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Full Transcript: The Business Process Expert and the Future of BPM: A New Role, Matched to New BPM Tools


Untitled Marco ten Vaanhold and Bruce Silver on Business Process Experts and BPMNS

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Participants in this podcast are ebizQ's Gian Trotta (GT), SAP's Marco ten Vaanholt (MtV) and independent industry analyst Bruce Silver (BS).

Gian Trotta: Welcome to a very special ebizQ podcast. I'm ebizQ's Gian Trotta. Today we'll talk about some exciting new tools that help the ongoing fusion of IT and business skills into a new breed of professional known as the Business Process Expert. It's a role that's crucial to the future of BPM and SOA, and it will be covered in even greater detail during the February 28 ebizQ Webinar. This podcast is designed to provide a quick but detailed preview of that Webinar's content and concepts.

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Find out more about our Feb. 28th Webinar: 'The Business Process Expert and the Future of BPM: A New Role, Matched to New BPM Tools'

One of the BPX's key functions is to translate the business description of processes' workings into process models that can combine the business requirement and the foundation of executable process implementations. New modeling standards, like Business Process Modeling Notation, now make this possible. BPMN is simple enough to be readily understandable by business-side staff yet rich enough to support executable implementation. It's become the announced or de facto standard of BPM suite vendors.

Here to elaborate on what a BPX does, and how he or she can best employ BPMN are two experts in the field.

Marco ten VaanholtMarco ten Vaanholt is the global head of SAP's Business Process Expert (or BPX) Community -- the largest business process community in the world, with over 250,000 members covering 16 industries and horizontal areas such as GRC and CRM. Industry experts, business analysts, application consultants, IT managers, enterprise architects and many others engage in moderated forums, wikis, and expert blogs to drive process innovation through collaboration, best-practice sharing, and collective learning.

Bruce SilverBruce Silver is an independent industry analyst and consultant focused on business process management. He delivers training on Process Modeling with BPMN through BPMessentials.com and the BPM Institute, and writes the popular BPMS Watch blog at www.brsilver.com/wordpress. He is also author of the BPMS Report series of BPM Suite evaluations available from bpminstitute.org, and co-chair of the BPM Institute's BPM Conference series. Welcome, gentlemen.

MtV: Thank you.

BS: Thank you.

GT: Lets start of with a fundamental question. Marco, what does a Business Process Expert do, and the why are they important to the success of BPM?

MtV: Thank you for the question, Gian. Business Process Experts are internal or external people in the organization who can bridge the gap between business and IT. They serve normally as mediating and interpreting between those two groups. And basically, a BPX is someone who can take business requirements, understands them and translate those requirements to a practical technological solution or perhaps another different type of solution. Normally unique processes can be made more controllable and efficient using a spectrum of solutions, but sometimes part of that process should change.

A BPX should know when to make that particular call. When we asked our community, they came up with a full definition of what a business process expert is and what it does. One of the good things about our BPX community is there are about 250,000 aspiring BPXers or BPXers themselves who are talking about this particular role. So what I wanted to do is kind of briefly go over what the BPX community is as well as what the role does.

So inside a BPX community, we have about 16 industry forms as well as nine horizontal areas such as discussions around analytics, corporate performance management, but also discussions around corporate social responsibility, customer relationship management, governance, risk and compliance, or organizational change management.

Another thing is that inside the BPX community you can collaborate with community members to get feedback and input for specific business process ideas. Another aspect of our community is that you can learn from other companies than your own and get inspired to add your own experience inside the community. There is also the ability for you to showcase how your company or you yourself are doing business process optimization or innovation and through that, you perhaps can solve the problem faster.

Another good thing about our community is we have many thought leaders inside the community such as Bruce Silver himself that are writing articles. We have tons of articles, white papers and case studies on best practices, methodologies, enterprise SOA written by the community as well as SAP experts.

Last but not least, there's tons of training as well as well as education and certification opportunities related to this specific BPX role. So this is in a nutshell what the BPX community is all about.

So one of the things that are important is to understand that there is an evolving idea of BPX education and training. And one of the elements in the past I talked about together with the community is about people -- that people will basically have to enhance their modeling skills. Bruce, why do you think enhancing your modeling skills are increasing more important today as well as in the future? What are your thoughts on this?

BS: Thanks, Marco. Process modeling has always been the first step to business process improvement. When you're talking about cross-functional business processes, often they've never even been documented before end-to-end. And process modeling provides a structured way to do that. Now, traditionally modeling has been inherently a business function, and the primary link between business and some implementation of the process that's created by IT. But BPMN is now changing the role of business process modeling and is getting business even more directly involved in the implementation. That's because BPMN is not only good for business-friendly process capture and documentation and analysis but it has the semantic expressiveness and precision to serve as an ongoing foundation, the actual foundation for the IT implementation.

And BPM suites today are being architected to work that way. That is, not to use the model as just initial requirements but as the underpinning of the actual implementation itself. This new role for process modeling requires a new organizational role -- the BPXer who straddles business and IT. And it means that a critical skill for the BPXer is to learn to create BPMN models that are both intelligible to business and precise and expressive enough to underpin an ongoing process implementation and evolution. And that requirement really elevates the importance of education and skills training, particularly in process modeling for the BPXer.

MtV: Bruce, when you talk about BPMN and modeling; where should someone start and what are practical considerations you think people should be aware of?

BS: Okay, well BPMN is a public standard from OMG and you can get hold of the specs for free and read it. But most people don't get educated in that way. Because it is a vendor-independent standard, there are many sources of tools and many sources of education. And a number of them are free, for example, on the BPX community Web site that you spoke about.

MtV: Right

BS: I produced a series of six articles on BPMN, and particularly it's role as a business process expert that talks about various aspects of the notation and how to use it effectively. And along with that, on the same Web site, I've produced a companion series of e-learning Flash videos, totaling two hours on how to do process modeling with BPMN or hands-on, looking at it with Flash video. And that's free as well. And if you really want to learn BPMN thoroughly, you can do that through other sources. For example, BPMessentials.com provides comprehensive training in process modeling of BPMN with lots of exercises and individualized feedback and certification.

So the great thing about a standard is that there are multiple sources of learning. As far as practical considerations, the main one that comes to mind is that any modeling tool that has a run-time engine behind it is going to support not all of the BPMN stack but just a subset of it. So you can learn exotic things that are allowed by the notation that turn out not to be supported in your particular tool so that's something to be aware of. That's why, for example, in the BPX materials that I've created, we focus on the common diagram elements and patterns that are supported by most modeling tools and are most commonly used.

MtV: Great, thank you. Now since you're one of the thought leaders in the whole BPM world, what do you think the future will hold? Why should people become BPXers according to you? It's a big discussion topic in our community, but I would like to get your viewpoint.

BS: Well, I'd go back to where I started a couple of minutes ago, that BPMN, process modeling is changing the way BPM solutions are built -- more of a collaboration between business and IT rather than the way it used to be, which was a hand-off of requirements. And when business creates requirements and IT tries to interpret those and create an implementation, that translation isn't always perfect and it tends to take longer. So a more direct collaboration makes things go faster and allows business to get more directly involved.

And that elevates the importance of this new role, the BPXer. It makes it ever more important that their skills are up to the challenge, because in a sense, they have to serve two communities. The line of business itself and IT developers and be credible to both communities because they're bringing business and IT together to create this new generation of agile BPM and SOA solutions.

The BPX community site is a great example of the kind of support and learning resources that BPXers are going to need to rise to that occasion. And as that community grows, the knowledge and skill base its represents is going to continue to make it easier for new BPXers to get going quickly.

MtV: Thank you.

GT: If I may jump in here - this is Gian - Marco, before this podcast, one of our readers wrote in and asked "Do you have a telling case study of an individual BPX in action?"

MtV: Actually, we have a few stories inside the community. We have tons of community members describing "A Day in the Life of." We have Helen Sunderland, who is one our resident BPXers, who wrote a blog series about how her days look in the life of a BPXer. The funny thing, what happens is, as a result of that blog, another person -- his name is Dale Van Sluytman -- started an open discussion with Helen about his viewpoints on the "Day in the Life of."

And in many cases, a BPXer is someone who is both a moderator and sometimes I talk about them as marriage counselors, you know, which is basically what they are doing. They are straddling IT and business. But the future of a BPXer is also that they are going to use more and more modeling tools. In our SAP world, that means Visual Composer or it means using the tool that is ARIS or basically a modeling tool, which is an extension of Visio. So in the past, a lot of people used Visio but nowadays there are more and more of these online modeling tools which will enable BPXers to create a solution faster. And what I would like to do is invite people to come to the community -- bpx.sap.com -- and just type in the name "Helen Sunderland" and basically you can read all about "A Day in the Life of" and you'll see some threads around it, which are a pretty good indication of what a BPXer does on a normal day.

GT: We actually did promote Helen's blog series in an earlier SAP special on ebizQ and I know it proved popular with our readers, so I think that's an excellent example. Marco and Bruce, I'd like to thank you both for a very timely and illuminating presentation.

MtV: Thank you.

BS: Thank you.

GT: Marco, while we are here -- where can readers go for even more information about the themes of today's podcast?

MtV: So all the information is available inside our community, bpx.sap.com for more information about the community but also for articles like Bruce Silver's articles and e-learning series. He has a full wiki page and there's tons information around BPMN and how it helps a BPXer evolve.

GT: Okay. I believe that one for our readers is http://www.ebizq.net/to/bpxlearn. I'd also like to remind everyone that Bruce and Marco would be glad to take any questions you might have on the http://www.ebizq.net/to/sapwebinar homepage. We're looking forward to seeing all our listeners at the February 28 Webinar -- and in future presentations that we are confident will continue to help inform and empower all involved, much as this one did.

This is Gian Trotta thanking all our listeners for attending.

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