Blueworks Live Update, April 2011 by

The new Blueworks Live update came out over the weekend, and we took it for a test drive.  My impressions were pleasantly positive – this is a more substantial improvement than the last go ’round, and in this case there is something for the user as well as something for the process consultant. First off, moving the reporting functionality to the forefront (Work Stats) helps a lot.  We can now see how our processes are being used and the performance of those processes, without going to the administrative screens and digging into them.  Nice to know our process on-time performance is in excess of 90%.  Probably especially nice for our employees as the most commonly executed process is the vacation change/request process! Getting the more mundane out of the way:  Being able to mark any page as your “startup” page is also helpful – because this is the kind of thing that changes depending on what you’re doing.  There’s also a handy “Items I’m Following page” which adequately does what it says.  The Glossary update was utilitarian, not too exciting for me personally. The two updates that really shine to me are the new Process Templates, and the new Process Playback functionality.

The Playback Arrives

In the Playback functionality, you can outline different scenarios (paths) through your process, so that you can play it back a bit like a slide deck, except directly from Blueworks instead of exporting it to something like MS PowerPoint.  A big part of BPM is telling stories about the process, and getting engagement from the business as to whether those stories are right, valid, complete, irrelevant.  It gives us a chance to set up context, to explore issues, and get them on the table.  I think the playback feature is going to be very popular and powerful for facilitators of process improvement sessions. To me, it is interesting that this feature parallels investments that Lombardi once made in its UI functionality in Teamworks (pre-dating Blueprint, Blueworks, and the IBM acquisition).  At the time, the product team had observed our professional services methodology of “the Playback” and how we would quickly stand-up storyboard screens in our process and play them through live for customers to get their feedback.  The development of UI Coaches and the Coach Designer was a direct outcome of building product to fit the methodology of BPM deployment.  It was a great fit and enhanced our ability to use that methodology. I see the Process Playbacks in Blueworks much the same way:  it is especially powerful in that people doing process mapping and modeling previously didn’t have a good way to tell their story other than to put it on the projector and use their finger to point.  This approach will work much better over a Webex, for example.  This is the first improvement to Blueworks Live in quite a while that helps the process consultant as much as it helps a novice process modeler.

More Automation

Oh I know automation sounds like a bad word but trust me, it isn’t THAT kind of automation.  The 4 new process automation templates provided by IBM are great.  Truly, I’m impressed by what they’ve done.  My one complaint:  They’re hiding in the library.  As a user of Blueworks, I had no idea that new templates had been introduced (other than by reading press releases  and blog posts).  Moreover, I had to go to the template library and then filter / sort by “New” to find them.  There’s really no separation between templates of Automation, and templates of Blueprinting. That’s unfortunate because templates of Blueprinting are interesting, but not as interesting as the Automation templates. Of course, the new templates aren’t doing anything you couldn’t have done for yourself using Blueworks Live.  Maybe that’s the point – to give you a sense of what you could do with it.  I customized the HR Onboarding process, and it is likely that we’ll use it going forward as our checklist for compliance (or possibly even for assigning to the new hire). Taking a step back, what I find curious is that these lightweight processes are particularly appropriate for small companies like BP3 – I wonder how bigger firms will make use of these processes.  My guess is that they have even more lightweight processes to take on, but theirs won’t be HR onboarding or expense reimbursement.  Instead they’ll be taking some other lightweight processes (lightweight may not be the way to describe HR onboarding at some firms!) Overall, a very solid improvement to IBM Blueworks Live.  You can definitely see the results of Lombardi DNA in this product group, but also the change in direction that was fostered by merging the Blueworks and Blueprint teams is evident.    
  • http://twitter.com/BlueworksLive IBM Blueworks Live

    Scott, I think you indeed zeroed in on the two most important enhancements to Blueworks Live.

    Stealing a verse from Timberlake (yes, we’re cool :) ), in this release we’re “bringing ‘playback’ back”. Playback was very popular in BPM BlueWorks and, as you duly noted, it is something that clearly differentiates our on premise offering, WebSphere Lombardi Edition (formerly Teamworks). So, we brought it back (from BPM BlueWorks) and elevated it to the cloud (from WLE). All in all, its exciting to see what the reaction of our customers will be to this novel way of telling “process stories”

    As for the Process App templates, indeed there’s perhaps more we could’ve done to highlight them (especially since we believe and you confirmed, they are a great new asset to our capabilities list). We’re hoping those who will need them will find them and going forward, as we enhance our portfolio of templates with more Process App ones (by the way, we’re open to suggestions), we might consider having a separate section for them to stand out more.

    As always, thanks for keeping an eye on us and for keeping us honest!

    • http://www.bp-3.com/blogs sfrancis

      Thanks for the reply – and yes, I think having the templates you can “run” vs. the ones you can “model” separated or stand-out in some way would be a good thing. Or provide alternate visibility to them from the “automation” interfaces, for example…

      • http://twitter.com/BlueworksLive IBM Blueworks Live

        I’ll try to catch you at Impact and share some thoughts as to what you might look forward to in the future.

      • http://www.bp-3.com/blogs sfrancis

        Definitely – I’ll follow on twitter so you can DM me.