BPM Technology Showcase and Awards – An Opportunity to Save Hundreds of Hours and Thousands Of Dollars

February 12, 2008

Well after a lot of hard work the event is now fully fleshed out. Of course there are a million and one things to get done to organize a major event – and I am still getting through them.

But we have a full program of really interesting vendors (IMNSHO). They cover a range of different themes that regular readers will recognize. This is a real opportunity for people involved in BPM projects to save hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars by assessing all the best vendors in one place, picking up on the best practices, pitfalls and other implementation wrinkles.

In no particular order they are:

BPM and SaaS – Appian, Integrify, Itensil, Lombardi (Blueprint) … I am not sure whether I should put Cordys, and Fujitsu in that category (since apparently they can do this combination but haven’t made a big noise about it).

Case Handling – Cordys, Graham Technology, Itensil, Pallas Athena, Pega

Complex Customer Interaction – Graham Technology, Pega

Knowledge Workers – Appian, HandySoft and Itensil

Microsoft and .NET – Ascentn, Bluespring Software and BizAgi

BPM-SOA Stack – BEA, Fujitsu and TIBCO

Unified Data Model – BizAgi, Pega

They all have something special about them – they are all becoming more and more “model driven” (some are better than others), they all feature mechanisms to monitor and track work. Here is the complete list along with links to their web sites.

AppianAscentnBEABizAgiBluespring SoftwareCordysGraham TechnologyHandySoftIntegrify ItensilFujitsuLombardiPallas AthenaPegaTIBCO

That’s 15 vendors, each delivering 4 sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon on each of the core showcase days (Tuesday and Wednesday). The Showcase itself is capped off with a simulated product bake-off where each vendor demonstrates how they have built out one or other of the two core scenarios we will provide them with.

I intend to create short 5-minute videos of each vendor, featuring their best points and place them on YouTube with links to their product profile – which I will endeavor to get up on the BPMF site within a few weeks of the event (but I am traveling for the month of March so it might not be till mid-April before that happens.

Oh – and lets not forget the Monday when you will hear a keynote from Connie Moore (of Forrester), followed by three new case studies (the best submissions from the Awards program – Wells Fargo, Geisinger Health and Louisiana Supreme Court), the three inclusive ½ day training courses:

  • Ensuring BPM Project Success – from me
  • Modeling in BPMN – from Stephen White of IBM (the main author of the BPMN specification)
  • BPM Overview from the WfMC

And all of this is available for the killer price of just $395 (up until close of business this Friday … after that it reverts to $595). Just to put that price in perspective, that’s less than you would pay a traditional conference for their pre-conference workshop !! We have deliberately kept the prices low so that you can bring the team – to form a shared understanding of the issues and the way ahead (and it’s impossible to get around all 15 vendors in the 12 sessions that you will have time to attend).
You can get directly to the registration page here

Download the brochure here

Doesn’t time fly

June 9, 2007

Well it seems only 5 minutes ago that I was apologizing for my clone management interface not working properly, and here I am just two weeks since the last posting (looking out at a wet and windy Sydney harbor).

Yesterday I finished the first Southern Hemisphere BPM Focus Workshop – the Process Modeling Fundamentals course went down fairly well, and it was good to see a different perspective on BPM. As usual with these things, I discover a new crop of BPMN modeling tools vendors that I didnt know anything about (I suppose I should pay more attention to the BPMN Supporters page as the vendor I had in mind is mentioned there.

One aspect of the Process Modeling fundamentals course that is usually overlooked by folks signing up for the course is the second modeling notation we teach – Role Activity Diagrams. It has become quite apparent that this technique is where delegates get a lot of value. Incorrectly, people assume that BPMN is also associated with a specific methodology – BPMN is method agnostic and is perhaps most relevant when you are looking at the implementation journey of business process. It is less useful for the upstream activity of discovery and understanding of processes. That is where RADs really excel – they are really useful for understanding a given domain and putting a particular issue under the microscope.

What is starting to emerge from these courses is that folks who already think they know process (i.e. IT indoctrinated people) struggle to get their head around RADs, whereas people from the business domain (end users) who have only a superficial understanding of process glom onto it (RADs) immediately. Otoh, the very same people struggle with BPMN – regarding it as just too hard to get their heads around.

With luck, we will soon have a mapping from RADs back to BPDM and along with wider support for BPMN-BPDM, that will provide an effective translation between the two modeling paradigms.

For those of you interested in when-where the next courses will take place – we are still in planning mode there, so now is your time to influence us on location and timing (send me an email directly to miers @ bpmfocus.org).

BPM Focus Update

May 28, 2007

I know I promised a relatively quick update cycle to my blog – but I am having trouble with my Clone Management Interface (the interface to the three versions of myself that never sleep and are eagerly beavering away at all hours of the day).

BPMN Process Modeling

The BPM Process Modeling Fundamentals courses in London, LA and Washington DC were all pretty much sold out (we couldn’t fit any more in the room). The course for Sydney on June 7th and 8th is also virtually full already (register here). Perhaps we will run another one at the end of the following week before I head back to the UK. Not surprisingly, the Ensuring BPM Project Success course is less well attended (as it is designed for a different audience).

But one thing has struck me as I reflect on the BPMN aspect of the training. A lot of people seem to expect a lot more methodology out of BPMN. In the end, BPMN itself is method independent – that it allows companies, individuals and tool vendors can apply the Notation to any number of methods. Moreover, adding simulation into the mix, while it may be useful in some situations, is not part of BPMN. It belongs in some extended method (which is relatively poorly supported by the attributes of BPMN icons).

Indeed, one could argue that if your challenge is to understand the process (as it is in the early stages of most BPM initiatives), applying simulation to the mix is a complete waste of time as it involves a lot of effort in gathering data about the process and validating that the distributions and estimates of time/resource usage is correctly applied in the model. Moreover, many of these (simulation) models are constructed with the perspective of proving the benefits of the approach (proving to management the benefits in terms of money saved or revenue generated). As such, the modeler is often (unconsciously) constructing a model that is already pre-disposed to supporting the aim … a model that buries the assumptions rather than surfacing them.

In that upstream activity (of understanding the domain to identify the 20% of functionality that will deliver 80% of the value), what is needed is the ability to compare and contrast different perspectives on the process … looking not just at the orchestration (ordered sequence of activities), but also the choreography (the sets of interactions between the roles), and the boundary conditions of the chunks. Because by understanding the process better, the end-users can really identify the areas that will make a difference.

It is in the downstream implementation of that defined scope that BPMN comes into its own as an implementation oriented graphical language. The point is that applying detailed BPMN modeling and simulation too early in the modeling endeavour is inappropriate.

BPM Focus Web Site

Well suffice to say that it is about to go through a major overhaul. We have been busy beavering away implementing a commercial BPM Suite under the covers that will make the whole experience an order of magnitude easier to handle. All those people who are currently on the BPM Focus mailing list will be invited to update their profile, such that we can more effectively target the messages and communication that we send. Moreover, this will facilitate the rapid introduction of a whole range of new services that have been in development for some time. Instead of worrying about the implementation detail, a new service becomes nothing more than a set of robust (BPMN) models. But more on that later.

Getting the BPM Message Across

April 27, 2007

Many in business people still struggle to see the role of business process in building better performance (i.e. business results). So I thought I would share this little hook that I developed within one of my consulting engagements. It is based around preparing bread – the components of the bread, the flour, the yeast, the water and then baking it all together for an effective result. In your business it is the dough rising that equates to achieving its performance objectives … however those performance objectives are defined.

Whether aware of it or not, in most businesses the different ingredients are not well aligned or working together as well as they could be. Mixing the metaphors for a moment, they are not rowing together in a coordinated fashion. Business Process Management brings together a range of techniques and approaches—the BPM tool box. The components of this tool box help change agents in the business (the bakers) create their own special sort of dough. At the heart of that is an ongoing enquiry into business processes—if you like the water that binds the flour (your people), with the yeast (the technology).

There may be other subtle ingredients. But cooking is not only about mixing the right quantity of ingredients; it is also how you mix them, and how long you bake the mixture. You might think it is just a question of getting the right measure of ingredients. But first, it is necessary to decide on the sort of bread you want to make, and how it is going to be delivered, to whom. Alongside the choice of people (flour), the most critical element is the water (processes)—the ingredient that binds it all together.

Relatively speaking, adding the technology is the easy part. But it requires a considerable amount of rigor. This rigor is most apparent in the way we understand and model processes—because in the modern BPM technology, it is these models that drive how work is managed and driven through the business. If we want to change the way the business operates, all we then need do is change the models. No programming should be required (or at least only in very specialized cases). As much as is possible, everything is configured with models.

But to develop these models requires a rigorous approach and methodology—one that allows us to bind together (integrate) the people, processes and technology. The problem is that process models are like a bikini—what they reveal is suggestive. But what they hide is vital. (Paraphrasing Levenstein talking about statistics).

This is the central thesis of the BPM Process Modeling Fundamentals training course we have developed within BPM Focus. It not only features the very latest developments in BPMN (developed in collaboration with Stephen White, the main author of the BPMN standard), it also includes complementary techniques that help people really see their processes from a number of different angles. The next iteration of the course is due for delivery in London next week (May 1st and 2nd), then in Washington DC on May 24th-25th and Sydney on June 7th-8th. We are also delivering the course inhouse to a number of corporate clients. It should also be available on-line soon.

It is complemented by another program Ensuring BPM Project Success, which is oriented toward ensuring that BPM Programs are rooted in the organization appropriately (due to run in Washington DC on May 21st and Sydney on June 12th-13th). You could think of this second program as being designed to help you set up to guarantee success in BPM projects (or how to avoid getting egg on your face). It is designed to cure you of the legacy thinking that created the existing mess and provides an actionable methodology and framework for BPM success.

Returning From The Cold

April 19, 2007

Well, after a continued absence, I suppose it is time to make or break with this blog thing. I just dont know where some of my contemporaries find the time. I suppose it is a balance, like everything in life – to keep the fires burning you have to bring in the coal, chop logs, eat, … you can see where I am going with this. With a punishing travel schedule, too many customers wanting work packages completed, completion of another training course (Process Modeling Fundamentals) and an ever present OMG ready to chew any free time, it just never seemed to be high enough up my agenda. But enough excuses – there are so many things that have happened, spin-pieces written and misleading posts that I really do need to put a few stakes in the ground. So with luck, I will get back to a quick post every day or two.

Lets start with the major step forward that happened at last month’s OMG meeting. BPDM was voted through for adoption by the Business Modeling and Integration Task Force. With a couple of notable abstentions from major vendors (not wanting to rock the boat but not quite ready to endorse), virtually every voting member gave a resounding yes to the hard work that has been put in by the team. (You can find out more about BPDM here.

Of course it wasn’t universally welcomed. We have a few die-hards in our industry who try and spin everything to their benefit (well I suppose most vendors could be put in that bucket). Any standard they have not been involved in developing, they are not interested in seeing being adopted widely. Especially one as far reaching and important as BPDM.

Not surprising really – these standards represent real software development costs for vendors (and in the end customers). For instance, if you had placed all your bets on BPEL delivering the answer to world peace, and outsourced (open sourced) all your development to your customers, then the emergence of a new direction in how business process models are managed and interchanged is nothing short of a major threat. Alternatively, if you had placed the UML metamodel at the heart of your software architecture, then the emergence of another metamodel at the higher business level of abstraction (rather than being purely software focused) just represents further investment (with little prospect of immediate ROI).

At the heart of BPDM is support for both the orchestration and choreography sides of the process coin. Orchestration is the bit we are all used to – purposeful activity strung together in a sequence. Choreography is more about the interactions of the roles involved – be they business partners and the company, internal roles or even between software services. Choreography is becoming ever more important as people start to realise that a serial input-output perspective of process doesn’t help you much when you have thousands of associates working on a problem in parallel (a subject I explored here). The point is that this sophistication is set to enable the next round of innovation in BPM.

A lot of energy is now being focused around creating the next version of BPMN which is set to be extended folded into the BPDM metamodel. It was really interesting to see who was now becoming very focused about making sure the scope of that effort achievable and yet also meaningful.

Most people never need be aware of the intricacies and sophistication of BPDM – it is all about how model information is stored and exchanged between tools. So even the most adept BPM business analyst will never be concerned with it. As far as most of you are concerned, it is just gobbledygook. All the end-user organization need worry about is that their vendor is working toward supporting the standard. Why? Because it will give them true portability and ownership of their important possessions – their process assets.

On the other hand, the vendors of BPM technology products should take a keen interest.

The other big step forward at the OMG was around BPMM (Maturity Model). This is now going through a fast track adoption process at the OMG. BPMM is equally important to the business side. It outlines the long term transformational nature of the BPM journey, describing and highlighting the practices and behaviors as the firm becomes more adept. Based around the 5 layer model we have all become used to in CMM, CMMI and PeopleCMM, it provides a comprehensive assessment mechanism. Knowing where you are is an essential part of working out where you want to get to.

Finally, for those of you who have read this far (it sort of proves you are interested in this stuff), you really should attend BPM Think Tank in Burlingame . Think Tank was a concept I helped put together as co-chair of BPMI.org as a way of getting some conversations going between the various (at that time competing) standards bodies. One could argue that this seminal event led to the eventual merger of BPMI.org with the OMG. This is a real opportunity to learn from the best in the business; to get together with your peers and share knowledge; and to grow a deep understanding of the value and power of process standards.

No other event involves every attendee as a real part of the action. Now in its third year, OMG’s BPM Think Tank is a unique gathering of experts with a highly interactive format that makes it a can’t-miss event.

The format is unique in that delegates spend significant periods to time deep in discussion around the real issues of BPM adoption and implementation. During these Round Table discussions, delegates learn from each other, facilitated by the world’s leading practitioners. They share their experiences and draw out the expertise in the group, before reporting back to the conference as a whole.

To help frame these collaborative discussions, plenary sessions feature a range of unique case studies and keynote presentations that highlight the best practices and pitfalls to avoid on the BPM journey. Other sessions focus on the value of standards and the best practice approaches toward their use. A Standards Body Panel session provides the opportunity to clarify the roadmap ahead, while a carefully managed Vendor Panel will explore the challenges and opportunities for technology vendors as we move forward.

The following firms are combining their talents to helping you learn how to maximize your BPM investment:

AFLAC, Allianz, BP Trends, BPM Focus, Bruce Silver and Assocs., Business Semantics, Capability Measurement, EDS, Forrester Research, The General Services Association (US Government), GTE, HandySoft, IBM, Intalio, Kemsley Design, Lombardi Software, McAfee, MEGA International, Microsoft, Oracle, PDL, Pi4 Technologies, Process Core Group, Queensland University of Technology, SAP, Stevens Institute Of Technology, TIBCO

The following standards groups and industry associations are also represented:

ACORD, OASIS, OMG, Supply Chain Council (SCC), TeleMgt Forum (eTOM), Value Chain Council (VCOR), W3C, WfMC

More Information

New Web Site – BPMF Learning Framework and Training Schedule

February 15, 2007

Just a short note to say that the more observant amongst you will have noticed a new look BPM Focus web site … if you haven’t already been there click the BPM Focus logo on the right.

Secondly, if you are interesting in plugging the yawning skills gap in BPM, check out the BPMF Learning Framework and the Public Course Training Schedule.

In the meantime, I am told we will have over 40 people attending my pre-conference workshop at the Gartner BPM Summit (you have to pay extra for this).

As you can see from the anticipated schedule, I will be picking up some frequent flier miles to add to my growing tally [Gold and ExecPlatinum Card here I come] .

We anticipate having an entirely new form of content up there within a week or so – a self assessment tool for BP Maturity Assessment (that is assuming our partners are true to their word ;-/).

We will also be opening the floodgates for an active discussion forum on the site (for those who want to pick the brains of the wider BPMF Community at large). However, I am not holding my breath on that front. Not since the days of the BPR-L mailing list of the early 90s have I seen much active discussion. Any spammers will be immediately ejected and the IP address banned.

It Has Been A While – BPM Training, New Site

January 26, 2007

I know it has been the best part of a couple of months since I posted anything … but it is all to do with the pressures of work and the need for a holiday. But now back into the swing of things and you should at least see a posting from me every week.

One thing I did want to let you know about was out upcoming training schedule for BPM Focus. The BPMF Learning Framework is continuing its onward development (now incorporating two key courses – “Starting Out and Rolling Out BPM Programs” and “Advanced Process Modeling.”

Starting Out and Rolling Out BPM Programs is really focused around ensuring that projects are appropriately set up and managed. The December session was very successful and we expect torun further events across the US and Europe over the coming year. The next public courses at this level will be March 21-22 in San Francisco and April 18-19 in London.

Advanced Proced Modeling – this is a new course developed in conjunction with the best in the business – the main original author of the BPMN spec (cant say who until we complete the negotiations with his employer); and Martyn Ould (the grandfather of one of my favourite techniques – Role Activity Diagrams). APM will give you all you need to know about BPMN, RADs and Business Capability modeling. It will be available online by mid-year. The first instructor led versions of this training are scheduled to be Santa Monica (April 2nd and 3rd) and in London on May 1st and 2nd). A full schedule of events will be available on the BPMF web site.

And talking of web sites, we have been developing a new site, which should go live in the next week or so … these things always seem to take longer than you expect. This new site will shortly include a BPMM self assessment tool, user log-in … to come is a wide variety of new services and content that registered users will have access to.

In the short term, if you are interested in the training, please contact me directly (miers @ bpmfocus.org).

Till next time – Derek