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Embrace Intelligence in Your BPM

Interested in whats trending in BPM? Avoid technology missteps


and learn how to let BPM dictate your business requirements.

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Is BPM Changing With the Times?

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.


These words, immortalized as lyrics in The
Whos 1971 single Wont Get Fooled Again,
may represent the sentiment many have when
it comes to modern business process management. For instance, some vendors may suggest
that intelligent BPM is a radical approach to
managing business processes while independent analysts insist that this is simply the natural evolution of BPM.
No matter who is right, it appears that one
thing remains consistent: The BPM technologies you choose to purchase and business rules
you implement should always be a decision
based on business needs, not on a desire to
have the latest and greatest technology. And
while the capabilities may change, there are
certain tenants of BPM and managing business
rules that simply dont change.
In this handbook, weve compiled advice
from our experts on the hot topic of BPM. In

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

the first feature, Tom Nolle explains how a


strong BPM strategy can help developers and
application managers enable an equally strong
application modernization strategy, especially
when it comes to selecting middleware and
APIs. In the second feature, Esther Shein dives
headfirst into the BPM vs. intelligent BPM
debate in an effort to nail down exactly where
iBPM technologies shouldor shouldntplay
a role in your organization.
Finally, BPM guru Steve Weissman in the
third feature explains that whether or not you
choose to stick an i onto your BPM, consistency is critical in the establishment of business rules.
Read on, and remember that while the landscape may change, the foundations of BPM
remain largely the same. n
Fred Churchville
Associate Editor, SearchSOA

MOTIVATION

Modernize Legacy Applications With BPM

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The biggest problem when it comes to


modernizing legacy applications is that modernization doesnt imply any specific technical
or functional change. Both of these should be a
part of any application design and development
project. Well explore how business process
management can help providea modernization
framework.
CorrectBPM usestarts with careful identification of the real business processes, not
their current implementations; considers business processes and application tools as interactive elements; and keeps the process and
application dimensions of a strategy as parallel
coequals even in implementation.
BPM is used to break out the specific activities that combine to serve the goals of their
business. In many cases, and probably in most
cases where a BPM strategy is implemented
well, its properly an element inan enterprise
architecture. In terms of application design

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

and development, BPM is a source of


requirements.

KEYS TO BPM-DRIVEN MODERNIZATION

Application modernization is the process


ofrestructuring applicationsto incorporate the
design principles and technologies that have
proven to offer the greatest agility and efficiency. It looks primarily at implementations
that support business processesand, in most
cases, will use the existing implementations of
applications as the functional foundation.
A smartapproach to BPM-driven application modernization recognizes the fundamental interdependence of tools and processes.
Workers do what they do with what they have,
and so the availability of applications and data
tends to frame the way they work. This interdependence creates an enormous risk in application modernization because its all too easy

MOTIVATION

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to carry tool-based restrictions of the past into


the applications of the future. That means you
have to step back from the details of the current applications and recapture the real business processes.
Here, as is nearly always the case, enterprise architecture may provide an easy path
if an EA model is available. It would be fair to
say that for a major enterprise to modernize
legacy applications on a large scale, it should
never proceed without first developing an
EA model according to one of the established
standardssuch as TOGAF. Where the scope
of application modernization projects is more
limited, its possible to recover business process definitions from current applications.
Where you have no EA framework for direct
BPM mapping, take application workflows and
abstract them by grouping application features
into the business processes they support.

of that framework. The goal in this exercise is


to determine what work model applications
should optimally support. You should look for
the following models:
Business processes are driven by transactions, and when a
process is initiated, it proceeds on an orderly
path through completion. Most of the legacy
applications work this way, whether the businesses do or not.

1. Simple transactional flow model.

Business processes
are driven by activity streams that may
involve multiple events and sources, and a
process requires interactive support through
these streams.

2. Stream computing model.

3. Transaction-plus-analytics model. Business

processes are largely transactional, butbigdata collectionand analytics drive a parallel


set of processes.

DETERMINING WORK MODELS

When you have a proper BPM framework,


the first step to modernize legacy applications is to assess the workflow implications

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

Each of these models will have an optimum application structure that will then drive
the selection of middleware tools and APIs.

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Transactional applications, particularly the


simple ones, are easily linked with SOA application models, and SOA can also be used for
primary transaction flows in the transactionplus-analytics approach. Stream computing
models should be based on complex event processing and stream and flow APIs,particularly
microservices. CEP might also be useful for
transaction-plus-analytics models where the
analytic needs approach real time.
This model becomes an overlay on your
original BPM process map, showing how applications would relate to the workflows that the
processes naturally create. Processes are both
the source of the transactions or streams the
model defines and guiding forces as to how
activities are ordered. Keep this mapping at
hand to ensure you dont break your BPM
workflows when you structure applications.

component fits in the flow defined in your


overall map, its suitable for use provided that
the interfaces can be accommodated. Note the
API and information model needs; they will
aggregate to form therequirements for your
middlewarechoices.
This is where the interactivity of business processes and application tools has to be
considered. The tentative workflows through
your model may not align in a logical way with
application components, or a suitable component may not have the information it needs at
the point in the flow where you hope to use it.
If thats the case, then consider a trial remapping of the flow to change component order
and gather the information where needed.
What youre doing is changing presumptive
business processes to optimize specific application usage, so its wise to start this process
with the most valuable components, based on
your past experiences.

MAPPING APPLICATION COMPONENTS

The next step in a BPM-driven application


modernization project is to map both current
and prospective application components into
the model youve selected. If an application

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PLOT YOUR IMPLEMENTATION

When all the applications and components


have been mapped to the model, youre

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ready to plot your application modernization


andimplementation strategy. Its important
to retain the separation of function (BPM) and
structure (technology), so the new composite application map and workflows should be
built over the BPM process map you built at
the start. Remember that you may have modified this map slightly to accommodate the specific information needs of some application
components.
Its true that modernizing legacy

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EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

applications, as a technology evolution,


doesnt seem a natural subordinate to business
process management, which is why many
dont see a connection. Without a BPM
strategy, though, you cant incorporate the
application model changes, including stream
computing, that are really the foundations of
next-gen application architecture. Dont make
technology choices with BPM, but let BPM
dictate requirements, and youll win.
Tom Nolle

MODERNIZATION

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First, there was the electronic form.


Then, workflow was added, which eventually
morphed into business process management.
Now, there is intelligent business process
management. The line of demarcation between
BPM and iBPM is fuzzy, industry observers say,
and the only way to choose between the two
options is to map out business needs.
IBPM takes some of its clues from the
underlying analytics that maybe BPM does
not, said Steve Weissman, founder of the
consultancy Holly Group. With BPM, people
are writing the business rules, he said. IBPM
might do, essentially, some of the thinking
without human intervention, drawing upon
actual analytics based on customer behavior to
look for trends that humans setting up rules
couldnt possibly foresee, he explained.

TRANSITIONING TO iBPM

Some vendors have embraced the term iBPM


because theyve added a few new capabilities,
but its the same market, the same evolution, said Clay Richardson, a principal analyst
at Forrester Research. He views the two terms
interchangeably, maintaining that the entire
BPM market is shifting to support digital
transformation.
If you think about digital, there are new use
cases, like mobile, doing BPM in the cloud,
Richardson noted. I just dont think a new
product has emerged in that way. The use cases
change, products change, but its still a BPM
market.
Today, for example, if a company has a
worker in the field inspecting wind turbines,
they would use their tablet to check things off

The use cases change, products change, but its still a BPM market.
CLAY RICHARDSON, Forrester Research

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while conducting the inspection. In the past,


using a nondigital process, the worker would
have to go back to his laptop in his vehicle or
office and log into some system and upload the
information, Richardson said.
With iBPM, he added, once the information
is entered, the worker can be guided, step by
step, through the things he needs to look at as
he enters data. The process can now also give
feedback on what to do if, for example, three
things are wrong. The additional analytics were
not available previously, he said.
Most systems have the same capabilities,
and theres not really any delineation other
than the label [BPM or iBPM] from what we
see, Richardson observed. Vendors are making
the progression naturally to iBPM because of
the added analytics functionality.

ITS ALL ABOUT THE BUSINESS CASE

I dont think I see clients using the term iBPM


for a use case, Richardson said. I think clients,
if they do have a use case thats related, [such
as] using our BPM platform to drive digital,
thats the more common use case I see.

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

Weissman concurred. As technology users,


we spend way too much time trying to
delineate between these technologies, when
the differences between them are degrees of
sophistication and how much they let us do, he
said. We like to bucket-ize things, and its an
enormous distraction.
Organizations need to look at the essence of
the business problem theyre trying to solve,
he stressed. Otherwise, the vast majority of IT
projects may not meet expectations. Its not
that the technology doesnt workit likely
doesits that IT or the business may have
been expecting it to solve a different issue, he
said.
Weissman added that the decision between
iBPM and BPM should not be an either/or decision, but rather one that determines what the
best use case is for each. Organizations, he said,
should not feel pressured to chase after iBPM if
resources dont allow for it. If you dont have
the scale, its not worth the time or money,
Weissman advised. It all comes back to what
problem youre trying to solve.
He cautioned that organizations should
not make the mistake of trying to define the

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business problem in terms of the technology.


I plot things on a graph according to customer
need, and it becomes immediately obvious
that a number of technologies, by the labeling,
could be used to solve a problem, he said. So
you have to look at all of them, otherwise the
vendor shapes the solution.

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A CHANGING BPM MARKET

Forrester Research conducted a survey during


the summer of 2016 on how the BPM market is
changing. Among the findings were that the top
three skills companies are planning to increase
around BPM are data science, customer journey
mapping and design thinking, Richardson said,
adding that there is a notable shift in the drivers for BPM. What we saw was, two years ago,
the primary driver was cost reduction. Then,
I think it might have been regulatory compliance, he said. Today, it is customer experience
and digital transformation.
Survey respondents also noted that this

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

digital transformation and customer experience management represents a significant flip


in business priorities. If we go back to the
2013 timeframe, Richardson noted, companies
are still dealing with regulatory compliance
and managing costs. [Now], they realize they
need to grow. How do you do that? Customers.
In a couple of years, the focus will be on how
companies can engage customers and if processes are optimized for that engagement. You
have to continue to build new digital products,
Richardson pointed out. I think thats where
companies have the most anxiety: staying on
top of the digital opportunity. Improving the
customer experience using a BPM platform is a
hot area and hot use case for BPM right now.
This is not one versus the other, Weissman
added. This is [about] what do you need, and
which vendor offering fits better. You have to
look at what capabilities are they offering. At
the end of the day, its not as binary or clean as
BPM or iBPMthey both have lots to offer.
Esther Shein

EXPECTATION

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If your organization is typical, you begin


every year with a renewed commitment to
work better, smarter or cheaper. Many times,
that means seeking toapply business rulesin
as automated a fashion as possibleand in
many of these instances, it means ending the
year with the vague sense of disappointment as
your workflow ends up not improving by very
much.
There are many reasons these best of intentions foundered on the rocks of reality. From
the rules perspective, the most common cause
is a general lack of understanding of justwhat
business rules are. This inevitably leads to
unrealistic expectations about what electronically managing and applying them can do and
to disenchantment with the entire exercise.

requires comprehending some important, but


oft-overlooked truths:
Business rules are not goals or benchmarks
for success. They are simply rules.

n

Business rules are notbusiness processes, but


they are a significant part of determining how
efficiently a process is executed.

n

Business rules are not new and have existed


long before computers did.

n

Business rules govern processes so business


goals can be achieved. Theyre instruction
sets, nothing more.

n

Business rules management systems are not


a technology. Rather, they are the practice of
creating and automatically applying rules to
processes.

n

FIVE INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

Avoiding confusion around business rules

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EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

EXPECTATION

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These clarifications are important because


swinging-and-missing on them can immediately divert you from achieving either one
ofbusiness rules managements twin goals:
to enable rapid process execution and achieve
consistency across the enterprise.
The first goal is at the center of mostworkflow and business process management initiatives, where most organizations focus their
energies. The second, however, is the most
crucialespecially for larger organizations in
which different departments can make contradictory decisions regarding the same issues.
Because of its broad scope,pursuing this
goalcan be very tough to see through to success. Many organizations do not even recognize it as an issue in the first place, and, even if
they do, some of them still may not decide to
attempt it at all.

as customers, it can be anathema to companies.


Just imagine how much money gets given away
because the decision criteria either arenot
identical from one service rep to anotheror
are being ignored altogether. That can result in
both customer churn and employee turnover,
neither of which is good for business. The latter, especially, can complicate the rules equation by wreaking havoc on lines of decision
authority.
A business rules management system can
mitigate these circumstances by regulating the
variability out of certain decisions, but only if
itsapproached with consistencyin mind right
from the get-go. Otherwise, you may have uniformity within individual process silos, but not
across the company.

FOUR MAJOR TRICKS OF THE TRADE


TWO WAYS INCONSISTENCY IS COSTLY

Weve all been on the receiving end of conflicting answers when it comes to seeking purchase
credit or preferred pricing on cable TV service
or the like. As frustrating as this can be for us

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EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

As you might imagine, there are many ways to


skin this breed of process cat, and the necessary details must reflect the particulars of a
specific organization. However, there are several broad tricks of the trade that we use as
effective soup starters:

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1. Manage

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your business rules in a centralized repository that all your processes reference. In this way each rule can be updated
in one place as necessary, and every process
can leverage the latest version as a matter of
course.

2. E
 xpress

your rulesin something close to


plain language. Thats typically accomplished
using if/then/else statements, and the idea is
to enable designated people from around the
organization to create new rules or modify
existing ones without having to learn any
specialized code.

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3. D
 evelop

and track process metrics. You


should be doing this anyway, but its especially useful to gauge the impact ofchanges
made to business rules. Similarly, it can
be enormously helpful to create models

EMBRACE INTELLIGENCE IN YOUR BPM

or run simulations to test the potential


impactsbeforethey affect actual operations.
4. M
 aintain

the big picture. Youll almost certainly discover areas that arent covered by
rules, and sometimes this isnt a bad thing.
Tightly governing the flow of each component of a complex process sounds like a good
idea, but if that micro-control ends up slowing the process down, it may not be worth it.

This last point brings us back to where we


started since it illustrates one way that rules
are misunderstood and can lead to unrealistic expectations. Simply having rules isnt
the answer; instead, organizations need to
implementrules that are well-considered and
applied consistentlyacross the enterprise.
Thats when disenchantment can turn into
delight. Steve Weissman

ABOUT
THE
AUTHORS

TOM NOLLE is the president of CIMI Corp., a

consultancy specializing in telecommunications and


data communications since 1982. He writes for many
TechTarget websites.Read his blog or email him at
tnolle@cimicorp.com.
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ESTHER SHEIN is

a freelance writer and editor whose work


has appeared in several online and print publications.
Previously she was the editor in chief of Datamation.
com. Follow her @EstherShein.

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STEVE WEISSMAN is
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a consultant and instructor in


process and information management. President of
AIIMs New England Chapter and a Certified Information Professional, he is the principal analyst at Holly
Group, where he works with clients on organizational
strategy, requirements gathering, requests for proposal
and user adoption initiatives. Email him at
sweissman@hollygroup.com.

Embrace Intelligence in Your BPM


is a SearchSOA.com e-publication.
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