We’re fortunate to know quite a few people in the industry at large. One of those is Ross Brown, a Senior Lecturer with the Faculty of Science and Technology, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, where he is also a member of the Business Process Management (BPM) Research Cluster, an internationally leading research group in the BPM domain.
His main research interests are in the application of games technology to other application domains. In particular, his latest research covers the development of virtual environment technology for the representation of business processes. He has been using the open source virtual worlds Open Simulator and Second Life to enable people to visualise business processes, to obtain insight into complex processes for all stakeholders at both naive and expert levels. A number of projects in this are currently underway, including the embedding of executable workflows in Virtual Environments, the development of a collaborative 3D BPMN editor, and the development of game-like consumer interfaces for personal process models.
Ross has just published a Whitepaper on using virtual worlds for process communication so we picked up with Ross on it and BPM in general. You can find out more about Ross and his research at Blacksphere.
Ross, why look at Virtual Worlds for BPM ?
Our intention is to make the use of Virtual Environments for BPM, as easy as using a word processor is to format a document. Word processors were ugly beasts early on, and improved with much effort by HCI Researchers and Vendors alike. We believe we have to do the same thing, provide BPM tools for modelling and execution that are easy to use and relevant to the task at hand. We believe that such tools will ease the pain of use, and provide rich visualisations for process model elicitation and communication to clients, a problem that is constantly brought up by practitioners at seminars I attend on process modelling.
Do you think either will go ‘mainstream’ and be widely adopted if the support is there ?
Not every business needs a 3D model of their processes. However, we believe they bring great benefits in showing the relationship of the process model to the physical environment the model exists in, and provides a visualisation that everyone can understand. Once a good set of tools and techniques is available, we believe that these motivating factors will create great demand. This has already occurred in the Military and Manufacturing, and we believe the results will generalise.
Will there be a new paradigm in BPM solutions ? For example, Windows and OSX now supports touch screen technologies and the mobile development platform is becoming more mature, will we see more interactive BPM solutions being developed ?
Yes. I have seen work on display systems by Accenture, and tangible modelling interfaces that will hopefully replace cutting up and resticking paper for large collaborative model creation.
What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ?
The adoption widely of my Virtual Environment research.
Nuanced interaction modes with execution engines would be nice. Some of the NPC behaviour research in games would not go astray in workflow interfaces. MMORPGs are basically large work environments, controlled by a Quest (read workflow engine) system. I think there is a cross over here.
Augmented reality system tools for BPM would be nice as well. Imagine six sigma data overlaid on the artifacts used in a process model…all on a heads up display on your iPhone as you walk around the company – a “BPM Tricorder”.