BPM Futures


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Events category.

tibbr

The Utzon Room in the Sydney Opera House was the packed venue this week for the Asia-Pac launch of tibbr, the new Enterprise Social Network product from Tibco.

Tibco held earlier launch events in San Francisco and London and as a result the blogosphere is already awash with functional commentary, which I’m not going to duplicate. So for a good functional summary check out David Terrar of Enterprise Irregulars, then step it up a notch with Futurist Ross Dawson (who spoke at the launch event).

These blogs – and the presentation that I attended – make it clear that tibbr is a product that can be used by anyone but is of particular benefit to knowledge workers. As a lifelong knowledge worker and manager of knowledge workers, I feel that this is a technology that I can comment on as a potential user/customer, for a change.

So here goes – if you are the CEO of a company that relies on knowledge workers, then you should simply direct your CTO to do due diligence (are tibbr’s adaptors right for you?) and, subject to that, go ahead and buy. Parts of your organisation have almost certainly already been trying to improve the management of their information overload through the use of ‘wiki’ or similar technologies for years – cheap, open source products, well-meaning but generally ghastly to use – the digital equivalent of your staff putting up posters to cheer up an office that has peeling paint and unsafe electrics.

If you commit to tibbr – or a similar product* – your team will see you as a leader who recognizes the fact of their daily information overload and wants to help them overcome it. They will need little training in the familiar user interface, and there will be ample ‘soft’ benefits as they avoid errors of omission (‘if only I’d know about that I would have …’); react to important news faster; and provide better outcomes through a higher quality of collaboration (and, yes, synergy). Championing it shows respect for their efforts and the challenges that they – and probably you too – face.

If, on the other hand, you or your Board require proof of ‘hard’ benefits, complete with a list of FTEs that will be freed up, you may have a long wait. The folk who will benefit most from this product – your sales team, design engineers, marketing department, lawyers, IT crowd and most of your senior management team – are probably not subjects of your current Six Sigma initiative, so proving time savings will be hard. However for a cost of under $150 per user per year this shouldn’t be insuperable.

The only really significant decision will be how fast and where to roll it out. There are plenty of configuration choices (how are subjects organised, who gets to see what) and there will undoubtedly be learnings and improvements along the way, so starting in one business unit before rolling it out more widely would make sense (this was apparently what launch presenter and reference site Ciber did). And I expect that there will soon be a tibbr user group and the usual swag of books and consultancy to provide guidance (can ‘tibbr for dummies’ be far behind?).

One interesting option would be to consider whether there would be further benefits in encouraging tibbr use up and down your supply chain. Selective sharing of information has been standard for years, so extending that to this space, where process data and discussion naturally come together, could make a lot of sense.

Any risks? ‘Over-transparency’, perhaps. This sort of product has the potential to open up much of the dialogue within your organisation to scrutiny. In most cases this is a very good thing, but it will no doubt sometimes throw up management challenges. In particular expect middle management to come under more pressure as their tibbr participation comes under 360° scrutiny in a way that their emails rarely can.

So a quick decision then, which is handy, since Tibco say that they can have it up and running for you in just hours.

Finally, after you’ve finished talking with your CTO, why not drop a note to your Marketing Manager suggesting the Utzon Room is used for your next customer event – with the wonderful Utzon interior and huge harbour views it’s surely one of the classiest small corporate venues in Sydney?

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This post is dedicated to the memory of Charles Brown, Australian BPM pioneer and a friend and colleague to many, particularly in the Staffware world. Charles would have celebrated his 60th birthday this weekend.
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* Disclosure – I worked for Staffware, now part of Tibco, for some years. I don’t think that this clouds my judgement but it does mean that a reminder that there may be competing products out there is appropriate.


IBM Cloud steals Lombardi thunder

Another IBM Agility seminar at the Shangri-La Hotel, and some BPM announcements. And in contrast with the sunny spring skies warming Sydney’s harbour (for those of you in the northern hemisphere :cool: ) the best bit in here was the cloud.

But first …. Websphere Lombardi Edition is to have drag and drop integration with both FileNet P8 Content Server and Content Manager 8. The extent of the functionality involved wasn’t clear to me – presumably IBM will start with search/retrieval and later move on to others like metadata update and new document insertion? Anyway, further integration will be with Websphere Service Registry and Repository – useful for orchestration purposes – and with iLog, where it will be possible to browse and select an existing Ruleset on a predefined iLog JRules Execution Server.

In the meantime Websphere iLog itself is to be coupled with Websphere Business Events to become Webspher Decision Server, extending IBM’s business events capability, whilst the iLog BRMS SupportPac is to provide Websphere Business Monitoring and predictive analytics integration

All very worthy, but much less interesting than the next piece of news, which was the launch of Blueworks Live. This combines three elements – the Blueworks BPM collaboration community (blogs, wikis); the highly successful (Lombardi) Blueprint process discovery and definition environment; and a new workflow execution engine. All running in the Cloud and, apparently, available through your browser for a test drive from November 20th. (Yes, that’s this Saturday – perhaps one of the software world’s most specific launch dates ever…!).

Now, Cloud-based BPM is hardly new. Cordys was one of the first to offer it globally, and there are niche players too, such as Australian company OpenSoft, which uses open source products to provide integrated Cloud-based BPM to the burgeoning Australian energy and resources sectors. However, Cloud-based BPM from IBM is something else entirely. IBM’s existing mindshare in the global BPM market and its credibility as a corporate Cloud (and FM) provider mean that the interest in this product will be enormous, and as a result it could well be a game-changer for all BPM stakeholders.

The PowerPoint-based demo that followed included a marketing manager setting up a new process for her latest marketing initiative. Yes, that’s one process for one case/process instance. And if the Powerpoint is to be believed, it only took her a few minutes.

How can this fail? The CIO’s happy because it’s SaaS; the Board because it’s IBM; the Ops Manager is comfortable because its running in an IBM Datacentre; the process improvement people have Blueprint to play with; the IT teams can focus on integrated, production BPM system work; and best of all the Business can replace its endless email trails with easy to access, auditable business processes.

So what next? Well, here’s a prediction –  Blueworks Live will do for business processes what Microsoft Sharepoint did for enterprise content – it will get everywhere. That means a step change in awareness regarding BPM (how many business – or even IT – people knew of ECM before Sharepoint?) and huge opportunities for BPM professionals to sort out all of those ‘home grown’ processes. Bring it on!


Pegasystems Sydney Symposium

I’m running behind with my blogging. It’s now several weeks since the Pegasystems Business Process Symposium took place here in Sydney, however whilst not quite ‘hot off the press’ the event is easily worth reporting on, even now, for its excellence at three levels – case studies, product and philosophy.

Pega’s philosophy – or at least my understanding of it – puts top priority on ease of use for both developers and end users. This means plenty of functionality that is easy to put together into processes, and thereafter just as easy to maintain. This is a big ask – business processes tend to be complex, and the technology set required to support them is fairly broad – and can only be achieved through a pretty stubborn focus by the vendor.

This philosophy came across quite graphically in a Q&A session towards the end of the day. Alan Trefler, CEO and founder of the company, was asked why Pega wasn’t providing more extended support for custom Java user interface development. Now 9 out of 10 company representatives put in this position would have (a) spoken at length about the support that was already in place and (b) at least implied that further and even more exciting developments were on their way. Not Mr Trefler. He told the questioner that custom Java code was far too slow to develop to be useful in BPM deployments – instead, it was the responsibility of BPM vendors to provide a UI builder, fully integrated with the core product, that was fit for purpose. The Pega roadmap? It would continue to improve the built-in Pega UI builder …. and if any customer or prospect felt that there was functionality lacking in it, he would be delighted to make the investment necessary to develop the product further.

Now that’s focus. I have been responsible as a manager – and, going back a few years, as a developer – for BPM implementations with both flavours of UI, native and custom built (ie Java/.Net). From a productivity point of view the native (BPM) UI wins hands-down, both because it is simpler to use and because a single developer can define both the process flow and the accompanying screens together. There is no need for an interface, two sets of data definitions and, worst of all, two different developers each with a slightly different skillset and understanding of the requirements. The native UI has only one catch – without real commitment from the vendor, the UI builder tends to have significant functional gaps. Close those gaps and you have a winner.

On a different topic, he was asked about the rationale for the Chordiant takeover. The answer was interesting in that it emphasised Chordiant’s core differentiator, its predictive and adaptive capabilities, which support more intelligent management of (eg) customer retention, cross-selling and fraud processes. Applying this technology to end-to-end processes, rather than simply the CRM front end, has the potential for significant value-add.

It is perhaps this combination of a practical, experience-based development focus with innovation where it can really make a business impact – rather than simply following the latest technology trend – that explains why Pega tends to have rather interesting case studies. On this occasion it was Mike Efron, eBusiness Manager from Wesfarmers Insurance who spoke about using Pega to provide a rules- and process-based consumer portal through which Kmart Tyre & Auto Service is selling white-labelled personal lines insurance products. The key here was ‘building for change’ – Pega’s slogan, which this project realised through defining specifically those aspects of the solution that were not required to change – and then leaving it to the system’s designers and the system itself to ensure that everything else could change. He told the audience that once Kmart Tyres was safely live, it took the team just two weeks to change the system sufficiently to support a second ‘white label’ customer.

A second case study that was mentioned at the event was British Airports Authority. This is the sort of innovative case study that refreshes one’s interest in BPM. How many BPM solutions have as their primary input channel not email, not scanned mail … but radar? Rather than my re-writing it, check out Gartner’s take on it here.

The final topic is of course the latest product news. This is well-documented on the Pega site, and the highlights for me were:
– A new Case Management version of the product with a slick user interface and a process architecture that includes effectively unlimited nesting of cases. So a motor claim can include separate sub-processes for vehicle repair and personal injury; the personal injury claims can include separate processes for the several individuals involved, each with multiple different types of injury, and so on. All neatly tied together into the Case Manager’s desktop.
– Other Case Management features include ad hoc tasks, delegation, support for multiple parties and related cases, correspondence management and reporting.
– New Process Designer features that are used for Process Discovery. These are similar to those introduced by a number of other vendors in recent years with the important addition of requirements traceability. I understand this is made available as a cloud service to the Pega Developer Network.
– Project management tools (eg for task, risk and issue management, and including wiki and twitter-like functionality) that use Pega core technology and can be configured to fit the desired SDLC approach (waterfall, agile etc). This looks well-developed enough to use, though the overlap with third party systems is obvious. It’ll be interesting to see how this area develops.

Overall this was an excellent event, showcasing a product that is increasingly differentiating itself from its peers, and was much enhanced by the presence of the CEO himself in Sydney.


Tibco User Group, Sydney

A full house today at Sydney’s Sofitel Wentworth for the first 2010 Tibco User Group meeting. Networking – with cold beer, very civilised – was followed by the corporate positioning pitch and then on to a tour of the 2010 roadmap. Whilst many individual points were of interest, the overall message was clear – we’re all business process specialists now, whether we use BPM tooling as such (Tibco’s iPE) or Complex Event Processing (‘BusinessEvents’) as the ‘pointy end’, the ‘stack’ is all about business process outcomes.

Highlights on the traditional BPM front include new Organisational Modelling extensions to iPE; new Forms options including Google Web Toolkit and Windows Presentation Foundation (the key here will be the depth of integration with the rest of the stack); and new process optimisation functionality arising from the convergence of iPE and Spotfire (the latter being a rich/easy to use BI tool that threatens to be as much loved by the business, and as hard to control by the IT department, as Sharepoint). And tibbr, Tibco’s corporate answer to Twitter, was also featured – very compelling, it takes the concept of ‘following the customer’ to a whole new level.

The session was topped off with a case study from Vodafone Hutchison Australia, a 2009 merger that claims 27% of the Aussie mobile market, and growing fast. Presentations like this, whilst always well-meaning, can be a bit repetitive – we’ve all heard similar ones before. This one stood out in two respects. Firstly it related the replacement of VHA’s core provisioning and customer service system, handling 100k+ tx/day, with the Tibco stack in just 6.5 months – this old hand was impressed.

And secondly, VHA used BusinessEvents rather than iPE, despite the latter having a significant track record in the telco space (very high volume provisioning, MNP and others). This remained unremarked in the presentation, and I was unable to reach the front of the queue to speak with their Architect afterwards. I did find myself speaking with one of VHA’s competitors though, who confided that if he had the choice he would really like to use both products, with BE orchestrating iPE. A topic I shall try to delve into further in future blogs….