James Cameron's blockbuster hit Avatar viscerally depicts the power of an avatar in a way that software geeks couldn't begin to communicate or illustrate in code. Nothing in Second Life, The Sims or other virtual worlds comes close to the movie for illustrating the power of an avatar to insert a person into another environment or "world." In fact, if you haven't seen the movie, I can say that it's hard to leave the cinema without wishing — darn it — why can't we really do that??? (Sort of like, "beam me up Scottie," why can't we do that too???) [If you are like me, I wonder . . . when will we be able to do that because surely sometime in the future we'll be able to. But, I digress.]
Last week some of my colleagues and I had a completely different experience that leaves me thinking that avatars aren't really the future. Instead, literally being there — yourself — in a virtual fashion is a more human and natural way of interacting than using an avatar to represent yourself. What am I talking about? It's telepresence — the high resolution, life-size video conferencing tool that, in this situation, was provided by Cisco.
Here's what happened. Last year we decided to bring our Business Technology Forum not only to the real world in Chicago but also to the virtual world over telepresence. Last Friday, Mike Gilpin, Clay Richardson, Ted Schadler and I got to deliver that virtual event by spending 3 hours interacting with 14 clients in 7 cities using telepresence. The cities were: Atlanta, Boston, Herndon VA, Irving, New York, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. In addition, we had one company that dialed in from its own telepresence facility.
Connie and I are now working on a document, describing these roles in more detail. We are discussing their evolution in relation with the process maturity level of the organizations in which they act. To help business executives recruit and develop the right kind of individuals for the emerging roles — stakeholders, change agents, gurus and prodigies — we have developed also two synthetic “high-potential” candidate profiles for these roles and give them a name:
Brian Porter - has 15-20+ years experience in business and IT; holds a senior position within the business process ranks; has deep knowledge of one or more core business processes; is a great communicator and big picture thinker; and of course is familiar with Forrester and uses Forrester Waves to make smart technology choices.
If you've been following our recent blog posts, you'll know that Forrester has a lively business process management and Lean practice. To help us better understand the issues that business process improvement professionals face, we've fielded a very short (I promise) survey. Through it, we're trying to determine where business process improvement pros sit in the organization (IT, special business services group, or business domains), and who is driving business process initiatives in most organizations.
You never know what’s coming at you next, which is why process agility is so important. Your organization must have a ready response for anything. And you must make sure that every process participant can identify, at their level, what that response might be, so they can take appropriate action.
There’s no doubt about it. The BPM suite market has fundamentally changed, now that IBM announced plans to buy Lombardi, and Progress Software sealed the deal on Savvion yesterday. Two little vendors . . . and you would think, given all the reaction, that something really big happened. But in many ways, that’s the case.
Ok, why are these two deals so important? Lots of reasons, including:
Business Process professionals are scratching their heads at today's announcement by Progress Software to acquire Savvion. Process professionals are asking what exactly does this deal mean - for Progress and Savvion's combined customer portfolios and for the broader BPM market.
Connie Moore and I sat down earlier today to record a video blog post on what this deal means for Business Process professionals and to the broader BPM market.
In our video blog post (also posted on Forrester's YouTube Channel), we outlined three key themes driving the Progress/Savvion deal and how Process pros should view and respond to the latest round of acquisitions in the BPM space: Process pros should:
Business processes can be incredibly hard to fathom. The more complex they are, the more difficult it is to find the magic blend of tasks, roles, flows, and other factors that distinguish a well-tuned process from a miserable flop. Even the people who’ve been part of the process for years may have little clue. It’s not just that they refuse to look beyond their job-specific perspectives, for fear of jeopardizing their careers. It’s often an issue of them being too close to the problem to see it clearly, even if they try very hard.
Process analytics is all about identifying what works and doesn’t work. It’s a key focus for us here at Forrester, and I’m collaborating with one of our leading business process management (BPM) analysts, Clay Richardson, on research into this important topic. The first order of business for us is to identify the full range of enabling infrastructure and tools for tracking, exploring, and analyzing a wide range of workflows. It’s clear that this must include, at the very least, business activity monitoring (BAM) tools, which roll up key process metrics into visual business intelligence (BI)-style dashboards for operational process managers. Likewise, historical process metrics should be available to the business analysts who design and optimize workflows. And each user should have access to whatever current key performance indicators are relevant to the roles they perform within one or more processes.
Ah, memories. I remember the late, great Eighties, early in my analyst career, when I had my first brush with what was later known as “groupware.” It was a LAN-based package, “The Coordinator,” from Action Technologies. The architecture of the software wasn’t as important as the linguistic theory on which it was built: the notion that groups cultivate intelligence by structuring their internal conversations to achieve common goals.
Essentially, the package required people to tag every e-mail they sent based on whether it constituted a discussion of possibilities, a request for clarification, or a request for action—and it tracked these threads so that everybody knew the goal-oriented status of every conversation. As you can probably guess, this was a heavy-handed way of getting people to come to agreement. Software shouldn’t dictate how people choose to interact: real-world conversation’s far too complex and convoluted for that. Most people don’t like being forced to rephrase or reconceptualize how they communicate with others. In fact, most of us users simply defaulted to sending messages that discussed open-ended possibilities, rather than engage in a fussy protocol of formal requests and offers.