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4/30/2007
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Parting Shots: Q&A With Former Gartner BPM Analyst Jim Sinur

Last week, Gartner's preeminent business process management analyst Jim Sinur announced he would join Global 360 (http://www.global360.com/ ) as Chief Strategy Officer. In this broad-ranging interview, Sinur explains the move, offers an update on the BPM market and explores the evolving convergence of BI, data, events, modeling, business process management and business rules.

You led the development of Gartner's Business Process Management events and practice and they both seem to be doing well. Why leave now?

It was nice to be able to help shape a market. That BPM market has a lot of momentum now and Gartner's [BPM] conferences are at the level that I want them at. I felt like my job was pretty well done. I took [the conferences] from zero to 1,000 [attendees], but from here on out it's only going to grow at 10 to 20 percent per year. I felt I had taken it through the steep growth years and I felt comfortable that it was in good hands.

How does that growth compare with what you expect in the BPM market itself?

The growth in BPM software revenue is about 17 to 18 percent, currently. Services add about three-and-a-half dollars for every dollar of software, and that's growing, too. The market is growing rapidly, but there's a piece of the business that I was following under Gartner that I'm going to pursue at Global 360, and that's optimization.

Once you get up and running and you get the initial time and money out of the processes, you have to keep them sharp in terms of throughput, making sure the business rules are tuned and making sure the business model isn't slipping. Detecting when conditions change and what things you could automatically optimize - that's a branch of BPM known as business optimization, and it includes process optimization and decision optimization.

But why pursue that on the vendor side rather than as an analyst?

There are still some 180 BPM vendors, 40 rule vendors and another 40 modeling vendors. When we came out with the BPM Suite Magic Quadrant, we sorted that out to about 17 players that were really on the map, so I felt there were 17 players where I could pursue optimization. I looked at which companies I could help and which would thrive, and Global 360 was one that was on my radar screen. It turns out they said "We're committed to process optimization and decision optimization as you are. Why don't you come onboard?" I decided to roll up my sleeves and help make it happen in the real world.

In recent history BI analyst Howard Dresner left Gartner to join Hyperion and soon there after the company was acquired by Oracle. Are you grooming Global 360 for sale and is it another potential target for acquisition?

It could be acquired or it could go public, but there's a lot of growth still in the market and Global can get its share. The fastest-growing BPM vendors are growing at a triple-digit rate. Global is growing at a strong double-digit rate from a base of $100 million.

Invariably there's controversy when analysts go over to vendors side because competitors say, "He wait a minute! We briefed him on our strategy just a few weeks ago." How are you going to handle that?

What was told to me when I was at Gartner was under NDA. I'm not going to go around telling everybody's plans. I've seen a lot of plans, and I was impressed with Global's. That's why I'm here and I don't think you're going to see Global 360 copy other vendors. We're all trying to reach what Gartner described as a Business Process Management Suite, but nobody is really there yet. Vendors are getting there, but Gartner set the bar high, and I think it's going to be two to three years until any vendor reaches that goal.

There are parallels between BI and BPM in that IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and, to some extent, SAP are horning in on the market. Why joint an independent now?

If you look at how far the giants are behind Global, behind Lombardi and others… they're at least 18 months behind. I did my homework.

There's also the mid-tier in between – vendors such as TIBCO, BEA and Software AG…

They're really not getting it. They're selling [BPM] to their existing base and that's it. I looked at those companies too, and they didn't have a strong enough vision for me.

Back on optimization, we've found that companies are often complacent about processes once they've been streamlined with BPM. Is it tough getting customers to continuously optimize processes with closed feedback loops?

BPM tools now collect all the events for you, so you can combine the events with what's happening in the process, and a lot of the round-trip optimization can be automated. It's not that difficult. Now, if you want to know when to apply predictive modeling, when to apply simulation, when to apply forecasting – which models and which algorithms go against which business problems – that kind of optimization is going to take some time to automate. But straight process automation - a lot of tools do that. Pega does it, Fujitsu does it, Global does it, and they have customers that are practicing it. I don't think it's as hard as it was two or three years ago.

Are there overlaps between the algorithms you describe above and technologies available from BI vendors?

Business Intelligence only looks at data, it doesn't look at events, but if you draw a vin diagram of BI, data, events, modeling, business process management and rules, there's a convergence that's going on - absolutely. When you look at the giants, they already have a lot of pieces, but they don't work well together – they weren't designed together. I think it's going to take them longer to piece these things together and it will take their salesforces longer to figure out what they have.

So how do you get all these disciplines and technologies working together? Do you focus around the data model, the process model or the rule model?

You have to have an architectural approach that says there are common metadata assets that have to be treated as equals: rules, flows, services, events and data – all of those are important. Any decent BPM suite or business optimization suite will treat those as equal partners. The problem is, if you look at the different BPM suite vendors, very few treat them the same.

If you look at IBM, it treats services very heavily and it treats below-the-water integration very heavily. If you look at EMC, it's a content-heavy solution. Others are rules-heavy, like a Fair Isaac or an ILog, but they don't treat content or the process as equal partners. If you take BI vendors, they have the algorithms and the data, but they don't treat events with respect and they don't recognize the need for rules.

The player that balances those things together in one environment is the one that's going to do the best. Many BPM vendors are moving in that direction, including Pega, Global, Lombardi, Savvion, Appian, TIBCO, Software AG [buying] webMethods, and Fujitsu.

We've now seen a number of analysts jump to the vendor side. One can only assume there are big financial rewards waiting for them on the vendor side.

What if I told you I took a cut in pay?

I wouldn't believe you.

I didn't, but I did walk away from a number of options. I could have been comfortable staying at Garter, but I only have five to seven years before I hang up the spurs and I wanted to do something exciting and challenging.

OUTTAKES:

The last time we talked you told me about your car fetish. So what's the next fast car?

I bought a Lexus IS350, and that puts me on a waiting list for the Lexus ISF, which will have a 425-horsepower engine in the same dinky little body as the IS350.

And I guess you're putting the full-time screenwriting career on hold as well?

I put that on hold after trying to do a second deal. I didn't realize how dirty Hollywood was. You have people welching on deals and too many big egos involved. For an engineering type like me, I just didn't fit the mold.

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