To kick off the Audience series we spoke with Wesley Chung, Alliances Manager responsible for managing some of Lombardi’s relationships with external parties and also co-creator of the Charters for BPM Program Governance which is a collaborative effort to create a community driven BPM Wiki.
Wesley’s background is in professional services and delivery of enterprise software projects and programs. While at Lombardi, he has served as Program Manager for several global customers and spent two years based in London as the Director of European Delivery. After returning to the U.S. headquarters, Wesley spent time in Solutions Management working on BPM program adoption and transformation before transitioning to the Channels and Alliances organization. These days, Wesley is focused on increasing the rate of adoption for BPM by leveraging the global reach of some of the world’s leading systems integrators.
2009 was seen as fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally and for BPM Vendors ?
2009 was definitely a turbulent year for many organizations and individuals. In some cases, we saw organizations strategically select BPM as a means to improve their operating efficiency and also to position themselves competitively for eventual market condition improvements. I think the major change programs you mention were the most visible indicator of that trend, but many companies had already been making positive strides in 2009 with individual projects. Change programs were only a portion of the increased momentum behind BPM.
In 2010, I think the BPM industry will continue to meet increased acceptance as the overall market recovers. Purse strings will begin to loosen, but there will be increased oversight and due diligence on how money actually gets spent. There will be a refinement in the usage of the acronym BPM and associated terminology. A more educated buying public will want to dig more deeply and talk specifically about business problems that can either be solved by commercial platforms, project implementations, or both. And the solutions will need to be as much about approach as tools, each of which will need to complement one another.
Do you think the lack of standard definition of what BPM is has confused prospective clients ultimately leading them to question its value? Many see BPM as a process improvement method, others believe it to be a holistic process management philosophy that cuts across then entire enterprise, and the techies see it as set of tools and ignore the business discipline completely.
I suppose that the lack of a standard definition had people questioning the value, especially if they were hearing about all the great things BPM was supposedly doing for other companies and even competitors. I don’t think we need a standardized definition per se, but I do think we need to get down to some tactical ways in which a BPM proposition can help solve some business problems that a company might be facing.
Taking it to the programmatic level, if you are only looking at a tool or only at a method then you are missing critical elements. You need all of the pieces, and you need commitment from your organization to change how it does things and how it measures progress.
At the level where you are looking for tools, you need tools that support the methods you believe your organization can actually use, not just those they want to use.
On a side note, I used to teach a Program Management course, and in that course, I made a point to try different techniques and see which ones worked and which ones didn’t. By controlling the experiment, each project or release would allow you to tweak the overall set of components you used as standard best practices. Over time, you would be able to improve the delivery philosophy within your organization. The important point was that you could not start from the outset with a radically new methodology AND new tooling and simply hope that the project would be highly successful.
Lombardi used to run workshop days for clients but the format was changed from a physical medium to online. Why was that?
I think you are referring to the annual Driven users conference that combined company updates with working sessions for customers to share experiences and ideas. In some preliminary research, early in 2009, we found that most of our customers would have limited or no funds with which to travel and to attend a physical Driven conference. So, we made the conscious decision to make the conference virtual last year. That allowed more participation in the company and customer presentations than if we had kept the conference physical.
However, in terms of Training and Education workshop days for customers, we expanded our offerings for both onsite and virtual classroom-style skills enhancement. We grew our extensive network of certified education partners, and added the ability to train a customer’s in-house trainers.
Our philosophy is that a one-time, one-size-fits-all product training course does not adequately prepare people for real-world projects. Lombardi University has assembled the right mix of BPM coursework and practical experience into “tracks” designed for each role involved in a BPM project team: analysts, developers, program managers, administrators, and executives. Tracks have multiple maturity levels, increasing in depth and skills testing.
With growing budget constraints for external spend do you still see a need for the conference circuit to exist or could the results be achieved in the same way ?
We were tackling this very question going into the end of 2009. I think customers definitely benefit from physical interaction, and it’s just hard to deliver a really immersive experience with virtual tools today. With the budget constraints you mention, conferences will need to be geared towards practical application of experience and skills so that companies can justify sending team leads, program owners, process owners, and the like. Conference organizers will need to be able to quantify the increased capabilities of participants who attend, not just talk in vague generalities.
bpmCamp is an example of such a conference (or unconference as they’re calling it) – focusing on real-world use cases and actual examples instead of hypothetical problems. I’d like to see similar conferences for non-technical contributors and leaders too, and I think we’ll begin to start seeing that with communities like BPM Nexus and others focusing on ways to put shared knowledge into use.
Do you expect clients to alter their buying criteria as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost first rather than ROI or the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?
I think that the buying criteria will remain largely unchanged. Customers still want to solve some current, compelling pain point, and they want to be able to leverage those investments as much as possible in solving other problems down the road. While I don’t think this high-level criteria changes, I do believe that the processes in place to evaluate different products and
potential service providers will change to bet
ter highlight whether a product or a team can deliver upon that goal statement.
Customers will really focus on the how as much as the what, especially as the market consolidates the vendor options available to purchasers. We are seeing some level of commoditization in the BPM product space, and that will continue. Beyond features and functions of the products available, there will be increased attention paid to
- The ability for a set of tools to maximize the collaboration between business and IT stakeholders, matching methodology, where necessary,
- The ability to deploy staged releases quickly, to realize benefits from such deliveries, and to repeat the cycle, and
- The ability to manage large, cross-project, repositories of assets without overloading IT staff.
Even today, customers can structure their evaluations to defer some initial costs until ROI is delivered or until they see tangible evidence of programmatic success with BPM. I think more organizations are getting used to this idea that initial spend can be contained and written off if the trajectory for success is unattainable, whereas in the past they might have gone many years before shutting down a troubled program.
Tell me more about the Charters you’re involved with and Phil’s vision for it.
Phil and I envisioned a community-led effort for organizing best practices and identifying key obstacles in setting up a BPM program. These Charters for BPM Program Governance were intended to be a way for practitioners to learn from one another and to adapt those learnings to their own organization’s culture and mores. Each Charter included some patterns and anti-patterns that could be used as lessons.
The project stalled due to some other priorities in 2009, but the ultimate ambition would be to get it jumpstarted by the community and have it evolve with or without us.
What’s Lombardi’s definition and philosophy for BPM ?
I’d say that at Lombardi BPM is;
- Understanding your current processes,
- Identifying ways in which to change those processes to better meet the requirements of your end customers,
- Implementing those changes, and
- Instrumenting said changes such that you can determine whether the processes have improved.
At the macro, program level this means that one process might be improved enough for the time-being such that attention can be focused on other processes. After all, an organization has lots of processes they need to optimize for the total customer experience. With limited resources, you need to be able to focus on the top priorities first, show progress, and re-examine the priorities regularly.
Our philosophy has long revolved around making it easier for business people, those closest to the process activities, to participate in this improvement and management. Making it easier has meant keeping them engaged throughout the cycle, enabling quick and rapid prototyping, facilitating integration with technology standards and other tools in the enterprise, and generally hiding some of the complexity of using lower-level tools and technologies. Underlying that philosophy has always been a fundamental determination to make our customers successful, including meeting the scalability and compatibility standards of the IT organizations of our customers.
Lombardi has its own ‘University’ for BPM certification. With a lot of other “BPM” courses in the marketplace generally but no commonly adopted method or definition accepted how is your offering different ?
Lombardi University is markedly different from other BPM courses and certifications in the marketplace. First, I should clarify that certification is an optional component in Lombardi University. While a certification from us validates that a candidate has met a set of standardized requirements, it is not required to get benefit from the breadth and the depth of the courses available from University.
Lombardi University covers all of the roles needed in a BPM program and at all of the skill levels for the different responsibilities that exist. This includes BPM Professionals, BPM Program Managers, BPM Analysts, BPM Developers, and BPMS Administrators from Level 0 (Trained) through to Level 3 (Leadership and Architecture). Each certification requires demonstration of proficiency through examinations and of experience in real-world projects and programs. Additionally, certifications require annual renewal through attainment of professional development credits.
I think this is the only really comprehensive BPM education and accreditation system available today. As a practitioner, it’s the stamp of approval from Lombardi, and as a consumer, it serves as the minimum criteria for evaluating potential resources on your projects and programs.
You mentioned the Wiki being a collaborative effort with the BPM community at large, do you see them being able to influence how the University and course content is developed over time also ?
Yes, I can see that happening, primarily in the areas of BPM program management and leadership that you would see in the BPM Professional and BPM Program Management tracks. Knowing how to structure a BPM program for true, enterprise-wide change management, for managing a pipeline of projects, and for managing shared assets/resources that can be leveraged by everyone are critical skills. A community of practitioners sharing that information and putting it into a format that can be easily digested would certainly be useful to Lombardi University students, even if it’s recognized solely for professional development credits.
Lombardi University also incorporates the notion of adjunct professors that can teach courses. Recognized industry leaders who might contribute to communities like the Charters project might also be interested in teaching third-party courses in the Lombardi University catalog.
Blueprint has been met with some acclaim has it not, can you elaborate on any particular success stories ?
There are quite a few case studies highlighted on our website and on the Process People blog. Some of our customers have even presented their use of Blueprint in webinars on www.lombardisoftware.com and customer panels. Without going into those specifically, I will say that our customers are using the tool to improve their understanding of their processes and to drive process changes. What started out as a more accessible process definition and collaboration tool has become a tool for
- Identifying differences between operating branches or geographic units,
- Standardizing on best practices and operating procedures, and
- Managing candidate projects across the portfolio of BPM initiatives.
With a growing number of Cloud enable BPM tools and services coming onto the market how do
you see Blueprint staying ahead
of the game ?
Blueprint is still the only tool that focuses on getting every process participant talking about process improvement, visibility, and management. With Blueprint, it’s not an exercise in getting a small team of highly trained individuals to interview subject matter experts. Instead, it becomes an exercise in getting those subject matter experts to share their knowledge and experience to make the process better for everyone. There are quite a number of features in both the short-term and the long-term roadmaps that I think haven’t even crossed the minds of our competitors yet, and we have a unique platform upon which to build those features.
Are you aware of AlignSpace and Blueworks from SoftwareAG and IBM ? What do you think of them in terms of how you’ve described Blueprint ?
Yes, I’m aware of those products at a cursory level. I think we have limited data on how usable those tools are for actual process improvement projects and how easy it is to ramp-up a new team. Whereas with Blueprint, there are more real customers using it today.
That being said, I think the notion of being able to start from a known state like an example process is a powerful one. Even if you know that it’s not necessarily a best practice, the context provided by an example process is a meaningful one. You can start moving boxes around to different swimlanes and connecting things in different order instead of starting from a blank canvas. It can serve as a conversation starter to get discussion going on ways to improve your organization’s own version of that process.
IDS have released ARIS Express recently, a free version of their ARIS Professional modeling tool. Do you see a growing trend for BPM vendors to release free versions of their higher end products ?
I think customers are smart enough to realize that a free software product is going to cost them somewhere down the line. Question the vendors about how things actually get done. Speak with other customers of those products. Find out what the true costs are with those supposedly free tools.
With Lombardi’s tools, you’ll see a different approach and hopefully one that you realize gets you results more quickly.
Do you see the meteoric rise of the Social Media platform as something vendors should engage with as a development path, marketing purposes only or is it a “watching brief” for now until it matures ?
Like other hot buzzwords, there is lots of activity in different arenas but all latch onto the term to attract attention. As it relates to BPM, what we’ll see with Social Media is that users will be able to interact with one another in different ways that used to be limited to physical meetings or phone calls. These new ways of interaction will allow processes to better incorporate customer requirements and at a faster pace.
I think there is still a lot of learning and innovation to be done with Social Media, but the vendors who sit and wait rather than lead some of that innovation will always have to play catch-up.
The mobile platform has taken off and a growing number of vendors are joining the ranks to develop for the Apple, Blackberry and Android platforms. Do you see a future for BPM in this area ?
In my days running BPM programs, we used to always get asked whether approval tasks could be routed to a user on their Blackberry, but we never heard a good reason to do this. After all, do you really want someone’s job application or a mortgage loan to be approved on a screen where you can’t easily review the details of the request?
I do see a future for BPM in the mobile area, but I think it’s going to be focused on putting more information in front of the people who care about a process or set of processes. Visibility into how an organization is improving its processes and the execution of those processes will be more readily available. I think this area is more likely to see real traction on mobile devices.
Mobile workflow monitoring and business intelligence solutions perhaps ?
Yes, and I think we’re just scratching the surface. With all the information being generated today, especially within process environments, we need better ways to deal with and to interact with that information. Mobile devices keep us connected more often, and we will see some ways to make better use of those connections.
Obviously the question on everyone’s lips after the IBM acquisition is “how will this affect Teamworks and Blueprint ?” What’s your vision for how Lombardi’s popular toolset should be integrated with IBM’s suite ?
I think it’s still premature to really know how the integration will unfold, and I’m not close enough to the actual details to know or to share them anyway. However, I’d like to believe that we fill a gap in IBM’s current offerings – partly because of our philosophy and partly because of the tools we’ve developed to support that philosophy. I think Teamworks and Blueprint will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, and we will satisfy a set of use cases that other IBM tools don’t.
As you know, our tools have long supported the Websphere Application Server and MQ Series products, and now we can focus a much larger team on making sure that our tools scale and function for every enterprise. We’ve had a number of constraints lifted, especially on the engineering and sales sides of the house. I’m sure other constraints will be encountered that we’ll have to cope with too.
And following on from this, do you think there will be more M&A activity in 2010 across the BPM space and do you think this will improve BPM solutions on offer or weaken the market ?
I think there will be more M&A activity in 2010 and beyond. This will reduce the number of vendors, but those vendors that survive will only do so by continuing to innovate so that they can distinguish themselves. Customers ultimately benefit from these innovations, even if they have to wait for other vendors to incorporate such innovations and to commoditize them. One of the things that are keeping people watching the Lombardi integration into IBM is whether the innovation that has been associated with Lombardi will continue.
What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ?
I would really like to see a resurgence of corporate citizenship associated with process improvement, where individual contributors are motivated to improve processes and have the tools to do so. I can imagine a corporate environment where people can make process improvements easily, share their domain knowledge, and effect that change across an organization. It should be possible to reward those contributors, but it also should be part of the corporate contract such that it benefits the employee inherently because it benefits the company. It should also be as easy or easier than using standard desktop tools like Microsoft Office. There are lots of things that will have to change, and technology is o
nly one piece of
Finally what next for Wesley Chung ?
Lombardi’s ability to drive our philosophy directly to customers was always limited by the size of our company. Our focus on global partners and now with support from IBM will enable expansion at a rate previously unknown to us. I’ll continue working with customers and with partners to drive the overall BPM approach to drive business results. I can’t even fathom what sort of new opportunities will be possible now, so I’m watching expectantly as we kick off 2010.