After the preamble and logistics, the opening keynote was given by Janelle Hill. She started out with a great slide on the evolution of process improvement: from scientific management through computerized process flow to our current focus on flexible and adaptive BPM and the start of a focus on SOA (service oriented architecture), BAM (business activity monitoring) and EDA (event-driven architecture).
She showed the results of some of their recent research showing that increasing BPM discipline as the second most important business trend affecting the ability to compete during the next five years, second only to better project/portfolio management.
She went on to talk about how software can contribute to business value, and I had to laugh at one of the conclusions drawn: "The focus of software must shift to enabling business process innovation rather than hindering it." In theory, that's what the software is for; what she's pointing out is that in reality, software - especially large ERP systems - actually hinders business agility and therefore process improvement because of the difficulties in changing the software to meet the current business needs. BPM software provides the opportunity to actually enable process innovation by allowing the business side to make frequent changes to the process to accommodate changing business processes and regulations. This is based on two fundamental bits of functionality that are part of any BPMS: first, the decoupling of the process flow, represented as a graphical process map, from the underlying technology; with a direct link from the process map to an executable flow, the business can make changes in that graphical environment that can move into production with a minimum of IT involvement. Second, tools to provide a detailed visibility into processes in near real time so that the business can determine where changes need to be made in order to improve processes.
Interestingly, Gartner is bringing the focus back to the people in processes: putting the person-to-process interaction back at centre stage in terms of both process analysis and execution, rather than just seeing people as bots that execute granular tasks in a process. In other words, the SOA view of human-interrupted processes isn't what's going to drive the new wave of process improvement; the people in processes are. Maybe that's an admission that much of the SOA level of improvement is well-understood, so that there's unlikely to be quantum leaps in process improvement in that area that haven't already been identified; on the other hand, we're just starting to discover how some of the human-facing functionality such as collaboration will result in process improvements that we can't even envision today as the emergent applications of the future. This is exactly what I'm seeing in the Enterprise 2.0 space, namely, that the new generation of technologies provides the tools that allow the business users and analysts to have more control over how their systems work and therefore the effectiveness of their business processes.
Hill discussed the three types of vendors in the BPM market today: traditional packaged application vendors, middleware vendors, and BPM specialists. The market trend, as she points out, is that the BPM pure-play vendors are increasingly being acquired by the first two types of vendors. In spite of the acquisitions, however, she points out that this is not a consolidating market, since the number of companies who claim to have something to do with process management is still increasing.
She finished up with some of the standard Gartner material on what it means to be a process-driven organization and some of the organizational and management issues that need to be addressed in order to enable this; this is very similar to what I've seen at previous Gartner conferences and in webinars. With the last BPM conference being only 7 months ago, it's certainly expected that we'll see some degree of reused material, but based on this first session, it looks like there will be enough new information to keep everyone happy.
Sandy Kemsley is an independent systems architect specializing in business process management, Enterprise 2.0, enterprise architecture and business intelligence. She is also the author of the Column2 blog on BPM, Enterprise 2.0 and technology trends in business. Write to her at Sandy [at] Column2.com.Analyst Janelle Hill started out with a great slide on the evolution of process improvement: from scientific management through computerized process flow to our current focus on flexible and adaptive BPM and the start of a focus on SOA, BAM and event-driven architecture... Interestingly, Gartner is bringing the focus back to the people in processes: putting the person-to- process interaction back at centre stage...