Earlier this month I attended IBM Impact in Las Vegas where the software vendor announced new enhancements and features for their BPM suite product. On the face of it, the announcement sounded a bit underwhelming, with heavy emphasis on updating core functionality that was needed to remain competitive in the market. However, one bullet in the announcement stood out:
“Significant enhancements to the IBM BPM built-in dashboards to help improve business process outcomes and enable the creation of custom dashboards.”
Recently, I interviewed a half dozen top service design agencies to better understand how they work with enterprise architects and business architects inside the client firms they serve. All of the agencies I interviewed focus on helping their clients transform customer experience and introduce new products and services. I wanted to interview these agencies because they represent the tip of the spear when it comes to introducing new innovation inside of companies looking to take advantage of disruptive drivers - both competitive and digital – and rethink their business models.
I asked each agency for examples of how they worked with their clients’ enterprise architects and business architects when introducing new innovation. When I posed this question to each agency, I could hear crickets chirping in the background. In short, they all indicated – in as nice terms as possible – that they try to avoid the IT organization in general, and had no contact with specific enterprise architects or business architects.
For me these interviews painted a picture of a school yard where team captains are picking players for kickball, and a small group of kids were being left on the sidelines, not picked for the team. Using this analogy, the business – in many cases the CMO and CXO leaders – are the team captains. And enterprise architecture, including business architects and process architects, are the kids being left on the sidelines.
As some of you know, I’m a bit of a political junkie. I believe I picked up the political bug from years of riding shotgun with my dad as he listened to Rush Limbaugh blaring on the car radio. As a kid, I loved listening to Rush and trying to understand where he was coming from, trying to understand his perspective, trying to understand his ideology. The term “culture wars” in U.S. politics is used to define a clash between two different political ideologies – conservatism and liberalism.
Over the past few years, I’ve also started using the term “culture wars” to describe the clash and fragmentation we’ve seen in the BPM market. In the BPM space, the clash has primarily been around dynamic case management (DCM), human-centric workflow, and straight-through processing ideologies.
I’m the first to admit that fragmentation and categorization is not always a bad thing, since it can help software buyers and decision-makers better understand which solutions best match their business requirements and desired business outcomes. However, the fragmentation in BPM sometimes overlooks the primary purpose and value proposition of BPM – to help support creating a sustainable business change program.
Lately, I have become a bit obsessed with evaluating the linkage between good process design and good experience design. This obsession was initially sparked by primary research I led earlier this year around reinventing andredesigning business processes for mobile. The mobile imperative is driving a laser focus for companies to create exceptional user experiences for their customers, employees, and partners. But this laser focus on exceptional design is not only reshaping the application development world. This drive for exceptional user experience is also radically changing the way companies approach business process design.
Over the past six months, I have run across more and more BPM teams where user experience is playing a much larger role in driving business process change. Some of these teams highlighted that they see experience design playing a greater role in driving process change than the actual process modeling and analysis aspects of process improvement.
Outside of BPM, one of my other passions is mentoring college students through the process of launching new startups. I enjoy helping students tighten up their business ideas and seeing them build business plans that can attract the funding they need to stand up and implement their ventures.
Recently, after reviewing and providing feedback on a student’s business plan, the student responded, “I can launch my business without a business plan; all this planning seems like a waste of time.” At first, I thought he was joking. However, I could read by the look on his face that he was serious. I am sure you can imagine the conversation that followed.
The next day when I reflected on the conversation, I had a moment of satori. I could see that startups share the same risk/reward profile as business process management initiatives. Just like startups, BPM initiatives promise huge returns to investors and stakeholders. Additionally, just like startups, BPM initiatives are fraught with risks such as inadequate funding, low adoption, and difficulty attracting skilled resources.
My conversation with the student about the importance of business planning seemed to parallel conversations I often have with enterprise architects and business architects launching or retooling their BPM initiatives. Most tend to overestimate the BPM’s potential rewards and downplay — or do not fully understand — the risks involved with launching a BPM initiative. However, for the most successful BPM initiatives, I have found that their leaders tend to have a “lean startup” mentality.
What does it mean to have a “lean startup” mentality?
Arguably, mobile is currently the hottest trend driving both business and technology strategies for executives. If you need any additional evidence, just look at all of the enterprise buzz Apple has generated with the iPhone 5 launch. Unfortunately, today’s business and technology leaders continue to respond to the mobile opportunity with the wrong answers. Business leaders respond to mobile with, “Let’s build a really slick mobile app, put it up on iTunes and we’re done!” Technologists respond to mobile with, “We need a strong BYOD policy and to put device management tools in place!” Both of these responses completely overlook the fact that underlying legacy applications and business processes need optimizing for the mobile experience.
We run into examples of this “lipstick on a pig” approach to mobile all the time. In fact, I ran into a perfect example of this recently when I needed to order a pizza for my family after a very hectic Saturday afternoon. When I picked up my mobile phone to call the pizza delivery place, a light bulb went off over my head. Instead of dialing the pizza delivery company and waiting on hold for 15 minutes, why not download its mobile app in two minutes and order my pizza within another two minutes. I figured I could shave off ten minutes of wait time by simply downloading the pizza delivery company’s mobile app.
Nowadays, there are two topics that I’m very passionate about. The first is the fact that spring is finally here and it’s time to dust off my clubs to take in my few first few rounds of golf. The second topic that I’m currently passionate about is the research I’ve been doing around the connection between big data and big process.
While most enterprise architects are familiar with the promise — and, unfortunately, the hype — of big data, very few are familiar with the newer concept of “big process.” Forrester first coined this term back in August of 2011 to describe the shift we see in organizations moving from siloed approaches to BPM and process improvement to more holistic approaches that stitch all the pieces together to drive business transformation.
Our working definition for big process is:
“Methods and techniques that provide a more holistic approach to process improvement and process transformation initiatives.”
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.
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:
Today, IBM announced the next release of its BPM suite environment, dubbed IBM Business Process Manager V7.5. This version represents IBM’s first attempt at unifying the core Lombardi Teamworks platform with IBM’s legacy WebSphere Process Server environment.
So far, IBM is following the product integration roadmap John Rymer and I laid outin our report published immediately following IBM’s acquisition of Lombardi. With today’s announcement, IBM checks off the first point of integration on our list: establishing a single repository across Lombardi Teamworks and Websphere Process Server. With Business Process Manager V7.5, IBM will deliver a single repository for process assets that leverages Lombardi’s impressive “snapshot” version management and governance capabilities, providing a unified approach to administering and reusing process and integration assets.