An Audience With….Tobias Rausch, Product Manager of ADONIS BPM

Tobias Rausch is the Product Manager at BOC Group for the ADONIS Business Process Management Toolkit as part of BOC’s Management Office suite. Previously Tobias has been working for the BOC offices in Austria and Ireland and his role as a Senior Consultant offered him the opportunity to manage and be part of (large-scale) projects in different industries. His main fields of expertise are in introducing and implementing BPM in organisations, approaches for process-driven requirements definition and SW development and – more recently – in risk management scenarios.

 

Today he still enjoys his role as Senior Management Consultant and is active part in providing services for BOC’s client, allowing him to stay in close touch with clients and receive first-hand feedback. In his role as Product Manager he is the business link to the technical product development team, oversees product management activities, coordinates activities with central marketing and together with the BOC management board defines the product roadmap and strategy.

 

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 ?

 

In general there are few “out-of-the-box” strategies for facing a difficult market situation. A simple and compelling strategy is to cut costs no matter what. However axing costs without taking into account the strategic significance, growth potential, and creating quality and value for customers, sooner or later turns out to be a bad idea. In order to be successful in the long term, companies need to focus on their key competences, improve their processes to better suit customer’s needs, and cut costs through the elimination of elements that do not add value. That’s why I think BPM vendors (and BPM consultants) can play an important role in helping the global economy recover. We may see some market consolidation, but for those BPM vendors that help their customers achieve their goals the outlook should be bright.

 

Talking about BOC, as we are a privately owned company part of our strategy always was to achieve consistent growth and this type of ownership tends to help in turbulent times (and having seen what happened in 2000/2001 certainly helped us in being prepared). Another key factor is our very good long-term relationships with our clients. After fifteen years in the business of introducing BPM and making different scenarios work we have established an excellent reputation in our core markets.

 

BOC had a successful year in 2009: despite the turbulent times we increased license sales, continued our strategy of organic growth, opened up a new office in Switzerland, and our plans for 2010 are optimistic.

 

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 ?

 

As outlined in more detail as part of the answer to your third question, we typically find two approaches for BPM among our clients: 1) BPM in project form and 2) BPM as a management instrument “in-line” in the organisation (of course you will find organisations doing both).

 

I do not believe that the downturn will drastically alter buying criteria among our clients and prospects, the last few months and year are evidence of this. The crisis might have even brought increased attention to long-term approaches, so we may see that the above type 2) approach get even more recognition with companies (and managers) focusing on their long-term success and prosperity.

 

The behaviour of clients may depend on their experiences and “hear-say” with BPM in general. For some time it was OK to run long BPM projects that took an extended period to deliver results. If a BPM project is running for some time and does not show results, people start to think that BPM is yet another buzzword that does not bring results and requires more work from them. This leads to managers beginning to wonder whether spending money on BPM is a good idea at all. This is especially valid for customers who believe that buying BPM software will somehow transform their business on its own. Those customers may in fact wonder whether they need BPM at all and may try to focus on only reducing costs of their investments.

 

However, we think that customers are becoming more aware and embrace an approach that we popularised since the beginning: while initial cost is an important factor for BPM projects, quick, visible, and significant results are more important. If the BPM project shows results (e.g. reduced cost) quickly, then “the need for BPM itself” is not an issue. That’s why having BPM software is not enough. Users may need support from experienced BPM consultants to obtain these swift results. One of the most important things we advise to our customers is to start with a clear goal of the BPM project in mind and to make sure it is aligned with their strategy. 

 

Additionally, we define clear milestones. A typical early milestone is to immediately show and deliver “quick wins” of the project and for the approach. For “quick wins” themselves it is important that they can be not only identified at an early stage, but also implemented in the short-term so that the organisation quickly benefits from them.

 

As for the initial costs: BOC Group offers a clear and concise licensing policy so that users know there are no hidden costs. Depending on their scenario they can choose the appropriate licensing model (named use or concurrent use) that suits their needs. Users can also lease licenses during peak-times, buy additional licenses when it is necessary, or opt for anenterprise wide license. This allows our customers to start their BPM projects even within the constraints of a limited budget. 

 

For those wondering whether BPM can deliver any results but do not wish to invest in software, we have released a free version of our BPM toolkit – the ADONIS:Community Edition. We have made it available for download completely free of charge at www.adonis-community.com. We wanted to offer access to a professional business process management toolkit to a broad community – hence the name “Community Edition”.

 

What’s your definition and philosophy towards BPM ?

 

Among our clients there are typically two approaches for BPM:

 

To run BPM projects, focusing on delivering results for a defined area within a pre-set scope;  such projects typically have a life-time from a couple of weeks to a couple of months and the project team is staffed temporarily as required.

To establish BPM as a management instrument and with a long-ter

m view in the organisation; this requires looking at BPM in a much
more holistic sense, to couple it with the organisation’s strategy and strategic goals, to integrate it as a management process, and to initiate an organisational change process. This approach requires the use of “in-line” functions/roles (such as e.g. Process Owners!), mechanisms managing these processes on an ongoing basis, and making BPM work as an integrated part of the organisation.

 

While running BPM on a project basis is often required and achieves desired results, we are a strong believer in the second approach to ensure the long-term success of an organisation. However, in reality you will often find both approaches used in organisations – what we are saying is that to fully benefit from BPM, a strategic long-term view is necessary and you should make it become an inherent part of your organisation.

 

In this sense Business Process Management represents an integrated approach within a company for raising, evaluating, optimising, and controlling business processes and their environment. The environment includes the company strategy, organisation structure, technical resources, IT etc. Within a process-orientated company, business process management is used as the core element for the organisation of the company and to actively show and manage the responsibilities for and interrelations between processes, strategy, and resources. 

 

Another important thing is that it is neither a one-off initiative nor a job for a few key specialists. To bring lasting results, everyone in the company nees to have a role in BPM – not only process owners but all employees need to take part. It is not enough to model processes once and hope it is OK. There needs to be an established process management cycle so that processes are continuously improved.

 

Since more and more employees with different backgrounds and roles are involved in BPM it is very important to make it easy for all to understand – even for people without IT background. 

 

There are two things in particular which help us in achieving this:

 

1. In our BPM tool ADONIS we not only support standards, we also offer our BPMS framework as a method to create an “overall picture” of the company that can be easily understood by all users. This model-based description of the company is an invaluable base for decision making and allows people to understand all the interrelations and come up with better ideas for process improvements that fit the corporate strategy.

2. Since most people do not generally spend much time on process management it is also important to offer them convenient access to the models in a manner that is suited to their needs. Therefore part of our product strategy is to offer web-based tailored access for different roles, making sure the person receives exactly the information he/she needs to perform his/her job (e.g. as a Process Owner, Risk manager, Quality manager, Service center manger or employee, etc.).

 

BOC started off as a spin-off from the University of Vienna, can you tell us more about that history ?

 

The history of BOC has a lot to do with the spirit and entrepreneurship of Professor Dimitris Karagiannis who is among the pioneers for researching and applying Business Process Management techniques in Service Organisations. In the early/mid 90s BPM was already established in manufacturing, but it was almost an untouched field in Service Organisations such as Banks, Insurance, and the Public Sector.

 

With his research background in Japan, USA, and Europe, Professor Karagiannis established the so called “BPMS group” at the University of Vienna in 1993 and developed the theoretical foundations and still valid “Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) Paradigm”: a framework for continuous business process and performance management. He and his team focused very early on business modelling, analysis, and enabling business people to describe their requirements and optimise the processes. All of this led to the founding of BOC as a company in 1995 and the first commercial version of ADONIS in the same year – the rest is history 😉

 

Since then BOC and ADONIS have enjoyed great success and continued growth by focusing on providing software for business users which is intuitive, provides an easy-and fun-to-use modelling editor, ensures flexibility and extensibility (due to the  ADONIS’ meta-model approach), and offers powerful analysis and publication mechanisms.

 

The University background has always played, and still plays, an important role for the BOC Group in terms of our attitude to research, innovation, and in maintaining close links to Universities and Research institutions around the world. This is highlighted through special University Programs, active contributions and presentations at Scientific Conferences, University Partnerships, joined Master and PhD theses, etc.

 

When talking about BOC’s history and founding we must mention and thank our early customers: in particular Generali, Fiducia, and Gothaer. They are all large and very well known organisations, with whom we are still working together very closely, and who instilled trust in BOC, ADONIS in the early days and of course the importance of BPM.

 

Today we are very proud that customers all over the world trust and work with our products of the “BOC Management Office”, and who have realised projects together with us, and that we are able to help them. We have had successful relationships with these blue chip companies, such as Allianz, Deutsche Bank, and Telefonica, as well as with many medium and small sized companies over many years.

 

BOC has a vibrant community for the ADONIS platform, how important is this to you to foster input from your users ?

 

It is our strategy to treat our customers like partners and ideas from our customers are an invaluable source of knowledge and insight. Since we are a consulting company as well as a software house, we benefit from experience that comes from hundreds of BPM projects we helped realise. Apart from the input from our customers, our ideas also come from our academic partners and – last but not least – thousands of users of the ADONIS:Community Edition. 

 

Listening to our customers and learning from realised projects allows us to develop our tools so that they offer essential functionalities while being easy to use – this is one of the most often cited characteristics of ADONIS and the other products of the BOC Management Office tool suite. 

 

From a Product Management point of view it is one of the most interesting and challenging tasks to take all of this input and have processes and mechanisms in place to channel this into a product development scoping, planning and release cycle as well as a long-term roadmap.

 

An article in Forrester talked about turning to the process professionals more in 2010 and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant underwent a makeover in how they approached their analysis last year. Do you still see a need for the kind of high brow research which is perceived to be vendor led/ driven given the rise of independent professional blogs and insight colum

ns ?

 

That’s an interesting question, Theo. Personally I believe that people will be more cautious and careful in accepting results of what you call ‘high brow’ research. Actually, I see this following a more general trend to direct responsibility over the last few years. This will probably also mean that different sources of analysis and insight will be sought and of course competition is never bad for markets and customers. Independent analysts / bloggers provide valuable ‘real life’ views of the market and they are often the ones that provide an overview of new trends and give visibility to interesting offerings from companies that might be overlooked by the ‘bigger analyst groups’.

 

All in all, I see both co-existing and providing value for customers and I also believe that independent blogs and columns have and will continue to change this market.

 

There’s a shift towards Cloud offerings, Social BPM fever is starting to take hold after a few years in the wilderness and some are venturing into the Mobile space, are these viable roadmaps for vendors to look into or just hype for now ?

 

There are certainly some elements of hype – which is not a bad thing; even if sometimes it seems that there is competition to become the first vendor to offer a BPM widget with social features on iPad/Android/etc.

 

However, it is visible that the workforce is changing and more users are involved in BPM projects. They are often used to the cloud model, web 2.0, social media, mobile access…We think it is important to avoid throwing in features that sound nice from a marketing point of view but do not fulfill business needs (or as one of my customers puts it “to have a solution and then start going out looking for the problem the solution might resolve”). Instead we try to find elements that can be adapted, that suit our offering and needs of our customers, and improve the usability. 

 

For example – most of our customers would not accept storing their data in the cloud. However a ‘private cloud’ approach where they can give employees access via a browser to the models stored on their server that is running our portal application (ADONIS Process Portal) is fine since it allows their to be secure and in the same time profit from improved usability of browser-based access (fast and convenient access from anywhere, no need for trainings due to intuitive role-based interface where user has the information and functionalities that he needs etc.). 

 

So we are closely watching and evaluating which of these points and of course other points that will help our customers and the different roles we support in the BPM field to better realise existing or new application scenarios.

 

If there was one thing you could tell someone who is just starting out on the BPM journey what would it be ?

 

Before you begin think for a while about what is your primary goal, what do you want to achieve, what impact on strategy your BPM initiative will have. With this in mind select a project that can bring worthwhile results within time frame of no more than 2-3 months, so that people will see that BPM is not simply a buzzword, but something that can help them.

 

And most importantly: do not forget about the people and make sure you have them on-board! BPM will always bring elements of change and therefore you need to have a proper Change Management structure in place, ensuring that your people come with you along the way!

 

What’s the next big thing you would like to see happening in BPM ?

 

Actually there are two things I would like to see happening in BPM:

 

1. That BPM is widely understood and accepted as the holistic business task it is.

2. From a tool perspective we expect a strong need and tendency towards focusing on the roles involved in BPM and understanding their needs (in a particular organisation) and flexibly providing them with the tailored functionality each individual user needs – in a personalised, browser-based, and location independent way.

 

Finally, what next for Tobias Rausch ?

 

After more than 10 years with BOC, living and working in different countries, I have had the chance to gather first-hand professional experience in different industries around the world. To the question what’s next, the short answer is “to continue to enjoy work and life and learn as many things as possible from all sorts of domains”. Professionally, my next goals are to make the BOC Management Office known world-wide to the same extent it is already in our core markets in Europe.To further grow the ADONIS Community and spread the word about BPM. Internally, one of the goals is to encourage communication and virtual teamwork across countries and to further support and build a structure for knowledge sharing in a decentralised organisation. Finally, to remain in constant contact with our customers and make sure we fully understand their needs and requirements, combine them with our research and ideas, and continue to deliver intuitive and sought after tools supporting management and businesses overall.

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