Phil Introduces IBM BPM to #IBMImpact on Day 2

Post by
Scott Francis

Day 2 of IBM Impact started off well.? I went down to breakfast and sat with a senior member of IBM technical staff, as well as a few gentlemen visiting from Farmer's Insurance.? Good conversation over a light breakfast, followed by the keynote.

Katie Lindendoll was our emcee for Day 2.? Steve Mills followed her with a fluid, yet technical, presentation of IBM software in the context of 100 years of IBM history.?? A couple of key points jumped out at me and into my notes from the session (which were light, because Steve does a good job demanding your attention while he's talking):

  • You should own your own process and your own data.? This is a theme IBM hit on several times.? It seems to support two legs of IBM's business - on-premise software and "private clouds".? But it also is a more philosophical point that IBM believes a move to the cloud should not give up your control over process and data.
  • Your processes power your company.? (I didn't count how many times he said the word "process" - but I should have.? It might have been a record for IBM keynotes).
  • "Not lots of new things in IT, but there are lots of improving things in IT".? Well said.
  • Big focus on reducing TCO - Most IT organizations spend 80% of their budget just maintaining what they have in production.
  • Hammering on atomicity - transactional accuracy - as a key underpinning to good (and accurate) processes ("We saw this problem coming, and understood what people would want to do with it")

Next up was Phil Gilbert, formerly CTO and President of Lombardi, now VP of BPM at IBM.? He starts with the thought that we shouldn't be talking about transforming.? We should start with "transformed" - as in, if you're sitting in the audience, you've already been transformed by the economic and technical environment.? A couple of key stats:

  • 50Billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 (Nokia estimate)
  • 70% of businesses outsource a key process
  • $488B lost to inefficiencies each year
  • 20% of revenues over next 5 years will come from unknown sources

The chief argument: complexity is increasing, at an increasing rate.? And yet IT spend is flat or down over the last few years, with no sign of significant change.

The livestream is here, and embedded below (fast forward to 23:30 for Phil's contribution):

Watch live streaming video from ibmimpact at

Phil did a good job rebutting a key argument often used against BPM - putting power in the hands of the business does not mean turning business users into developers.? Just like we didn't turn attorneys into typists when we introduced computers, and yet they all manage their own documents and have much higher personal productivity than we could have imagined in the era of typists.

Four key themes for the talks today were re-emphasized:? Visibility, Governance, Simplicity, and Power.

I liked his thought on six-sigma: "Doing improvement without assuming technology just is NOT where we are today in the real world.? We need to account for the technology as well in our work."? Something we've been arguing as well, since at least 2007.

Then he introduced IBM BPM 7.5 - the joining of Websphere Lombardi Edition and WPS.? My old colleague Brandon Baxter was brought in to assist with the demo.? New branding/interface on the Integration Designer to make it match the Process Designer.? Phil lays it out afterward:? "They have to not just work together.? They have to work the same"

They also showed of revamped critical path management functionality, showing projected due dates and changes to the process and the implied affect on due date.? Projections can be optimistic, pessimistic, or historically most likely dates.

Phil ended with a note on tying many products together (paraphrasing from my notes):

It isn't a weakness to have overlapping technical solutions for common - but not identical - problem spaces.

A 75-year partnership with Caterpillar did not just start with a computer.? Enabling a new platform for business.? And a commitment to bring along the things that came before.? We're not dogmatic, but we are leaders.

Following Phil's talk was a surprisingly good roundtable with two executives from Nationwide Insurance and two executives from Verizon Wireless.? Pretty good shout-outs to ILOG on this panel.

Wrapping up Day 2 was Scott Klososky.? And his first point was something I can get behind- that technology is art not engineering.? In light of this, and the changes to our lives that technology is weaving, we need leaders with new skills - and they need to add these skills at a faster rate than we've been seeing.? They need to be able to predict the future accurately and be visionary, accurately.? And then invest the time, money, and people to get there in time!

He then emphasized augmented intelligence, long term leadership (short term leadership is just "management"), and how to leverage social media to stay well-read in your area of expertise.

Great way to start Day 2 at Impact.

Other Notes from Day 2

Later, I attended a session on UI-building on IBM BPM. Unfortunately so much time was spent on rehashing the normal ways of building UIs that we didn't get enough time in the session to really see something different and new, though we did get a very deep technical dive on some of the approaches for different types of UIs.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with David Brakoniecki (of Axispoint) sharing notes on sessions we'd been to at the conference, and the market in general. It was the first time we'd met in person (previously only on Twitter) so I guess we now have to admit David is a real live person.

Then we hit Clay Richardson's session on why BPM is hot. Though it seemed more focused on why BPM efforts are sometimes "hitting the wall". Short version: lots of running analogies, a focus on the personality "types" you have in BPM initiatives (though I'm not fond of all the short-hand names like "Guru" and "Prodigy"). A key point of emphasis was active leadership from either the business owner, business analyst, or process architect. A process analyst cannot be an order taker - has to be more assertive and involved.

After that was a very good session on BPM Architectures by Zach Roadhouse and Karri Carlson-Neumann - in which they described how IBM BPM 7.5 now takes full advantage of Websphere's Profile Manager. This allows much better, repeatable, control over exactly how IBM BPM is deployed, without requiring the writing of a great many scripts. They reviewed scenarios from the trivial (all-in-one-JVM) to the complex (clustering multiple services independently and layering them across your servers). It has all the advantages of Ant scripts (accuracy, repeatability), without requiring us to actually learn all the ins and outs of manipulating Websphere via Ant.

The three of us (Lance, Flournoy, and myself) finally were able to meet in the same place - at dinner.

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