Tag Archives: ibmimpact

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.

My Spring 2014 BPM Conference Schedule

Last night, a friend asked me about where I’m travelling next, and when I responded “Newark, Philadelphia, San Diego, Orlando and San Francisco”, she assumed that was everything up to the end of May. Alas, that only gets me to the end of March. Here’s the conferences that I’ll be attending or presenting at over the next couple of months:

  • Kofax Transform, San Diego, March 9-11: I am making a joint presentation with Craig LeClair of Forrester on Planning, Designing and Implementing a Smart Process Application. I was also asked to judge their customer and partner awards, although I won’t be sticking around for the awards ceremony.
  • DST AWD Advance, Orlando, March 17-19: I’m presenting The Technical Side of Process Excellence, particularly around the use of configurable process-based applications for quick solution delivery.
  • bpmNEXT, Monterey, March 25-27: I’m attending and blogging, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. I’ll be in San Francisco for the beginning of that week, and possibly stopping in the South Bay area at the end of the week to visit the Computer History Museum.
  • IBM Impact, Las Vegas, April 27-30: I’m attending the analyst event at Impact and as much of the show that I can cram in in the short time, because after almost a month without conferences, I’ll be doing two in one week.
  • Appian World, DC, April 30-May 2: I’m attending after a year away (recently, this always conflicts with IBM Impact).
  • BPM Portugal, Lisbon, May 8: I’m presenting on incentives for social enterprise, including social BPM. This will be an updated version of the presentation that I gave at the APQC conference last fall, and if you have any case studies to contribute to this, I would love to hear about them.
  • PegaWorld, DC, June 8-10: Again, one that I’ve missed a few times since it was conflicting with the IRM BPM conference in London, but this year they are a week apart and I’ll be there.
  • BPM Europe, London, June 16-18: I haven’t yet been added to the agenda for IRM’s annual BPM conference, but I’ve been there the past several years so it’s likely that I’ll be there again.

Hopefully, that’s it for the next four months, although there are always last-minute changes. Let me know if you’ll be nearby or at any of these and want to meet up. It’s a fair bet that I’ll be blogging from each of these as well.

Smarter Process At IBM Impact 2013

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.

BPM v8.5:

  • 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.

ODM v8.5:

  • 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.
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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.

IBMImpact Next Week

I’m off to IBM Impact next week, where I’m speaking on a panel on Monday afternoon about “What’s Next For BPM”, along with Neil Ward-Dutton, Bruce Silver, Eric Herness and Pierre Haren, hosted by Irene Lyakovetsky. I’ll also be attending the analyst briefings and will post about what’s new with IBM BPM, Blueworks Live and related products. Annoyingly, there doesn’t appear to be any way to see the agenda unless you’re signed up for the conference, meaning that I can’t link directly to session descriptions, but will blog about whatever I attend if I have time.

It will be a pretty crammed few days, but if you’re going to be there and want to say hi, let me know and we can try to connect. And speaking of connecting, get yourself invited to the BP3 Connect cocktail hour on Tuesday evening (I’m sure that Scott Francis can help you with that), I’ll be there for sure [and everything will be off the record, if you know what I mean :-) ].

The Future Of BPM

I was on a panel yesterday afternoon on the future of BPM with Phil Gilbert of IBM and Derek Miers of Forrester, where we ranged across topics from BPM programs to achieving process maturity to the impact of social. No slides or recording, unfortunately, and that meant that I didn’t go to other sessions to blog about.

I’m headed home to Toronto for a couple of days, then this weekend I’m off to Vienna for the ISIS Papyrus open house and user conference. Watch for my coverage from there (Max, do we have a hash tag yet?).

IBM Impact Day 2: Engage. Extend. Succeed.

Phil Gilbert spoke at the main tent session this morning, summarizing how they announced IBM BPM as a unified offering at last year’s Impact, and since then they’ve combined Business Events and ILOG to form IBM ODM (operational decision management). Business process and decision management provide visibility and governance, forming a conduit to provide information about transactions and data to people who need to access it. IBM claims to have the broadest, most integrated process portfolio, having taken a few dozen products and turned them into two products; Phil was quick to shoot down the idea that this is a disjointed, non-integrated collection of tools, referring to it instead as a “loosely coupled integration architecture”. Whatever.

Around those two core products (or product assemblies) are links to other enterprise tools – Tivoli, MDM, ECM and SAP – forming the heart of business processes and system orchestration. In version 8 of BPM and ODM, they’ve added collaboration, which is the third key imperative for business alongside visibility and governance.

We saw a demo of the new capabilities, most of which I talked about in yesterday’s post. For ODM, that included the new decision console (social activity stream, rules timeline) and global rules search. For BPM, there’s the new socially-aware process portal, which has been created on their publicly-available APIs so that you can roll your own portal with the same level of functionality. There’s searching in the process portal to find tasks easily. The new coach (UI form) designer allows you to create very rich task interfaces more easily, including the sidebar of task/instance details, instance-specific activity stream, and experts available for collaboration. They’ve incorporated the real-time collaboration capabilities of Blueworks Live into the BPM coaches to allow someone to request and receive help from an expert, with the user and the expert seeing each other’s inputs synchronously on the form in question. Lastly, Approve/Reject type tasks can be completed in-line directly in the task list, making it much faster to move through a long set of tasks that require only simple responses. He wrapped up with the obligatory iPad demo (have to give him credit for doing that part of the live demo himself, which most VPs wouldn’t consider).

The general session also included presentations of some innovative uses of BPM and ODM by IBM’s customers: Ottawa General Hospital, which has put patient information and processes on an iPad in the doctors’ pockets, and BodyMedia, which captures, analyzes and visualizes a flood of biometric data points gathered by an armband device to assist with a weight loss program.

IBM Vision for BPM, ODM and SOA

Opening day at IBM Impact 2012 (there were some sessions yesterday, but today is the real start), and a good keynote focused on innovation. The wifi is appalling – if IBM can’t get this right with their messages about scalability, who can? – so not sure if I’ll have the chance to post any of this throughout the day, or if you’ll get it all when I get back to my hotel room.

This post is based on a pre-conference briefing that I had a week or two ago, a regular conference breakout session this morning, and the analyst briefing this afternoon, covering  IBM’s vision for BPM, ODM (decision management) and SOA. Their customers are using technology to drive process innovation, and the IBM portfolio is working to address those needs. Cross-functional business outcomes, which in turn require cross-functional processes, are enabled by collaboration and by better technical integration across silos. And, not surprisingly, their message is moving towards the Gartner upcoming iBPMS vision: support for structured and unstructured process; flexible integration; and rules and analytics for repeatable, flexible decisions. Visibility, collaboration and governance are key, not just within departmental processes, but when linking together all processes in an organization into an enterprise process architecture.

The key capabilities that they offer to help clients achieve process innovation include:

  • Process discovery and design (Blueworks Live)
  • Business process management (Process Server and Process Center)
  • Operational decision management (Decision Server and Decision Center)
  • Advanced case management (Case Manager, which is the FileNet-based offering that not part of this portfolio, but integrated)
  • Business monitoring (Business Monitor)

Underpinning these are master data management, integration, analytics and enterprise content management, surrounded by industry expertise and solutions. IBM is using the term intelligent business operations (which was front and center at Gartner BPM last week) to describe the platform of process, events and decision, plus appropriate user interfaces for visibility and governance.

Blueworks Live is positioned not just as a front-end design tool for process automation, but as a tool for documenting processes. Many of the 300,000 processes that have been documented in Blueworks Live are never automated in IBM BPM or any other “real” BPMS, but it acts as a repository for discovering and documenting processes in a collaborative environment, and allowing process stakeholders to track changes to processes and see how it impacts their business. There is an expanded library of templates, plus an insurance framework and other templates/frameworks coming up.

One exciting new feature (okay, exciting to me) is that Blueworks Live now allows decision tasks to be defined in process models, including the creation of decision tables: this provides an integrated process/decision discovery environment. As with process, these decisions do not need to become automated in a decision management system; this may just document the business rules and decisions as they are applied in manual processes or other systems.

Looking at IBM BPM v8, which is coming up soon, Ottosson took us through the main features:

  • IBM BPM inbox showing inline task approvalSocial collaboration to allow users to work together on tasks via real-time interactions, view activity streams, and locate experts. That manifests in the redesigned task interface, or “coach”, with a sidebar that includes task details, the activity stream for the entire process, and experts that are either recommended by the system based on past performance or by others through manual curation. Experts can be requested to collaboration on a task with another user – it includes presence, so that you can tell who is online at any given time – allowing the expert to view the work that the user is doing, and offer assistance. Effectively, multiple people are being given access to same piece of work, and updates made by anyone are shown to all participants; this can be asynchronous or synchronous.
  • There is also a redesigned inbox UI, with a more up-to-date look and feel with lots of AJAX-y goodness, sorting and coloring by priority, plus the ability to respond to simple tasks inline directly in the inbox rather than opening a separate task view. It provides a single task inbox for a variety of sources, including IBM BPM, Blueworks workflows and Case Manager tasks.
  • Situational awareness with process monitoring and analysis in a performance data warehouse.
  • iPhone app task listMobile access via an iOS application that can interface with Blueworks Live and IBM BPM; if you search for “IBM BPM” in the iTunes app store (but not, unfortunately, in the Android Market), you’ll find it. It supports viewing the task list, task completion, attach documents and add comments. They are considering releases the source code to allow developers to use it as a template, since there is likely to be a demand for a customized or branded version of this. In conjunction with this, they’ve released a REST API tester similar to the sort of sandbox offered by Google, which allows developers to create REST-based applications (mobile or otherwise) without having to own the entire back-end platform. This will certainly open up the add-on BPM application market to smaller developers, where we are likely to see more innovation.
  • Enhancements to Process Center for federation of different Process Centers, each of which implies a different server instance. This allows departmental instances to share assets, as well as draw from an internal center of excellence plus one hosted by IBM for industry standards and best practices.
  • Support for the CMIS standard to link to any standard ECM repository, as well as direct integration to FileNet ECM, to link documents directly into processes through a drag-and-drop interface in the process designer.
  • There are also some improvements to the mashup tool used for forms design using a variety of integration methods, which I saw in a pre-conference briefing last week. This uses some of the resources from IBM Mashup Centre development team, but the tool was built new within IBM BPM.
  • Cloud support through IBM SmartCloud which appears to be more of a managed server environment if you want full IBM BPM, but does offer BPM Express as a pre-installed cloud offering. At last year’s Impact, their story was that they were not doing BPM (that is, execution, not the Blueworks-type modeling and lightweight workflow) in the cloud since their customers weren’t interested in that; at that time, I said that they needed to rethink their strategy on this and and stop offering expensive custom hosted solutions. They’ve taken a small step by offering a pre-installed version of BPM Express, but I still think these needs to advance further.

WebSphere Operational Decision Management (ODM) is a integration/bundling of WebSphere Business Event Manager and ILOG, bringing together events and rules into a single decision management platform for creating policies and deploying decision services. It has a number of new features:

  • ODM event streamSocial interface for business people to interact with rules design: decisions are assets that are managed and modified, and the event stream/conversation shows how those assets are being managed. This interface makes it possible to subscribe to changes on specific rules.
  • Full text searching across rules, rule flows, decision tables and folders within a project, with filtering by type, status and date.
  • Improved decision table interface, making it easier to see what a specific table is doing.
  • Track rule versions through a timeline (weirdly reminiscent of Facebook’s Timeline), including snapshots that provide a view of rules at a specific point in time.
  • Any rule can emit an event to be consumed/managed by the event execution engine; conversely, events can invoke rulesets. This close integration of the two engines within ODM (rules and events) is a natural fit for agile and rapid automated decisions.

There’s also zOS news: IBM BPM v8 will run on zOS (not sure if that includes all server components), and the ODM support for zOS is improved, including COBOL support in rules. It would be interesting to see the cost relative to other server platforms, and the compelling reasons to deploy on zOS versus those other platforms, which I assume are mostly around integrating with other zOS applications for better runtime performance.

Since last year’s big announcement about bringing the platforms together, they appear to have been working on integration and design, putting a more consistent and seamless user interface on the portfolio as well as enhancing the capabilities. One of the other analysts (who will remain nameless unless he chooses to identify himself) pointed out that a lot of this is not all that innovative relative to market leaders – he characterized the activity stream social interface as being like Appian Tempo three years ago, and some of the functionality as just repackaged Lombardi – but I don’t think that it’s necessarily IBM’s role to be at the very forefront of technology innovation in application software. By being (fairly) fast followers, they have the effect of validating the market for the new features, such as mobile and social, and introducing their more conservative customer base to what might seem like pretty scary concepts.