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Dynamic Applications and the Next Generation of BPM: Podcast With Progress

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Listen to my podcast with Dr. John Bates, the Chief Technology Officer and Head of Corporate Development for Progress Software. In this podcast we discuss the latest acquisitions in the BPM market, and how Progress plans to keep its innovative edge, then Dr. Bates drills down on the future of BPM, Event Processing, and the latest news from Progress.

Listen to or download the 11:17 minute podcast below:

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PS: There has been a lot of movement in the BPM market with Progress' acquisition of Savvion and the IBM Lombardi acquisition. Exactly what makes BPM such an attractive acquisition target right now?

JB: Well, I think there's a number of factors that are making BPM attractive. Certainly, there's the desire of the business to create new business processes rapidly and BPM's modeling certainly enables that. Also, achieving a lower total cost of ownership and gaining visibility onto how effective the business processes is actually running and discovering any bottlenecks or problems in it. It's also very important so you got to view to your process effectiveness.

But similarly, BPM is really providing a framework to bring the business and IT together so business people want to be more involved in the development of business processes. They want to move away from a world where they describe their requirements and IT scurries away and comes back six months later with something that may not be quite what they wanted so they want to be involved and BPM enables that. But also, IT wants to become more business oriented and get close to the business needs and they see BPM as enabling that too so, it's solving two purposes there as well and I think those capabilities together are just making business more rapid and more effective.

Business driven IT, I see that as a positive for everyone. Now these acquisitions have been described as the death of pure play. How does Progress plan to stay as innovative as perhaps some might feel that a small company can be?

I know I've heard similar stories, Peter, around are the large vendors going to kill off BPM, well, absolutely not. I mean first the progress is committed to being a BPM vendor and to being a very good one. And that's why we chose Savvion; it's really one of the leading capabilities in the market and we're going to be putting more investments and more energy behind it. But Savvion has always been highly innovative. And in fact, so has Progress in number of our other capabilities and so we definitely don't want to lose the innovation that Savvion has brought to BPM. They've been a pioneer. They've invented many of the capabilities in BPM that we see today.

And similarly, Progress has brought a number of key capabilities to the market. I mean we invented the ESB. Really, we were the first vendor of Complex Event Processing and a number of other capabilities and we have teams that are highly innovative. I mean for example, we have a team in Cambridge, UK where we have 20 PhDs and amongst that team and lots of people coming from the university, they're developing new capabilities. We've inherited a number of really highly innovative people from Savvion. Innovation and pushing things forward is really key and that's been at the heart of this concept of responsive process management, which Progress are announcing which I think we're going to talk about a bit later.

Would you say that just focusing on process optimization is no longer enough for BPM?

Well, process optimization is clearly a key part of BPM and the goal being to continuously improve your business processes. But I think there are two areas where this needs to be enhanced and so I think it's still very important. But one of the areas is you need to be able to do it not just statically but in real time. And that's a lesson we've learned from customers. Customers seem to be focused on squeezing costs from their business, doing more with less, as well as increasing their revenue generating opportunities and keeping customer loyalty particularly over the last year it's really been about doing more with less.

And I think they've really analyzed their businesses as much as they can statically so now they're asking for can we achieve this in real time so looking for opportunities in the business or threats that we can react to and be highly responsive whether that be detecting fraud and preventing it. Whether it be doing one-to-one marketing, and pushing opportunities to customers based on their activity, or based on even their location and so on and so forth. We want to be able to do that in real time and that can involve detecting complex conditions maybe by analyzing events flowing through the business and then being able to change the way the process is actually running to dynamically optimize it in real time. So real time's one area.

The other area is that in more legacy businesses, BPM is great if you re-implement everything in the business but businesses kind of fail to do that. They have to keep running. So one of the opportunities is how do we actually apply BPM in the more legacy environment and our customers have been talking to us about this for a long time. They just want to know how effective their existing business is before they start replacing things.

And a legacy process might not be explicitly modeled but it's there because it's the interaction between a number of applications and flows between them through middleware, or web services, or whatever. And you want to be able to discover those flows if you like map the implicit business process and then be able to actually model it, detect where the bottlenecks are, where important customer orders being lost, etc. so you know where to focus and where you need to improve your processes with BPM. So I think the other two areas to improve optimization in the more legacy environments and in real time.

Can you drill down a little bit on event processing and BPM?

Absolutely. So one of the key ways in which you can achieve this real time optimization is by combining event processing and BPM together. So BPM is wonderful for all the reasons we've talked about but it doesn't really have that sensory nervous system if you like to be able to plug into the complex conditions that are changing in the business all the time. So it can take us through a process it can respond to events but what about the complex opportunities, and threats, and exceptions that we need to know about.

Well, that's exactly what Complex Event Processing or Business Event Processing or just event processing is all about. It's about being able to tap into those changing conditions in the business in real time and be able to detect business patterns that might involve a number of those events together that indicate or anticipate some kind of opportunity, threat, exceptional, some conditional critical to the business. And that's really a higher-level business event that we might need to launch a business process in response to or change the way a business process is working. So that's the way they work together and we've seen a high level of synergy of those capabilities in our customers and even our customers putting them together themselves. In airlines, for example, to create smarter airlines, in logistics, in communications for revenue assurance or for location based services and of course, in the financial services industry for trading risk compliance and beyond, and many other applications too.

You can definitely see where real time would have a competitive advantage. Now, how do you see organizations using BPM differently in the next five years per say?

Well, I think that the use of BPM is going to clearly grow and I think that it's going to from a BPM perspective it's going to add capabilities as we've been talking about through things like Complex Event Processing and through the ability to do business transaction management tapping into the existing business without ripping and replacing everything. So that's certainly going to happen but I'm a big believer that BPM's going to empower a next generation of what they call dynamic applications and really the difference between a dynamic application and a packaged application is that a packaged application is like liquid concrete.

Once you've poured it sets hard and it's very difficult to change. Whereas a dynamic application is built on a model and at anytime, you can go inside that model and change the way its working and this is really important because businesses are continuously evolving. But also, a dynamic application you need a dashboarding, and alerting to be able to actually see how the application's performing, and you even need to be able to look across a number of applications to see how the whole business is performing in terms of what's my risk level. What's my profitability and all sorts of other real time criteria.

So I think these are going to be the characteristics of applications that are going to be empowered by the next generation of BPM. We call it a Progress responsive process management and we call this unifying console a control tower because it's like the ability to gain control of your business, to go inside, change the way it's working to gain visibility through dashboards and alerts and actually change the way the business is running dynamically. So that's our vision for the way that BPM's going to evolve.

Well, that sounds like a good vision. Now, you've got some big news you guys are announcing, so can you just give me an overview of Progress' big news?

Absolutely. So we're announcing the Progress Responsive Process Management Suite and this is aligning the capabilities of business transaction management through our Actional product. Business Event Processing through our APAMA product and BPM through Savvion product together to create the concept to the responsive business process. Business processes that can adapt to complex conditions like opportunities and threats in real time and can even work in any environment without the need to rip and replace and going to continuous business improvement. And of course, there's also as part of that is the process control tower this unified console to be able to give visibility, control sense and respond, and to be able to change the way the business is running dynamically. So that's what we're announcing

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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