BPM and EA Europe Conference 2012 – the full Twitter story from all of us

The BPM and EA Conference 2012 is simply too big to follow in person in all its sessions and details. I’m trying here to summarize all the stories that are going on. Feel free to add your comments and experiences! (For sake of readability, the story will be visible once you open this post separately).

http://storify.com/marcobrambi/bpm-europe-and-eac-conference-2012.js[<a href=”http://storify.com/marcobrambi/bpm-europe-and-eac-conference-2012″ target=”_blank”>View the story “BPM Europe and EAC Conference 2012” on Storify</a>]

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6th MDA and BPM forum 2012, Milan, Italy

MDA Forum 2012 - Milan, Italy: BPM and MDE

Today I attended the MDA forum 2012, organized by Soluta.net and held in Milan, Italy. The topic of this year has been: “BPM and MDA”. WebRatio was sponsoring the event and also had a presentation during the day, given by Stefano Butti. Here is a short summary of the day, which has been extremely interesting and fruitful.

“Taming information explosion with BPM and MDA” 

by Richard Soley, OMG (Object Management Group)

The reason why we need modeling is the huge amount of information we need to deal with.
CIOs today have a complete separation between where they are today and where they expect to go: they now mainly focus on hardware, printing, networking; but their view for tomorrow is towards cloud computing, BPM, Enterprise Architecture, SOA.
CIOs now feel to have duties outside of core technology, towards addressing problems of enterprise-wide strategy definition.
The appalling thing is that most of the discussion is about aligning IT and business. But this is a false problem.
According to Zachman, “business” should lay out the enterprise architecture. But since they don’t do it, IT must come in and do it.
The challenge is to embrace change and manage complexity.
You need to build standards for letting people talk. There is no way of enforcing ONE standard for one problem: every time we try to build the sole, best standard, we are just adding up another one to the existing list. And existing standards don’t go away.
A standard to be useful must:
– be agreed upon
– be implemented.
The current enterprise challenges are BPM and model-driven design.
BPM is the key to agility.
MDA makes BPM repeatable.

“Affordable Software Architecture” 

by Stephen J. Mellor, freelance

One of the main mistakes of enterprise architects is to focus more on technology than on architecture. 
If we start solving a problem  from green field by involving a diverse team, we probably end up with a plethora of different pieces. The result will not be so good and will comprise several different pieces. At this point we need to put them together, and thus we need to define connectors, converters and so on. This requires more people, who will build yet more diverse converters. This ends up in a repeating paradigm that repeats itself forever in a fractal way.

Effort required, based on the size of the system, depending on the adoption of
unscalable approaches (green) or of enterprise architectures (blue).
The cost of implementation, ideally linear for unscalable approaches, is actually higher due to integration costs, but can be reduced due to reuse costs.
The cost of an architecture is fixed instead. There are only some variable costs (quite low) for applying the architecture.
In an architecture there shall be a number of periodic tasks that are started regularly; a number of event-driven tasks that start in response to events; and a periodic control over this.

“Enterprise Transformation. The role of open standards” 

by Allen Brown, The Open Group

Enterprise transformation is a long journey. You can decide to build your future or to let others set it for you.
Standards play a huge role on this. TOGAF is one of the most known and used standards and guidelines for EA. The crucial point is that you cannot only focus on EA, you need to know and integrate Organization Design.  You deliver synergies, technology and business performance improvement.
The point is:

  • first, focus and start from the expected improvement of capability (i.e., business objectives)
  • define the functional needs (e.g., increasing performance, reduce cost, increase security, and so on)

“Making sense of MDA-ness”

by Allan Kennedy

Interesting enough, in the last years there has been a fall of 50% of the requests of UML expertise in job postings. On the other side, we see an increase of 100% of the expertise in Enterprise architecture.
MODAF and TOGAF and all other architecture framework have some interesting hook where to fit in the modeling practices, but then they keep neutral on what MDE tools and languages to use. This is however a limitation, because I would like to have a clear set of guidelines for that. 
I want to deliver predictable results starting from the architecture frameworks, but this is not possible if I only apply their processes. I also need to select the right tools and methods. There is no explanation on:
  • how to partition the problem space
  • how to formalize knowledge related to each part
  • how to recombine and test the parts
On all these aspects, MDA and MDA transformations come to help. The framework can be personalized by applying the right model-driven tools. There is perfect complementarity and the two worlds should be brought together.

“Dare to challenge” 

by  Hans van Herwaarden

The world is becoming flat again: people and companies are connected throughout the world in a seamless way. Value streams become virtual: there are processes that are virtually the same in every organization, and thus it makes sense to model and extract them and make them unified, or possibly even externalized. Dynamic value chains, applied to industrial production so far, is now ready for the service industry (see the book: “This is service design thinking”). 
Of all the innovation forms (product, process, technology,… ) there is one that has much more potential: business model innovation. This requires to map what you are, make sure you are complete and identify your core strengths. 
All this leads to component-based thinking. This is a major key to be lean and agile. Enterprises must become outside-in, focusing on bringing knowledge in from outside (e.g., crowdsourcing).

Final panel for the morning session

About the role of IT in the future, Soley thinks that IT by itself will disappear in the short term. Decision makers will blend all the aspects together and IT will be distributed throughout the organization.
Other important trends will be automatization, externalization, outsourcing, commoditization. The business will drive the IT changes in the future. Transformation is the real challenge, and now it’s easy to motivate customers by highlighting how they are left behind by competitors if they don’t change.
Small companies have more to gain by adopting MDE, because of the increase in productivity. However, there is a skill gap to cover for that in the workforce.

User interaction: the overlooked spot in MDE

by Stefano Butti, WebRatio

In his presentation, the first of the afternoon, Stefano presented our experience with WebML and WebRatio and outlined the roadmap to the standardization of the new IFML language (Interaction Flow Modeling Language).

To keep updated on my activities you can subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog or follow my twitter account (@MarcoBrambi).http://www.soluta.net

What’s the iPad for BPM?

It has been a while since a dangerous albeit crucial question has been posed to the Business Process Management community, starting from a provoking statement by Theo Priestley in one of his posts (BPM must die!). The question that circulated around is simple: 
is BPM dead?

The question has collected a lot of attention, especially after it has been selected as daily question in the BPM ebizQ forum
I think the question should be better phrased as “should BPM die?”, or if we want to be even more politically incorrect: 
“Should we kill BPM?”
That’s because BPM is evidently not dead now (and will still be alive until no vendor and consultant can make any money out of it, which will probably never happen). It’s on the community to decide responsibly what’s the best for BPM, either to kill or save it.
In the links above you can find a lot of people voting for either party (and I add the notable post by Keith Swenson here). As for myself, I’m keen to vote for killing, in this sense: I think that a field that is not able to renew itself and not able to cope with the evident dissatisfaction, skeptical positions or concerns of its users is in a way or the other doomed to fail. And sometimes I have the perception that BPM is not far from that (as well as other related fields, such as model-driven engineering (MDE) for that matter).
Now the question to be asked first is actually the following: why are users skeptical and who should be blamed for it? 
I think the response is straightforward: users are skeptical because nobody tells them not to be. In other words, we are selling BPM only to customers that are already buying it (I’m not talking about specific product, customers can decide to move from one to the other, but about the approach by itself). 
We seldom manage to get customers intrigued and involved, we continuously try to sell BPM as a geeky way for making business or as a business way for making software. And the needs (and will) of the users are the most neglected part. Just think about other fields: computer manufacturing has tried for years to change the way of using laptops. Then, suddenly (well, more or less.. it got a lot of steps before that paved its way) the iPad came in and it became a social phenomenon. Why? Well, I bet that the overall image made its part, together with the coverage of new use cases that addressed different user needs, and a perfect marketing and communication strategy.
iPad (and iPhone, and then Android..) became the icon of computer consumerization. 
The question I ask now is the following.
What should we do for making of BPM the next phenomenon? 
Or, if you want, what will be the iPad for BPM?
Personally, I think we need to consider the trends we are witnessing in general in computer science adoption. We should not forget that even the most enterprise-oriented solutions will be purchased now and in the near future by people that are well inside the consumerization of IT and will expect also BPM to go that way somehow.
Bids are open..
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Mobile and consumerization — keys for event-based Social BPM?

I really appreciated the provocative post by Chris Taylor on the potential of Social BPM to replace emails in business processes. While I see the final statement there a little bit too optimistic, total replacement is definitely in my dreams and I agree on the general trend.

Actually, I see we are already in  a hybrid situation where email or text messaging is still needed for notifying people (especially end users) but with respect to the past they tend to be just reminders or references to the actual info, which is stored on a (web) system. The reason for this is sometimes different than BPM practices.
For instance, you may think about your online bank statement: you get a notification email what it’s available, but then you access it through the bank site. To have them on the web and not within an email is more a matter of security and compliance than of BPM implementation, but what’s interesting is that these small steps are slowly shaping the attitude and the minds towards expecting all behaviour and content to be on a system.

Example of bank statement notification.

What I think it’s still not yet here is the event management part. This still uses traditional means. For this, I foresee two crucial enablers for future adoption:
mobile apps (which can be a part of a “extended” BPMS): getting notifications and dashboards would be very convenient and acceptable by the users
–  “consumerization” of the business interfaces: if people perceive a (business) UI as user-friendly and convenient, he won’t object to using it instead of the email
But this has still to come..

However, I’m not really concerned about the notification phase toward the user, since this is anyway something coming from the enterprise systems. The critical point is to capture the behaviour of the user and the action he performs in response to the trigger. This is what would bring the maximum value to the enterprise in understanding the actual “hidden” procedures that go on within the company or at its borders.
This is the part where email falls short, because email activities cannot be traced in the general case. However, for this I see an even longer way to adoption. 

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CUbRIK: content-intensive, time-intensive and human-intensive scalable search

Today I wish to share with you some details about a new project I’ll be involved in throughout the next three years. The project is called CUbRIK and addresses advanced search techniques and tools for multimedia and multimodal search, based on content-intensive, time-intensive and human-intensive scalable processes.

The project aims at experimenting the integration of machine tasks and a variety of human and crowd-sourced tasks, orchestrated by programmable pipelines. The obtained processes will allow content processing, query submission and result computation, relevance feedback processing.
CUbRIK will allow complex search on the web and on enterprise content, by encompassing entity-, time-, and space- aware search functions. This means that people will be able to search for multimedia contents that include specific reference to objects, temporal information or locations. This will be possible because CUbRIK will exploit highly accurate repositories of spatio-temporal entities (locations, events, trends, and so on), correlated through rich semantic associations.
I will participate in the joint research unit of Politecnico di Milano and WebRatio on this, lead by Piero Fraternali.
The project is meant to be the continuation of a successful experience with the Pharos research project. The project will have significant synergies with the Search Computing project and with the topics of crowdsourcing and social web addressed within the BPM4People project.

Here is an introduction video on CUbRIK:

You can find more on this in my interview on the WebRatio site and on the official CUbRIK site I’ll keep you posted on the outcomes of the project.

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Bruce Silver’s keynote speech at BPMN 2011 workshop: interoperability and other issues in BPMN and UML

Today at the BPMN 2011 workshop in Luzern, Bruce Silver gave an interesting talk on the status of BPMN 2.0, its adoption, and his proposal for improving its general usage.
I really appreciated the talk because:

  • it focused on the ambiguities of the BPMN notation, even in the so acclaimed 2.0 version
  • it highlighted how users tend to be confused once the notation is so complex.

Bruce presented his well-known approach, with the caveat that probably method and style is too weak as a position, so he proposes to move to the rules term, so that people feel somehow more obliged to comply 🙂 .

    The first issue I take away is the problem of interoperability.
    I would also identify a trend on what I heard here, through a parallel to what is happening in OMG within the Canonical XMI initiative (read something here), performed by the Canonical XMI Finalization Task Force: given a modeling language (or an exchange format like XMI) which is under-specified, too general, or too open for dialects generation, the need arises for putting some stricter limitations to the designers, for making the tools more interoperable and for improving the quality of the models. Interoperability is the explicit aim of XMI, but, since it failed to an extent. Probably the same would apply to XPDL itself: it was designed as an interchange format for business process models, but then ended up being prone to several dialects and interpretations as well. For XMI, the improved interoperability aim is now in charge of Canonical XMI (while no action is being taken on XPDL).  The same purpose is addressed by the BPMN-I initiative by Bruce Silver.

    A similar problem that has been addressed is executability:
    Also on this, I see strong parallelism with the UML world. There is definitely a push towards executability of models: just think about the executable UML fUML and Alf initiatives (you can find a nice overview on both on Jordi’s blog here), at OMG or also some new activities like MiUML, an open-source executable UML project.
    On the other side, also BPMN 2.0 is addressing executability and within WebRatio we are also providing somehow a pragmatic approach to BPMN executability, by generating running Web applications. The question is: are customers asking for that? The claim by Bruce is that they are not for BPMN. Most people only want to model, not to execute. Probably, if you look at the share of interested people, for UML it’s the same. However, I think executability is an interesting property that should be granted to give a general grounding to reality to models (although I acknowledge that some models may not need/allow that).

    A final take from the day is related to choreography.
    Interestingly enough, again people are not using it: neither in the BPMN world nor in the UML one. I don’t have stats on the usage of the different kinds of UML models, but I’m pretty sure people only use class diagrams basically. Some will use activity diagrams, and few sequence diagrams. Anything else?

    Bruce Silver, with Bruce Silver Associates,
    presenting his keynote at the BPMN 2011 workshop.

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    Representing Social BPM and WebML at the BPMN workshop 2011

    Tomorrow (November 21st) I’ll present two contributions to the 3rd international BPMN workshop in Luzern, Switzerland.
    My first speech will present our proposed notation for representing Social Business Processes within Social BPM scenarios. Social networking is more and more considered as crucial for helping organizations harness the value of informal relationships and weak ties, without compromising the consolidated business practices embedded in conventional BPM solutions. However, no appropriate notation has been devised for specifying social aspects within business process models. We propose a first attempt towards the extension of business process notations with social features. In particular, we devise an extension of the BPMN notation for capturing social requirements. Such extension does not alter the semantics of the language: it includes a set of new event types and task types, together with some annotation for the pool/lane levels. It actually exploits the extensibility features of BPMN 2.0. Our notation enables the description of social behaviours within BPMN diagrams. To demonstrate the applicability of the notation, we implement it within the WebRatio BPM editor and we provide a code generation framework that automatically produces a process enactment Web application connected with mainstream social platforms.The presentation is available on SlideShare:

    My second speech is on Execution Semantics of BPMN through MDE Web Application Generation, using BPMN and WebML. I describe our pragmatic approach based on Model Driven Engineering (MDE) principles for implementing the execution semantics of BPMN. The approach is implemented in WebRatio and is based on a two-step model transformation that transforms BPMN models into Web application models specified according to the WebML notation and then into running Web applications. Thanks to the proposed chain of model transformations it is also possible to fine tune the final application in several ways by refining the intermediate WebML application models. The presentation is available on SlideShare:

    More information on the workshop can be found at: http://www.bpmn-workshop.org/.
    In particular, the program of the day is available here.

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    Seminar on Social BPM at SMAU 2011 Milano

    Just to keep track of the events I’ve been involved recently, here is a quick summary of the seminar I gave together with Stefano Butti at SMAU Milano 2011. The topic was Social BPM. You can find here some picture, an interview (in Italian) and the slides I used (in English).

    Other pictures of the event are available on the WebRatio site.
    The presentation I gave at SMAU is available on SlideShare:

    I also gave a short interview at the exhibition, which has been published on YouTube:

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    BPMN and Design Patterns for Engineering Social BPM Solutions

    Our paper “BPMN and Design Patterns for Engineering Social BPM Solutions” (authored by Marco Brambilla, Piero Fraternali, and Carmen Vaca) has been presented today, August 29th, 2011, at the 4th Workshop on Business Process Management and Social Software (BPMS2’11), co-located with BPM 2011, in Clermont-Ferrand, France.
    This paper presents a process design methodology, supported by the WebRatio tool suite, for addressing the extension of business processes  with social features. The social process design exploits an extension of BPMN for capturing social requirements, a gallery of social BPM design patterns that represent reusable solutions to recurrent process socialization requirements, and a model-to-model and mode-to-code transformation technology that automatically produces a process enactment Web
    application connected with mainstream social platforms.
    The full paper can be downloaded from here.
    The presentation that was given is reported below (together with an embedded demo video of the implemented prototype).

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    My take on today’s Social BPM tweet jam

    Today I participated, together with an impressive number of world-renowned experts in BPM, to a hectic tweet jam on Social BPM.
    I curated a (slightly remixed) recording of the session, which is available here (http://storify.com/marcobrambi/socialbpm) and embedded below.
    The participation was so intense that it was really hard to keep the pace of the discussion (especially because I was having a conf call in parallel), so the recording has been definitely useful.
    To get an idea, here are the final statistics on the discussion: 521 tweets generated 375,886 impressions, reaching an audience of 24,348 followers.

    When I went through the contribution, I found a lot of hidden pearls that I missed.
    Overall, my impression is the following: despite some criticism on the term “Social BPM”, I would say there is wide consensus on the need of integrating rigid BPM approaches with others that consider user interactions as crucial value for the enterprise. To my surprise, several experts (including Nathaniel Palmer and Clay Richardson) agree that there is a substantial request for these technologies by customers, especially in “non-traditional” scenarios. On the other side, the state of the art of the tools and systems is still perceived as weak or only partially addressing the actual needs.
    This is definitely encouraging because it leaves a lot of space for research, improvement, and exciting evolutions in the field.

    http://storify.com/marcobrambi/socialbpm.js<a href=”http://storify.com/marcobrambi/socialbpm” target=”_blank”>View “Social BPM discussion and tweetjam” on Storify</a>

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