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Dr. Bruce Silver of BPMEssentials.com on BPM Training


Welcome to another First Look podcast -- I'm your host, ebizQ Project Manager Gian Trotta.

A recent survey of 146 companies Professor Yvonne Antonucci of Widener University showed that a staggering 54% of respondents were planning on sending their employees to external BPM training -- but were unable to find appropriate training mainly because they did not know what training was needed.

This coincides with a large number of our First Look listeners who are asking for information BPM training programs.

With us today is Dr. Bruce Silver, a leading independent BPM industry analyst and author of the 2006 BPMS Report series, the blog BPMS Watch, and a regular column for the BPM Institute. He's also the author of two BPM training courses, one on BPM Tools and Technology, and a new one, Process Modeling with BPMN.

Welcome, Bruce and thank you for joining us.

Bruce Silver: Thanks;I'm very pleased to be here today.

Gian Trotta: What kind of training in BPM are people looking for today? Who is looking for it, and what are the essential skills BPM training tries to convey?

BS: My initial foray into user training was related to tools and technology for process execution and monitoring, so-called BPM Suites -- workflow, integration middleware, business rules, and BAM. What each piece does, how to pick the right product for your own business process. I've been doing that for two years in conjunction with the Brainstorm BPM conferences.

But I've discovered that most people getting into BPM are not yet ready for that. They're really trying to learn the basics. What is BPM? How do I do it? They're starting at the beginning. The first thing they want to do is to model their current or as-is process, analyze its shortcomings, and perhaps model improved to-be processes. So I believe the #1 thing users want today in BPM training is how to do that -- a step-by-step approach, a methodology for process modeling.

GT: Who are these users

BS: Typically they call themselves business analysts; perhaps process analysts or business architects, or maybe members of a BPM project team or center of excellence. They're not developers. Although they might sit in the IT organization, their perspective is that of the business.http://www.bpmessentials.com/bpmn/training/en/

The essential skill these users are looking for is how to organize their thinking about their own business processes in an effective way, and then how to translate that thinking into the structure of a model. The thing I've learned about training in general is that far more than the "What is it?" part, users want to know "How do I do it?"

GT: How does your new course, Process Modeling with BPMN, reflect the latest requirements from enterprises engaged in BPM?http://www.bpmessentials.com/bpmn/training/en/

BS: Historically, process modeling tools have been proprietary. Excellent tools, elaborate and expensive, and each tool vendor offers its own methodology and training around that particular tool. But that means users need to bet on a particular tool before they really understand what process modeling is, or how to do it. http://www.bpmessentials.com/bpmn/training/en/

In the past year or so, we've seen a surge in interest around BPMN, an OMG standard for business process modeling. Because it is a standard, the notation, i.e. the shapes and lines and rules, is common to many tools, and those tools are inexpensive, in some cases free. And it is public - you don't even have to buy a tool to understand how to use BPMN. BPMN is a bit different than traditional flowcharts or swimlane diagrams. Those notations came out of a human workflow paradigm -- a process inherently involved handoffs between people. BPMN supports human workflow as well, but it also supports SOA, the notion that a process can also orchestrate the various IT systems around the enterprise through service interfaces. So it includes support for things like events and transactions, and makes exception handling explicit in the process model. If you use the full set of elements, you could say BPMN is perhaps more challenging conceptually than traditional flowcharting.

Also, OMG proudly says that BPMN has no built-in methodology. It can be used in a wide variety of ways, from high-level process description to performance analysis to even generating process implementations in BPEL and other execution languages.

So you have the situation here of a popular standard, with no vendor-provided methodology and training, no OMG-provided methodology, and -- on the surface at least -- it's more complicated than traditional modeling. And users want to know how to do process modeling with it. That's the need we're trying to fill with the new training Process Modeling with BPMN.

GT: What does the training specifically cover?

BS: It provides a methodology for how to organize your thinking about end to end processes, how to do top-down modeling using BPMN sub-processes, drilling down as needed to add detail, and then how to translate that thinking into the notation.

We show you how to use BPMN at 3 distinct levels:

  1. Descriptive modeling, the kind most BPM consultants typically talk about -- high-level, not especially rigorous, but easy to communicate across the organization, linked with a methodology for how to do it.
  2. Analytic modeling, more detailed, showing all the steps, the exceptions, needed to either analyze process performance using simulation or create detailed requirements for an IT implementation, and
  3. Executable modeling, where BPMN can actually generate implementation code. This is really execution-language dependent, so the training focuses mostly on levels 1 and 2.

So we offer the training in 3


GT: Can you describe each section of training?

BS: The first one, which we call BPMN Essentials, focuses on the subset of commonly used diagram elements and patterns to show the broad base of process modelers how to capture their as-is and describe improved to-be processes using a top-down how-to methodology. The second section, which we call BPMN Deep Dive, focuses on events and exception handling, the part that goes beyond traditional workflow and is admittedly harder for some business people to grasp.

It's really not that hard, and you really need to model at this level in order to analyze your process performance or to use the model as a requirements document. The third section, Simulation Analysis with BPMN, talks about how to run your model through a simulation engine to analyze process performance. That's not part of the BPMN spec, but it is a part of most process modeling tools, so we show you how to do it in 3 specific use cases -- cycle time improvement, optimizing resource utilization, and activity based costing.

In the training, users get a mix of theory and hands-on with an excellent BPMN tool, Process Modeler for Visio from ITP commerce.

This training is brand new. We're offering it both online on-demand and in a classroom setting. The online version, through the Web site bpmessentials.com, is first.

GT: What are the advantages and disadvantages of online as opposed to in-person training?

The advantage of online/on-demand is convenience. You take the training from your own desktop at your own pace. It's organized into 15 Flash videos, totaling seven and half hours, which play through a browser. We also provide student notes in PDF. Flash is great because in addition to the narrated slide show you can include screencams of using the tool, automated pauses to let the student complete exercises before showing the solution, and quizzes.

There are also exercises you have to complete. Some we give the answers to inline in the training. Others we don't, and you have to email them in to complete the certification requirements.

BS: How important a factor is certification?

We think certification is important. This makes for a couple hoops to jump through, but we will publicize the list of certified students on the BPM essentials Web site. Understanding how to use BPMN correctly and effectively is an important skill, and we think it should be recognized. We're offering certification at both the BPMN Essentials level and the BPMN Deep Dive level, so you don't have to go through all 15 parts to be certified.

GT: And what about classroom training?

BS: The advantage of classroom training is really that some people learn better in a classroom setting. The live interaction helps them stay engaged with the material. The instructor is there to answer questions, about the material or about the tool we're using. The standard classroom version is a 2-day course, and it can be customized for companies to incorporate their own processes. The disadvantage is you need to block out the time, go to the classroom facility, and it costs a bit more. We're also planning to license the training so that consultants and training departments can give it themselves, but there is a strict certification process required for licensed instructors. Students completing the classroom version will be certified as well.

GT: Besides Process Modeling with BPMN, what other courses should comprise a comprehensive program of BPM training?

BS: I've been having discussions with others in the BPM field about an end-to-end curriculum that starts with BPM 101, the "What is BPM as a Management Discipline?" and includes this Process Modeling with BPMN course, also things like how to facilitate the process information gathering, the BPM 102 Tools and Technologies, and perhaps specific other ones on business rules, BAM, and similar topics. Maybe others that connect BPM to semi-related methodologies like Six Sigma and LEAN.

GT:What future developments do you see in BPM training?

BS: It's a bit early now, but eventually I would like to see some kind of common curriculum and certification for BPM professionals. Whether that is based on a test or standard exercises, I don't know. But some kind of generally recognized credential industry-wide would both raise the quality of BPM projects and make solid understanding of BPM a marketable skill in the corporate world.

GT: Thank you, Bruce, and good luck with all your endeavors. For more information on your courses, where should users go?

BS: They should check out bpmessentials.com, or send email to bruce (at) bpmessentials.com

GT: Our pleasure, Bruce!

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