Over the past three months, I've been heads down working on our upcoming "Forrester Wave™ For Human-Centric BPM Suites, Q3 2010" report. I've also been on the road over the past five weeks attending and presenting at different BPM vendor conferences - gotta love Vegas! I must admit I have barely had time to keep tabs on my different BPM tribes - blog sites, Twitter conversations, and LinkedIn discussions. I've been checking in here and there around different camp fires and adding a little spark occasionally when something interesting caught my eye.
But today, I ran across a simmering debate around social BPM on different blog sites, here and here. Seems like this is fast becoming the hottest topic in BPM. Guess I shouldn't be surprised since I helped drive the conversation around social BPM over the last year. It's very good to see the conversation evolve and also good to see different perspectives on how social can help improve all aspects of BPM initiatives.
Earlier this month I delivered a presentation on social BPM at IBM's Impact 2010 event. This presentation provided the most up to date perspective on how we see customers using and applying social techniques and methodologies to BPM initiatives. During the session, we framed social BPM in the following way:
A client recently requested a presentation on the future of enterprise architecture. I always enjoy these types of topics, partly because they give me some latitude to think creatively but also because they make me think about things that don’t come up that often in my day-to-day problem set. In the presentation I covered a lot ground about the current state of EA, trends affecting EA’s future, and what EAs should focus on to ensure future success. Business architecture played heavily in my view. But the bottom line can be summarized in five scenarios. Here are the five scenarios I came up with and my take on each.
Scenario 1: EA disappears as a unique function. I think this scenario is inevitable in the long run (but here I am talking about 20 to 30 years) as we move to purchased applications (“there’s an app for that”) and Moore’s law continues to drive down the cost of hardware to the point where performance/capacity/reliability/etc. issues all but disappear. But in the near term (let’s call it 10 years) I think this is a highly unlikely outcome. Because, even though EAs struggle to demonstrate value, the promise of EA value among CIOs remains strong.
Social media will spur dramatic evolutionary shifts in traditional BI architectures in several ways. For starters, vendors will bring the Wikipedia and Facebook models into the heart of their user experience, converging traditional BI with social networking, knowledge management, and collaboration architectures. Under this new “social BI” paradigm, vendors will provide information workers with tools for collecting vast pools of user-generated, subject-oriented, multimedia content, thereby supplementing and extending traditional data marts. By encouraging user-centric development of multimedia content stores, social media will accelerate the evolution of enterprise data warehouses into comprehensive “content warehouses.” By enabling applications to monitor and mine growing streams of social media content, the new generation of social BI platforms will accelerate the convergence of data mining, content analytics, and complex event processing. And this new BI platform paradigm will enable powerful social network analysis, sifting through continuing streams of transaction, behavioral, and sentiment data to identify influencers, net promoters, brand ambassadors, and other key relationships in online communities of all shapes and sizes.
Returning home after IBM’s Impact user conference (Impact 2010). I’ve been to a lot of BPM conferences in my time, but never one this big. 6,000 miles (to Las Vegas) there and 6,000 miles home again to see 6,000 people going through a few of days of indoctrination and engage in a few meetings with important execs. From the point of view of a busy analyst, one has to wonder whether it was all worth it. But putting aside the sore back/neck and the lack of sleep, I think that, on reflection, it was worth the trip. I am sure other pundits will have already posted their own interpretations of the conference, so this is just one report to add to your perspective of Impact 2010.
6,000 people all gathered to hear the carefully scripted message. Well that is what it seemed like; a scripted story that was supposed to sound spontaneous. Even the Q&A was scripted on the teleprompter, which, quite apart from the wooden presentation style of one or two of the speakers, sort of took away from the central message.
There was a pretty important message there. A message that was being communicated to the faithful. And whether you like it or not, IBM has a lot, and I mean a lot, of faithful followers. I didn’t do a scientific assessment of the number of IBM badges versus non IBM badges, but even if half of the attendees were internal, there were plenty of customers there too. And those internal folks were also being recruited as emissaries and evangelists for the new mantra.
This week was a reconfirmation that information management professionals are facing a perfect storm. Two years ago, we wrote on a topic we call Technology Populism that looked at both the business opportunities and threats presented by ubiquitous information sharing tools inside and outside corporate networks. In a nutshell, we argued that information management professionals would face: employees demanding access to corporate systems using their consumer devices; cloud-based collaboration software services that offer hard-to-beat economics; and increased complexity in managing the trust, integrity, and risk associated with information on corporate networks. Since then all three have proven valid trends. Consider three IT pros I spoke with last week at a Novell customer panel. They represented a major university, a hospital, and a law enforcement agency.
The university IT pro just gave in to demand for peer-to-peer file sharing. After his multi-year fight against student use of peer-to-peer file sharing, this IT pro finally succumbed to student demand. He's already using Google Apps for student email. Why? He couldn't compete with free.
The hospital IT pro already plans to support iPads for doctors. Reacting to demand from young doctors, he's in planning stages to support hospital apps on Apple's iPad (Wow! It's only been out for a month, right?). Unlike the university IT pro, the compelling economics Google presented directly to his team for mail and productivity were not enough to convince him the service was ready for hospital staff. What's he waiting for? More examples of other HIPAA-regulated organizations using these services.
The current metaphors for EA can be useful at a conceptual level to help non EAs understand what all the fuss is about. Most people understand the role of the building architect and the city planner and can make at least a rough association to what enterprise architects do. But many architects take these metaphors much too literally and much too seriously. They try to fashion their practice to align with the metaphor instead of taking the metaphor concept and creating a new way to apply it in their IT or business space.
The enterprise architect as building architect
I use this metaphor myself when I am talking with non architects. Conceptually, it is a very rich metaphor that almost everyone can identify with. Even though most people have never seen a complete set of blueprints, they have seen enough examples to get the point. Unfortunately, this metaphor breaks down pretty fast.