BPMNext Notes

A collection of notes of presentations from bpmNEXT.


AsilomarPhotoWell done!   An excellent show put together by Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer at the Asilomar conference center just south of Monterey California.  It was a meeting of minds in the process space the likes of which has not been seen for many years, if ever.  A place to discuss the latest ideas along with plenty of really excellent local wines.  The location is stunning.

Talks are very short and focused: 10 minutes to cover the subject and 10 minutes to demo.  It turns out, if you have something important to say, the kernel of it can be presented in 10 minutes.  Bruce’s mantra was: “don’t just tell me about something, show it to me!”  The ten minute demo gives a concrete example for the subject of the talk.

The videos of each talk are now available, and I have linked where possible.  Because the talks were constrained in time, the resulting videos are generally quite watchable with each subject covered in about 20 minutes.

This conference was, without a doubt, the best “meeting of minds” for discussing the advanced direction that work support systems are going.  If you want a ‘look over the horizon’ then watch the videos below.

Other Reviews

Starting with a list of other resources because, quite frankly, my notes are very rough.

Rough Notes

0. Keynote Paul Harmon (Video)

PaulHarmonPaul talked about the roots of BPM going back to the management practice before technology that was designed specifically to support it.  He started with the going to avoid going into the technical side, but in fact I thought he did a fairly reasonable job of bridging the gap.

See Paul’s own summary of the conference in: Trends in BPMS.

1. Process Mining: Discovering Process Maps from Data, Anne Rozinat and Christian W. Gunther, Fluxicon (Video)

This is a really good talk that won an award for best in the show.  If you have not seen it, it is worth watching.  They gave a very similar one at the BPMN 2012 conference, and so I didn’t take notes…  I hope Christian and Anne will forgive me for that.

2. Managing Process Roles and Relationships, Roy Altman, PeopleServ (Video)

The reporting relationship is the only real relationship that is encoded into an organization diagram.  Reporting is the only relationship that can be used in BPM.  Sometimes people put special relationships into it, but they get out of date and broken.  Special applications have to be maintained.  Peopleserv models this information in the cloud.

3. Lowering the Barriers to BPMN, Gero Decker, Signavio (Video)

BPMN for everyone.  It is a process management system hosted in the cloud.  Ease of use is a driving goal.  Inviting colleagues, getting them involved by passing on a link, which lowers the barrier for people to contribute.  This is based on two things: first is getting information into the system, and the real trick is how to get the first draft.  Once you have the first draft in the system, you have won the battle.  Supported by a smart modeling environment.  Graphical modeling, but also spreadsheet style modeling.  The second area is understanding, reviewing and refining the process model, which is all about collaboration iteration, simulation, step-through.

Demo: you can organize a repository of process models.  The spreadsheet style input has a column for task name and assignee.  As you enters rows it creates a BPMN diagram on the fly.   Voice input is integrated.  Have built in validation rules to conform to various style guideline, for example Bruce Silver’s BPMN style guidelines.  The diagram will be annotated with indications of possible violations.

4. Automated Assessment of BPMN 2.0 Model Quality, Stephan Fischli and Antonio Palumbo, ITP-Commerce (Video)

BPMN modeling in Visio.  Continual validation and indication of non-conforming patterns.  Generates HTML versions of the diagrams for sharing.  Round trip to and from various external tools.  There are various measures of quality, particularly four quality models, and techniques to ensure quality.  Pick a process, and get an overall quality score, and then a list of specific quality measures.  In terms of process maturity, the hardest jump is from level 2 to level 3, and their goal is to provide tools to help people jump this gap.

5. Data-Centric BPM, John Reynolds, IBM (Video)

Think of a process like a live production of a play. There are aspects that the author put in, but there are also unscripted things that happen while the play is being performed. There is additional work that has to be done, but it is invisible. Knowledge workers come in to deal with the problem. Those people generally deal with the business entities to deal with the unexpected things and get back on the script.

Business entities have a life cycle, and it matters which one it is. Data needs to be a first class part of the process. Managed data can have an many phases, and audit and validation rules for each phase. Rule can also depend upon the role of the person interacting. Ad-hoc activity: example move something back to a previous phase. But BPM is not the system of record. Working on the “Managed Data Interface” which is a façade to the system of record. Data that a person can see in a role, and actions that I can take in a role. May have to collaborate with a lot of people. Someone else will see a different screen based on their role, and this keeps the collaboration safe. And you can only do things that are “authorized”.

Solutions today are by and large brittle. Even though we create systems as flexible as possible, there will always be unanticipated events and occurrences. If they cannot do what they need within the system, the stop using the system.

Bruce asks: There is not a lot of information about this kind of data modeling.

Paul asks: are you actually expecting people to do modeling on their exceptional steps in BPMN? Seems like a different notation is needed? A: incredibly important to have a single consistent model at all areas, but not all parts of the model are appropriate for everyone. I do think we need some help with notation. BPMN is good to start, but not perfect for everyone.

Max: what about mobile access? a: Important tie in between process and rules. The example was that you may want to do an activity, but the screen resolution is not sufficient. Should be able to record the rule about screen resolution in the diagram. IBM acquired WorkLite and working to bringing that in, and the mobile-first philosophy is the right way to go.

Q: Contradiction that authorization can be specified in advance, when the activity is unpredicted. Improvisation cannot be safe. A: Yes, but some organizations need to be able to enforce those controls.  This means that they are limited in what they can respond to, but in some cases the laws require this and the organization has no choice.

6. Extreme BPMN: Semantic Web Leveraging BPMN XML Serialization, Lloyd Dugan and Mohamed Keshk, IMSC US (Video)

BPMN 2.0 finally makes BPM modeling useful, but the there was also a tremendous jump in the complexity.  That makes it challenging to use in other forms.  Instead, take the BPMN logic, and represent it using a semantic representation such as OWL.  Have worked out the mapping between the BPMN metamodel and the DoDAF metamodel.   Capability, Activity, Resource, Performer.

BPMN is being expanded in two important directions: service modeling and adaptive case management modeling.  BPMN is transformed into OWL.  Then you can make queries on the results, like identifying services used in a model.  Important in a SOA framework. Another example is to search and test for proper gateway use.  This is tool independent.

Q: would vendors be reluctant to use this kind of tools?  A: Probably yes.  Tool vendors have been slow to adopt these kinds of things.  The rendering in diagramming still has to be done.

Q: James Heldler noted the limitations of OWL and RDF.  What is your take?  A: The amount of inferencing that is required to do this is pretty small, and while there are limitations, they don’t really effect what we are trying to do.

7. Model-BPMS Roundtripping, Jakob Freund, Camunda Services GmbH (Video)

Two typical BPM users have two things in common: business model depends upon IT as a core competence. And the business model must be scalable. How to make business models scalable. The problem with BPMS market is that “zero coding” implies that you can make process models without any programmer, but this is tempting but deceptive. Have you ever seen an accountant setting up a web service call in BPMN? Wizards are good, but you always reach the point where the wizard does not offer the right check-box or pull down to support what is needed. And here is the problem, that when you bring the developer in, they are restricted by the zero coding capability. The proprietary interface has limited support; few programmers know it.

Different approach: alignment is not about eliminating one party, but getting them to work together. Need short cycles with quick turn around that the process model can be passed back and forth like an agile approach. Developer continues to use their Eclipse development environment, and the business users continues to use BPMN modeler. There is a model connector to connect the model parts to the coding. Signavio can be used for the modeling part. The other side is called “Camunda Modeler” which is an Eclipse plug-in. He then makes a step that calls a java class (what in Interstage BPM is called a Java Action) and he synchronizes the model back to Signavio. This is essentially the same thing that has been available in Interstage BPM for many years using XPDL, and the XPDL model extensions. We actually demonstrated this kind of exchange between IDS Scheer ARIS as the business modeler, and the Interstage BPM as the developer side, and round trip preserved all the elements. The difference is that this is based on the BPMN file format, which is newer than XPDL, but conceptually there is no difference.

Q: How does this compare to Activiti? A: We are contributing to Activiti. We announced on Monday that we are going to fork Activiti, and will be working with others to integrate this further in that branch.

8. BPM for Mobile, Mobile for BPM, Scott Francis, BP3 Global, Inc. (Video)

Scott_Francis(I had notes on this interesting talk, but my Android phone ate them.  Actually this is the truth, although I had not realized how ironic it is for my notes on a talk about mobile to be eaten by my phone.  As an experiment I wrote the notes up as email messages, but due to lack of connection they did not get sent.  Later, when I thought I had a connection, I tried to send again, and for some strange reason on that attempt the entire composed email disappeared — not in the ‘sent email’ list, nor in the ‘inbox’.  I managed to save the others by copying the contents into a new email message, but unfortunately this one was lost — more due to my inexperience with the software than any fundamental problem.)

9. Social and Mobile Computing for BPM and Case Management, Rhonda Gray, OpenText (Video)

This talk is about trying to engage new parts of the market. They found that workers were becoming more mobile. There are a variety of special issues around mobility and social interaction. In normal work there will be cases where you need to reach out and us a social metaphor.

Rhonda Gray-OpenTextSocial is the style. Work is the subject. Mobile UI is familiar to newer workers. The main coordination system is in house, behind the firewall. The “Touch” system is hosted in the cloud and serves to bridge from the in-house to the mobile workers. “Touch” makes everything available to phones and tablets.

Demo scenario: Someone asks a question. Respond with answer and share with someone else. It looks and acts a bit like twitter. Use “follow” to allow a person to bring themselves into your stream. Favorite a tweet and it is easier to follow by others.  They seem to do a good job of handling the problem of bringing people into the conversation later, because you can’t know everyone who needs to be involved at the start.

Dealing with work which involves bursty interactions as well as focused on small form factor. A lot of sharing and commenting.  For example consider a request for PTO (personal time off). Such a process can be used both to inform people that you are going to be out, and also make the accounting entries for payroll.

Q: what indication is there of the kind of sharing that an input will get when I put it in.  For example, a PTO request, particularly for medical reasons, can be quite personal.  In other cases, say a longer regular vacation I would really like many others to be informed.  Seems like it would be hard for the system to guess this, and is there any indication to the user about whether this will be broadcast widely or not?  A: A PTO request will be kept private because that is the nature of a PTO request.  There is no particularly indication of this, you just have to know based on the type of process you are starting.

10. Connecting BPM to Social Feeds Improves User Adoption, BonitaSoft (Video)

Bpm is social by nature.  In coincidence with the previous talk, the example was a PTO request. The notification appears via Salesforce’s chatter service. in the message is a link to the approval form. Second example is to pull an event from twitter. Based on a search filter, found tweets start a help desk process where the noted problem is handled or escalated. The main idea is about adoption; anything that can make adoption easier is a better.

BonitaSoftStated that the big benefit is that people “stay in chatter” but honestly this just a matter of using the notification mechanism that the user prefers.  Every example mentioned was just notification of a link to then access the application.  However no indication that this is user configurable.  The notification channel appears to be hard-coded into the process.  It would seem to me that some users would prefer email, some Chatter, some Twitter, etc.  Furthermore there was no indication that other more social aspects, (e.g. friends, groups, liking) were used to any extent.  I guess my expectation was a little high on this, but to be fair, the original speaker was called away suddenly, and one should go easy on the stand-in presenter.

Q: Do people like things in chatter? A: chatter has not been as successful in general as the designers expected.  However, if the user does use Chatter then it is a benefit.

Q: Authentication prompts pops up after clicking on the link. Thought about eliminating that? A: I am probably not the right person to answer that.

11. Model-Driven Generation of Social BPM Applications, Emanuele Molteni, WebRatio (Video)

12. Social Process in the Cloud with Facebook, Joel Garcia, TidalWave Interactive (Video)

Cloud based BPM for the masses.  Built an application builder to build canned solutions.  Going to build a customer service solution.  Log in with Facebook, and that creates a BPM context.  Create an app.  A number of types of apps.  Looks like a form builder.  Choosing the type include a basic layout and set of fields.  Fields can be required.  The form is saved and the deployed to a Facebook page.  Makes a button on the facebook page, click on it, presents the form.  All the users are Facebook users.  Notification comes through email, but this links to a BPM portal with standard BPM execution.  Task is forwarded to another support person with a comment.  It appears that this was pretty fleshed out stock example, but the key is that this is a reusable template.  Gave another example of a guest list application that is used to capture interested people and get them to an event.  People are using BPM without even knowing it is BPM.

Uses OAuth to authorize.  Can build custom profiles of the customers.  Fan profile, how many times has a person come into the club.

Q: can the client look at the data model or process model.  A: yes, it can be exported as a process XML file, and loaded into the development environment.  Then they validate, and then they deploy.

Q: capacity to integrate to back-end systems?  A: yes, APIs are available in REST and “hessian proxy” which is a binary interface.

Q: Can mobile users use this?    A: you can create a canvas app.  The Facebook example was a canvas, but to support mobile you have to use a “canvas mobile” so that it behaves better.

Q: create one process, can you use it for enterprise app scenarios as well.  A: yes.  Deploy to Facebook is one, and could deploy to iFrame.

Q: how do you sell?  A: don’t sell the tool.  Pure self-service.  Deployed apps cost per use.

13. Goals in the Process Continuum: from BPM to ACM and Beyond, Dominic Greenwood, Whitestein Technologies. (Video)

There is no strong distinction between BPM as one thing and ACM another.  Instead it is just a continuum if you combine goals with process.  Goals provide guiding and governance.  The processes are structured, but with flexible extensions. Customer onboarding for UBS.  Showed how goal can bring flexibility and reordering.  As they implemented this project, the customer realized there was not as much structure as they thought.

Target is a coherent approach to provide governance.  BPMN is not designed to manage governance, particularly when that governance crosses multiple processes across a value chain.  Need to deal with multiple levels of abstraction.  Need constrained process mutability.  They call their approach “executable goal oriented BPMN”.

Goals define everything, tasks have goals, projects have goals, organizations have goals.  Conclusion is that processes should have goals.  Rules driven processes tend to be reactive. Goal driven processes can be proactive.  Two kinds of goals: milestone goal describes the objective of a process by aligning intent with action.  Governance goals is the mandate of a process to obtain or maintain a strategic performance target.  Makes the process more aware of the context it is in.  Three layers: process layer, tactical governance above that, and strategic governance above that.  Little snippets of BPMN that can be selected and executed on demand.

True process engineering requires IT engineering, so the design tool is in Eclipse without any pretense to make it business user friendly.  The processes are seen as “methods” for achieving a goal.  Drill down through several levels of abstraction.  There are higher level goals that look across the aggregate, and if a condition (on 80% of cases) is not met, it can then manipulate selection rules at lower level.  There are even corporate level goals like process all X within 15 days.  It is the context of these higher level goals that drive the lower level decisions, and are normally lost in the traditional process definition approach.

Q: a great deal of IT involvement.  Have you looked at decision modeler to make this more friendly?  A: Started trying to make a business tool, but later we found that we really needed an IT oriented tool.

Q: Can you see the analytics? A: there is capability in there, but no time to demo.

Q: What about conflicting goals?  A: The agent manager deals with this.  If you have a goal “reduce cost” and “reduce plan” you have to decide between them.  The intelligent controller can make a weighted decision between them.  Mechanisms for escalation.

Q: Can costs be attached to goals?  A: Yes, if you understand the costs.

Q: Can you deal with ad-hoc goals?  A: Yes, there is a concept of “hot update”.  Can introduce a new task, activity, goal, and deploy that on a running system.

Q: Example did a shift to other paths, like fast-track.  How do you know that other path works?  A: This is the customer’s actual process.  They send out more materials to prospects.  Different bank work different ways, but you might be surprised how simple processes can be.

14. KPI Risk Assessment, Manoj Das, Oracle (Video)

What does business want? More than just pretty pictures. Many of our users are using BAM dashboard. Guess that only 30% of BPM customers do BAM today. Requirements: insight is personal, every executive needs to be able to specify exactly what they want. Executives don’t have the time to sit and watch a dashboard, but instead manage by exception by alerting. Not sufficient to just know what has happened.

Demo: BAM Composer. Real time KPIs or scheduled KPIs. Defined a KPI, set threasholds as set amounts, or standard deviations against historical measures.

Started with notion of complex event processing (how do we come up with these names). Now call it “Event processing”. Even that is not right. Really want to talk about “Trends, Moving Averages, Missing Events” Business value comes from BAM, Pattern and Trend Detection, and Business Intelligence.

Q: Executives don’t build dashboards, so who builds them? A: Right. Executives want custom dashboards, but probably the board will be created by assistants.

15. Operational Process Intelligence for Real-Time Business Process Visibility, Thomas Volmering and Patrick Schmidt, SAP (Video)

16. Fully Exploiting the Potential of BPM in the Cloud, Carl Hillier, Kofax (Video)

Very good talk summarizing cloud and applications in the cloud.  He provisioned a host system in the cloud in a minute or so, and then proceeded to demonstrate use of that provisioned system.

17. The Decision Model, Tomer Srulevich, Sapiens (Video)

It used to take 26 weeks to make a rule/decision change. After Superstorm Sandy, it took three weeks to respond. In the future they want to compress that to one day. To accomplish this, the original rules, instead of writing in a narrative form, would be written in a machine readable way.

The “decision model” is a book, it is also a methodology. There is a subject matter expert who talks to some business analysts. Then this goes to programmers and then rule sets. But how often would two different paths (BA -> programmers -> rules set) would produce the same results? Never. The audience agreed.

Barbara von Halle and Larry Goldberg developed the decision model, a model of business logic. Sapiens Decision made this into enterprise grade software, and a technology partner. This has been proposed to OMG, and there are some parallels to BPMN.

Big ball of mud was when everything was encoded into the program logic. Then things began to be separated. Business logic separate from the other software components. Often a process is a huge mess because the rules are built directly in the process logic. Should separate it out. Simplify the process, but reference to business decision logic, and it becomes a “decision aware process”. The decision structures start at a very high level, and is broken down into smaller parts, until you reach the level that you are testing actual persistent data, so you don’t have to go any further. At that point to go to a table structure. The natural output of the decision model is a set of rules that can be used by a rules execution engine. You have successfully translated the rules of the world and business, into machine readable rules.

If sequence does not matter, it should not be in the process. Things that can be done or decided in any order should be pull out into the decision engine. Not replacing anything, but augmenting.

The tool takes in the text of a description of rules. It then looks for synonyms, which it links up with specific definitions. One can then take a new phrase and make a new synonym from it.

Q: Have you considered SVBR from OMG? A: it is a completely different thing.

18. BPM for the Internet of Things, Troy Foster and Tom Debevoise, Bosch (Video)

BoschSoftware Innovation Visual Rules, and Inubit BPM product. Talk is about the internet of things. Bosch makes a lot of things, and they are increasingly becoming connected. Low cost computers are giving control. Micro-grid: that a building or group of buildings can be separated from the rest of the power grid. Tele-medicine for example where patients in the home can help monitor. Billions of devices.

Sensors are deployed into the field, literally. On the device are a set of rules to monitor. If something meets the criteria, then it alerts the next level, which is a monitoring process. This also has rules for detecting situations, which is escalated to the processing engine.  What was presented was an architecture for lots of small devices to monitor and be controlled in a radically decentralized way.

19. Performing Collections of Activities as Means to Business Ends, Denis Gagne, Trisotech (Video)

Denis Gagne 2(For the last four, I do not have notes.  My laptop was up on the podium wired in for my talk, which was the last talk.  It is a bit of a shame as I think the last three before my talk were in many ways the most interesting.)

Denis talked about some unique mechanisms his company has developed for capturing processes through a web interface quickly and easily.

20. Event-Driven Rules-based Business Processes for the Real-Time Enterprise, Dave Duggal, EnterpriseWeb (Video)

Dave Duggal 1Dave’s talk is about their ultra flexible approach to supporting work.  (Again, my laptop was sequestered so I was not able to take notes…)

21. Malleable Tasks and ACM, Helle Frisak Sem, Computas AS (Video)

One of the best real-life examples of ACM I have seen. (Again, my laptop was sequestered so I was not able to take notes…)

22. Antifragile Systems for Innovation and Learning Organizations, Keith Swenson, Fujitsu America Inc. (Video)

My talk … I will do a slide share soon….

2 thoughts on “BPMNext Notes

  1. Pingback: Cloud based BPM for the masses – TidalWave at bpmNEXT | TidalWave

  2. They selected AuraPortal as the BPMS tool -after an extensive comparative analysis among the most well known BPMS vendors in the world- due to its unique feature of ‘really’ not requiring any programming code for developing and executing processes.

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