BPM Futures


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?


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.

* 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.

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….