Today, Tibco Software — best known for its SOA integration, complex event processing, and business process management suite — announced its acquisition of Nimbus Partners, a privately held business process analysis vendor based in the United Kingdom. Nimbus Partners is smaller and less well known than the other more mature and full-featured BPA solutions, such as those from ARIS, Provision, and Mega. Nimbus, which employs more than 100 people, sold process discovery and authoring tools along with its homegrown methodology for quickly capturing and managing detailed information on business processes. Nimbus’ features and ease of use appealed mostly to process architects, process analysts, and business stakeholders that wanted an environment more robust than Microsoft Visio but not as technical — or requiring as much training — as other BPA environments.
Whenever I think about big data, I can't help but think of beer – I have Dr. Eric Brewer to thank for that. Let me explain.
I've been doing a lot of big data inquiries and advisory consulting recently. For the most part, folks are just trying to figure out what it is. As I said in a previous post, the name is a misnomer – it is not just about big volume. In my upcoming report for CIOs, Expand Your Digital Horizon With Big Data, Boris Evelson and I present a definition of big data:
Big data: techniques and technologies that make handling data at extreme scale economical.
You may be less than impressed with the overly simplistic definition, but there is more than meets the eye. In the figure, Boris and I illustrate the four V's of extreme scale:
The point of this graphic is that if you just have high volume or velocity, then big data may not be appropriate. As characteristics accumulate, however, big data becomes attractive by way of cost. The two main drivers are volume and velocity, while variety and variability shift the curve. In other words, extreme scale is more economical, and more economical means more people do it, leading to more solutions, etc.
So what does this have to do with beer? I've given my four V's spiel to lots of people, but a few aren't satisfied, so I've been resorting to the CAP Theorem, which Dr. Brewer presented at conference back in 2000. I'll let you read the link for the details, but the theorem (proven by MIT) goes something like this:
Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in an internal debate across the Forrester team serving the business process professional role on “The Future of Business Process: Packaged Apps vs BPM.” Our key takeaway: Organizations need to move away from siloed views of the business process domain and develop a more holistic view of business processes across both packaged applications and BPM disciplines. In short, we agreed that business process pros should embrace “big process thinking,” as we’re beginning to call it, to deal with increasingly splintered and fragmented processes that span across packaged applications, BPM suites, on-premises solutions, cloud-based solutions, mobile platforms, and social environments.
Following this debate, key Forrester business process analysts embarked on new research to flesh out exactly how business processes — and the business process discipline — will need to evolve in the face of continuous disruption and competitive threats. Over the past three months, we interviewed firms with leading business transformation programs, industry thought leaders, and technology vendors to paint a picture of what business processes will look like in 2020. Based on these interviews, business process will evolve over the next decade to become:
Yesterday, HP agreed to buy UK software firm Autonomy Corp. for $10 billion to move into the enterprise information management (EIM) software business. HP wants to add IP to its portfolio, build next-generation information platforms, and create a vehicle for services. It is following IBM’s strategy of acquiring software to sell to accompany its hardware and services. With Autonomy under its wing, HP plans to help enterprises with a big, complicated problem – how to manage unstructured information for competitive advantage. Here’s the wrinkle – Autonomy hasn’t solved that problem. In fact, it’s not a pure technology problem because content is so different than data. It’s a people, process problem, too.
Here is the Autonomy overview that HP gave investors yesterday:
Of course, this diagram doesn’t look like the heterogeneous environment of a typical multinational enterprise. Autonomy has acquired many companies to fill in the boxes here, but the reality is that companies have products from a smorgasbord of content management vendors but no incentive to stick with any one of them.
Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience.
Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum.
The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:
More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.
Mobile access to information has increased its importance in your work environment. Consider that two-thirds of your US and European workforce works remotely at least part time. Accessing email, surfing the Net, collaborating with a colleague, or posting tweets from your mobile device is the norm and no longer a luxury. But can this mobile elite access your most valuable information assets?
If you’re like me, you want to be able to access your work information from any of your many devices -- i.e., your laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Wouldn’t it be ideal if that access were transparent across all the devices, picking up where we left off as we moved from device to device? While mobile computing has matured in many areas, the ability to access and manage documents on a mobile device lags far behind many other capabilities, such as email and collaboration. What I want to see in a mobile ECM application is the same type of capability that we see in Twitter applications. I can send and receive tweets from any device with the same functionality and experience.
The vendors that have a mobile application are either delivering an early release or have limited the number of devices they are supporting. Most ECM vendors deliver some form of mobile access to their ECM solution. Those that don’t have a mobile application provide reduced functionality through a mobile web browser. So does that mean that all you need to do to create a mobile ECM strategy is to wait for your ECM vendor to provide an application? The answer is no, as I contend that technology is always the simplest piece of an ECM implementation.
A successful rollout of a mobile ECM strategy involves many more dimensions besides technology. You must also consider the people and process aspects. Here are some of the questions I plan to answer at our upcoming Forum:
Many organizations expect EAs to be the source of technology innovations. They are broadly knowledgeable, experienced, connect-the-dots kind of people you might naturally expect to come up with reasonable ideas for new approaches and technology. When you think about it a bit, this expectation is misplaced. Here’s why I think this:
The best technology innovators are users who have a problem to solve; motivation to solve a specific problem affecting their lives is the key ingredient. EAs just don’t have these kinds of problems; because they operate as a bridge between business and technology, most often they are attempting to solve things that affect other people’s lives. Please don’t get me wrong: EAs are always looking for new, innovative ways to improve things. But this doesn’t replace the “I gotta fix this now” kind of motivation inspiring most innovations.
So am I saying organizations should take EAs out of the innovator role? Yes and no.
Here at Forrester, we have been writing and talking about topics such as Innovation Networks and new roles for business technology for a while. I think that EAs are better placed at the center of an Innovation Network where they connect innovation suppliers (lead users who are dreaming up new ways to solve their problems) with innovation users (other folks who can benefit from a generalization of the solutions the suppliers come up with). In addition, EAs can bring innovation implementers — the team members who know how to actually make innovations into solutions that work for more than just one individual or group — into the conversation.
So what should you do?
Send EAs on a mission to find people doing innovative things in IT and the business. This has a side effect of connecting EAs to the frontlines, where they might discover all kinds of things.