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There are Processes Everywhere

CamundaCon 2024 in Berlin was a hit


My co-founder of BP3, Lance Gibbs, used to say that everything your business does is a process, but if you don’t know what it is, you might be doing it really badly. It turns out, business processes are everywhere, and it is one of the reasons why we partner with Camunda and participate in their ecosystem: they put the process in process orchestration.

CamundaCon and Jakob Freund’s Keynote

 

A couple of weeks ago, I attended CamundaCon in Berlin. It was the biggest and best yet.

Jakob Freund’s (CEO of Camunda) opening keynote emphasized the challenges of siloed automations and processes, bound by the constraints of either the systems they are within, or bound by the imagination of the developers of their platforms. Jakob wants Camunda to play for the big picture process, all the way down to the micro-services coordination process. It’s a compelling vision.

Jakob Keynote Presentation

It can be a challenge to get business executives to buy into a vision for process excellence, orchestrating activities and processes across systems of record and across departments. But that buy-in from business executives is necessary to achieve the highest value of process orchestration. (parenthetically, this is the very reason that BP3 starts with how to communicate value and potential value up the chain, to get business alignment. We’re not selling product features and functions, we’re selling out comes and value for the business)

Lots of software companies will have just enough “process” to check the box for an analyst report that they have process orchestration. And while it is true that they have some of this, it almost always means a “process” that starts inside their system, and ends inside their system; a process that requires all of its participants to be licensed users of that system; a process whose side effects must all be encapsulated within that system; and a process that doesn’t leverage industry standard notations like BPMN.

Ultimately those limitations render the process orchestration inside that platform of limited value (if not useless). Quite simply: these platforms haven’t done their homework on the process orchestration space over the last 20 years, and have therefore built with duct tape and bailing wire when a more sophisticated and complete offerings are on the market.

Jakob lists a few things that are table stakes for business process, and yet are not present in most “process” features on various platforms:

  • Message correlation and cancellation

  • Dynamic parallel execution of processes (seamless parallel processing)

  • Time-based escalations and message-initiation

Also, it turns out businesses - and their processes - can be really complex. The answer for taming that complexity is not to over-simplify the process. A process is as simple as it is - and no simpler. The answer is:

  1. Tame this complexity with an advanced workflow system,

  2. Align business and IT stakeholders with BPMN standard notation for process, and DMN standard notation for decisions. (I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. These two notations can become the lingua franca for process and decisions within your organization)

  3. Automate reliably at scale with a cloud native, flexible architecture that you can adapt to your existing infrastructure and system software commitments

This business-IT alignment -aided by BPMN and DMN adoption - is incredibly valuable precisely because it is so hard for your competition to emulate - it is one of the hard things that is also one of the differentiating and valuable things you can do for your business.

Jakob also put forward positioning for Camunda - and process orchestration - vis a vis AI that resonates with positioning I’ve been using with our clients. We need to think about AI as part of process orchestration. If AI is the brain, a process needs to feed that brain with the right data to analyze (data engineering process). If AI is the brain, it needs orchestration and automation as arms and legs to carry those insights and capabilities to the front lines of an organization - where we work with our clients and customers.

In addition, a good process orchestration implementation will generate a lot of useful data - with useful context and business data attached - for training and learning models and insights and analysis. It’s a gold mine.

Jakob then invited 3 great clients on stage to tell their story:

  • GLS’ Florian Rang on the subject of end-to-end parcel flow at scale. Interestingly one of the very first projects I implemented in the process space was “reverse logistics” for Dell computer systems- a fancy term for handling returns and distressed shipments and making sure everything tied out. It had enormous return on investment for Dell. That was now 21 years ago!

  • Next, Nicki Todd of First American joined Jakob on stage to talk about lending services, sunsetting legacy technology as Camunda gets rolled out.

  • Third, Souhaila Jeddi of Desjardins joined Jakob on stage to talk about Automation (RPA) and prices orchestration (Camunda) and how they think of human-centric and system-centric processes - and hybrids.

3 Clients on stage at Camunda Con Berlin 2024

It was a great kick of to the first day of the conference. I’ll come back to the new AI features Camunda introduced in my next post.

The Event

 

A conference should be judged by quality more than size - but in a sign of Camunda’s growing influence, this was the biggest CamundaCon yet, despite adding a second annual event in North America each year. Camunda does a great job supporting remote participants as well: the live stream of each room works well - so well that I found myself watching two of the sessions from my own “overflow” room at a picnic table outside.

You can see what I mean by watching the recorded sessions from the conference here.

In Berlin, CamundaCon’s character takes on a more technical focus. The heritage of this community - the foundation of it - is a developer community. As sure as I tell you it has a more technical nature in Berlin, there were developers who would tell you it didn’t seem that technical. To be fair, CamundaCon in 2018 was more of a developers’ conference, with few business or budget decision makers attending. CamundaCon of 2024 is a different conference.

A better characterization: this is a conference for practitioners - whether business, managerial, architectural, or development - the participants of CamundaCon in Berlin are pragmatic and are putting Camunda’s software to work in their businesses and their software projects - and the presentations further reflect that.

Morning sessions were dedicated to developers and hack-day activities and executive meetings, and afternoon sessions to live-streamed sessions that would be compatible with US time zones. It was a really smart way to run the conference, though unconventional. Our team in the US had no trouble keeping up with the developments in Berlin.

Partnering with Camunda

 

I am proud to report that BP3 once again claimed partner awards with Camunda. We took home two of the 4 partner awards, with our press release linked here :

Previously we won the Innovation partner of the year in 2023, and Camunda Connectivity partner award in 2022.

Our team is really good at what we do - and part of that is being a good partner to both our clients and our software partners. Partnering for success is one of our core competencies, and our part of our value as a services firm is understanding how to do this well:

  1. First, our fiduciary responsibility is to our clients, and our first job is to ensure that they get value from everything we do. We focus on delighting our clients and building a trust-based working relationship.

  2. Second, we partner well with software firms who need partners that can be trusted to get he most out of their software. It turns out, this is exactly why many of our clients hire us - to maximize their software investments in AI and processes and automations. Our job is to partner for mutual success.

  3. Third, we enjoy working with our clients and our partners and introducing them to each other. These are people we truly enjoy working with and we know when these connections will add value to everyone. Our clients and partners know that this is authentically who we are.

  4. Fourth, we work hard to find new prospective clients; we partner well in sales cycles; and we advise our clients effectively in their buying processes.

  5. Fifth, we help clients adopt process, AI, and automation approaches more widely by helping them identify more opportunities and better opportunities, and building production software every time.

Seems simple enough, but the devil is in the details. I’m proud of our team for doing all the little things that partnering well requires of us.

 

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