Process Management Grows Up: Q&A With Gartner's Jim Sinur

VP and distinguished analyst Sinur outlines a BPM maturity model and talks about what it takes to get to the next level of process performance.

Doug Henschen, Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

March 27, 2006

6 Min Read

Jim Sinur

Companies increasingly face rapid and drastic changes, and business process management (BPM) is emerging as the way adaptive organizations are coping with transformation. Attending this week's Gartner BPM Summit in Nashville, Tenn., we caught up with vice president and distinguished analyst Jim Sinur, who outlined a BPM maturity model and talked about what it takes to get to the next level of process performance.

Intelligent Enterprise (IE): Can you recap the maturity model you unveiled at the Gartner BPM Summit?

Jim Sinur (JS): There are five stages: process understanding, process control, enterprise execution, corporate performance management and, last, competitive differentiation. You start modeling and measuring in the process understanding stage. In the second stage, you're doing more optimizing and tweaking. This is where you take advantage of rules management and optimization. In the third stage, you craft a cross-enterprise process architecture and maybe extend that to your trading partners. In the fourth stage, you instrument a framework of corporate performance management goals against the actual process.

IE: How mature are the companies you encounter?

JS: Most are in stages one and two. Basically you move to larger and larger scopes [of deployment] as you move up the maturity curve and to more dynamic competition. Once you get to stage five, you're using your processes as either a defensive or offensive weapon.

IE: BEA's recent acquisition of BPM pure-play vendor Fuego is the latest example of a platform vendor adding BPM to SOA infrastructure. Are customers looking for a one-stop shop, and is there still a place for pure-play vendors?

JS: Well, there are 150 BPM vendors, all of which are doing quite well. So there'll be 20 that concentrate on horizontal platforms, whether that's services driven, rules driven, template driven or modeling driven. There will also be a flourishing set of submarkets around specialty vendors addressing, say, insurance or banking. There are specialty vendors for different verticals, such as insurance or banking, and then there are specialty vendors for things like CRM.

IE: To some, the big platform vendors blending SOA and BPM are looking very dominate. Would you agree?

JS: That jumps to the conclusion that scale is going to win, but my conclusion is this is disruptive technology, and if it's big vendors trying to extend their platform only, they may very well miss the boat. Microsoft is going to be late to the game. SAP is going to be late to the game. IBM and Oracle are there, but there is so much demand that other players like Lombardi, Pegasystems, Global 360, Ultimus, Savvion and others are going to pick up a certain amount of the business because the big guys aren't ready.

IE: You've been predicting that business intelligence (BI), business activity monitoring (BAM) and other technologies will be blended with BPM. Do you see it happening?

JS: Combining things into a round-trip engineering methodology is what seems to be taking off--the notion of incremental improvement that's iterative in nature and run by business users. The iteration is about defining, modeling, simulating, deploying, executing, monitoring, analyzing and optimizing. People may say they're going to quickly model, deploy and reap the benefits--without getting into monitoring--but then you're subject to the second law of thermal dynamics, which is that all things rot, including processes. The ROI benefits will erode if you don't monitor and optimize.

IE: So to get to iterative improvement and the more mature stages, what kind of tools and technologies are companies using?

JS: What we're seeing is BPM suites that have aspects of modeling, simulation, execution for human processes as well as system processes, as well as BI, BAM, event infrastructure and in-line optimization and rules capabilities that let you tweak the process.

IE: All sorts of vendors are claiming to support BAM. How do you define it?

JS: If you're driving down the road and you're looking through your rear-view mirror, you have BI. If you're looking through the windshield and anticipating where you have to turn off next and where the holes are in the traffic so you can move around slower traffic, that's BAM. It lets you know what's happening on the road, while you can still make decisions and optimize as you thread your way through the traffic.

IE: Is that a historical perspective given that BI vendors are talking about real-time analysis?

JS: They're not doing it, they're talking about it.

IE: Can you give an example of BAM in practice?

JS: It's about using events, not just data. A good example is the railroad business. One of the biggest problems they have is derailment. It really messes things up because they run a really tight ship, and it's about keeping costs low and optimizing margins.

In a BI approach, you would say, "This boxcar has X miles on it, so we think [based on historical analysis] that the bearings are wearing out." In a BAM approach, you'd have an RFID reader along the tracks that measures temperature and determines whether there's a set of bearings or an axle that is getting too hot. Then you'd signal the engineer to swap out these four boxcars because the train is moving so fast you'd want to make sure you get the right one. At the next siding, they swap out the four cars rather than risk a derailment. That's real time.

IE: What other techniques or technologies are being used?

JS: The convergence of methodologies is a big trend. We'll use statistics, predictive modeling, optimization, in-line simulation, system dynamics, and we'll use some of the algorithms that the BI vendors use. It's not that BI didn't bring anything to the table; it's just missing some pieces. Similarly, BAM gets the event, but it may not get the data. The best way to do it is to not let that boxcar even get on the track, and BI could help with that. This is not a zero-sum game, and different techniques aren't mutually exclusive.


IE: What's your hobby?

JS: One is fast cars. At the moment I own a Nissan 350Z, but I'm looking at the Z06 Corvette. I've also owned BMW M3s and a Dodge Viper. I used to race motorcycles, but I gave that up when I had kids. Another hobby is film making. I was a producer and technical advisor on a murder mystery called The Falls. It was my first attempt, but we didn't lose any money and it was actually distributed. You can get it through Netflix or Amazon. Now I'm reading scripts and looking for my next project.

About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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