. Reach new stakeholders
  7. Support continuous improvement

He finished with the signals that you can use to identify the maximum opportunity for value from using BPM:

  • Strong service differentiation focus
  • Strong need for performance transparency
  • Dynamic regulation or policy environment
  • Need to coordinate work/information across or between organizations

I was sorry to miss most of the presentation, but there apparently is a paper that Neil wrote on the Progress website going through these points as well (although I don’t have the link).

RPM For Top and Bottom Line Improvement

Dr. Ketabchi, who was CEO of Savvion before the acquisition and is now a chief strategist at Progress, presented a breakout session on using RPM to enable enterprises to improve their top and bottom line. BPM isn’t just about cutting costs and improving quality any more (although those are still important, and expected), it’s also about increasing revenue by taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.

He gave another version of what I saw in Wilner’s presentation on the justification for BPM (explicit business processes leading to agility, visibility and better business understanding of processes) which really drives home that I’m not at a BPM vendor’s conference, I’m at an application development tool vendor’s conference where they are introducing this hot new technology called BPM. This is, of course, the stage that most of the business world is at with respect to BPM understanding; I’m just so used to being in the BPM echo chamber that I rarely hear these messages unless I’m delivering them to a client.

Dr. K pointed out that BPM isn’t enough to increase revenue, although it obviously pained him to say that; business event processing (BEP) and embedded real time analytics are also required. Revenue generating opportunities are always customer-facing and situational, based on time, location, occasion, connection, exceptions and/or actions. This requires understanding the customers’ situations, analyzing those situations, and delivering (or offering) services and products that they need immediately. Sensing and understanding the customers’ situations requires the processing and correlation of events from a variety of sources using BEP, extracting information from the context of those events, and triggering actions and events as a result. In part, it’s about recognizing patterns and exceptions.

He went on to discuss these functionalities in the context of the Progress RPM suite, and some customer examples of using RPM to take advantage of revenue generating opportunities as they arise, such as a mobile phone company pushing offers to their (opted-in) customers based on their location. No real new information here, but showing a realignment of the focus of RPM to be as much about improving the top line as well as the bottom line of business.

Dr. K will be speaking at the Forrester BPM event here in Boston on Thursday, along with Progress customer Reliance Capital.

OpenEdge BPM Introduction with @KenWilner

Ken Wilner, Progress’ VP of Technology for the OpenEdge product, gave a breakout session on OpenEdge BPM, which integrates the former Savvion BPM platform into the OpenEdge application development environment to allow the business process to be made explicit – externalized from the application – in order to improve agility and visibility. It’s interesting to hear this message, which is no longer even a topic of conversation in mainstream BPM circles because it is so well-understood, presented to a group of OpenEdge application developers.

Does the integration of BPM just relegate OpenEdge to the scripting/coding language slaved to BPM? Maybe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of layering BPM on top of a monolithic application developed with OpenEdge, it’s about having an integrated development platform that includes BPM as a part of the toolkit. It will be interesting to see how well this message is received by the OpenEdge development community, and how long it takes to actually impact their development methods. I had a number of questions yesterday during my workshop on exactly this issue: how does BPM fit with an application developed in OpenEdge? It’s about pulling the process out of the app and into BPM, as Wilner pointed out, but also about orchestrating and integrating apps including OpenEdge and other systems such as CRM and accounting.

Although (Savvion) BPM Studio and the OpenEdge Architect development environment are both Eclipse-based, it doesn’t appear that they’ve been integrated in any significant manner. Similarly, there are two different servers – although a BPM process can call an OpenEdge functionality, using web services at least – and two different end-user portal environments, where the BPM server functionality can be surfaced in the OpenEdge portal.

He gave a live demo of creating a process in BPM Studio. This was pretty straightforward, a BPMN diagram of a five-step order processing flow with roles assigned to human steps, plus a simple data model with specific fields exposed at the steps in order to auto-generate the related forms. He then assigned a system step to an OpenEdge function, using web services (SOAP) calls, and another system step using the standard Savvion email functionality. He ran the process in the BPM portal, showing how the tasks were routed to the different users, and how you can monitor the process as it moves through the steps. Nice, and probably new and exciting for the purely OpenEdge people in the audience, but so far, this is just standard BPM with no specific integration between OpenEdge and Savvion BPM, only the standard loosely-coupled web services that would have been there in BPM anyway.

Wilner discussed (but did not demo) the high level of reusability of existing OpenEdge application components in the context of a BPM process, including the use of existing UI forms, but it’s not clear that this is a level of integration specific to OpenEdge, or just using standard integration points and/or custom development.

There is no doubt that BPM provides value as a tool for any application developer, but this demo could have been done with any BPMS, and/or any application that exposes functionality as a web service. I know that this session was listed as an introduction to OpenEdge BPM, but appears to be more of an introduction to BPM for OpenEdge developers. I hope that there is more to OpenEdge BPM than this, as well as a comprehensive roadmap for further integration. His closing slides indicated that this was coming in OpenEdge 11 at the end of this year, and I look forward to seeing how they are going to push this forward.

Progress Revolution Keynotes: Goodson and more @DrJohnBates

The second morning keynote was by John Goodson, SVP of products, digging a bit more deeply into the technology and products behind responsive business management (Control Tower, Savvion, Apama, Actional, Visual Analytics) and responsive business integration (Actional, DataXtend, DataDirect, Sonic). This is a formidable suite of products, and there are 20 more in their portfolio that he didn’t even cover; some degree of integration between these is really required to make this a bit less unwieldy.

He showed a (canned) demo of Progress RPM and Control Tower, including event and process monitoring as well as process modeling directly in the same environment. He stressed that Control Tower is not just about visibility, it’s about being able to make changes in real time.

photoHe quoted Mike Gualtieri of Forrester, who said “Java is a dead-end for enterprise application development” earlier this year; Goodson pointed out that Java coding is not inherently agile enough for a truly responsive business as he announced OpenEdge 11: fully integrated with BPM, multi-tenanted and deployable in the cloud, with support for iPad and Silverlight. It appears that OpenEdge is now positioned as part of RPM, with OpenEdge BPM being positioned as “the world’s first business process-enabled application development platform”. Furthermore, it’s deployable in the cloud on their Arcade platform.

John Bates returned to the stage – complete in a British red coat and tricorner hat last seen in Boston around 1776 – to discuss the industry solution accelerators available for RPM: capital markets, telecom and more. These accelerators allow developers to quickly assemble applications that combine RPM capabilities and their own industry knowledge. Interestingly, Savvion refocused on solution accelerators a year or more before their acquisition by Progress, and these are now considered by the analysts to be a requires feature in a BPMS.

He finished with a recorded demo of a detecting wash trades in the market, based on the capital markets solution accelerator, including discovering alerts, analyzing the related data, and setting up custom event correlation on the fly.

Progress Revolution Kicks Off: @RReidy and @DrJohnBates Keynotes

I arrived in Boston yesterday for Progress Software’s user conference, Revolution, and to deliver an Introduction to BPM workshop yesterday afternoon. With that out of the way, I can focus on the other speakers here, and what’s happening with Progress these days.

The keynotes opened with Rick Reidy, the CEO, with a bit of history of Progress as a supporter of business-led software development, and their current leading position in helping companies to become more operationally responsive to external events. This seems a bit strange, given that it was announced six weeks ago that Reidy will be leaving as soon as a successor is found – what was the board thinking, allowing this to happen just prior to the user conference without a replacement in place?

Regardless of this elephant in the room, he spoke well about creating the responsive business as a revolution in both technology and business, and what Progress is doing to lead that with new versions of OpenEdge and RPM, the latter of which includes the Progress Control Tower, an interactive cockpit. In spite of Progress’ long history with their OpenEdge software development environment, it’s clear that much of their future success is based on the Apama CEP and Savvion BPM acquisitions, and the integration of these product functionalities into a comprehensive solution.

Next up was John Bates, CTO, talking about how business success is defined by how you respond to the continuous disruption that occurs in everyday business life. Looking just at stock trading – a favorite topic for Bates, who has done a lot of work in this area – consider flash crashes and events such as the recent UBS $2B loss due to a single rogue trader; but he also touched on the business responses to natural disasters such as the Japan earthquake earlier this year, where entire supply chains were reconfigured. On a smaller scale, consider business responses to customer events such as missed SLAs, complaints and even Twitter messages about your company or products. It’s not just disaster management/avoidance: there are also fleeting opportunities for revenue such as mobile promotions, web upsells, and algorithmic trading, which can’t rely on a person noticing that something needs to be done, but must be automated based on external events.

Bates pointed out that companies that use classic business intelligence are driving in the rear view mirror: using past data to try to predict the future. Instead, you need to become operationally responsive:

  • Continuously mitigating risk
  • Optimizing operations dynamically
  • Capitalizing on real-time revenue opportunities

Progress has developed a responsive business prescription, which is a set of methods and tools for ensuring operational responsiveness. That starts with continuous business visibility, so that you can figure out how your business is doing in real time. That allows the next step, which is to sense and respond to opportunities and threats. Finally, you can improve your business processes based on this real-time sense and respond capability. See—Respond—Improve.

In order to do this, Progress provides an integrated suite of products that they call Responsive Process Management, which includes BPMS, CEP, business transaction management (BTM) and business analytics. The analysts are jumping on board: Gartner refers to this as intelligent business operations; IDC refers to it as business navigation systems.

BPM and CEP together are key to this: the BPMS allows for agile modeling and deployment of processes, while CEP correlates external events to determine what should impact the processes on the fly. He gave an example using the “tarmac rule” – the rule in the US that results in huge fines for airlines who load up a plane and leave the passengers sitting for more than 3 hours – where the combination of weather events, flight operations events, maintenance events and crew events can be used to avoid violating the tarmac rule by redeploying crew and aircraft as required, or avoid boarding a plane where it’s already known that the rule would be violated.

In order to become more responsive, business analytics have to combine real time and historical data, without necessarily replacing the core legacy systems that run the business. I touched on this yesterday during my workshop, in response to questions about the value of BPM when you have a perfectly good monolithic legacy application: basically, you want to gain visibility into (and potentially control) those legacy applications. This is where business transaction management comes into play, allowing you to monitor the events and state changes within the legacy applications, track and orchestrate the entire flow in  BPM – for example, linking together CRM, ERP and logistics systems, plus adding new functionality in an end-to-end process flow – then use Control Tower to view and control the entire process, including the underlying legacy applications.

Bates is a great speaker (and a really smart guy), so it’s always a pleasure to see him present: equally informative and entertaining.

Introduction to BPM Workshop at Progress Revolution

I gave a workshop on Introduction to BPM at the pre-conference day yesterday for Progress Software’s user conference, Revolution:

The room was full, well over 120 people, and I’ve had a lot of good feedback from the session. As always, I could have talked all day about this stuff, but had to limit myself to about 2.5 hours, with another hour hanging around talking to attendees afterwards. It was great to get my presentation out of the way early in the conference; now I can relax and focus on (and blog about) other people’s presentations.

Progress Analyst Day: Industry and Product View

Rick Reidy, Progress CEO, opened their one-day analyst event in New York by talking about operational responsiveness: how your enterprise needs to be able to respond to events that happen that are outside your control. You can’t control crises, but you can control your organization’s response to those crises. Supporting operational responsiveness are four technology trends – cloud, mobile, social media and collaboration – with the key being to extend the use of technology to the business user. If you remember Progress’ roots in 4GL development, this isn’t exactly a new idea to them; 4GLs were supposed to be for business users, although it didn’t really work out that way. Today’s tools have a better chance at achieving that goal.

Today, they’re announcing the upcoming releases of Responsive Process Management Suite 2.0 and Control Tower 2.0, plus their cloud platform, Arcade. Interestingly, much like IBM’s Lombardi acquisition turned BPM into the biggest story at this year’s Impact conference, Progress’ Savvion acquisition is having the same effect here: RPM is the top-line story, albeit supported by event processing. It’s not that the entire product suite is the former Savvion BPMS, but rather than BPM is providing the face for the product.

Reidy turned the stage over to “the two Johns” (his words, not mine): Dr. John Bates, CTO, and John Goodson, Chief Product Officer. Bates dug further into the ideas of operational responsiveness, and how the combination of analytics, event sense and respond, and process management help to achieve that. As he put it, BPM alone won’t achieve the responsive business; businesses are event-driven. They’re really trying to define a new “responsive process management” (RPM) market, at the overlap between BPM, business event processing, business transaction management, and business intelligence and analytics. Cue Venn diagram, with RPM at the intersection, then fade to another Venn diagram between custom applications and packaged applications, again with RPM at the intersection. Their estimates put the current market at $2.5B, with a rise to $6.5B by 2014.

Bates talked about the value of BPM, and how that’s often not enough because businesses are very event-driven: events flow in and out of your business every day – from applications, devices and external feeds – and how you respond to them can define your competitive advantage. Patterns in the relationships between events can identify threats and opportunities, and are especially important when those events are traditionally held in separate silos that typically don’t interact. He gave a great example around the FAA fines for airlines who hold passengers captive on planes on the ground for more than 3 hours: by looking at the events related to crew, maintenance, weather and flight operations, it’s possible to anticipate and avoid those situations, and therefore the fines (and bad press) that go along with them. You don’t need to rework existing legacy systems in order to have this sort of operational responsiveness: automated agents trap the events generated by existing systems, which can then be analyzed and correlated, and processes kicked off in a BPMS to respond to specific patterns.

Progress presents all this through their Control Tower, which brings together a business view of analytics and visualization, event sense and respond, and process management. I’m sure that I’ve written about this previously and would love to link to it, but the wifi in here is so crap that I can’t get a solid connection, so can’t look up what I’ve written previously on my own blog. #fail

Goodson took over to discuss the product in more detail, showing how Savvion, Actional, Apama and other components make up their RPM suite and the event management layer below that. Control Tower is new product (or was new in 1.0, last year) that overlays all of this, and puts a consistent business-facing interface on all of this, and providing collaborative process design and other social media features. We saw a pre-recorded demo of Control Tower, showing how a dashboard can be created quickly by dragging analytics widgets onto the canvas. The key thing is that the widgets are pre-wired to specific analytics and processes, allowing drill-downs into the details and even into the process models. Process changes and simulations can be done interactively.

As the wifi flickers to life occasionally, it’s interesting to see the Twitter stream for the event (obviously being updated by people with their own connectivity solutions): Anne Thomas Manes says “Claims to be unique in the ‘responsiveness’ market, but the marketing story sounds very much like Tibco’s story”. Mike Gualtieri thinks that “Control Tower…looks good, but it would be cool to hold up an iPad and pass it into the audience”. Personally, I’m pretty much over the iPad gee-whiz demo phase.

We came back after the morning break to a continuation of the John and John show, with Bates initially responding to some of the tweets that had happened during the earlier session, then discussing their solution accelerators that include business processes, rules, analytics, alerts, interceptors and adapters. They have created accelerators for several verticals including capital markets front office, and communications and media order management, in part because of their history with those verticals and in part because of the suitability of RPM to those applications. Savvion had been going down this road long before the acquisition, and this makes a lot of sense for Progress in terms of competitive differentiation: a combination of industry-specific foundation services and adapters that are mostly productized (hence supported and maintained like product), and customizable solution accelerators that rest on top of that foundation. This makes them far more useful than the type of templates that are offered by other vendors, which are not upgradable after they’re customized; although not confirmed from the stage, my assumption is that the customization (and hence forking from the Progress-maintained code base) all happens in a thin layer at the top, not in the bulk of the foundation services.

They’re currently shipping six different accelerators, and are adding several more this year. These range across industry verticals including banking, capital markets, communications and media, insurance, supply chain, and travel and leisure. They’ve worked with partners and customers to develop these, as well as creating some internal industry experience. We saw a couple of canned demos, although it’s impossible to tell from this just how much effort is required to fit this to any particular company’s business. As part of the demos, there were some bits where a business user updated the event handling and created a new rule; I don’t think that this will be done by business users, although certainly a trained business analyst could handle it.

The solution accelerators form a big part of their go-to-market strategy, and see these as taking share away from packaged applications. They see solution accelerators as a differentiator for Progress, as well as their focus on responsive process management. They haven’t forgotten their OpenEdge agile development environment however: they’re announcing OpenEdge BPM to bring that development platform to BPM applications. I don’t know enough about OpenEdge to understand the implications here, but will be interesting to see what synergies are possible as they bring together the entire Progress product suite.

To finish the industry and product section of the day, we heard about their cloud strategy, focused on applications in the cloud (rather than just infrastructure or a platform): creating vertical ecosystems for their various industry foci, incorporating both Progress solutions and partners to create composite solutions based on RPM, with Control Tower for end-to-end visibility and improvement. Progress Arcade is their cloud application platform for allowing these vertical ecosystems to be easily created and deployed across a variety of public and private cloud environments. It reminds me a bit of TIBCO’s Silver BPM environment, where you can do all the provisioning and setup right from their environment rather than having to hop around between different configuration tools. They stated that this is targeted at small and medium businesses who want to be able to leverage technology to be competitive: this is definitely an echo of a conversation that I had about BPM in the cloud with Neil Ward-Dutton earlier this morning, where I stated that most of the growth would be in SMB since this is the only way that most of them can afford to consider this technology.

Progress does a combo analyst day for both industry and financial analysts; this morning was more for the industry analysts while this afternoon is more for the financial analysts, although we’re all invited to be here all day. Since I don’t cover a lot of the financial side, I likely won’t be writing a lot about it, although I may be tweeting since the wifi seems to be a bit better behaved now.