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Sandy Kemsley

Gartner Day 2: BEA sessions

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I really wanted to attend Daryl Plummer's analyst/user roundtable on BPM and Web 2.0, but they don't let press into those sessions, so I ducked in to hear Jesper Joergenson of BEA talk about Best Practices in Business Transformation. Jesper, I know that you're reading this -- no offence intended on being my second choice :)  I stayed through both half-hour sessions this time, seeing Jesper talk first, then BEA's customer, Christophe Marcel of Integro Insurance Brokers with Building the Business Case for BPM.

Joergenson started with a cooking theme for this "BPM secret sauce" talk: start with sharp knives, make big meals of small dishes, measure to taste and adjust as required, have a recipe, and follow the recipe. In BPM, this translates to start with common tools, build a platform out of small projects, use simulation and measurement, have established best practices, and follow those best practices. Cute theme, and some nice cooking utensil graphics, although I have to admit that I rarely follow a recipe in the kitchen, even if I bother to have one.

Christophe Marcel presenting at Gartner BPM summitHe talked about the importance of modelling tools for business users, with a shared process model for the IT side for implementation to avoid the inevitably incomplete round-tripping that happens when you model in one tool and implement in another. He also discussed how to identify suitable first targets for BPM implementation -- low complexity, high impact, and low maturity level -- while planning for scale in both the tool selection and the methodology, since one successful project will breed demand. He briefly discussed process simulation and measurement/monitoring, and the importance of a process centre of excellence.

After a brief break, Christophe Marcel talked about their experiences with BPM. Their focus was on integration, tying together a number of existing systems with a minimum amount of new development. They made use of both human-facing tasks and web services calls to update data in the underlying enterprise systems, and built their own web-based user interface. In addition to the enterprise data systems, they integrated Microsoft Sharepoint as their document management system.

One of the major challenges, which I've seen many times before whenever you integrate BPM with enterprise systems, is the issue of data synchronization. When data is replicated into the BPMS for display or control purposes, any changes to the data either in the BPMS or the underlying enterprise system need to be considered for replication to the other system. Similarly, if an entire insurance program is sold, all tasks the BPMS may need to be updated or deleted to reflect that change.

Marcel had some best practices to share: do a proof of concept; hire an experienced consultant; keep in mind that data synchronization is probably a lot more complex than you think it is; use your best business analysts on the workflow rather than the UI; and users want all of their tasks in a single system, whether that's the BPMS or their email.

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