An Audience With….Sebastian Stein of IDS Scheer

Sebastian Stein is responsible at IDS Scheer, Germany for the ARIS BPM Community. As community manager, he takes care of wishes and suggestions submitted by the growing ARIS user base. He also reports on recent BPM trends and ARIS product innovations.

 

In the past, Sebastian took part in BPMN2 standardisation at OMG. He is an author of OMG’s BPM certification program OCEB. At IDS Scheer, he extended the ARIS modelling method with concepts for service-oriented enterprise architecture (SOA). Sebastian worked in several international research projects, pushing forward BPM technologies to the next generation.

 

Besides his work assignments, Sebastian completed his PhD thesis in computer science at University of Kiel, Germany. He holds a Master of Science in Software Engineering from Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden and a diploma in Business Information Systems from University of Applied Sciences Dresden, Germany. Sebastian has published more than 30 scientific and popular articles, book chapters, and conference presentations.

 

 

2009 was seen as a 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 ?

 

I would say the crisis feels similar for BPM vendors as for anyone else. New contracts are delayed or downsized. But in the end, the crisis is not as hard as everyone thought one year ago. Of course everyone has to fight to stay in business, but it is certainly not as worse as everyone thought.

 

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 indeed the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?

 

Well, this is the typical question to foresee the future, where you later hope nobody will look up your answer and compare it to what really happened ๐Ÿ™‚ But ok, let’s give it a try. First, businesses always need to improve the way they work, not just during a crisis. BPM is a good tool to foster continuous process improvement. In that respect, it is of course important for companies to look into it. The more interesting question is whether they are aware that there is something like BPM and that it can help them? Just focusing on cost-cutting is not a good idea, because most companies will do it.

 

But you can’t gain competitive advantage by doing the same stuff as others do. So it is worth looking into BPM to get ahead of the game.

 

IDS already support an ARIS based BPM online Community ? How important has this been to foster and develop a collaborative effort across the professional and client space ?

 

We are overwhelmed by the response we got. When we started, we thought we might be able to attract maybe 4.000 members till end of last year. To our own surprise, we got 20.000 people signing up for ARIS BPM Community during just 6-7 months and user numbers are still growing. Seems we really hit a strong market need, which makes us, of course, very happy.

 

We try to use ARIS Community as a direct channel to our customers. We got people suggesting improvements to our products, discussing with us our different solutions, giving us feedback on our customer events, etc. We were also able to spread the word about BPM in general and ARIS in particular to people, who were not aware of it before.

 

What’s ARIS’ definition and philosophy for BPM ?

 

Well, we follow the holistic definition of BPM. Processes are for us not just artefacts to be executed on some kind of IT, but they are really end-to-end scenarios. Many vendors just focus on the executable part, because they try to sell you an execution engine. We think, BPM is more than just some IT workflows and it is definitely not limited to processes alone. For example, if you really want to optimize your business, you have to measure your performance. To do that, you have to define your goals or KPIs, which are derived from your company strategy.

 

So you also have to make your company strategy explicit, which is also a part of BPM.

 

With a growing number of Cloud enable BPM tools and services coming onto the market how do you see IDS staying ahead of the game ?

 

All this software in the cloud stuff is very cool. It is a great vision to have everything available wherever you are. However, my feeling at the moment is that again a set of technologies is promoted without asking what users need. For example, we had an interesting discussion on ARIS Community about real-time collaboration.

 

If you have seen SAP’s Gravity showcase based on Google Wave, you are first thrilled. Several people can work simultaneously on a model. Great! However, if you ask people how often they work remotely on a word document, it doesn’t look like that it is really needed. So we have to make sure that we as vendors and powerusers do not ask for fancy technologies, but leaving the actual users behind.

 

For example, in case of ARIS Express people are not asking why they can’t execute it in their browsers, but where they can get a download package for offline installation. So here at IDS Scheer we are watching closely how to apply new technologies, but more important to us is looking what our users really need. Of course we keep an eye on it and we are well prepared if end user demand would change, for whatever reason.

 

IDS have a relationship with QUT and Prof. Rosenmann in Australia to support their research and innovation in the BPM arena. How much of their cutting edge work do you think we would see in the coming years being adopted mainstream ?

 

Prof. Rosemann and his colleagues are doing fantastic work. I can just recommend to everyone to take a look at their reports from time to time, because they contain valuable lessons. For example, some time ago Prof. Rosemann presented his research results on BPM success factors on ARIS Community. If you are initiating your own BPM effort, you should look at them. Of course, they also have more fundamental research work like how you can configure variants of a model. This will take some time to become available in products.

 

As a BPM vendor, you face the challenge to make such results applicable, so find a nice user interface to hide the complexity. Sometimes, I would wish that researchers also take a look how to make their tools and approaches applicable f

or end users, but this is often seen as not a scientific task anymore.

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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 it is a common approach to release a stripped down version of your tools to the public. But of course every vendor has to decide on its own if this pays off. For example, if my offerings target the mass market and I try to earn money by selling to end users, it might be counterproductive to give away a free version. In any way, if a vendor decides to do it, it should release a full product, which solves some real use cases. So in case of ARIS Express, you are allowed to use it for commercial projects, it has no functional limitations in the features it provides and it is a useful tool if you just want to document some small processes.

 

But of course, it is not the tool for an enterprise BPM project.

 

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 ?

 

Definitely, vendors must go where their customers are and that is on social platforms. For example, during the ARIS Express release, there was an article about it on a big German IT website. In the comments of the article, people posted about installation problems and questions they got. Of course, we could have pointed them to the official support pages and forums, but instead we answered the questions in the forum of the IT site, because that is where they were asked.

 

Another example are our feeds of ARIS Community. We always provide the fulltext of the articles in our feeds. Of course we are happy if people visit our site to read the posts, but if they prefer to read the posts in their favourite news reader than they should be able to do that.

 

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 tools in this area ?

 

This is also a very interesting area and for me even more exciting than the software as a service stuff. At the moment it is a little bit unclear how to use those devices in context of BPM. It seems that currently the devices are not useful to gather BPM data, so to use them during process discovery, because entering data is too complicated. But they might be useful to exchange or visualise models or your latest KPIs from your enterprise dashboard.

 

There were two notable acquisitions last year, IBM and Lombardi and, of course, SoftwareAG and IDS-Scheer. Obviously the question on everyone’s lips after the SAG’s acquisition is “how will this affect ARIS products ?” What’s your vision for how IDS’ popular toolset should be integrated with SAG’s suite ?

 

Well, presently I’m not really allowed to talk about that, because there are legal constraints. Nonetheless, I invite all readers to visit our booth at CeBIT to see the first showcase of ARIS and webMethods integration!

 

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 ?

 

Yes, acquisitions will continue. I just hope that we don’t have one or two big companies left at the end, because that is not healthy for the industry. But on the other hand, there will be always new start-ups to shake up the industry. If we can have a market of 4-6 companies competing, I think it will improve the BPM solutions available.

 

What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ?

 

I like to see BPM applied by more companies and especially smaller ones. Some years ago, ERP and CRM were also just applied by the big irons, but today they are tools applied successfully by even very small companies. BPM is still seen as a bureaucratic monster destroying agility. But on the other hand everyone knows how sketching a picture helps to clarify a problem. So why shouldn’t we use such pictures while optimising our processes? For us vendors it means we must simplify or adapt our messages so that the value of BPM is more visible. Instead of hiding behind fancy powerpoints, we must better address why everyone needs BPM.

 

Finally, what next for Sebastian Stein ?

 

In the next months, I will work extensively on bringing BPM to the masses. The results will be made available on ARIS Community as soon as possible, so watch the site ๐Ÿ˜‰
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