Cloning would have been helpful at Gartner’s BPM Conference #BPM11 last week in Baltimore.  It was hard to decide which of the multiple concurrent sessions to attend.  Usually my favorite time is in between the sessions, meeting the other attendees and catching up with industry colleagues since the last event.  That was still true for this conference of course, but credit is definitely due to Gartner for putting together some outstanding session content!

So here are a few of my favorites:

Getting started.  On the evening before the event kickoff there was a workshop aptly entitled Getting Started with BPM. By way of full disclosure, this workshop was hosted by my company Global 360.  It was conducted by Donna Tellam, a user experience expert at Global 360.  I favor this workshop because it takes a user-centric approach – just as Global 360 focuses on “Persona-based” BPM – the workshop looks at the “people who do the work’ and their process personas or roles (Builders, Managers, Participants, Customers), providing all important techniques for early end-user involvement to drive adoption and stakeholder buy in.  I especially favor this workshop because it is delivered by an outstanding practitioner who shares her first hand experiences.  If you are interested in learning more about the techniques you should check out this previously recorded webinar  Practical Approach to Getting Started with Business Process Improvement.   At Gartner, there were more than 90 attendees at the workshop and I think this is a reflection that business process management – both as a technology and a discipline – is being evaluated and adopted by “the majority.”  I’d be interested in others observations on that.

Productive co-existence.  Another of my favorites is Bill Swanton, who I first met as an industry analyst at AMR Research before it became a part of Gartner.  Bill’s session focused on Peaceful and Productive Co-existence of Enterprise Applications and BPM.  He gets at the essence of why you would use a BPMS with your ERP system by posing this question: 

If all my competitors use SAP [or Oracle] ERP, then how do I get a competitive advantage?

 As Bill explains with some great examples to illustrate, a BPMS helps you to:

  • Abstract out specific info and present it in a role-specific UI, say for a Buyer in the procurement area
  • Link across system boundaries – while sitting lightly on top of those systems
  • Escalate service issues more quickly to speed up the process
  • Improve a quote-to-cash process by analyzing risk without slowing down the deal
  • And, Change a competitive process more quickly without disruption/risk to core ERP systems

You can check out this podcast if you want to get a little more around Bill’s views on the subject.

The great debate.  I really like the way this session was put together.  While clearly preparation had been done by the analysts, they presented a very “in the moment” conversational and interactive debate on Case Management vs. BPM. Led by Toby Bell, with Janelle Hill and Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, each analyst took a different perspective as they debated the subject based on their respective areas of research and “personas” — content, process and vertical industry respectively.  Some of the nuggets from the debate:

  • case management may well be a style of work but not all instances of this style will  necessarily need to be managed as a case
  • applying case management will be important where high value people and processes are involved
  • decision management is a key element, as are the documents and information needed to make a good decision
  • unstructured or unpredictable are indicators for case management
  • coordination not automation of work
  • a good case management system “learns”, detects emerging patterns
  • case management fills the white space for vertical industry applications and domain expertise and IP are important

and my personal favorite

  • the user experience will be critical to success.

I participated in a Case Management Roundtable later in the conference led by Nathaniel Palmer and Tom Shepherd (@TomShepherd) where many of these same themes emerged from the conversation. Both Nathaniel and Tom are contributors to one of my favorite books on the subject of case management – you can check out info on that and learn more about case management at  Mastering the Unpredictable.

Tips from the trenches.  As a confessed “BPM-aholic”  and a recovering Green Belt, my favorite session of all was the panel hosted by Elise Olding (@EliseOlding) – Tips from the Trenches: Delivering Business Value on your 1st BPM Project.  Elise happens to be one of my favorites not only for her holistic perspective on process improvement (not just  technology), but also because in my view she has been instrumental in bringing “Social” to Gartner.  While Elise provided great guidance to the panel, they were the stars of this session.  Each providing great experience-based advice from the trenches.  Beth Gollogly from Iron Mountain  – a fellow member of the PEX Network, Diane Jaskolka from Arrow Electronics and Shawn Solomon from Enmax all provided such good practical advice that I couldn’t take notes fast enough.  My favorite parts of the discussion centered around how to build the team (look for aptitude and attitude), how to choose the process owner and how to organize the program for success. One of the best stories was from Beth who related how she realized early on that people were calling it “Beth’s program” and she knew that she had to make it their program to be successful.  I wish I could share a recording of the session with you; while I don’t have that I can recommend an equally good set of tips from the trenches from another one of my favorites Sandy Kemsley (@skemsley).