Set the Date: A #BPM Unconference #bpmCamp

Scott Francis
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Background: BPM Conferences Are Good… Conferences are a great way for colleagues and peers to network, share best practices, and re-energize and re-motivate their efforts.  In particular we’ve enjoyed participating and presenting at Lombardi’s Driven conferences in the past, and at bp3 we’ve attended Lombardi Driven, Appian’s conference, OMG’s Thinktank, Gartner BPM, and Forrester BPM conferences (when we weren’t too busy with customers).  Conferences have some of the value of an off-site meeting within the company: recharging the batteries and motivating action.  But they also provide a chance to be exposed to much more diverse points of view, to out-of-the-box thinking, to new tricks of the trade, and to new market dynamics.  In smaller conferences, or small breakout sessions, real discussions break out that can really be illuminating (OMG’s Round Table format is a well-known example of formalizing this kind of small-discussion format, and it led to the six barriers to BPM Adoption at a very humorous and educational round table that I was fortunate to attend). …but Missing the Mark. There are just a couple of problems.  First, conferences run by Analyst firms and Conference organizers are often too expensive (especially with today’s budgets).  Second, vendor conferences are too focused on the sponsoring vendor’s messaging, and often neglect the real needs of attendees. Attendees to both types of conferences get value, but I often hear them expressing an interest in getting into more detail – moving past concept to tactics.  Moving past platitudes to showing real solutions. Its our belief that it is just too hard to get into the specifics and details in a multi-vendor conference.  Even with respect to project methodology, the *right* approach to a project has to take into account the realities of the technology being used.  If you’re using a BPM tool that doesn’t provide rapid UI prototyping, you’ll need a different approach to your project than someone using a BPM tool that does provide rapid UI prototyping.  And that’s just one trivial example.  When we get down to sharing technical best practices, going cross-vendor just doesn’t make much sense- BPM execution level detail simply isn’t that portable. …So What’s the Answer? If we put together a conference that is focused on what attendees want to talk about, we’ll get more value for the dollar.  If we aren’t looking to clear a profit on the event, we can lower the investment barrier required to attend.  If we focus on a single vendor, we can focus all the way down to shared source code if it has value. To that end, we’re going to borrow from concepts pioneered by unconferences and barCamps, leveraging advice from folks who put on the SXSWi barcamp in the past. With preamble aside, I’m very happy to announce what I believe to be a first:  a BPM unconference for BPM practitioners of a single product suite.  We’re calling it bpmCamp. This first event is focused on users of Lombardi‘s Teamworks or Blueprint products.  We’re focusing on this community because it is the set of products and practitioner community that we have the deepest connections into, and because we want the event to be a single BPM product event for the reasons stated above. Why bpmCamp? We really think the BPM community/ecosystem needs events like this to foster growth, success, and maturity.  We believe maturity requires:
  • technical breadth and depth
  • project methodologies to support the roll-out of processes and improvements to those processes
  • process improvement techniques and strategies that can actually be implemented and maintained in BPM suites
Also, we actually want to learn something new.  When we get the right  practitioners in a room, we’re going to learn from them, and help propagate those best practices into the BPM ecosystem.  We’re also going to share what we know from prior experience directly with the conference.  This cross-pollination is good for everyone. Finally, we decided to put action behind our words.  We’ve long agitated politely for more tactical, focused topics at BPM conferences, but we’ve reached the point where it is time for us to contribute back to the community by creating an intimate event that fosters that kind of discussion. When is bpmCamp? We’ve selected a date for the first one:  January 28-29, 2010. Mark your calendars. We hope to host additional bpmCamp events in the future, but this is the inaugural event, and it should be special.  Please watch this blog as we’ll put up an F.A.Q. as soon as tomorrow with more details. If you have any questions in the meantime, contact us at: bpmCamp Email:  (editor’s note: bpmCamp is not affiliated with or sponsored by Lombardi.  bp3 is not acting on Lombardi’s behalf, nor is bp3 an affiliate nor subsidiary of Lombardi. )

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  • Scott, I’m glad that this is finally happening: I first blogged about the need for a BPM camp almost 4 years ago, and even host the domain as a placeholder.

    I believe that there is a place for a vendor-independent BPM camp, but using a single vendor’s clients to kick things off is a promising start to test the format. The biggest challenges, I believe, will be encouraging people who are accustomed to being spoon-fed at typical conferences to create and facilitate their own sessions, as well as get the corporate approval necessary for attending an unconference.

  • Scott, I’m glad that this is finally happening: I first blogged about the need for a BPM camp almost 4 years ago, and even host the domain as a placeholder.

    I believe that there is a place for a vendor-independent BPM camp, but using a single vendor’s clients to kick things off is a promising start to test the format. The biggest challenges, I believe, will be encouraging people who are accustomed to being spoon-fed at typical conferences to create and facilitate their own sessions, as well as get the corporate approval necessary for attending an unconference.

  • By the way, I also highly recommend that you bring in an experienced Open Space Technology facilitator to guide the unconference. I can make a couple of recommendations for people who I’ve seen do this in the past, and it makes the difference between a true participatory unconference and an unorganized day of chaos.

  • By the way, I also highly recommend that you bring in an experienced Open Space Technology facilitator to guide the unconference. I can make a couple of recommendations for people who I’ve seen do this in the past, and it makes the difference between a true participatory unconference and an unorganized day of chaos.

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  • Sandy, sorry the links didn’t come through but I can add them if you send me the URLs you wanted.

    I reserved a bpmCamp url as well -but different suffix :) didn’t realize you were the holder of bpmCamp.org ;)

    Definitely interested in your recommendations on the Open Space front- I can’t guarantee we’ll go that route but at this point I’m open to all suggestions (after all, how would it be any kind of unconference if we didn’t do that?!). I think that because prepared content will be valuable, we’ll do some of the organizing/brainstorming of topics in advance – but we’ll leave plenty of open time as well. We’ll try to strike a balance – as you say, we’re going to be experimenting a bit.

    Regarding single vendor – I can imagine doing a good multi-vendor conference, but I wanted to start with something where there would be little to no boundaries about what could be discussed and everyone would still be on common ground. You can’t talk about specific APIs cross-vendor very easily, or specific scaling concerns, or specific UI tricks or features. So, we’ll give it a try and then take a step back and see how much of it was actually vendor-specific vs. vendor-neutral and that should give us some really good information going forward about what the balance is, and we’ll poll attendees about it as well.

    We’re excited. I think this is going to be a really fun event and concept to get kickstarted in our business. After reading steve blank’s “motion vs. action” post, it really reinforced that if we want something to change, we’re going to have to act.

    Finally, I just want to thank you for your advice and support, Sandy.

  • Sandy, sorry the links didn’t come through but I can add them if you send me the URLs you wanted.

    I reserved a bpmCamp url as well -but different suffix :) didn’t realize you were the holder of bpmCamp.org ;)

    Definitely interested in your recommendations on the Open Space front- I can’t guarantee we’ll go that route but at this point I’m open to all suggestions (after all, how would it be any kind of unconference if we didn’t do that?!). I think that because prepared content will be valuable, we’ll do some of the organizing/brainstorming of topics in advance – but we’ll leave plenty of open time as well. We’ll try to strike a balance – as you say, we’re going to be experimenting a bit.

    Regarding single vendor – I can imagine doing a good multi-vendor conference, but I wanted to start with something where there would be little to no boundaries about what could be discussed and everyone would still be on common ground. You can’t talk about specific APIs cross-vendor very easily, or specific scaling concerns, or specific UI tricks or features. So, we’ll give it a try and then take a step back and see how much of it was actually vendor-specific vs. vendor-neutral and that should give us some really good information going forward about what the balance is, and we’ll poll attendees about it as well.

    We’re excited. I think this is going to be a really fun event and concept to get kickstarted in our business. After reading steve blank’s “motion vs. action” post, it really reinforced that if we want something to change, we’re going to have to act.

    Finally, I just want to thank you for your advice and support, Sandy.

  • My original post was at http://www.column2.com/2006/01/we-need-a-bpm-camp/, and I also hold the http://www.bpmcamp.com domain.

    You need to be careful about the mix of prepared content and self-organizing content — you can’t really call it an unconference if there is a significant portion of the former.

  • My original post was at http://www.column2.com/2006/01/we-need-a-bpm-camp/, and I also hold the http://www.bpmcamp.com domain.

    You need to be careful about the mix of prepared content and self-organizing content — you can’t really call it an unconference if there is a significant portion of the former.

  • Sandy-

    agreed, the mix is tricky. but we’re *borrowing* from unconference and barcamp techniques, we are not claiming to be purists by any means. we just want to have a good event and address topics the people coming care about. I’m just a pragmatist so I’ll borrow from what ever seems to work best…

    scott

  • Sandy-

    agreed, the mix is tricky. but we’re *borrowing* from unconference and barcamp techniques, we are not claiming to be purists by any means. we just want to have a good event and address topics the people coming care about. I’m just a pragmatist so I’ll borrow from what ever seems to work best…

    scott

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