All posts by Sandy Kemsley

A Vision Of Business Transformation At PegaWORLD

The second half of today’s keynote started with a customer panel of C-level executives: Bruce Mitchell, CTO at Lloyds Banking Group, Jessica Kral, CIO for Medicare & Retirement at UnitedHealthcare, and Richard Haley, CFO at FBI, moderated by Rafe Brown, CFO at Pega. Some interesting comments there about how their organizations are transforming: a shift to customer focus while improving efficiency by reducing handoffs on inbound calls; how incremental development and faster release cycles reduce risk and improve business-IT alignment; and how big data can be used to improve context for everything from customer journeys to police investigations.

We finished the morning with new product highlights from Kerim Akgonul, Pega’s SVP of product management. Their case interface is the cornerstone of the new look of Pega: business processes are described at a high level by  simple linear stage view, with processes that might happen at each stage listed below: very reminiscent of the simplified phase views that I’ve seen in a number of other products, both design-time and runtime. I still maintain that there are many processes that don’t lend themselves to a simple stage/phase representation, since activities from multiple phases may be happening simultaneously, but this seems to be a popular representation.

According to their customers and partners, it’s 6.4 times faster to deliver on Pega 7 than direct Java development (assuming, of course, that Pega becomes your captive application development environment, which is not an option for many organizations), and there are definitely many capabilities in the platform and solutions built on that platform, such as next best action marketing, sales force automation and customer process manager. Predictive analytics is definitely assuming a higher profile as a competitive differentiator in sales, marketing, CRM and other customer-facing applications, since it can help provide better customer service as well as improve sales goals. A recent acquisition is also giving them robust mobile support, allowing mobile and remote workers to participate fully in case management activities, while other acquisitions are providing interactive customer support and social media engagement.

Don Schuerman, CTO at Pega, joined Kerim on stage to show how all of these things can come together, with a (fictional) insurance company responding to a tweet about motorcycles with an offer for motorcycle insurance, tied directly in to their back office systems for quotes as well as their call center and CRM system. They demonstrated a seamless integration between the insurance app and the call center agent’s screen, allowing the CSR to push application documents to the customer’s phone in real time. Fun demo of omni channel for integrated communication, next best action with product recommendations, and business processes for fulfillment, complete with drone delivery and helmet-mounted crash detectors.

That’s it for the day 1 keynotes at PegaWORLD 2014; we’re off to a breakout session before lunch and a tour around the technology pavilion, then an afternoon of breakouts and some roundtables with executives.

PegaWORLD Gets Big

My attendance at PegaWORLD has been spotty the past few years because of conflicts with other conferences during June, so it was a bit of a surprise to show up in DC this week to a crowd of more than 3,000 attendees — definitely now the biggest BPM conference around. The opening keynote started with Alan Trefler (Pega’s founder and CEO) talking about change, and how organizations need to become digital enterprises with the power to engage, the power to simplify and the power to change. Interestingly, SAP used the same “simplicity” message at SAPPHIRE last week: typically, this translates to a combination of hiding complexity from the business (which is not really simplification, just better window dressing) and platform rationalization (which is actually technological simplification).

As Trefler described it, Pega sees three major contributors to becoming digital enterprises: case lifecycle management as an alternative to a pure process view for the complexity of real-world business operations; next best action to predict what a customer might do based on their engagement history; and omni channel to provide a consistent customer experience on multiple channels simultaneously in an integrated fashion. These three capabilities provide a digital context based on a unified architecture, bridging (internal) work and (external) customer.

Pega has reached a size now — 3,000 employees and over a half billion in revenue — where they are fueling some of their growth through acquisitions; this is likely to challenge their ability to avoid a “Frankenstack” of technologies weirdly bolted together. They’re hitting all the buzzwords: social, mobile, analytics, cloud and internet of things, with a story of how they’re addressing each. Incidentally, I found it interesting that they still have less than 100 cloud-based production customers, although many times more are using it for development and test systems; that’s going to have to step up if they’re going to really engage with increasingly diverse organizations.

Anette Bronder from Vodaphone’s enterprise delivery group took the stage to talk about their ongoing business transformation program: working to achieve simplification, standardization, digitization and globalization. They are improving their enterprise operations and infrastructure, with the goal of a set of standard products that can be delivered across all segments. Enterprise customers, making up almost 30% of their business, include big names including Amazon and Bosch; these include the communications required for logistics, manufacturing, fulfillment, the internet of things and much more, with the ultimate goal of putting a SIM card in pretty much everything. Transformation of their enterprise delivery processes is based on several factors: sourcing the right people both internally and externally; standardized processes with a common methodology leveraging best practices; governance with a single operating and delivery model across all markets with a consistent set of metrics; and common technology for order management, project management and product catalog. They are moving from manual to automated operations, and from local siloed approaches to globally standardized products and processes. They want to improve customer engagement through a case management approach, where all customer information is available for decision-making and pro-active problem resolution, while improving operational efficiency and business agility. Pega is one of their technology partners, but obviously there’s a lot more involved here, including significant change management. They’re two years into their journey; it will be interesting to see this again in a year or two when they’re starting to see some real results.

Webinar On Developer-Friendly BPM And The Zero-Code Myth

I’m giving a webinar on Wednesday this week (June 11) on developer-friendly BPM and the myth of zero-code BPM when it comes to many complex integrated core business processes. It’s sponsored by camunda, along with a white paper that will be available following the webinar, and co-hosted by BPM.com.

As of last week, about 300 people had already registered for the webinar, should be a good turnout. It starts at 2pm Eastern time, and you can sign up here.

June BPM Conferences

After a month at home, I’m hitting the road for a few vendor events. First, a couple where I’m attending, but not presenting:

  • IBM Content 2014 in Toronto (so technically not hitting much of the road to get there), May 30 – this will travel to Austin, Minneapolis and Chicago in early June (but not with me)
  • SAP’s SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando, June 2-6
  • PegaWORLD in Washington DC, June 8-10

This gives me a chance to catch up on what’s been happening with their products since my last briefing, and talk to the internal teams as well as customers. In both of the latter cases, the vendors are covering my travel expenses but not compensating me for my time, so anything that I blog here (as usual) is my own opinion and not influenced by them.

After that, I have a couple of speaking gigs:

  • Two seminars hosted by IBM in Boston and Seattle, June 17 and 19 respectively, on new business operations imperatives (cloud, mobile, social and analytics with BPM)
  • DST’s ADVANCE Forum Europe in London, June 25, where I’ll be presenting “Designing Process-Based Applications: The Dos and Don’ts”, an updated version of the presentation that I gave at their North American conference in March

I likely won’t be blogging much from these ones since I’ll be busy presenting, but may post my slides online. Obviously, the vendors are paying my expenses as well as a speaking fee, but not for any specific coverage on my blog.

The Case For Smarter Process At IBMImpact 2014

At analyst events, I tend to not blog every presentation; rather, I listen, absorb and take some time to reflect on the themes. Since I spent the first part of last week at the analyst event at IBM Impact, then the second half across the country at Appian World, I waited until I had to pull all the threads together here. IBM keeps the analysts busy at Impact, although I did get to the general session and a couple of keynotes, which were useful to provide context for the announcements that they made in pre-conference briefings and the analyst event itself.

A key theme at Impact this year was that of “composable business” (I have to check carefully every time I type that to make sure I don’t write “compostable business”, but someone did point out that it *is* about reuse…). I’m not sure that’s a very new concept: it seems to be about assembling the building blocks of business capabilities, processes and technologies in order to meet the current needs without completely retooling, which is sort of what we’ve all been saying that BPM, ODM and SOA can do for some years now.

Smarter Process is positioned as an enabler of composable business, and is IBM’s approach for “reinventing business operations” by enabling the development of customer-centric applications that push top-line growth, while still providing the efficiency and optimization table stakes. Supporting knowledge workers has become a big part of this, which leads to IBM’s biggest new feature in BPM: the inclusion of “basic” case management within BPM. The idea is that you will be able to support a broader range of work types on a single platform: pre-defined “structured” processes, structured processes with some ad hoc activities, ad hoc (case) work that can invoke structured process segments, and fully ad hoc work. I’ve been talking about this range of work types for quite a while, and how we need products that can range across them, because I see so few real-world processes that fit into the purely structured or the purely unstructured ends of the spectrum: almost everything lies somewhere in the middle, where there is a mix of both. In fact, what IBM is providing is “production case management”, where a designer (probably not technical, or not very technical) creates a case template that pre-defines all of the possible ad hoc activities and structured process fragments; the end user can choose which activities to run in which order, although some may be required or have dependencies. This isn’t the “adaptive case management” extreme end of the spectrum, where the end user has complete control and can create their own activities on the fly, but PCM covers a huge range of use cases in business today. Bruce Silver

“But wait,”, you say, “IBM already has case management with IBM Case Manager. What’s the difference?” Well, IBM BPM (Lombardi heritage) provides full BPM capabilities including process analytics and governance, plus basic case capabilities, on the IBM BPM platform;  IBM Case Manager (FileNet heritage) provides full content and case capabilities including content analytics and governance, plus basic workflow capabilities, on the IBM ECM platform. Hmmm, sounds like something that Marketing would say. The Smarter Process portfolio graphic includes the three primary components of Operational Decision Management, Business Process Management and Case Management, but doesn’t actually specify which product provides which functionality, leaving it open for case management to come from either BPM or ICM. Are we finally seeing the beginning of the end of the split between process management in BPM and ICM? The answer to that is likely more political than technical – these products report up through different parts of IBM, turning the merging/refactoring of them into a turf war – and I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m guessing that we’ll gradually see more case capabilities in BPM and a more complete integration with ECM, such that the current ICM capabilities become redundant, and IBM BPM will expand to manage the full spectrum of work types. The 1,000th cut may finally be approaching. Unfortunately for ICM users, there’s no tooling or migration path to move from ICM to BPM (presumably, no one is even talking about going the other way) since they are built on different infrastructure. There wasn’t really a big fuss made about this new functionality or how it might overlap with ICM about this outside the BPM analyst group; in fact, Bruce Silver quipped “IBM Merges Case into BPM but forgets to announce it”. Winking smile

The new case management functions are embedded within the BPM environment, and appear fairly well integrated: although a simple web-based case design tool is used instead of the BPM Eclipse authoring environment, the runtime appears within the BPM process portal. The case detail view shows the case data, case document and subfolders, running tasks, activities that can be started manually (including processes), and an overall status – similar enough to what you would see with any work item that it won’t be completely foreign, but with the information and controls required for case management. Under the covers, the ad hoc activities execute in the BPM (not ICM) process engine, and a copy of ECM is embedded within BPM to support the case folder and documents artifacts.

The design environment is pretty simple, and very similar to some parts of the ICM design environment: required and optional ad hoc activities are defined, and the start trigger (manual or automatically based on declarative logic or an event) of each activity is specified. Preconditions can be set, so that an activity can’t be started (or won’t automatically start) until certain conditions are met. If you need ad hoc activities in the context of a structured process, these can be defined in the usual BPM design environment – there’s no real magic about this, since ad hoc (that is, not connected by flow lines) activities are part of the BPMN standard and have been available for some time in IBM BPM. The case design environment is integrated with Process Designer and Process Center for repository and versioning, and case management is being sold as an add-on to IBM BPM Advanced.

Aside from the case management announcement, there are some new mobile capabilities in IBM BPM: the ability to design and playback responsive Coaches (UI) for multiple form factors, and pushing some services down to the browser. These will make the UI look better and work faster, so all good there. IBM also gave a shout out to BP3’s mobile portal product, Brazos, for developing iOS and Android apps for IBM BPM; depending on whether you want to go with responsive browser or native apps as a front-end for BPM, you’re covered.

They also announced some enhancements to Business Monitor: a more efficient, high-performance pub-sub style of event handling, and the ability to collect events from any source, although the integration into case management (either in BPM or ICM) at design time still seems a bit rudimentary. They’ve also upgraded to Cognos BI 10.2.1 as the underlying platform, which brings more powerful visualizations via the RAVE engine.  I have the impression that Business Monitor isn’t as popular as expected as a BPM add-on: possibly by the time that organizations get their processes up and running, they don’t have the time, energy or funds for a full-on monitoring and analytics solution. That’s too bad, since that can result in a lot of process improvement benefits; it might make sense to be bundling in some of this capability to at least give a teaser to BPM customers.

In BPM cloud news, there are some security enhancements to the Softlayer-based BPM implementations, including 2-factor authentication and SAML for identity management, plus new pricing at $199/user/month with concurrent user pricing scenarios for infrequent users. What was more interesting is what was not announced: the new Bluemix cloud development platform offers decision services, but no process services.

Blueworks Live seemed to have the fewest announcements, although it now has review and approval processes for models, which is a nice governance addition. IBM can also now provide Blueworks Live in a private cloud – still hosted but isolated as a single tenant – for those who are really paranoid about their process models.

bpmNEXT 2014 Wrapup And Best In Show

I couldn’t force myself to write about the last two sessions of bpmNEXT: the first was a completely incomprehensible (to me) demo, and the second spent half of the time on slides and half on a demo that didn’t inspire me enough to actually put my hands on the keyboard. Maybe it’s just conference fatigue after two full days of this.

However, we did get a link to the Google Hangout recording of the BPMN model interchange demo from yesterday (be sure to set it to HD or you’ll miss a lot of the screen detail).

We had a final wrapup address from Bruce Silver, and he announced our vote for the best in show: Stefan Andreasen of Kapow – congrats!

I’m headed home soon to finish my month of travel; I’ll be Toronto-based until the end of April when IBM Impact rolls around.

bpmNEXT 2014 Thursday Session 2: Decisions And Flexibility

In the second half of the morning, we started with James Taylor of Decision Management Solutions showing how to use decision modeling for simpler, smarter, more agile processes. He showed what a process model looks like in the absence of externalized decisions and rules: it’s a mess of gateways and branches that basically creates a decision tree in BPMN. A cleaner solution is to externalize the decisions so that they are called as a business rules activity from the process model, but the usual challenge is that the decision logic is opaque from the viewpoint of the process modeler. James demonstrated how the DecisionsFirst modeler can be used to model decisions using the Decision Model and Notation standard, then link a read-only view of that to a process model (which he created in Signavio) so that the process modeler can see the logic behind the decision as if it were a callable subprocess. He stepped through the notation within a decision called from a loan origination process, then took us into the full DecisionsFirst modeler to add another decision to the diagram. The interesting thing about decision modeling, which is exploited in the tool, is that it is based on firmer notions of reusability of data sources, decisions and other objects than we see in process models: although reusability can definitely exist in process models, the modeling tools often don’t support it well. DecisionsFirst isn’t a rules/decision engine itself: it’s a modeling environment where decisions are assembled from the rules and decisions in other environments, including external engines, spreadsheet-based decision tables, or knowledge sources describing the decision. It also allows linking to the processes from which it is invoked, objectives and organizational context; since this is a collaborative authoring environment, it can also include comments from other designers.

François Chevresson-Aubain and Aurélien Pupier of Bonitasoft were up next to show how to build flexibility into deployed processes through a few simple but powerful features. First, adding collaboration tasks at runtime, so that a user in a pre-defined step who needs to include other users at that point can do so even if collaboration wasn’t built in at that point. Second, process model parameters can be changed (by an administrator) at runtime, which will impact all running processes based on that model: the situation demonstrated was to change an external service connector when the service call failed, then replay the tasks that failed on that service call. Both of these features are intended to address dynamic environments where the situation at runtime may be different from that at design time, and how to adjust both manual and automated tasks to accommodate those differences.

We finished the morning with Robert Shapiro of Process Analytica on improving resource utilization and productivity using his Optima workbench. Optima is a tool for a serious analyst – likely with some amount of statistical or data science background – to import a process model and runtime data, set optimization parameters (e.g., reduce resource idleness without unduly impacting cycle time), simulate the process, analyze the results, and determine how to best allocate resources in order to optimize relative to the parameters. Although a complex environment, it provides a lot of visualization of the analytics and optimization; Robert actually encourages “eyeballing” the charts and playing around with parameters to fine-tune the process, although he has a great deal more experience at that than the average user. There are a number of analytical tools that can be applied to the data, such as critical path modeling, and financial parameters to optimize revenues and costs. It can also do quite a bit of process mining based on event log inputs in XES format, including deriving a BPMN process model and data correlation based on the event logs; this type of detailed offline analysis could be applied with the data captured and visualized through an intelligent business operations dashboard for advanced process optimization.

We have one more short session after lunch, then best in show voting before bpmNEXT wraps up for another year.