TUCON: BPM Evolution and Roadmap

At this point, it makes more sense to start labelling the posts by session title rather than presenter, since we’re getting into some pretty detailed breakout topics. This one was presented by Roger King, Director of BPM Product Strategy & Management at TIBCO, and Justin Brunt, product manager for iProcess.

Most of the technical people working TIBCO’s BPM group seem to be vestiges of the Staffware acquisition; many of them are still based in the UK, where the development is still done.

They started out with a review of what’s happened in the products in the past 12 months:

  • Business Studio 1.x, a standalone modelling and simulation product aimed at business analysts; the free downloadable version released in November already has more than 10,000 downloads. Modelling is done in BPMN, and XPDL is supported for import and export — necessary for even getting the models into the iProcess Suite for execution, since there is no shared model with the process execution environment. It also supports imports from Visio and ARIS. There’s some more advanced features as well: a hierarchical organization of business processes and associated assets; and process simulation with SLA indicators and reports.
  • iProcess Suite 10.5, with improved work queue performance and scalability to support more concurrent users, better performance for sorting and filtering (always slow with most BPM products) and faster startup time. It also included an enhanced web client based on General Interface, with GI or custom forms support and a number of other new functions.
  • iProcess Insight 2.0, the BAM product, which I reviewed in a post yesterday.

What’s coming in the near future:

  • Business Studio 2.0, with support for the full BPMN 1.0 specification and XPDL 2.0. I keep meaning to download Business Studio and do some comparative analysis with some of the other downloadable modelling products, but I may wait until version 2.0. I wrote about a few of the new features from Tim Stephenson talk yesterday, but here’s a recap. In the process analyst perspective: design patterns/fragments to speed design, refactoring, concept modelling with UML support, import/export of EPC/FAD from ARIS, and custom XSLT translations to XPDL. In the process architect perspective: service registry, native services such as email and database connectors, direct server deployment and version control
  • iProcess Suite core component support for some new platforms, including 64-bit Windows Server and Red Hat Linux; direct deployment from Studio to Engine (although it’s not clear if this is via a shared model or just automates the import/export process); and new audit trail entries. They’ve also simplified installation.
  • Web services capability, with support for WS security at the transport and SOAP layer, and support for withdraw actions and delayed release.

They went on to discuss a number of key themes in product development for this year and beyond.

They’re gradually migrating to a single modelling/design environment — Business Studio — although they’re still not quite there yet; this will provide a more consistent experience for both business and IT users of the design tools. This supports the move to full model-driven development by allowing for the easy integration of forms design into the Eclipse-based environment, which can in turn generate GI, JSP or other runtime forms for the updated iProcess web client. Business rules definition will be in the Eclipse-based design environment, although it’s not clear if they’re using a third-party BRE or have their own rules technology. The old modelling environment, Business Modeler, isn’t going away any time soon, but new feature development will focus on Business Studio so will encourage migration. Like most vendors using this tactic to get existing customers off an old product, I expect that they’ll hear grumbling about this for years.

The out-of-the-box web client will be simplified and made to look more like the familiar Outlook client, with improved performance. The UI will also be exposed as components and services to allow them to be included in custom applications or portals, and they’ll ship an out-of-the-box BPM portal using TIBCO’s portal platform to show how this can be used. There will be better MS-Office integration and an Eclipse-based desktop application.

They’re also going to provide a project collaboration portal for BPM projects, to allow people developing TIBCO BPM applications to collaborate. They’re also adding in some governance capabilities to help handle the lifecycle of BPM projects and assets.

King mentioned my presentation from yesterday directly, and commented that they’re going to be supporting more of the BPA tools for import soon, including Proforma. They’ve obviously identified that it’s important to be extremely open from both a standards and BPA support standpoint.

Next on the list is goal-driven BPM, or virtual processes, where there may be too many process alternatives to model explicitly and the optimal runtime process has to be generated based on process parameters and environmental factors. This sounds like fuzzy future stuff, but would be great if they can pull it off.

They’re also developing workforce management and more complex resource modelling for the purposes of business optimization.

There was a brief point at the end about preparing for the next generation of SOA, although no time to talk about what this means; I would have loved if this session had been a bit longer.

TUCON: Technology Buzz Panel

Next up in the general session is the technology buzz panel, where “journalists, analysts, and industry experts square off on buzzwords of the day”. The moderator was Gary Beach of CIO Magazine, with panelists Frank Kenney of Gartner, Jason Maynard of Credit Suisse, Rob Strickland of T-Mobile USA, and Aaron Ricadela of BusinessWeek. Their initial goal is to eliminate four tech buzzwords (one per panelist):

  • Maynard picked “Web 2.0”, apparently not only because he thinks that it’s a bad term but because he doesn’t like social networking. There was discussion around the stage: Kenney railed against the term Web 2.0 but then used the ever-overused “paradigm shift”; Strickland said that he thinks there’s too many bugs in Web 2.0 and he’s waiting for 2.0.1; Ricadela commented on the new business models coming out of this, although he didn’t use the term “Bubble 2.0”.
  • Strickland picked “the business”, in the context of the dichotomy between IT and the business; as a CIO, he sees himself as an integral part of the business. I wonder if T-Mobile’s business users feel the same way; Maynard said that he felt that his IT department was actually a detriment to productivity sometimes, and admitted to using his own MacBook Pro and Gmail (interestingly enough, a Web 2.0 application) because IT wasn’t focussed on some of the business requirements. Kenney and Ricadela both talked about aligning IT and business, which of course just points out that the divide does exist.
  • Ricadela picked “business process management”, because he believes that it’s become a catch-all term for anything to do with business improvements enabled by technology. He blames the analysts and vendors for the confusion: given that Gartner helped to promote this term in its infancy and created a tremendously confusing landscape that in turn allowed vendors to promote everything as BPM, I’d have to agree to a certain extent. Kenney feels that the term BPM is overused but should still exist; Maynard doesn’t appear to understand the distinction between BPM and packaged applications.
  • Kenney picked “enterprise”, saying that it’s not used consistently and is often just applied as a marketing buzzword: sometimes it means “within the four walls of a company”, sometimes it relates to scalability or other features of a system. Maynard points out that adding the word “enterprise”  to a software product allows vendors to charge more it, and thinks that it applies only to large companies.
  • Beach finished up by picking “virtualization”, which I identified yesterday as potentially just being an overused buzzword, so I’d have to agree.

They moved on to a discussion of several magazine headlines: “Is your company fast enough”; “No future in tech?” (which veered sharply into American protectionist rhetoric); various open source headlines (Maynard pointed out that open source is fundamentally changing the software industry, even those companies that are not open source); software as a service (nothing new here); and finally, can you trust analysts’ opinions given that they’re all sleeping with the vendors.

They finished with a lightening round with 30-second opinions on Web 2.0, gigabit everywhere, SOA, AJAX, and the future of enterprise applications.

All in all, a more entertaining panel than I’ve seen for a while.

TUCON: Jayshree Ullal

Although not on the schedule, next up was Jayshree Ullal, SVP of the data centre, switching and security technology group at Cisco. Virtualization is definitely the key phrase of the day, because she’s soon talking about network virtualization.

She talked about the type of process that HP is going through now: data centres having moved from centralized to de-centralized in years past are now moving being re-centralized. Although Mark Hurd spoke about the ramifications on servers and data centres, Ullal spoke about the impact on the networks: if you re-centralize, it’s obviously going to have network implications. At the same time, the type of applications passing data over the open internet requires new functionality with respect to security, protocol gateways and other areas. She went on to show the network layers involved in a data centre that are served by Cisco and TIBCO together, with some low-level messaging functionality being provided in the Cisco devices themselves, and other more complex transformation and orchestration functionality being served by TIBCO products, and how this combination of front-end and back-end processing can improve high-volume applications such as online trading.

Ullal’s vision is “any application, any content, any location”, which requires robust network virtualization, application and service virtualization, and device mobility. When you think about it, although she’s talking more about providing this sort of functionality for large corporations, it also has a huge impact on web-based “Office 2.0” applications as well, where individuals and small businesses are virtualizing their data centres by outsourcing the entire thing to hosted services of various types. So if you use Google Apps for your domain email, Mozy for your data backup, or access Facebook on your Blackberry, you’re also a supporter of her vision.

Disclosure: I own a few paltry shares of Cisco, and I would be very happy if you’d all buy a ton of their products so that I can retire early.

TUCON: Mark Hurd

After a quick visit from Bill Schlough, SVP and CIO of the San Francisco Giants, to talk about our visit to the big game tonight (who knew that the Giants even had a CIO? Or that they’re a TIBCO customer?), Mark Hurd of HP gave the opening keynote for today. He spent a lot of time talking about their own internal IT and how it supports their operations. They have a huge scale of operations, and their IT needs to support that: they ship 3 printers and 2 PCs each second, and a server every 10-11 seconds, across 179 countries. They have 800 million customer interactions per year. And they have one big constraint in their internal IT implementations: they have to eat their own dogfood. They’re in the process of moving from 87 data centres down to 3, reducing the number of applications, servers and data marts significantly as well, all to try and make their IT less expensive and provide a more efficient supply chain. It sounds like TIBCO’s ActiveMatrix is forming a pretty important part of HP’s IT consolidation strategy, since service virtualization is pretty important when reducing the number of servers.

As I sit here typing this post on my HP laptop — my 3rd one in a row, the older 2 of which are still in use because they just refuse to die — and with a printer back at my office that is just the latest in a long line of HP printer, I certainly agree that they know how to make hardware right. I’ve even had some reasonable experiences with their maintenance, when I had to send a laptop back to have a failed part replaced, although I’ve found their telephone support to be mostly frustrating and useless.

It’s interesting to hear Hurd’s perspective, since HP is a TIBCO customer, but is also a significant partner: they’re TIBCO’s preferred development platform, and also integrate TIBCO solutions for customers through their own services group.

TUCON: Me and Tim Stephenson

In the last session of the day, hence the only thing standing between the attendees and the bar, Tim and I gave a talk on business process modelling. My portion of the talk, which was not at all TIBCO-specific, talked about modelling for the masses; I’ll publish it here when I get a chance. Tim followed on with information about the new release of Business Studio, and how it’s used for process modelling. Tim and I met via email about a month ago when we were getting this all set up, and on Sunday we finally had a chance to meet face-to-face. In spite of our short time together, we’re pretty aligned on most of the issues, so had some pretty good synergy in our talk.

I feel sorry for Tim, as I do for anyone who presents after me, since I tend to get really carried away with what I’m talking about, and I went over my 20-minute allotment of our 40-minute presentation. 10 minutes over. I had a great time, however. 🙂

Tim went into many of the details of process modelling in the TIBCO Business Studio environment, and showed some particular BPMN examples that can be tricky to understand, such as gateways and events. It looks like they’ve done some nice work of creating process fragments — design patterns for portions of a process — that can be easily inserted in at any point in a process to save time. He also discussed their concept modeller for business domain modelling, allowing you to create an enterprise common object model using formal UML notation. He also had to shore up the damage that I did by slamming the lack of round-tripping by most BPA and BPM vendors.

That’s it for today; we’re all off for drinks at the evening reception, then I have dinner with some of the product marketing team which will give me a chance to pump them for information about what’s coming up.

Tomorrow promises to be interesting — the BPM track is packed with winners, so I’ll be stuck in this same room with the crappy wifi all day, but promise to emerge occasionally and publish what I’ve written.

TUCON: Mark Elder and Venkat Swaminathan

I played hooky for a couple of sessions to go over my presentation for later today; as I mentioned earlier, TIBCO’s product base is broader than my interests, so where a couple of natural dead spots during the schedule for me.

Just before my presentation with Tim Stephenson, I sat in on Mark Elder and Venkat Swaminathan, both from TIBCO, talking about BAM. Since this room (which is also where I present next) has crappy wifi reception, publication will be delayed until after I present, since it might be considered a bit cavalier to dash out between presentations just to post.

They spent some amount of time at the beginning explaining what BAM is and why you need it; I’ll assume that most of you already know that stuff.

The interesting part (for me) are the specifics about TIBO’s BAM product, iProcess Insight, which is a plug-in to the BusinessFactor framework to provide BAM capability for monitoring iProcess process flows. Like most of the other BAM products that I’ve seen, it allows the definition of industry-specific KPIs in the business processes, then provides real-time monitoring of those KPIs with drill-downs from the aggregate statistics to the details. You can also use BusinessFactor to integrate external data sources, like a customer database. There’s not shared process models between the BPM execution environment and BAM, since the first step is to download process definitions from the iProcess Engine to create a project; changes to the iProcess model require the model to be re-downloaded to the iProcess Insight project and the project manually updated to suit the updated process model. With all the round-tripping problems that we have already with process modelling in one environment and execution in another, I would have favoured a shared model approach.

Once you have your project defined, the BAM runtime sends information over to the process engine about what to monitor, and the engine sends back the relevant events to be aggregated, analyzed and presented within iProcess insight.

You can define different dashboards for different parts of the process, with different KPIs visible in each dashboard. There are some standard dashboard views, but it’s pretty configurable/customizable for views such as balanced scorecards or even geographical overlays.

Looking at the components of iProcess Insight, there’s a wizard interface to initially create a BusinessFactor project that will become your BAM dashboard, a process monitor for the start/end of procedures, a step monitor for the start/end of steps and their deadlines, a resource monitor for user/group metrics, and a supervisor capsule to allow someone with the appropriate credentials to change a specific process instance.

We then looked at a comparison between iProcess Insight and iProcess Analytics: basically, Insight is near-real-time, event-driven operational BAM, whereas Analytics is historical analysis and reporting based on batch statistics export from the process engine. Many BPM vendors (especially the more mature ones) end up with this same split of functionality, since they tend to have first built the analytics years ago when they built the process execution engine, then OEM’d or bought a BAM engine and strapped it on the side within the last year or two.

Based on the audience questions, and some earlier observations, I’m starting to get the idea that TIBCO’s “user” base is pretty technical, with not much representation from the business side of organizations. Given that many of their products are development and low-level integration tools, this isn’t surprising overall, but I expected a few more non-geeks in the BPM sessions. If this is any indication of who’s using TIBCO within customer organizations, TIBCO needs to focus more on the business side of their customers to really play in the BPM space.

TUCON: Simon Hayward

I’m in my first breakout session of the day, State of BPM – Trends and Drivers for Success: A Leading Analyst Perspective by Gartner, and although the schedule shifted slightly to accommodate overtime speakers in the breakout session, the speaker decided to just go ahead and start anyway so I have no idea who I’m listening to. He’s certainly familiar, I’m sure that I’ve seen him at a Gartner event before, but with the recent departure of Jim Sinur (and, I have heard, Michael Melenovsky), I’m not sure who’s pushing BPM at Gartner these days besides Janelle Hill, and this guy at the front of the room is definitely not her. If I can get some wifi in here, I’ll look up my coverage of the Gartner events and that will likely jog my memory. Oh, wait, I think it’s Simon Hayward, who I referred to previously as the Energizer Bunny of BPM for his high-energy flying tour of BPM at Gartner. Given that Hayward usually does high-profile keynotes, it’s interesting that he’s here doing one of five simultaneous breakout sessions — Gartner’s obviously a little thin on BPM resources these days.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many Gartner presentations now that this sort of state of the union address looks pretty rehashed to me. Gartner’s business process maturity model takes a starring role, as it has for the last several months; I first saw it in a webinar that I hosted with Appian and Jim Sinur last October, when it was still labelled “the road to BPM” instead of BPMM. He went on to talk about the value of BPM to enterprises, and moving from a functionally-driven to a process-driven organization, also seen in that October webinar and many other places.

His six critical success factors for a BPM project (or for that matter, any IT project):

  • Strategic alignment
  • Culture and leadership
  • People
  • Governance
  • Methods
  • Information Technology

In moving from implicit processes within applications to explicit processes in a cloud above the infrastructure, he sees three paths: BPM suites, process-aware middleware (he puts TIBCO in this category), and process orchestration in composite applications.

Then, the now-ubiquitous gear diagram of BPMS, with the process orchestration engine and business services repository in the middle, surrounded by the 10 necessary features and functions required to play in this market. He moved quickly through a number of other subjects, such as how BPM and SOA are orthogonal dimensions when implementing processes (nice characterization), and the complementary relationship between BPM, BI and BAM. He finished up with a slide that I’ve seen many times about assigning responsibilities between IT and business, still valid although I think that some of the responsibilities are shifting more than is indicated here.

I realize that Gartner is a draw at a conference like this, but I’m hoping to see a little more innovative material out of them soon.

TUCON: Tom Laffey and Matt Quinn

Last in the morning’s general session was Tom Laffey, TIBCO’s EVP of products and technologies, and Matt Quinn, VP of product management and strategy. Like Ranadivé’s talk earlier, they’re talking about enterprise virtualization: positioning messaging, for example, as virtualizing the network layer, and BPM as enterprise process virtualization. I’m not completely clear if virtualization is just the current analyst-created buzzword in this context.

Laffey and Quinn tag-teamed quite a bit during the talk, so I won’t attribute specific comments to either. TIBCO products cover a much broader spectrum that I do, so I’ll focus just on the comments about BPM and SOA.

TIBCO’s been doing messaging and ESB for a long time, and some amount of the SOA talk is about incremental feature improvements such as easier use of adapters. Apparently, Quinn made a prediction some months ago that SOA would grow so fast that it would swallow up BPM, so that BPM would just be a subset of SOA. Now, he believes (and most of us from the BPM side agree 🙂 ) that BPM and SOA are separate but extremely synergistic practices/technologies, and both need to developed to a position of strength. To quote Ismael Ghalimi, BPM is SOA’s killer application, and SOA is BPM’s enabling infrastructure, a phrase that I’ve included in my presentation later today; like Ismael, I see BPM as a key consumer of what’s produced via SOA, but they’re not the same thing.

They touched on the new release of Business Studio, with its support for BPMN, XPDL and BPEL as well as UML for some types of data modelling. There’s some new intelligent workforce management features, and some advanced user interface creation functionality using intelligent forms, which I think ties in with their General Interface AJAX toolkit.

Laffey just defined “mashup” as a browser-based event bus, which is an interesting viewpoint, and likely one that resonates better with this audience than the trendier descriptions.

They discussed other functionality, including business rules management, dynamic virtual information spaces (the ability to tap into a real-time event message stream and extract just what you want), and the analytics that will be added with the acquisition of Spotfire. By the way, we now appear to be calling analytics “business insight”, which lets us keep the old BI acronym without the stigma of the business intelligence latency legacy. 🙂

They finished up with a 2-year roadmap of product releases, which I won’t reproduce here because I’d hate to have to embarrass them later, and some discussion of changes to their engineering and product development processes.

TUCON: Diane Schueneman

Next in the morning’s general session was Merrill Lynch‘s Head of Global Infrastructure, Diane Schueneman. She focussed on change and complexity, and how to manage that while maintaining a client focus. Like all the financial institutions that I work with, this comes down to four types of change: disintermediation, competition (especially when there is ambiguity over whether another firm is a competitor or customer), innovation and regulation. This all creates a huge amount of complexity; many companies try to address this by adding more complexity, which leads to client expectations that are rarely met. With more than 9 million transactions processed per day, Merrill Lynch needs to have a better way to handle client expectations, which they’ve done by moving from a product silo focus to a client focus, where the service is organized from the client’s point of view.

She described how they did this:

  • 70% of IT spending on innovation, 30% on maintenance (the industry average is more like the opposite)
  • Straight=through processing, with a goal of 99% of transactions processed without human intervention
  • Application availability 99.95%
  • Global sourcing to reduce costs
  • Focus on getting client satisfaction into the top 3 within the industry
  • Use of e-channels

Schueneman was very complimentary of the Spotfire acquisition announced earlier, since they use predictive analytics heavily within Merrill Lynch and see the value: they can actually predict most fraud before it ever happens based on patterns in the data.

An interesting piece of trivia from Schueneman: during the 3 days following 9/11 when all planes in the US were grounded, not a single cheque was cleared in the country because the paper cheques were all sitting on planes. This resulted in the development new legislation that allowed for electronic scanning and clearing of cheques at the point of origin. Now if only we could clear a US cheque in Canada in less than 30 days.

Kicking off TUCON: Vivek Ranadivé

Although I kicked off TUCON in an Irish pub down the road two nights ago with some jet-lagged TIBCO folks, it really started last night with the opening reception in the solutions showcase. The reception was packed, and it turns out that there’s over 1100 people here, which is pretty amazing for a user conference.

There’s the usual flurry of press releases from TIBCO and their partners, such as announcing version 2.0 of Business Studio with full BPMN 1.0 support, although I’ll wait until after my joint presentation with Tim Stephenson, the engineering manager for Business Studio, later today to see all the details of the new version. This morning, they also announced that they’re acquiring Spotfire, an analytics firm.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a user conference of this size — probably the last one is FileNet’s about two years ago, prior to the assimilation — and I’d forgotten about the light and music show in the opening sessions. These companies spend a lot of money to create choreographed video and music shows, always with fog effects, that don’t add a lot of value, although this one did have a cute sequence of two jugglers intended to make a point about collaboration. It was mercifully short.

After a brief intro, we moved into the first general session with TIBCO CEO’s Vivek Ranadivé, who will be throwing out the first ball at the Giants game that we’re all attending tomorrow night. He started with the paradox of how the cost of implementing IT keeps going up when the cost of CPU, storage, memory and network are all declining: it’s all about too much customization. This is an interesting echo of the discussions yesterday at the New Software Industry conference about how product companies now make more than half of their revenue from services: that’s one excellent explanation for why IT costs keep going up.

Ranadivé showed a vision of what will be happening in the next ten years: SOA, BPM, predictive business and AJAX, although that’s not really that much of a prediction as opposed to projecting well-entrenched trends. For the large corporations represented in the audience, however, it probably looks like futuristic magic.

He was then joined briefly by Christopher Ahlberg, the CEO of Spotfire, to talk about what they do and why it’s a great fit (naturally) to be acquired by TICBO.

Disclosure: TIBCO is a client, and they paid my travel expenses to be at this conference.