I presented earlier today so I haven’t been doing any blogging, but I didn’t want to miss the repeat of the product strategy session with Roy Brackett, Mike Lovell and John Vaughn.
They’re hitting all the industry hot buzzwords – smart process applications, intelligent business operations, case management – but to be fair, they’re actually doing a lot of it. Although they’re just starting to bring in the dynamic and collaborative capabilities in recent versions, and their customers tend to drag their feet moving to new capabilities, AWD has long been a platform on which you build and deliver integrated business applications.
Their new(ish) case management, although based on the shared process and task engine as their structured processes, is based on research on how knowledge workers work, and they seem to be placing a lot of focus on evidence-based research into what they should be building, and Agile and SCRUM methods for building it.
A minor release (10.7.1) is due soon, and they have included some features that people in the audience were pretty excited about: variable timers (as opposed to having to define the timer duration at design time; multi-recipient outbound communications; AWD widgets, such as worklist and search, that can be deployed within other applications.
The next major release, 10.8, has a number of new features:
Processing work space updates, including worklist grid view that can be personalized by the end user, and adding attachments directly from the desktop
Communications content migration
Creating a case from capture
Tracking presentation flow time within monitoring
Technical server improvements around session management, batch processing and clustering
In 2015, they are focusing on a number of themes:
Dynamic processes for transactions, where process fragments may be assembled at runtime based on the specific conditions for that process instance
Milestones and timeline management for cases, allowing predefined process fragments to be easily triggered from case milestones
A new responsive user interface design tool that better accommodates what customers are actually doing with mobile apps – it sounds like they originally misunderstood how their customers would actually use presentation flows and mobile apps
Improvement to multi-channel servicing
Predictive analytics and services
Architectural refactoring, including splitting the process and content management capabilities so that they are still tightly integrated, but both are not required – 70% of their deals now do not include imaging, which is pretty amazing considering that AWD started as an imaging and workflow product
Some ambitious targets, and certainly not all to be delivered in 2015, but it gives an idea of how they’re moving forward.
I finished off the first day at DST’s AWD Advance conference with Judith Morley’s presentation on case management, which dealt with knowledge work and the unpredictable processes that they deal with every day. She presented last year about their case management, which was pretty new and a strong theme throughout last year’s conference. As I wrote back then, AWD case management is a set of capabilities built on top of their structured BPM, not a separate tool, that manifests through a user workspace that can be enabled for specific users. These capabilities include concepts of case ownership (including team ownership), tasks within cases, task and case prioritization, and collaboration. Their roadmap for case management includes some new mobile case views, more sophisticated case templates, more automation and better reporting.
They don’t have any customers live on case management yet, but some are pretty close. The applications that they are seeing being developed (or considered) at their clients include:
New retirement plan onboarding
Mutual fund corporate actions, e.g., new fund setup, mergers
Transfer of assets
Complaints, which involve both structured process and unstructured cases
Health insurance appeals and grievances at their BPO operation
The key thing for them is to get some of these customers up and running on case management to prove their capabilities and the expected benefits; without that, it’s all a bit academic.
There’s probably not really anything groundbreaking compared to any other case management products, but the fact that it’s built on the standard AWD platform means that it’s completely integrated with their structured process applications, allowing for a mix of transactional workers and knowledge workers on the same piece of work, sharing the security layer and other underlying models. For the huge amount of work that lies in the middle of the structured to unstructured process spectrum, this is essential.
That’s it for day 1 of AWD Advance 2014 – I’m off to enjoy a bit of that Florida sunshine, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Blogging may be a bit light since I’m presenting in the afternoon.
I still think that DST is BPM’s best kept secret outside of their own customer base and the mutual fund industry in which they specialize: if I mention DST to most people, even other BPMS vendors, they’ve never heard of them. However, they have the most fiercely loyal customers that I’ve ever seen, in part because Midwest friendliness and generosity permeates their corporate culture and is reflected in how they care about their customers. In 2012, I think I was the first industry analyst ever to attend their annual user conference, and now they invite a few of us to speak alongside their customers and their own team here at AWD Advance. They also have a lot of fun at the conference: last night they hosted a St. Patrick’s Day bash, and tomorrow is John Vaughn’s special treat for the customers: a concert where the band is masked in mystery (even to other senior management) until the event, although he apparently dropped a hint during the keynote and the conference hashtag lit up with guesses.
Although DST has made their mark in back-office transaction processing with origins in imaging and workflow, the functionality in the current AWD10 platform is more like what Forrester calls a Smart Process Application platform: dynamic and collaborative capabilities, analytics-driven recommendations and actions, integration with transactional systems including their TA2000 shareholder recordkeeping system, correspondence management, and more. For many of their existing customers, however, AWD is part of their “business as usual”, and they’re more concerned with keeping thing running smoothly than looking at new functionality; this is starting to change as the consumer market drives toward a more mobile and social experience, but it feels like the uptake for the new functionality is much slower than DST wished it were. One advantage that they have is their huge business process outsourcing business – back in the 90s when I first visited their operation, they processed about 1/3 of all mutual fund transactions in the US, and now they handle health insurance and other verticals – which is a ready recipient for field-testing new features. I had a brief chat with Mike Hudgins, who I heard present last year on microwork, on how they’re rolling that out in the BPO.
The opening keynote for the conference featured Steve Hooley (CEO), John Vaughn (VP Business Process Solutions) and Kyle Mallot (VP Global Insights/Analytics), with a focus on insight, action and results by using big data and analytics to inform processes. They pointed out that we’ve already squeezed out a lot of the inefficiencies in the back office, and that we now need to change the game by offering better customer experiences and deepening customer relationships.
After the keynote, I attended the AWD architecture session where Richard Clark outlined their technology updates: UI standards including jQuery, CSS3 and HTML5; portal functionality and widgets, including mobile support; server updates to allow for a more cloud-like elasticity; additions to REST services; and web services for check processing functions to replace some of their eStub capabilities. A lot of technical detail intended for current system administrators and developers, with a few glimpses of the continuing refactoring of their platform.
I moved over to the product track to see Kari Moeller, Joel Koehler (who provided the screen shots below – thanks Joel!), Brian Simpson and Laura Lawrence show off some use cases for the new(er) capabilities of AWD10. They’re doing a quarterly webinar on this as well, in part to address the issue that I mention above: a lot of current customers just aren’t using the features yet, even though they’ve moved to the new platform. We saw a self-service solution developed by the DST solution consultants based on their experiences with customers, driven by those customers’ customers’ needs: 55% of customers now prefer self-service over calling into a call center (myself included), and 85% will use online functionality to manage their account or relationship. The solution that they demonstrated allows customers to directly manage certain things in their accounts by linking that customer-facing portal directly to AWD: an action on the website such as an address change or account opening kicks off an AWD process to trigger back-office actions, set a timer event for future-dated updates, generate outbound correspondence, or hold for rendezvous with inbound paper documents that require a signature. In addition to allowing customers to initiate transactions, they can also track the transaction – much like courier package delivery tracking – which can significantly reduce calls to the call center. Customers are offered recommendations of other things that they can do, based on what they’ve done in the past and what similar customers have done, bringing analytics into play. The result: a customer online experience that improves customer retention and reduces the load on the back office and call center. Win-win.
Disclosure: DST is my client, and they have paid my travel expenses to be here as well as a speaking fee for my presentation tomorrow. They have not paid me to blog (or tweet), and they have no editorial control over what I write here.
You know where I’m not this week? Oracle OpenWorld. You know why? Because after an email conversation where I said that I could attend if my travel expenses were covered, and having them register me for the conference, I was informed that “PR doesn’t cover any hotel rooms or air travel”. Whatever.
However, I did have an in-depth briefing and demo recently on the latest release of Oracle BPM 11g, covering their Business Process Composer modeling tool and the integrated WebCenter Portal for end-user experience, and this seemed like a timely week to publish it.
Front and center is the new release of the Business Process Composer, targeted at business/process analysts, used for modeling and collaborating around business processes. As with many other BPMS, Oracle BPM has one (web-based) tool for the semi-technical analysts to do process discovery and modeling, then another (Eclipsedesktop) environment for the technical developer to complete the design and implementation of the process application. In previous versions, the process could be modeled in the Composer, but the UI could only be created in the JDeveloper IDE; with this release, the analyst can now create the UI directly in the Composer, and play it back as a prototype to show to users and other stakeholders. The Composer functionality doesn’t include complex data transformations or integration requirements, or creating web services, which must still be done in JDeveloper, but it moves the bar considerably for what can be done before developers are (inevitably) engaged in an Oracle BPM project. The Composer also includes simulation based on manual scenarios or runtime data, although it doesn’t show the animations as in the IDE.
We went through a travel request process application to demonstrate some of the UI and modeling capabilities of the Composer:
Portal view of projects, with links for favorites, projects owned by me, and projects shared with me. From within an open project, there is a presence indicator for other active viewers on the project.
Supports most of the BPMN 2.0 standard, except for some of the less-common activities, such as conversation handler and escalation handler. What the analyst uses is not fully standard BPMN, however: there are some obvious extensions in the “Interactive” (human) tasks, and in fact, the human task management is very reminiscent of their BPEL4People implementation heritage although they claimed that they are executing BPMN natively.
The properties available for any given task can be quite technical, although there appear to be some logical defaults if the analyst doesn’t want to (or can’t) specify all of the details in the Composer.
A UI form can be created for a human task, and can either be based on the payload (process instance parameters) or completely freeform. Although eventually many of the form parameters have to be attached to instance variables, business analysts often think about UI before data, so it’s good not to have to keep jumping out to define an instance variable just to put a field on a form.
The UI form composer is pretty standard: drag and drop controls, including a wide variety of formatted controls such as email addresses and telephone numbers; dropdowns can be populated with values entered at design time, or called from a database or REST service.
The process and forms can be played back within the Composer, making it a good tool for prototyping and reviewing with end users: it animates the path through the process, provides the option to launch the form at each human task as a specific user, and can discover and invoke services .
The general idea, as with many other BPMS, is that the business analysis will create the initial forms and processes, then a technical developer will add rules, invoke services, and generally make the application executable. The Composer and IDE can share process models via a common repository, but if I understood it correctly, there’s a bit of a kludge: the IDE must manually move models back to the repository since it uses a different format.
The second major enhancement in this release of Oracle BPM 11g is production case management functionality, enabled through greater integration of ECM capabilities into the BPM product. We went through a demo of the end-user case management functionality within the WebCenter Portal (a restricted-use license of the portal is provided with BPM), which has several panels of information:
Case information, with tabs for the audit trail (events and comments), data, attached documents (WebCenter Content based on Stellent acquisition, restricted license included with BPM, or any CMIS-compliant ECM), and discussion (forums/wikis).
Milestones and status; these can be marked complete or reopened based on user permissions.
Stakeholders, for access control to this class of cases. Permissions are defined in the context of case design, not predefined for entire system.
Activities, which can be filtered by status, where “Available” means activities that the current user is permitted to start.
Linked and referred cases; cases can be linked automatically by a model-driven parameter (e.g., account number), or by the user searching and creating a manual connection at runtime.
The JDeveloper IDE is used for modeling cases: defining milestones, outcomes, instance variables, user events and stakeholders, then defining rulesets (either in decision tables, or if-then code) and enabling each rule for different milestones within the case definition. Rules can be self-contained, or can invoke services or trigger processes. Case activities can be manually or automatically activated, and may be human tasks, BPMN processes, or exit to Java. Unfortunately, the case definition environment is still pretty technical, so unlikely to be done by a non-technical analyst.
Oracle is allied with the CMMN case modeling notation standards efforts, which puts them at about the right time in the CM standards wave, although I think that we may eventually see this merge with the BPMN standard.
It feels like Oracle is doing a bit of catching up with the competition: analyst tools for form-based UI design as part of a process application have been available in other BPMS for some time, and the technical nature of the case management designer is behind the times. However, these significant improvements in the Business Process Composer now allow for a complete prototype model to be created and approved by the business before developer involvement.
I haven’t heard any updates on the BPM product coming out of OpenWorld this week, but if you’re there in person, you’ll hear about it before I do.
Day 1 at IBM Impact 2013, following a keynote full of loud drums, rotating cars and a cat video, David Millen and Kramer Reeves gave a presentation on IBM’s vision for Smarter Process, which focuses on improving process effectiveness with BPM, case management and decision management. There are a number of drivers that they mentioned here that we’ll address in our panel this afternoon on “What’s Next For BPM” — the big four of mobile, social, cloud and big data — with the point that the potential for these is best seen when tied to mission-critical business processes. Not surprisingly, their research shows that 99% of CIOs looking to transform their business realize that they have to change their processes to do so.
Processes are not just about internal operations, but extend beyond the walls of the organization to take the customers’ actions into consideration, binding the systems of record to the systems of engagement. Therefore, it’s not just about process efficiency any more: we’re being forced to move beyond automation and optimization by the aforementioned disruptive forces, and directly address customer-centricity. In a customer-centric world, processes need to be responsive, seamless and relevant in order to engage customers and keep them engaged and well-served, while still maintaining efficiencies that we learned from all those years of process automation.
This isn’t new, of course; analysts (including me) and vendors have been talking about this sort of transformation for some time. What is new (-ish) is that IBM has a sufficiently robust set of product functionality to now have some solid case studies that show how BPM, CM and/or DM are being used with some configuration of mobile, social, cloud and big data. They’re also emphasizing the cross-functional approach required for this, with involvement of operations as well as IT and line of business teams.
Their key platforms for Smarter Process are BPM, Case Manager and ODM, and we had a summary of the relevant new features in each of these. BPM and ODM v8.5 are announced today and will be available in the next month or so. Here’s some of the key enhancements that I caught from the torrent of information.
Dashboards that allow you to click through directly to take action on the process. The dashboards provide a much better view of the process context, both for instance information such as the process timeline and activity stream, and for insights into team performance. This is now a more seamless integration with their “Coach” UI framework that is used for task UI, including presence, collaboration and social activity. I think that this is pretty significant, since it blurs the line between the inbox/task UI and the report/dashboard UI: analytics are context for actionable information. The process timeline provides a Gantt chart view — similar to what we’ve seen for some time in products such as BP Logix — and includes the beginnings of their predictive process analytics capabilities to predict if a specific instance will miss its milestones. There’s so much more than can be done here, such as what-if simulation scenarios for a high-value instance that is in danger of violating an SLA, but it’s a start. The team performance view provides real-time management of a team’s open tasks, and some enhanced views of the team members and their work.
Mobile enhancements with some new mobile widgets and sample apps, plus a non-production Worklight license bundled in for jumpstarting an organization’s mobile application development. You would need to buy full Worklight licenses before production deployment, but so many organizations are still at the tire-kicking stage so this will help move them along, especially if they can just modify the sample app for their first version. The design environment allows you to playback the mobile UI so that you can see what it’s going to look like on different form factors before deploying to those devices. As expected, you can take advantage of device capabilities, such as the camera and GPS, within mobile apps.
Social/collaboration enhancements, including presence indicators.
Integration into IBM Connections and IBM Notes, allowing for task completion in situ.
Blueworks Live integration, providing a link back to BWL from a BPM application that was originally imported from BWL. This is not round-tripping; in fact, it’s not even forward-tripping since any changes to the process in BWL require manual updates in BPM, but at least there’s an indication of what’s connected and that the changes have occurred.
Integration with the internal BPM content repository now uses the CMIS standard, so that there is a single consistent way to access content regardless of the repository platform.
A new BPM on SmartCloud offering, providing a full IBM BPM platform including design and runtime tools in IBM’s cloud. This can be used for production as well as development/test scenarios, and is priced on a monthly subscription basis. No official word on the pricing or minimums; other BPM vendors who go this route often put the pricing and/or minimum license numbers prohibitively high for a starter package, so hoping that they do this right. Applications can be moved between cloud and on-premise BPM installations by networking the Process Centers.
MobileFirst for business rules on the go, with RESTful API adapters inside the Worklight environment for building mobile apps that invoke business rules.
Decision governance framework for better reusability and control of rules, allowing business users to participate in rule creation, review, management and release. Considering that rules are supposed to be the manifestation of business policies, it’s about time that the business is given the tools to work with the rules directly. There’s a full audit trail so that you can see who worked on and approved rules, and when they were promoted into production, and the ability to compare rule and decision table versions.
Blueworks Live, for the enhancements already released into production a couple of weeks ago:
Decision discovery through graphical models, using the emerging decision modeling notation (DMN) from OMG. Decisions can now be documented as first-class artifacts in BWL, so that the rules are modeled and linked with processes. Although the rules can be exported to Excel, there’s no way to get them into IBM ODM right now, but I’m sure we can expect to see this in the future. The graphical representation starts with a root decision/question, and breaks that down to the component decisions to end up with a decision table. Metadata about the decisions is captured, just as it is for processes, leveraging the glossary capability for consistency and reuse.
Natural language translation, allowing each user to specify their language of choice; this allows for multi-language collaboration (although the created artifacts are not translated, just the standard UI).
Process modeling and discovery
Case Manager v5.1.1:
Enhanced knowledge worker control and document handling, bringing better decision management control into the case environment.
Modeling complex cases.
Two solutions built on top of Case Manager: intelligent (fraud) investigation management, and patient care and insight.
Integration Bus v9.0:
Decision services built in so that decisions can be applied to in-flight data.
Policy-driven workload management to manage traffic flow on the ESB based on events.
Mobile enablement to allow push notifications to mobile devices.
The Case Manager stuff went by pretty quickly, and wasn’t included in my pre-conference briefing last week, but I think that it’s significant that we’re (finally) seeing the FileNet-based Case Manager here at Impact and on the same marketecture chart as BPM and ODM. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the level of integration that they’re going to achieve, and whether the products actually combine.
Underlying the main product platforms, they’re leveraging Business Monitor and ODM to develop operational intelligence capabilities, including predictive analytics. This can gather events from a variety of sources, not just BPM, and perform continuous analysis in real-time to aid decision-making.
They are also including their services offerings as part of the Smarter Process package, supporting an organization’s journey from pilot to project to program. They offer industry solution accelerators — I assume that these are non-productized templates — and can assist with the development of methodologies and a BPM COE.
There are a number of breakout sessions on the different products and related topics over the next couple of days, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see given the hectic schedule that they’ve given me as part of the analyst program.
Apologies for those who saw (briefly) an earlier version of this post; the new version of the WordPress Android app has a new button, and I went ahead and clicked it.
Kofax sponsored a webinar this week (replay here) featuring Andy Bartels of Forrester Research speaking about Smart Process Applications (SPA): a term introduced by Forrester to describe collaborative, process-based packaged applications for human-centric work. In their terms: “a new generation of applications to help make human-centric, collaborative business activities be more effective”, with the goal to “help people be smarter in executing critical business activities”. You can check out their report on this from last year; the name is still struggling to gain acceptance, but vendors such as Kofax and OpenText (for whom I did a webinar and white paper on this topic last month) are helping to push it as a slice of the ECM/BPM/CM market where they have product offerings [by CM, I mean case management, including advanced CM (ACM), adaptive CM (also ACM), production CM (PCM) and dynamic CM (DCM), the latter term preferred by Forrester].
Forrester makes the distinction between transactional process apps and SPAs: transactional process apps tend to have standardized processes and little collaboration, whereas SPAs have a greater degree of collaboration as well as decision-making by the participants. If that was all, then this would just fall into the case management category – probably production case management – but an important focus of SPAs is that they are packaged applications for a specific activity: contract lifecycle management, customer support, procurement and the like. Bartels described them as filling in the gaps between the transactional apps, rather than using email and spreadsheets to bridge those gaps. He kept referring to these apps as “making people smarter”, which I think is a slightly awkward way of saying that they provide informational context for human decision-making, providing the right information to people at the right time to do their work.
He pointed out that BPM/DCM platforms provide an application development environment for companies to build their own SPAs, and that companies can then keep that app to themselves as a competitive differentiator, give it back to the vendor to incorporate into the base product, or sell it themselves (possibly in conjunction with the vendor). I think that a lot of these apps will come from the vendors directly, possibly via code developed for customer projects.
Martyn Christian of Kofax took the second part of the webinar to talk about Kofax solutions that fit into the Smart Process Apps envelope: capture of content as it moves from systems to engagement to systems of record is definitely their sweet spot. He overlaid their technology portfolio on Forrester’s “jigsaw” graphic to show that they offer something in all five pieces, although they are really pushing a platform for building SPAs, not the fully packaged SPAs that we’re seeing from some other vendors that are starting from a more comprehensive platform. That being said, Kofax is offering a customer onboarding SPA for capturing information at the point of origination, automating NIGO (not in good order) resolution and integrating with line of business and ECM systems; this sort of capture-focused SPA, or what they call “First Mile Solutions” is what we’re likely to see from Kofax in the future, especially as they continue to integrate the functionality of the Singularity (BPM/CM) and Altasoft (BI/analytics) acquisitions.
Forrester has a brand new Wave for SPAs; you can get this from the Kofax site here (registration required), plus a copy of a Forrester market analysis of multichannel capture, BPM and SPA, commissioned by Kofax. I’m sure that many of the other vendors in the Wave will have the report available as well, and it’s an interesting group of vendors: some horizontal BPM/ECM vendors, Salesforce, and a supply chain software vendor. This category is still such a mixed bag, and it does have the feeling of Forrester running a clustering algorithm on characteristics of existing solutions to see what they had in common, then “creating” the SPA category to describe them. Whether this is a true market category or just a speed bump on the way to a new age of applications and their development platforms remains to be seen.
The webinar that I did on Smart Process Applications (a Forrester term, but one that is being adopted by a number of case management/application development vendors) was broadcast today, sponsored by OpenText, and is available for replay here.