Augmenting BPM with Social Software

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Rainer Schmidt and Selmin Nurcan have co-authored a nice paper that succinctly explains some key social software principles and their application to BPM. Their view is that social software and business processes can have a unique relationship where processes may apply social technologies to enhance process stakeholder interaction and/or support process design and implementation. Both of these extensions to traditional BPM address some existing stakeholder engagement and process model adoption issues.

Four enabling factors of social technology are presented in support of the emerging “social” BPM approach with reference to various sociology and marketing texts. These principles as debated at various workshops and BPM conferences have been defined as:
1. Weak Ties – “spontaneously created connections between non-predetermined individuals”. Leading to improved organisational agility due to enhanced knowledge exchange within and outside established network boundaries.
2. Egalitarianism – Crowd sourcing knowledge from all process stakeholders (internal & external) with all contributors having an equal say in the discussion.
3. Social Production – A rapid process improvement cycle driven by an open user-access policy established to support continuous knowledge aggregation & reuse.
4. Service-Dominant Logic – Adoption of a service-oriented approach to marketing where the process Customer is a co-creator of value.

They go further to draw the alignment between social software and business processes i.e. process may use social software to improve stakeholder interaction and/or processes may be the object of social software. This means that the traditional practice of BPM (modelling, requirements analysis etc) utilises social technology to address for example the model-reality divide between process model design and implementation. In their view, the key benefits of social BPM will be the continuous fusioning of process knowledge; process improvement agility; identification of hidden knowledge contributors and the broadening this knowledge base.

Rainer and Selmin raise some valid points on the benefits of social BPM not least of which is how this approach can address the model-reality divide….but just how successful is this in practice and can these benefits be measured?

Categories: BPM, Enterprise 2.0

Business Process Management in the Cloud with Intalio: BPMS just got sexy!

January 7, 2011 2 comments

When reviewing a software application one of the first things I think about is the “look and feel” or usability of the app – does it interest me and what makes this application stand out from the crowd. This offering from Intalio grabbed me from the get go. At first glance IntalioBPM is like a new car, you just want to get behind the wheel and drive it! The clever use of fresh and funky icons coupled with the application of a Cloud based approach immediately draws your attention and fuels the need to look under the bonnet.

The open source Cloud based IntalioBPM application comes in two flavours: either the limited Community Edition (free) or the feature rich, fully supported Enterprise Edition. Each of these versions offer “a twelve step life cycle for business processes” (represented below) that adds a few more steps to Six Sigma’s traditional DMAIC model.

With a system architecture offering BAM, both process and document repositories, and driven by BPMN 2.0 and BPEL 2.0 process engines, this BPMS delivers a robust end to end enterprise level process management solution out of the box. A key feature and one of the components offered in both editions is the BPMN Designer which includes the features of:

• An integrated process development environment – supports the modelling and deployment of business processes and provides a common working environment for all process stakeholders.
• Zero code process design – turns any BPMN model into executable BPEL processes without the requirement for further coding
• One-click process deployment – through the use of graphical, wizard driven interfaces processes can be validated and deployed with one click

In addition, the included IntalioBPM BPEL 2.0 process server is scalable and can be deployed across a wide range of computing platforms and databases. Another key feature that makes this app attractive.

Upon installation, one of the first screens launched is the Workbench which permits you to define the directory location of a workspace. The Workbench consists of perspectives (a group of views and editors), views (used to navigate information or display properties) and editors (used to edit or browse resources).

After spending some time navigating through the various screens and functionality it is clear that this intuitive application that will meet the needs of most process stakeholders and the ease of use and logical screen flow are in keeping with the overall flavour of this application. So far I’ve been impressed with the level of integration with the other Intalio SaaS products on offer, their current move to seamless module integration, the proactive adoption of Cloud computing and the ability to access these applications on an IPad!

There are a few reasons why I remain impressed with the approach taken by Intalio. Firstly, they have embraced an open source approach (and added some polish along the way) to deliver a Cloud based BPMS solution that invites process stakeholders to get hands-on. Secondly, Intalio have taken to mash-up their various CRM/BPMN2 modelling/SaaS offerings and recognise the need for seamless integration between these applications. Thirdly, they offer a free (up to 5 users) Community Edition which allows for a “try before you buy” approach to software acquisition – granted also that comparatively the fully supported Enterprise Edition is not expensive. Fourthly, Intalio have a jump on the big boys in the BPM Vendor market which may drive more Cloud based BPMS applications in the future.
IntalioBPM is definitely worth an appraisal if you are in the BPMS market.

Categories: Uncategorized

The rise of the networked enterprise

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve come across an interesting McKinsey article on the rise of the networked enterprise where web technologies are being deployed to improve corporate performance. The survey offers several interesting findings that support an organisations adoption of this technology for productivity improvement.

According to McKinsey, the networked enterprises which proactively collaborate with both internal & external stakeholders report significant performance improvements and operational efficiencies. Some of the findings assert that the take up of Enterprise 2.0 technologies continues to grow with up to 40% of companies surveyed maintaining some form of social networks. Of these organisations, almost half believe that most of their Employees are actively engaged with the technology. This number can only continue to rise in the future as the demarcation between personal and professional use of these applications continues to blur. What’s encouraging is that more organisations have indicated that planned expenditure on Enterprise 2.0 technologies will be higher than in prior years.

Some of the measurable benefits listed in the report are more tangible than others but all indicate a degree of improvement over previous years:
• Speed of access to knowledge and subject matter experts
• Reduction in communication, operational & travel costs
• Increased innovation, customer satisfaction and revenue
Overall these metrics present the view that Enterprise 2.0 technologies are both taking hold within organisations and are now offering real benefits year on year. For this trend to continue, emerging technologies and consequently new ways of doing business must continue to be adopted.

A key finding from this Survey is that integration with organisational day-to-day activities is critical to the successful uptake/implementation and benefits realisation of Enterprise 2.0. Those organisations using social technologies internally benefit from improved process agility, knowledge sharing and collaboration across the business. Obviously organisations that embrace their entire internal and external networks benefit from a high degree of collaboration and stronger relationships amongst staff, customers & partners through improved information flows.

To measure any improvements in reported performance metrics, McKinsey have presented three core indicators and their findings –
1. Market share gains – correlation with networked organisations
2. Higher operating margins – aligns with more granular decision making and organisational agility
3. Market leadership – supported by the internal use of Enterprise 2.0

From these metrics, McKinsey make the observation that as fully networked organisations (internally & externally connected) apply the lessons learnt from prior stakeholder interactions to future relationships, their competitive advantage will improve. This study supports what we have been saying for some time now; incorporate collaborative applications, drive their usage, attack organisational silos and embrace external stakeholders. Will be interesting to see next year’s statistics…

Categories: Enterprise 2.0, web 2.0

The Adoption of Social Computing in the Enterprise

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

This whitepaper by Nicholas Evans (UNISYS) succinctly describes the current state of the organisational social technology landscape. As identified by Nicholas we are on the cusp of an information revolution where connections between geographically dispersed individuals will become a valuable corporate asset. This dynamic shift in the application of collaborative technologies must be recognised & incorporated into corporate strategies now to harness the full benefits of this movement.

I agree with his statement that “Along with cloud computing and next generation mobile computing, social computing is perhaps one of the top three most disruptive technologies making its way into the enterprise.” This is a movement that cannot be ignored, but must be effectively managed to guide both internal & external organisational collaboration in a direction that adds benefit and minimises any associated risk. Nicholas discusses two drivers to adoption namely the generational effect of younger staff merging the use of social technology in both their personal & professional lives for benefits obvious to the modern knowledge worker. Secondly, organisations are recognising the productivity & relationship benefits of establishing strong connections between employees, customers and Vendors, an emerging trend now understood by CIO’s and other enterprise architecture decision makers.

A four phase technology adoption/adaption lifecycle is presented. i.e. how an organisation may adopt/adapt an emerging technology to suit the changing needs of the enterprise so that ultimately it is embedded and ubiquitous. The four components of this cycle are summarised as:
1. Off-the-shelf solutions – the use of Facebook & Twitter like applications without modification to establish a social network presence.
2. Enterprise Class platforms – the deployment of maturing organisationally focused social computing platforms created for knowledge management and innovation practices
3. Integration with existing Enterprise applications and processes – it may be possible to enhance existing legacy applications with collaborative tools to reduce decision cycle times and improve exception handling protocols.
4. Pervasive and embedded capabilities – the incorporation of social technologies as a standard feature of mainstream enterprise wide applications.

Nicholas provides a nice summary of the benefits of social technology as enabling “users to build new bridges across human collaboration, to integrate structured and
unstructured information, and to optimize business processes and transactions”.

A brave new world is upon us…though some questions remain –
* What is current best practice application of enterprise wide social computing for process improvement?
* How can this technology be deployed/governed/measured?
* What are the software vendors offering in this space at the moment?
* What are the blockers to adoption & risk factors? How can these be addressed?
* Any defined approaches to retention & reuse of collaborative knowledge?

Sounds like a good PhD research project!

A Common Body of Knowledge for BPM: A Call for Action

October 21, 2010 2 comments

I’m currently doing some research towards the development of a Business Process Management Body of Knowledge (BPM BoK) so have been reading an interesting paper by Wasana Bandara, Michael Rosemann (QUT) and Paul Harmon (Business Process Trends) on the Process Knowledge Initiative website. Their paper discusses the need to advance BPM as a profession through the development of an empirically validated, accurate and relevant BoK and establish consensus on the definition of BPM. This exploratory paper identifies existing BPMBoK’s, proposes an approach for evaluation via an a-priori model and then offers an ontological design for BoK derivation. With a recognised gap between BPM education and the emerging capability demands of Industry, this BPMBoK will form the basis for both curriculum and practitioner development.

The Authors scan of the current BPM domain has identified five relevant BoK/certification programs deemed relevant to this study:
1. American Society of Quality (ASQ) Black Belt BoK
2. International Institute of Business Analysis BoK (BABOK)
3. OMG Business Process Standards
4. International Society for Performance Improvement BoK
5. Association of Business Process Management Professionals BoK (ABPMP BoK)

Due to its close alignment with the current intent of BPM, the Researchers have chosen to review the ABPMP BoK for this paper. Covering nine “knowledge areas”, the Bok is structured so that the core BOM concepts are presented in the first overarching knowledge group of Business Process Management:
1. Business Process Management
2. Process Modelling
3. Process Analysis
4. Process Design
5. Process Transformation
6. Process Performance Management
7. Process Organisation
8. Enterprise Process Management
9. BPM Technologies

Some of these knowledge areas pertain specifically to the core activities of a BPM practitioner, others to the organisational environment and the use of appropriate technology.

ABPMP BoK Evaluation Methodology
Following a review of the literature for BoK evaluation criteria, including Design Science research and input from the BPM community, an a-priori BoK evaluation framework was established covering the five identified factors of completeness; extendibility; understandability; application; and utility. The Authors then test the ABPMP BoK against each of these criteria and present their findings. Whilst acknowledging that the ABPMP BoK is a good start, “in its early phases and evolutionary”, there are apparent limitations with transparency, completeness and Industry consensus.

Design Approach for BoK Creation
The Researchers have broken down the content derivation process for a BPM BoK into two phases. The first is focused on what to include, the second on the actual population of the BoK components. As the focus of this paper is on phase 1, an ontology based approach is proposed to provide a unifying framework, supported by BPM practitioners, educators and Industry associations. Deemed an appropriate guide, due to the open and systematic approach taken by IIBA when developing their BABoK, the Authors have adopted the elements of Knowledge Areas, Tasks, and Techniques as appropriate for inclusion, with the addition of techniques & skills groups.

In summary, this initial paper calls for an open, BPM community driven effort to identify what it means to be a BPM professional. This is a long overdue initiative of benefit to the whole BPM community. Join the conversation here – Process Knowledge Initiative.

Categories: BPM

A critical analysis of global BPM demand

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve recently submitted a Business Process Management research paper for presentation at this year’s conference on Qualitative research in IT (QualIT2010), held immediately prior to the Australasian conference on Information Systems (ACIS2010) in Brisbane, Australia. Our paper provides insight into the research methodology applied and the outcomes of a global review of the capabilities organisations typically look for in their BPM employees.

To clearly articulate the preferred BPM capabilities sought across three distinct geographic regions, a structured content analysis of leading on-line recruitment websites was conducted, with this data compared to leading academic BPM capability frameworks. As there is still very little understanding on BPM as a profession, this research aims to address this gap by analysing current BPM vacancies on a global scale and providing a synthesised view of how the roles and responsibilities required aligns with known BPM capability frameworks.

The intent of this paper is to provide an understanding of how BPM practitioner capabilities currently required by organisations differ between the Australian, European and North American contexts. Specifically, this study addresses the following research questions through a literature review and qualitative data analysis:
• “What does the landscape of BPM employment opportunities look like across different geographic regions?”
• “How do sought after capabilities match to known BPM capability frameworks?”

This analysis can be used by prospective and current BPM professionals to understand organisational requirements globally, and academics to structure BPM education to suit these differing geographic demands. This study can be further extended to incorporate and align industry requirements with academic offerings to better serve the needs of the BPM community and make BPM curriculum more relevant.

I’ll put up a link to this paper and another on BPM curriculum (to be presented at ACIS2010) after the conferences.

Categories: BPM

Where Business Process Management & Social Technology meet

September 10, 2010 5 comments

I recently authored a paper (soon to be published) focused on how organisations are currently undergoing a paradigm shift where existing Business Process Management (BPM) methodologies and organisational structures are being enhanced by emerging social technology applications such as wiki’s, blogs, micro-blogs and instant messaging.

Within organisations these applications are typically categorised as Enterprise 2.0. This movement is evidenced in the literature by Rito-Silva et al (2009) who discuss the view that business processes should not stifle human intervention, and social technology should be embedded within the modelling and execution phases of processes. They believe that this will support the bottom up design approach to model development and execution. This is a radical change from traditional Business Process Re-engineering and BPM approaches.

As outlined by Rito-Silva et al (2009), a key factor of emerging Business Process Management methodologies will be agility (Dreiling, 2009), and this issue can be supported by the application of social technologies. I’ll present these factors soon once this paper is released.

Future research: Organisational (collective) intelligence for process improvement (via BI).

Antonio Rito Silva, Rachid Meziani, Rodrigo Magalhaes, David Martinho, Ademar Aguiar and Nuno Flores (2009). AGILIPO: Embedding Social Software Features. Center for Organizational Design and Engineering – INOV, Rua Alves Redol 9, Lisbon, Portugal

Dreiling, A. (2009). Business Process Management and Semantic Interoperability
Challenges Ahead. Handbook on Business Process Management – Springer.

Categories: BPM, Enterprise 2.0, web 2.0