Max J. Pucher has worked for 15 years at IBM in Austria, UK and Saudi Arabia as engineer, consultant and sales. In 1988 he founded ISIS Papyrus Software
, today a medium size, global software business with Fortune 1000 clients. Max Pucher is an expert in machine learning and pattern recognition with related patents and has applied that knowledge in the area of consolidated content, process and relationship management. In his role as Chief Architect he designed the platform for Papyrus that is in use at 2000 mostly large corporations around the world. Max draws from a rich background in psychology, philosophy, information technology, and quantum physics for his long-range concepts.
Pega have recently acquired Chordiant and recently at a Forrester Tweet-up they talked about a convergence between CRM and BPM. Do you see a convergence happening in the market between sectors that are dissimilar on the surface ?
Merging with another software vendor does not yet create a consolidated solution for the software buyer. That will take years and cause serious upgrade problems. For the last ten years, I have been pointing out to analysts that businesses don’t need BPM, ECM, CRM, CCM, BI and BR — they need a single information platform without artificial product boundaries like Papyrus. Thus, I rather stay away from predicting what will happen in the BPM market as John Kenneth Galbraith said that “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”
What’s your definition of BPM ?
I can only give you a brief idea of what I see as useful in BPM as a concept. If we talk about BPM(S) as software I would define it as a failure in terms of providing agility because of the needed bureaucracy. But not many share my radical view, because attribution bias (Khaneman) extends from people skills to the software they chose. Successes will be because of BPM, failures must be someone else’s fault. There are however no vendor independent studies that proof the long-term benefit of using BPMS. My perspective on process orientation is one of people empowerment and intuition and not analytics driving command and control. I want to reduce the human heuristics of decision-making by providing more real-time information and actionable knowledge, rather than substitute humans and their decisions by statistically averaged fallacies.
My BPM paradigm requires — independent of organizational structure — fully authorized process owners (along with business content) for the customer relationships. The stakeholder only talks to his process owner(s). Process owners define their interactions. Not illusionary processes, but people are the only relevant asset of a business.
From a scientific perspective, a process is a statistical view of past entity interactions, while it is impossible to predict all the possible transitions of the complete state space for the future. Doing so in a flowchart creates a restriction on the targeted agility. For the 50% of knowledge workers in a business that is quite obvious, but it does apply to all processes. Process maturity is for me defined by how much process knowledge and control the actor has and not how well the actor adheres to a rigid and difficult to change process defined by an external consultant or CoE. Process orientation must be simple to work!
I wonder why BPM ignores science of complex adaptive systems and psychology? Even if you heard the tree fall in the woods, you can’t ascertain WHY and predict when/why the next will fall. Being able to read a recipe does not ensure good food and a fool with a tool is still a fool. I have compared the process owner and his team to a ship’s captain and crew and process management is the navigation system. The stakeholder owns the ship and fully authorizes the process owner (captain) to execute. He still should directly inspect how the captain runs his ship (transparency) and how the guests feel. A flowchart process is like following a fixed heading with the boat regardless of low fuel, poor location fixes, lack of accurate maps, invisible obstacles or unpredictable weather. I won’t be on that boat …
Gartner talks of managing ad-hoc processes and Forrester speaks about ‘Dynamic Case Management’, is this something emerging in the Case scene ?
I do not see it as emerging NOW. Keith Swenson wrote about dynamic processes before 2000. I have first briefed analysts on dynamically linking together inbound and outbound content processes in 2001. Forrester’s Dynamic Business Applications were first mentioned in 2006. Mashups appeared around that time too. Others followed since, and when Keith approached me last year to participate in a Thought Leader conference of the WfMC, the term Adaptive Case Management was coined. The book ‘Mastering the Unpredictable’ I co-authored, gives a good overview.
ACM is however a subset of Papyrus and for us it is not a new idea, but just finds now some broader acceptance. Papyrus provides the five pillars of process orientation in a homogenous, networked infrastructure:
1) a master data model with backend adapters (events),
2) a process organization and related goals,
3) global and local business rules,
4) inbound and outbound business content and,
5) a user configurable front-end with search, filtering, drill down and charting.
Papyrus is an application platform with a patented peer-to-peer, distributed database and transaction engine with fully automatic versioning and deployment, BUT — for the business user that is irrelevant. We have learned our lesson and focus now strongly on user-friendly interfaces and user empowerment to bring together CRM, ECM, BPM and all other processes. Our customers used to see Papyrus as a great development platform, but since some time we provide ready-to-go functionality. Processes are modeled as state/event/rule definitions and are all visible in a single user context that ensures that the relevant user-definable GUI will pop-up as soon as the actor selects an action. Authorized users can enter new rules in natural language, add content, add tasks or call predefined activities. All without getting into years of process design. Papyrus empowers executives, process owners and actors to bring out the best.
You’ve always been a bit ahead of the crowd, talking about intelligent and adaptive processes for example before anyone picks up on it, is it frustrating at times trying to convince people and analysts of the benefits of thinking outside of conventional applications of BPM ?
I am a sceptic and yes, sometimes I can’t control my cynical soul and say things that sound jaded and frustrated and annoy people too, but no, being first and thus misunderstood is not frustrating. Being on the frontier of technology is immensely exciting. I have no interest to be someplace else. People who don’t like being openly c
ontradicted, assume that I must be frustrated because I can be very passio
nate and stubborn. Some see me as an anti-BPM crank. But learning comes from discussing subjects with people who disagree with you and not from concurrence. Learning without making mistakes is impossible. That’s why SixSigma kills the innovative powers of a business. Here I go again …
‘Social BPM’ seems to be creating a wave that appears to be knocking down a lot of silos, is it revolution or hype we’re seeing right now and if revolution, is it purely a customer focused initiative or do you see it affecting how we work internally too ?
Social flowchart design provides hardly a benefit, like providing flowcharting tools for free to non-technical business users, or for iPhone or iPad. Everything we do should be customer focused and designing flowcharts isn’t! A customer doesn’t care about them. A flowchart is at best 20% of what you need to define for a process and only 20% of processes can be easily expressed in flows. Flowcharts just cover 5% of your overall business need. How would Social BPM improve that?
Second, a ‘social’ paradigm uses the powers of emergence and means that the actors and customers can evolve processes and rate outcomes. A state/event model template with rules works much better for user interaction to control process progression than flowcharts. As new states, events and rules are added, the process becomes more and more guided and if you want, fully controlled. Papyrus therefore employs a model preserving strategy to allow the changes during runtime and feedback to the process template. People can be rated as experts or coaches and form an in-business process community.
So if there is one thing that Social BPM could knock down, it is the Process Center of Excellence and the related bureaucracy overhead!
With a few vendors picking up on the iPhone success and launching BPM focused apps do you see an increase in BPM or Case Management becoming mobile ?
We have already made our Papyrus Client available for iPhone, because Mobile is the next most important platform to consider. I see the opportunity that Mobile apps will replace the service-centric cloud or PaaS/SaaS. But they will call it the Mobile Cloud and then another hype will be saved from oblivion. The mobile world will change the way applications are developed, deployed, licensed, and paid for. The concept of the AppStore is the model of the future and you will see it appearing on all operating systems. Especially for the mobile world, processes will have to be user definable and that means not just simple ad-hoc execution.
What would you like to see as the next big step in BPM ?
BPMS as standalone software will remain for a while but eventually become irrelevant. The same goes for the other three letter acronyms. That change will be hard, because consolidation is not for people with a short attention span or for those who look for process quick-fixes without considering long-term business and customer benefits. There is lot of cheap software out there with wonderful simple websites who just claim to save money.
I will continue to listen to my clients and prospects and then tell them what I honestly think will solve their long-term problems for customer communications and processes regardless of billions in BPM advertizing. I developed a platform that the analysts still can’t place into their market fragments; does not require a huge technology stack; does not need adoption of Java or XML; does not require the customer to first move all their applications to SOA; does not need years of process analysis, but still enables a full round-trip, with 360 view of the customer in the right business context. We had clients who — on a smaller scale — consolidated ECM, BPM and CRM with Papyrus in 2003 and they didn’t even realize they were doing it. We have now clients who pay $3m for a consolidated ECM/CRM/BPM environment for 2000 seats without needing third-party software, custom programming or process analysis consulting. That is half the price of the large vendors
because of their huge project manpower needed. We propose some simple process orientation as outlined above to make full use of the technology empowerment. Papyrus also offers since 2007 a machine-learning (AI) agent that recommends actions from observing users in real-time. That is my vision for the future.
And finally, what next for Max Pucher?
I never talk about my private plans because I am too spontaneous. Let me say this: After struggling with a spinal injury that could have left me paraplegic four years ago, I will certainly try to have as much fun in the future as I had getting to this point!