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April 22, 2010

As many of my regular readers will know by now – I joined Forrester Research in February 2010, and subsequently left in 2015 to take up a role with Structure Talent

BizAgi Modeler now with SharePoint and Web Publishing Options

January 6, 2010

Just happened to notice a mailing today from the folks at BizAgi talking about the ability to publish BPMN models to SharePoint.

BizAgi have been providing a free BPMN Modeling tool for a year or so now … around half a million people worldwide have downloaded the tool and make use of it. And as I have said before, I believe it is one of the best modeling tools available on the market (free or paid for). The drag and drop, “intelisense” UI is worth a look anyway and should give every other Process Modeling tool a run for their money.

The addition of a SharePoint publishing option is great – especially when you consider the other wide selection of import-export options, which include Word, PDF, Visio, XPDL, Web, and Wiki. The Web publishing mechanism is pretty cool, as is the presentation mode (allowing you to step around the process with a full screen presentation option, accessing all attached information and embedded docs, etc).

Not bad for a free tool. People often struggle with this “free” business model – just where do they make their money? Well, they also sell a fully featured BPMS which is available at several levels – an Xpress Version (limited to a 100 users), and all the way up to an Enterprise-scale BPM Suite. My understanding is that since they started giving away the modeling tool their business has exploded.

Coming back to the implications of the SharePoint publishing option, users can now push their content to their own communities of users. They can share their processes within the enterprise – at the click of a button. Of course there are going to be implications for SharePoint Administrators (setting up appropriate file structures), but in the end, users are now getting highly dynamic HTML, delivering a compelling experience to the business person.

For more information – check the Resource Center.


BPM Focus Take the IBM acquisition of Lombardi

December 17, 2009

While the choice of dance partner was a little surprising, the desire for a liquidity event in the Lombardi management team was there to see long ago. They touted an IPO around this time, but in the current market that was always going to be difficult. My guess, and it is a guess, is that the VC funders wanted to cash out, and they pushed for a trade sale. And given we don’t know the price paid (although it may come out over time), and then discount the several rounds of VC funding … the true price will be hard to tell.

Looking at the other potential suitors – I don’t think Oracle could swallow another one so soon; Microsoft is not into Java based vendors; Adobe, have their own play and it would be hard to see the synergies; SAP … hmmn, if I had to pick one that would have been it. Of course, IBM would have been high on the list also.

From Lombardi’s point of view, as others have pointed out, IBM has the broad based clientele. This will give them room to grow and leverage an existing, widespread sales force that is tightly integrated with the market place. I am sure there will be frustrations along the way, but the methods and techniques developed by the Lombardi team are exemplars to the industry.

As I have said to many other vendors, when people buy BPM products, they buy the promise of success. And I am sure Lombardi’s success in the market is as much down to that aspect as it is their leading technology stack. They help their customers understand how they will succeed in meeting their business objectives (rather than touting the beauty of their technology stack).

For IBM, Lombardi brings that cachet in the market place – in my opinion one of the real leaders. But digesting the new acquisition and building new value will be challenging (and for Lombardi, being digested will not necessarily be the easiest of experiences). But I am not sure they can continue to claim that the Human/Content/Integration-centric BPM products belong in separate buckets – in the end, they are all about people and systems working more effectively together. I agree with folks like Neil Ward-Dutton that there is a high degree of overlap at the technology level. Maintaining a reasonable segmentation of products against perceived client needs always starts to look shaky no matter which vendor you look at.

For the customers – well those that don’t like IBM will continue to not like IBM and will wonder why they went this way. But to a large extent, they will be locked in. Others will rejoice in the fact that two existing suppliers now become one. On balance, I don’t see a massive decamp.

For the competitive BPM vendors – I should imagine it is champagne all around. On the one hand it proves their value (once the price becomes known). On the other, Lombardi getting swallowed up just removes one difficult competitor. Dealing with them as part of the IBM value proposition is probably easier than dealing with them as independents.

Other major technology vendors will sit up and take notice and may start looking for complementary acquisition targets. My guess is that Microsoft and SAP will perhaps buy someone that seems to fit. I think the Microsoft SharePoint value proposition is a little suspect (unless they bolt in a robust process platform … because Windows Workflow Foundation just doesn’t cut it – see my white paper – SharePoint as a Strategic Weapon – available free on P5 of the White Papers section of the BPM Focus web site). SAP has struggled to communicate a viable product story for anyone other than existing SAP application users.

For the Lombardi team – there will inevitably be a certain degree of fragmentation. Some will run for the hills, and others will stay. I cant see Phil Gilbert heading for the beach any time soon. Anyway, I am sure that the odd glass of Champagne (or in Phil’s case,  excellent Pinot Noir) will be raised to toast the new home.

Starting From A Different Place

December 11, 2009
While engaging with customers on BPM initiatives we often see a desire to move forward with a broad-based process mapping exercise, but find ourselves recommending a degree of caution.  Often there is a need to recast the scope and initial emphasis of the initiative first.

Bigger Gains to be Made!

There are far bigger gains to be made from ‘Doing Different Things’ rather than just ‘Doing Them Differently’ (process improvement). So before you launch into a program of process re-design consider looking at your business from a subtly different place – the customer experience and the outcomes they desire. Re-designing your business around the customer experience and what the customer values will not only deliver better customer relationships and a better long term competitive position, but it will also transform your own costs!

For example, we now think nothing of it, but when Federal Express started providing customers with a way of tracking their own packages, they transformed the customer experience (and changed an industry). As a result they enhanced their own competitive position, but they also saved a lot of money. They had effectively re-distributed the process, outsourcing the tracking element to the customer using an automated service.

Ensuring Greater Commitment and Engagement!

Whereas the more traditional approach of process improvement results in slow and incremental improvements at best, the strategic focus on a broader organizational transformation – more quickly improves customer facing processes and overall competitiveness.

A process mapping exercise is an essential part of that long-term transformation objective, but it starts people off in the wrong mode – often reinforcing past behaviors rather than giving the organization a framework within which to improve.

The issue is really one of organizational engagement – how to build the appetite for long-term organizational improvement.  It is not that process mapping is not important – it is.  It is more that about the context for that process mapping and who will really undertake it.  If the organization has an external provider come in and “do it for them” then it will miss much of the opportunity associated with that effort.

Individuals from within the respective business units will not be intimately involved, and as a result, they will see it as somebody else’s solution.  On the other hand, if you empower teams to design a new future – one that meets the needs of your target customers, and at the same time propels the organization into a stronger competitive situation (more efficient, lower cost, faster, safer, etc), then they will rise to the challenge.  The challenges are their challenges; the changes are then their changes; the improvement initiative is their improvement initiative.  Why? Because people really do want to do a better job; they want to feel that their jobs are safe, etc.

A Different Container

The point is that using the “Customer Experience” and “Services” as a driver for business change gets you over the organizational engagement hurdle.  Rather than having conversations about the defensibility of the current processes of the business unit – that is, assuming their eyes don’t glaze over as they start looking for something else to do – they start thinking about how to improve the outcomes for customers.

Too often, when you try and address the “process” problem directly, business people maintain that their processes are already good enough; or that they just need good people (rather than admitting that they don’t know what their processes actually are).  But if you challenge these same people to think about the alternatives that customers have, and benchmark services that may be out there, they suddenly see it differently.  The conversations are entirely different.  It starts them off at a different point – one that has leadership team blessing and involvement.

Maintaining The Focus

Of course, the fact that they need processes to support service delivery then becomes obvious.  The process mapping effort is then a way of creating a baseline – documenting where the organization is at currently.  The degree of detail and metrics gathered are naturally focused on the outcomes that customers experience.  It stops team members disappearing down rat-holes as they endlessly model the nth degree of detail.  The brand-level “customer experience statement” acts as a guide and rudder to the overall change programmed.

Yes, a little more time is spent in preparation and organizational alignment (with the Leadership Team and in commissioning teams) but our methods enable the organization to reap big dividends.  They save money in the context of undertaking that process mapping exercise.  But more importantly, they create an appropriate organizational vision for how the organization is going to develop and deliver customer value in the future.  Rather than appearing to boil the ocean, they provide a fast track to the benefits that the organization desires.  They lower the risk in that management can make investment decisions and set priorities based on the blueprints developed by the teams, safe in the knowledge that the organization is firmly behind the overall change program.

At the same time, our approach grows the skills and business acumen/maturity of those involved in the business today.  We set out to embed the world’s best practices in your people, enabling them to continue improvements and drive ongoing improvement efforts into the future.  Moreover, it prepares them to improve their business themselves.  Experiencing these methods and techniques helps your people build the confidence that they will need in order to deliver on the long-term strategic vision.

This leading edge, yet pragmatic methodology is derived from many years of experience, building on and extending techniques such as Balanced Scorecard, EFQM, Lean and Six Sigma.  It also includes a practical program management methodology that extends common BPM Project/Program methods.

SharePoint and BPM White Paper

December 11, 2009

On the BPM Focus web site, you can find our research paper exploring the implications, holes and joys of attempting broad-based BPM deployments using SharePoint. It is on Page 5 of the White Papers area (you will need to be registered to access the paper … free of course)

A short summary/excerpt:

Some already see the potential for SharePoint as a strategic weapon. They recognize the capability of the platform to enable collaboration amongst employees as they respond to the varying demands of customers and the market. They clearly see the need to ensure documents and data are managed effectively. But they also see the slippery slope of “SharePoint Sprawl” and the brick walls created by the product’s rudimentary process support facilities. Under the covers, SharePoint’s reliance on Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) as its process support mechanism severely constrains the platforms capabilities, inhibiting process architecture and leading to manually coded workarounds, which in turn, drive complexity and increased Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Adding a comprehensive SharePoint-oriented Business Process Management (BPM) Suite to the mix solves many of the critical issues associated with widespread deployment of the platform.  Having embraced the SharePoint platform, organizations are discovering that, especially from a process point of view, SharePoint leaves a lot to be desired – particularly when compared with specialist BPM tool sets.  The key point is it that it is entirely possible to leverage the best parts of SharePoint – its Content Management and User Interface/ Collaboration features – and still benefit from best in class BPM capabilities.
This paper sets out to highlight potential issues for the strategist on the path ahead, highlighting the options, techniques and practices needed to overcome them. We first characterize the strategic goals of organizations and the technology strategies within them and then move on to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the SharePoint platform. We then get into the meat of the discussion, exploring how the firm can most effectively achieve its business objectives and support its business processes by further leveraging its SharePoint investment through the addition of a Business Process Management (BPM) suite.

SharePoint and BPM White Paper Research

September 21, 2009

After a summer of doing other things (including a lot of house maintenance), I am back into the swing of things and working on a White Paper around how the emergence of SharePoint is affecting the BPM industry.

I will be exploring the issues associated therewith, the different sorts of integrations, the future of BPM linked with this MS “Swiss Army Knife” (as Rashid Kahn described it on Jim Sinur’s post).

So I am interested in any and all views associated with SharePoint and the world of Business Process. I will be exploring the different levels of maturity of SP users, the claims and aspirations of MS in this domain and the potential for long term leverage in the end-user community.

Of course, it will be best if folks could comment on this blog for all to see the sources, and I will post a copy of the white paper here as well in a few weeks time. All references and perspectives that I end up referencing I will of course acknowledge.

I must say at this point, I am fairly underwhelmed by the MS notion of “workflow” but it is still early days in my research.

You Can’t Make A Baby In A Month By Getting 9 Women Pregnant

August 3, 2009

While talking about the Obama stimulus package, Warren Buffet recently said “You Can’t Make A Baby In A Month By Getting 9 Women Pregnant” (he was referring to the fact that some things take time). And continuing on that theme, this article asserts that neither do many small incremental improvements make for “Business Transformation” – changing the culture takes time!

In his blog a few weeks back, Phil Gilbert raises a number of important questions: (paraphrasing)

  1. What is Culture – and why can’t we change our BPM behaviors?
  2. Why do BPM people promise fast incremental, continuous improvement, and then go and start every program by ‘boiling the ocean?’
  3. How do we get from “Project” to “Program”?

He was talking about the fortitude required to take BPM to the long term – where the (existing) culture is the single biggest impediment. One could interpret Phil’s post as suggesting that cultural change is akin to “boiling the ocean” (attempting to fix everything at once); a strategy that is destined to fail.

But in order to move beyond putting a band-aid on a broken process (Project to Program), you need to take a step back and really set out to engage the hearts and minds of the business itself. And that implies challenging the established behaviors – creating a new vision of how to run the business – one where Process is part of the bloodstream; where the customer is king and effective processes deliver the great experiences they expect. Moreover, it also means challenging the way in which the organization is run (using processes to manage rather than just managing processes); indeed every facet of how the organization delivers value to its stakeholders.

Just because the new tools and technologies of BPM allow fast incremental, continuous improvement as a means of business change, does not mean we should do this everywhere – we shouldn’t! Sure, to get the initial project up and running, you need to stick to the core 30% of functionality that delivers 70% of the value and then iterate from there, spiraling toward better performance and a better fit with the underlying business need.

But getting the attention of the organization (taking the BPM challenge to the wider enterprise) and changing the established behaviors requires different tactics. Modeling the desired behaviors again and again just wont do it. Or putting it another way, endlessly tweaking existing processes within the current architecture fails to deliver – what you will get is “Better Sameness” not “Transformation”. Hoping that the pain of it all will enable the organization to develop an inner moral strength – one that is powerful enough to overcome the challenges associated with this transition misses the opportunity to re-energize.

The greatest obstacle to culture change is that once a culture has developed, the assumptions that led to it are so deeply engrained, that no one recognizes them and therefore, no one challenges them. In order to change a culture, it is first essential to identify the right underlying assumptions of the current culture and challenge them head on – before trying to implant a new culture.

It’s Wells – not Oceans!

So, what to do? Well, the good news is that a big, transformational vision does not involve “boiling the ocean”. The best way is to ‘Find a Well’ (the analogy being the Well of Life needs no external drivers – it is a life-giving source).

I have spent many years as a business strategy consultant helping organizations find effective, long-term, sustainable business strategies. I help them find a Well that shareholders, suppliers, customers, partners, the market and the community can all draw upon to enrich and energize their business and satisfy their needs.

What do these Wells look like? They are the values that are at the heart of that business area. Collectively, these values give direction, guidance and are rich source of ideas and new ways of doing things. So, we do not need to boil the ocean, just discover what drives and inspires the business and its people to adopt new ways of doing things and developing new behaviors.

In this approach, internal drivers that everyone values (because they see the relevance to their own business and business success) replace externally imposed behaviors (as the means of creating culture). Values come from an eternal spring – energizing again and again – hence sustainability is not an issue.

The even better news for BPM is that it is almost certain that any properly facilitated Business Strategy Workshop should lead to a Transformational Vision (the Well), with “Great Customer Experiences” as the source of Competitive Advantage.  Why is this good news for BPM? – because Great Customer Experiences rely on carefully designed Business Services, supported by effective Business Processes that provide the foundation for staff in delivering these experiences.  

At last – BPM and Incremental Improvements!

A full program will then spring from the facilitated development of the transformational vision and values. Now, having begun with the development of a transformational vision it is possible to build a program of projects; driven from the same source and fully aligned with the agreed business strategy. Those projects are built and driven by the business themselves; for the business.

However, as each individual project is taken forward the power of BPM technology then becomes clear.  BPM allows business process developers to re-iterate their designs and carry out successive re-designs – all aligned with this vision. The Center of Excellence (or IT function) provide some of the resources for those projects, but the real work, on the behaviors of the employees and the experience delivered to the customers, is carried out by the people in the business. Since they are involved in designing their own processes to support their customers, they develop a much stronger sense of ownership.

When it comes to cultural change, it is just not possible to impose a solution. You have to engage the business properly, which means winning their hearts and minds. Start with fast incremental improvements using BPM whilst convincing yourself you are being ‘business driven’ and you will end up with better sameness. Others will ask whether it worth all that effort?

On the other hand, begin with a transformational vision and your program will be truly business driven and energized. You can then move toward that vision, using the full power of BPM technology, as you continuously improve your new services and new ways of working. And your customers will become raving fans (and your staff will like it too)!

Breakthrough Process Design

August 3, 2009

We find ourselves presented with situations where our clients are looking for “Breakthrough Performance” rather than mere “Process Improvement”. In her guest post on Jim Sinur’s blog, Elise Olding points out that many rush headlong into implementation looking for an elusive Magic Bullet (there aren’t any, but you could describe BPM initiatives as a Golden Gun). She quickly alluded to the need for a number of techniques including “Process Walkthroughs” (following the work item), through Sticky Notes or PostIt Sessions, down to and including sitting with the users and observing what they do.

While all these techniques are useful and interesting, they don’t go far enough to deliver the breakthrough improvements that customers seek. In business today, generally what is needed is not “Better Sameness” but “Transformation”. But existing processes usually focus on the needs of the company – delivering stronger management control, and reinforcing functional priorities.  

However, we believe that the best practice to deliver breakthroughs is quite different from any of these approaches. We start from a different place – the “Customer Experience” – a stance that is all about building competitive advantage. 

Process breakthroughs come from thinking about everything we do in terms of how what we do can assist in delivering a Great Customer Experience. This dynamic lens is dramatically different from the traditional process improvement approach. It has the effect of inspiring completely different insights and generating new ways of doing things (rather than paving the cow paths). Once you are standing in the shoes of the customer, you no longer see the functional bias that reinforces existing behaviors.

In the early 90s the CEO of Sony pointed out that, every manufacturer had all the parts needed for a Sony Walkman sitting on their shelves – but only Sony asked the customer what they wanted. As a result, they transformed the way we listen to music (even if they did miss the disruptive innovation of hard disk based players).

In the end, we believe that you have to build a “Transformational Vision” around what the customer values – be it an internal customer, supplier customer, partner customer or end consumer. So we will continue to use the “Customer Experience” lens as the best route to achieving breakthroughs in process performance.

Customer Experience and the Business Process

July 1, 2009

As you are probably aware, there is a real challenge for organizations in delivering an effective customer experience. The problem is that the Customer’s “Experience” is often an afterthought in most business processes. The emphasis is usually on the internal problem being solved, not the impact that this process has on the customer. Now some of you are probably saying that all our processes are customer focused. But the reality is that very often that internal efficiency and profit (upsell/cross-sell) are the primary drivers of customer facing processes.

As I type this post, I am experiencing just such a broken process – it’s the oxymoron known as Adobe “Customer Service”. So far I have been on the phone for 50 minutes as I discover that their Adobe ConnectPro product, while delivered as a “Service” in the cloud, does not have the other elements that live up to anyone else’s idea of what the word “service” means (either with or without the capital S).

In this little scenario, I am trying to get the ConnectPro account to accept the new Audio Bridge so that we can get seamless audio conferencing into the BPM TechShow. So far I have spoken to three people (inside Adobe) – Tech Support immediately got rid of me saying that I had to talk to Customer Service. After 30 minutes listening to reasonable Jazz at the poorest sound quality available, I talk to someone who then says I need to talk to a special agent … then I get the Supervisor of Customer Service that tells me … you guessed it, I need to talk to Tech Support. Strangely enough, I start to bleat about it, and the very nice sounding young man says he will connect me with the Tech Support Supervisor (immediately) … and now, after another 30 minutes, I am still listening to bad Jazz.

Why am I hanging on, just to see how long they take, and whether or not I can get resolution to this issue before my next call (I have missed the orginal meeting this was needed to support … so their bad/broken process has already impacted one of my own customer relationships).

I will also take the opportunity to feed back this “experience” to the relevant Product Manager at Adobe.

Of course, I shouldn’t have to be here anyway – the process that provisioned my account in the first place should have made sure the option was set up appropriately. That means that the partner (yes, you can not buy this stuff directly from Adobe) should have been trained to pick it up, or at least have an option to line up the provisioning automatically. Indeed, even trying to buy the product (i.e. give Adobe several thousand dollars) was a similar exercise in managing the frustration of being passed from pillar to post as nobody takes ownership.

The point is that the processes that handle the transactional side of the relationship are one thing (taking your money is normally pretty efficient these days … Adobe excepted), but all the related processes that go into delivering that customer experience are just as important. And I am not even an exception – in talking to the people who provisioned the audio bridge, it turns out that several others have had the same problem (i.e. it wasn’t set up right to start with).

Now after 71 minutes on this call alone (it’s my second), I am about to kill the call and try again – clearly the supervisor seems to be out to lunch (or else I was just routed back to that endless queue that will ensure this customer will sooner or later go away). But this time I will try a different route. Right now, I am so angry that if I had the option (time available), I would probably ditch Adobe in favor of a competitive product.

Having a free 1-800 number is no substitute for actually having an effective mechanism to deal with customers and their issues (i.e. work on the behaviors and culture of the people that customers interact with).

A good customer experience builds relationships, acts as a referral point for new customers, lowers sales costs, etc. And this post is proof that a bad customer experience is destructive to your brand. Bad experiences get talked about and passed on.

Within your BPM Program, you should start off with engaging the Executive Steering Group around the “Brand Customer Experience” – a broad statement that sets the tone for all customer interactions. From that point, it becomes one of setting up an engagement program with the business designed to first of all define the sorts of “Services” that customers can expect, and then from there, the need for processes that deliver that experience. Those processes are operated by people, who should be empowered (trained) to give that designed “Great Customer Experience” every time.

I will be discussing this overall method and technique in the Day 3 keynote (July 9th) of the BPM TechShow … but I doubt that anyone from Adobe “Customer Service” will be there.

Update: I called back tried a different route into a more general Tech Support group, and then finally was given yet another number to call (this one allegedly to talk to the relevant group for Adobe ConnectPro). After 17 more minutes of listening to bad Jazz sounds, I am now talking to someone. But it seems that the person on the other end is incapable of finding the answer. I get asked questions like “when did I purchase this?” … Irrelevant. Then I am asked for the Tech Support tracking number … strangely enough I dont have one. Then they want my street address in order to “validate” I am who I am … finally, after a further 20 minutes I get a tracking number. But can I look up on the Web to track that number … Noooo, I have to go through another exercise in ritual abuse (i.e. talk to Adobe Tech Support or what passes for Customer Service).

Update 2 – 6 days later. Since this post got noticed by Adobe I have had several conversations with interested parties. Of course, we offered to help them improve the customer experience … but it seems to be an issue they are taking very seriously. We’ll see where it all leads.

Virtual BPM TechShow Next Week

July 1, 2009

Following the success of our BPM Technology Showcase format in the real world (Feb and Oct 2008), and given the fact that nobody is allowed travel budget these days, make sure you check out the Virtual BPM Technology Showcase next week – Tuesday 7/7 through Thursday 7/9.

Over a three day period, we will be introducing 7 of the leading vendors in the BPM arena:

  • Appian (7/7)
  • Ascentn 7/8)
  • Fujitsu (7/7)
  • Global360 (7/9)
  • Itensil (7/7)
  • Savvion (7/8)
  • SRA (7/9)

Each vendor will talk to the value that their technology delivers and how customers have deployed their solutions. This is not some vague conference where nobody is allowed to talk about their true innovations and features. Neither is it a noisy showroom floor where folks are wandering around wondering when they can get a real demo of this hot new product. We have set out to structure the interaction between seller and potential customer. Each 45 minute session is followed by a detailed Q&A allowing you to get up close and personal.

Having said that, it is supported by 3 different keynote sessions where I will cover:

  • The BPM Techynology Assessment Framework (7/7)
  • Ensuring BPM PRoject Success (7/8)
  • The Customer Experience and BPM (7/9)

To find out more or register for the event go to the BPM TechShow site. And if you need a further incentive to take part, either Nathaniel Palmer or myself will be available for individual one-on-one sessions to help you fast track your BPM program.