In the early part of next quarter, I am entering a research phase on a topic I have alluded to many times: techniques for Process Architecture.
One of the key problems that BPM initiatives suffer from is that, even with all the attention, we end up with processes that still have significant issues — they are too inflexible and difficult to change. They become just another version of concrete poured in and around how people work — focusing on control rather than enabling and empowering.
A phrase that I picked up (from a business architect) put it fairly succinctly:
“People tend to work hard to improve what they have, rather than what they need.”
This was then further reinforced by a process architect in government sector on an email:
“The wall I keep hitting is how to think about breaking processes into bite-size chunks that can be automated.”
The problem is that we don’t have good techniques to design (derive) the right operational process architecture from the desired business vision (business capability). Of course, there is an assumption here that there is an effective business vision, but that’s a subject for another line of research.
I am talking about the operational chunks — the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle required to deliver a given outcome. Not how the puzzle pieces are modeled (BPMN, EPC, IDEF, or any other modeling technique), but how to chop up the scope of a business capability to end up with the right operational parts.
As some of you know, I am hopelessly addicted to golf. I can already hear you asking, “What does golf have to do with marathons, and what do marathons have to do with business processes?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Before becoming a golf addict, I was a runner – running 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. My goal was to work my way up to a marathon. This is still my goal, but I learned a while ago that you can’t be a serious golfer and also be a serious runner – they both compete for long stretches of time on Saturday mornings (although I did have someone recommend that I combine the two into "marathon golf").
When I was a runner, I quickly learned that how you run a 5K or 10K is different from how you run a half-marathon. It seems obvious now, but when I trained for my first half marathon I didn’t realize how critical it was to hydrate all the way through and to also change your breathing technique. Ultimately, I found a training program that helped me get ready for my first race, and I ended up crossing the finish line in pretty good time and without killing myself.
We are sometimes so focused on details that we forget to think clearly. Nothing new there; it’s still a story about trees and forest. A few years ago, this was clearly the case when I met with one of the first vendors of run book automation. My first thought was that it was very similar to workload automation, but I let myself be convinced that it was so different that it was obviously another product family. Taking a step back last year, I started thinking that in fact these two forms of automation complemented each other. In “Market Overview: Workload Automation, Q3 2009,” I wrote that “executing complex asynchronous applications requires server capacity. The availability of virtualization and server provisioning, one of the key features of today’s IT process [run book] automation, can join forces with workload automation to deliver a seamless execution of tasks, without taxing IT administrators with complex modifications of pre-established plans.”In June of this year, UC4 announced a new feature of its workload automation solution, by which virtual machines or extension to virtual machines can be provisioned automatically when the scheduler detects a performance issue (see my June 30 blog post “Just-In-Time Capacity”). This was a first sign of convergence. But there is more.
Automation is about processes. As soon as we can describe a process using a workflow diagram and a description of the operation to be performed by each step of the diagram, we can implement the software to automate it (as we do in any application or other forms of software development). Automation is but a variation of software that uses pre-developed operations adapted to specific process implementations.
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.
Every year, I take 250 to 300 calls from Forrester clients. The vast majority of these calls are from executives embroiled in the process of trying to select the right CRM technology solution to support their business strategy. From these conversations, I have distilled a set of decision criteria to help you quickly cut through the CRM tech vendor underbrush.
Ability to meet your specific business requirements. You have to know what business outcomes you are trying to achieve, and define the business capabilities that you need to support, before you seriously consider investing in a CRM software solution. Although the core capabilities of leading CRM software vendors are quite similar, the companies I hear from still place a very high importance on the solution meeting the functional and technology criteria that are specific to their needs. Can the vendor meet your use-case requirements?
Ease of use for front-line workers. My clients expect CRM software to demonstrate the capability to make people more fruitful in their work, and this is predicated on how easy the solution is to use. Good usability encourages user adoption. Is the solution UI modern and adaptable to diverse role-based requirements?
Capability to provide advanced analytic abilities. My clients place a high value on CRM vendors' ability to provide analytic tools to better understand customer behavior and make insightful customer-facing decisions using the myriad customer data collected. Analytics are the key to unlocking the value in CRM applications. Does the vendor have powerful and easy-to-use business intelligence capabilities?
It was quite a challenge to nail down all the detailed points ... and of course, the publishing process took a little getting used to. To be honest, I had most of it finalized over a month ago.
The next doc is just about to go into the editing queue - that will focus on the rationale behind the Pega acquisition of Chordiant, highlighting a major shift we see in the way that Enterprise Apps are developed.
Inside the BPA Group at Forrester, we conducted a little experiment. I suggested that we should collaborate on a piece about the Pega acquisition of Chordiant. What followed was a large number of email exchanges. I drew the short straw in bringing all these thoughts together into a coherent whole. I prepared a document for Forrester clients to explore the acquisition in detail (probably getting through the editing process next week some time), and this blog post is culled from that document. So while the blog post bears my name, it reflects the collective opinions of Connie Moore, Bill Band, Natalie Petouhoff, John Rymer, Clay Richardson, Craig Le Claire and James Kobielus. Of course, I have put my own interpretation on it too.
Pega definitely wants to be in the customer experience/customer service business, and they want to get there by having a very strong BPM offering. It is not that they are moving away from BPM in favor of Customer Experience – they’re just strengthening their hand in CRM (or CPM as they would call it), more forcefully making the connection. We already knew this, but the Chordiant deal just reinforced that point (see related research doc from Bill Band in 2005 !!). This is not a new direction or change in direction for Pega, it is a strong move that takes them faster in the direction they were already going.
From a product point of view, Pega are adding/strengthening their hand – Choridant’s marketing automation and predictive analytics seem to be of greatest interest. Of course, Pega also values the engineering talent that Chordiant has, and will redirect those people over time to work on integrating these capabilities into the BPM offering. They were also interested in the vertical industry and functional expertise that Chordiant had to offer.
I recently published a sample business capability map for insurance firms as a way to illustrate many aspects about the description and use of this business architecture methodology. One of the readers of this report commented “It seems the business capability maps provide value as a complement to existing methodologies” and referenced Strategy Maps and Business Process Modeling. This made me realize that I should explain more how Forrester sees capability maps as more than a complement – and why we, along with many of our clients are so ‘jazzed up’ about this methodology.
A bit of background: Forrester views capabilities as stable elements of a business model, where the dynamics of a firm are reflected in the business goals for the capability, and the processes, functions, information and other assets which are how a capability is delivered. A capability map describes all the capabilities, and the relationships between them, which an organization needs to have as part of their business model to achieve outcomes. Think of Sales as a simple example, where there are business goals and associated metrics for Sales, and processes, functions, information and people assets necessary for this capability to be delivered. And Sales has a relationship to Fulfillment, to Customer Service and to Marketing.
BPM has always provided fertile ground for new ideas but often results in confusing business process and application professionals. Recently Dynamic Case Management and Social BPM are being spoken of as important directions for BPM. But how do they relate to one another? And since social media is an important part of both, what value does social really add to process improvement and Line of Business professionals if any? No doubt social improves collaboration in process design, and more important is the ability -with analytics to add a new form of input to process improvement -input that may go directly to the CEO. This is part of the BPM advantage but the area of Case Management may have more dramatic value as you collaborate during a critical incident like an adverse drug reaction, or create a stronger community to deliver a more personalized service event -or to gather "voice of the customer" data to improve case handling. But in both BPM and Case -social is an enabler and takes a seat along side important advancements such as analytics, convergence of BPM and ECM, and a stronger domain focus.
When business processes finally become intelligent
Over the past several months I have done a lot of research on the BI market, the trends and the vendor landscape. There is a clear indication that BI solutions are becoming more sophisticated, more intelligent and – more integrated into other applications to enhance the performance of the application supported business processes.
Very recently now, in discussions with BPM vendors like IDS Scheer, HandySoft and many others it became very eminent that from the other side, BPM solutions are moving steadily into the field of Business Intelligence too. The world of BPM and BI solutions are converging to bring intelligent business processes to the market – eventually. However, today we are still some steps away from this picture and the convergence of BPM and BI will likely proceed in smaller steps are outlined in the below BI-BPM convergence model.
Today several BPM vendors have actively integrated business intelligence capabilities into their solutions. Larger ones like IDS Scheer have developed their own analytics while smaller vendors like HandySoft are using OpenSorce components offered by JasperSoft and other OpenSource BI vendors. The integration offers users new and consistent insights along the whole business process. A user in this context means both:
a) Business users that are part of the business process get access to relevant information and reports that increase the efficiency of the process, and
b) Business process owners get an insightful analytics of the process metadata to be able to further enhance and streamline the process.