…And That’s a Wrap: #bpmNEXT Presentation and Video
[Author’s note: Sorry for posting this late, but better late than never! ]
We enjoyed presenting at bpmNEXT – we were up in the first set of talks session which allowed us to focus on that first session and then really relax the rest of the conference. I gave an update on BP3’s strategy and approach to mobile solutions, followed by a demonstration of Brazos. Greg Harley co-presented with me as we walked through the background and the demonstration. bpmNEXT does a fantastic job with production values, as shown in the video below:
Last year we were very much focused on hybrid apps as a sweet spot between native apps and pure responsive HTML apps. That turned out to be the wrong path for a number of reasons (detailed in the presentation). So we “pivoted” hard toward responsive HTML in 2013, and the results speak for themselves.
Brazos UI Toolkit has been widely adopted within the IBM ecosystem – with over 40 live deployments and over 450 registered developers in the IBM ecosystem. Responsive UIs like Brazos address a much bigger surface area of the solution space than we anticipated 18 months ago. And responsive UIs bypass much of the gate-keeping apparatus in Fortune 500 companies that slowed down native adoption.
We enjoyed showing off how polished a UI built with Brazos can be, and we showed off our responsive UI builder, which is still in pre-alpha stages. Sandy Kemsley was kind enough to cover our talk at bpmNEXT:
He showed a bit of the form designer, although I had the sense that this would take a bit more effort than what we saw in the previous two demos but would offer quite a bit more capability.
She’s right, the drag-and-drop form designer will still require coding to fully bake into a BPMS solution, but our purpose is to get the layout done visually, and dramatically increase productivity for producing beautiful BPM user interfaces. In open source BPM software, the UI has not been a strong suit – in many cases trailing even the commercial BPM vendors. But Brazos changes the expectations and raises the bar.
They support IBM BPM and Activiti BPM (which are the two platforms that BP3 supports in its consulting practice) and can be made to work with pretty much any BPMS that has a REST API since those APIs turn out to be surprisingly similar between different BPMS vendors. If you want to try out the Brazos UI toolkit, they have a sandbox where you can try it out running against an Activiti instance.
(Recommend you read her post directly as her coverage was excellent) It was fun to share this news with the room. After our talk, we had a lot of conversations with software vendors who would like to incorporate or adapt Brazos UI to their product offerings. That’s exciting for us, and something Greg’s team will be pursuing.
Meanwhile, Sandy closes with this comment:
This is quite the opposite in technology strategy from Interneer: I can understand BP3’s motivation for going with responsive UI, as well as the rapid uptake, but can also understand the challenges of a browser-based app when you have spotty connectivity (as I often do when I’m travelling), and they admittedly give up some of the device-specific capabilities.
She’s right, it is pretty much the opposite of Interneer’s strategy. And while I enjoyed Interneer’s demonstration – and we even considered a similar strategy – every cross-platform “native” BPM application that I have seen has failed to live up to the expectations of users for what a good mobile UI should look like. I’d say we’re pretty comfortable with the direction of our investment. We’re not too worried about spotty connectivity – for the BPM applications we’ve seen, none of them work well without a connection, other than the ones we’ve built for prototypes or for customers – they can’t retrieve work from the server when connectivity drops. And in other news, connectivity just keeps getting better without any extra investment on our part… Moreover, now that Brazos Portal is in the wild, we can even see that a well-built mobile HTML app can survive lack of connectivity surprisingly well.
This might sound like patting ourselves on the back – job well done! In fact, I’ve been critiqued recently for being too much of a BP3 booster or self-promoter. I have two issues with that: first, it is my job to promote the company I co-founded and spend all my waking hours working on – the company that is responsible for the salaries and benefits of more than 50 families. Second, that negative characterization doesn’t do justice to how we (and I) communicate to the BPM community as credible experts on BPM and IBM BPM in particular. In this presentation we openly admit we made a mistake regarding our mobile strategy (really, two big mistakes), and underestimated what could be done with HTML5 frameworks. We discussed how we pivoted to our current (successful) strategy. A forum like bpmNEXT is about sharing mistakes and wins, and learning from both. We don’t think we have all the answers, but we think we have learned a lot over the years about BPM and mobile, because we’ve learned from others and learned from our own mistakes. And we’re sharing so that you can learn from our mistakes as well – perhaps you will agree with our conclusions or you will draw your own. We’re not repeating daft platitudes, nor are we claiming to always have all the answers in advance. But we are claiming to be really good at what we do, and to be open minded to new solutions to old problems. And we own up to our mistakes and do our best to make it right. And when we do something we’re proud of, you can expect to hear about it on this channel, or on Twitter.
Still, if our tone or content doesn’t work for you, tune us out. We’ll understand.