Phil Gilbert's BPM 2010 Keynote: Focusing on the "B" in BPM

  • September 15, 2010
  • Scott

Phil gave the keynote at BPM 2010 yesterday, and Keith Swenson had the early coverage ready before EOD yesterday.  In this talk, it sounds like Phil has continued his main themes (since I can remember) of making BPM more and more accessible to the business.  As he often put it in the past, the IT folks are a small minority of the total population in a business (2%?), and “we want to focus on the other 98% of the people in the business”.

Every year this theme gets some tuning, based on technology and cultural developments.  This year the stats were updated a bit:

For every one 1 java programmer developing applications, there are 5 IT people supporting the technology infrastructure, to support the work of 240 business people.  Tools to date have all focused on the 6 people.

And the suggested general direction is evolving to include the idea of “following” elements of the business.  I’ve used the follow feature in Blueprint, and love it – sometimes simple features are compelling.  But I’d like to see “follow” functionality throughout the IBM Lombardi BPM solution – within the Lombardi Edition authoring environment, as well as in the run-time environment.

It sounds like Phil also took some shots at the standards effort behind BPMN.  This isn’t new – Phil has long been a proponent of having a standard, and having a standard storage for the notation.  But he’s also expressed his frustration in the past that the folks working on the standard were getting bogged down, taking too long, and getting too far into the weeds.  Fair criticisms that I think Keith and Bruce Silver and others would echo (including myself).  I’m glad to have BPMN, but I hope the standards folks take some time off and let it bake.

The central argument (quoting directly from Keith’s blog):

Citing an IBM study of customers, 2.5% of the processes are complex,  22.5% are somewhat complex (less than 200 steps),  75% are not complex at all.  This last category is done today by excel over email..  At Banco Espirito Santo the complex processes impact zero people,  moderately complex effects 2000 people, and the non complex effect 8000 people.  This organization has moved forward to allow business users to be “100% empowered to automate the non-complex processes”.  If your business is based on people (and there are very few companies today that are not) where is the value being delivered by your BPM?   Everyone is way too focused on the really complex processes.  IT was clear he felt that is what lead BPMN standards astray, and this research crowd should be mindful not to fall in the same trap.

BPM is a cultural issue, not a technical one.

(Neil Ward-Dutton focuses on the same part of Keith’s summary, with an emphasis on the cultural).

Keith comments that Phil stopped short of prescribing a solution to empowering business users to increase the support for business work… but I think he’s priming the pump.  He’s giving us a sense of what we’re missing today.  But if I know Phil, he has people working on it right now.

The future is focusing on the “B” in BPM – not the “N” in BPMN – and the vendors that can offer the most compelling solutions are going to reap substantial rewards.

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