Saturday, 18 February 2012

Innovation Games - A Fun Way to Discover Customer Insight and Improve Product Marketing

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In my recent article "The Game of Process Improvement", I referred to a book called "Innovation Games". The book is packed with details on how any of us can leverage Innovation Games to gain greater insight into our customers and users. Something that is critical to the success of BPM and Process projects, but also can be applied to the vendors of these, and other products too. Last week I spend some time talking with Luke, the author, about the book, the games and his company.

When it comes to the use of games in business I am a firm believer that they should enable people to learn. As I mentioned in my previous article, we learn more by play than by analysis. Luke, though, is concerned about making sure people understand that his games are not seen as simply a learning tool, but a business tool directed towards delivering specific outcomes. Of course he still believes that they can and should be fun!

Luke has undertaken a lot of research into the linkages between the brain and productivity. In his words: "Productivity Games are not simply 'more fun' - they are literally more effective. This is due to the fact that the concept of play is deeply integrated into human beings' mental development."

"Studies tell us that there are parts of the brain that we do not access when we are simply discussing our views, or trying to think through a complicated situation. However, when we play a well structured game with other interested players, our actions, interactions with other players, and explanations of our behaviour can provide a better, more comprehensive view of how and why we make certain decisions."

Innovation Games, although a relatively young company, boasts an extremely impressive customer list. Companies, including Adobe, SAP, Aladdin, Wyse, Google and Qualcomm, have all leveraged Innovation Games to to improve holistic design thinking, discover new business opportunities, drive strategy and product road map decisions, improve the effectiveness of sales and service organisations, fine tune marketing messages, and create more intimate, durable relationships with customers.

One of the challenges that Luke has faced over the years is the stigma associated with the idea of using games in business. In part this is due to the mistaken understanding that games do not equate to work. This has led to him and others using the term "serious games", although he (and I) prefer the term that he also uses - "Productivity Games" - to try and overcome these obstacles.

I agree totally with Luke that the objective has to be to deliver objective, useable business outcomes, and Innovation Games amply delivers on this front. I also come from the perspective that, for effective change to take hold, then people need not just outcomes but the learning. The ability to come to their own "Aha!" or "Light Bulb" moment. So for me it is also about going back and seeing how people learn most effectively and, as we say, this is through structured play.

What I can see is that there is a need for people to be able to understand how to differentiate between unstructured and structured play. I can also see that even the most boring of analysis tasks can be made to be more fun through games. So perhaps we could use terms like "Strategy Games" or "Objective Gaming" to make it clear that in board game terms it is more like 'Risk' or 'Diplomacy' rather than 'Ludo' or 'Snakes & Ladders' - e.g. it is a game, should be fun, but is directed toward a targeted outcome. As mentioned in the previous article, there are many business leaders who have successfully grown businesses using their love of, and skill at, the game of chess to succeed.

Truly successful games need to deliver both concrete outcomes and learning. The outcomes ensure that you are making good use of your time and getting business value, while the learning ensures that your people continue to grow and develop. The great thing about the Innovation Games concept, as developed and promoted by Luke, is that it delivers on both counts. One only has to take a look in more depth at the success stories to see how much has been saved/made/changed to understand that the results are definitely there. If you take the time to talk with people who have been involved in those projects, you will hear them enthuse about learning things that they did not even realise were important.

Next week, during my trip to California, I hope to meet with Luke and learn first hand more about the way he and the team leverage Innovation games.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Nimbus Sale to TIBCO

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It was interesting to see that TIBCO's acquisition of Nimbus generated so many negative comments in the analyst and blog community. Some suggested it was a strange acquisition, while others suggested it was a "Fire Sale". Perhaps I stand alone in thinking that it was a clever move by both parties.

Nimbus has acquired something of a reputation among their competitors for closing sales where others did not even know that there was a requirement! In part this is down to the difference of the Nimbus sales model. The management team at Nimbus almost all came from major consulting firms and, as such, have great connections at the CXO level. Over the years Nimbus very cleverly worked that network and focussed on real business engagement with business leaders, resulting in them being able to open doors, make a pitch and then close the door before others knew anything about it.

Many other vendors talk about selling to the business, but invariably still end up talking to the IT side. Nimbus has always talked about and executed a strategy that focussed purely on senior business leaders.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Easy Exchange of Process Models Between Tools

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For years now one of the great challenges faced by those using a process modeling tool is how to exchange data. With the advent of BPEL and XPDL the sharing of model data with execution tools became easier. Although as many of those who have tried to use such an exchange will tell you, things are far from being “standard”

At the other end of the spectrum has been the issue of how can I share models between users of different modelling tools? Perhaps you want to upgrade from one toolset to another or maybe you use a number of different tools and want to try and synchronise data.

Some years ago a small UK based vendor called “Software One” created a product called “Exchange” to address the problem. They created a hub and spoke system that would allow you to exchange and share information between modelling tools. The company was bought by Oracle in the late 1990’s and the product seemed to disappear from view.

I am pleased to be able to share with you that there is now another similar solution. The product BPM-X has been developed by a small but growing German software vendor by the name of Transware.

BPM-X appears to be quite an elegant solution, and they have already demonstrated the sharing of information between major modelling tools such as Casewise, MEGA, IDS Scheer and Provision. Additionally the pattern based transformation engine will also help with the transformations required for execution tools such as Tibco.

The BPM-X solution does not just help with process models, it can be used for other data, for example one of the mappings they illustrate is between MEGA and Visual Studio for UML transformations.

“With many organisations making greater use of BPMN we were getting many requests from clients who wanted a way to move from vendor based notation to standard notation, having researched the market we established that while there were many point to point approaches, there was no common approach. Hence we created BPM-X to help address such conversions. By taking a pattern based approach we were able to create a toolset that has great flexibility, but can also handle the many customisations made by some of the specialist tool vendors.” Heinz-Jurgen Scherer, CEO of Transware told me. He went on to say “With the growth in interest around BPMN the situation of sharing and transforming data between and across tools is now critical and Transware believes that the ability to exchange information easily will help to drive increased adoption of BPMS tools, while potentially reducing costs and speeding the implementation time for solutions.

I certainly agree with Heinz-Jurgen that the ability to free themselves from any vendor lock down will appeal to many organisations. I also think that sometimes people under estimate how many different tools are in use in large organisations today. With increased focus on risk and governance, the ability to potentially share information and create a master version of the single source of truth has to be a good thing.

Transware has published a white paper that explains more about the method behind the product and details of how effective transformations can be achieved. The can access the paper by following the link

Personally I think that Transware are really on to something here, there has been a gap in the market for a good transformation tool for sometime. My understanding is that to date they have been generating a lot of interest.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Lisbon Through The Eyes of Process

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Last year, while at a conference, I was challenged by delegates! The challenge should I be willing to accept it, was to test whether I really could find ideas and inspiration for process improvement all around me. We were to head out on a short tour of the beautiful city of Lisbon and I was to try and find ways that the tour could relate to process.

I will let you the reader judge how I got on.

Our first stop was the  Hieronymites Monastery. The 316 meters long facade of the Monastery was started in 1502 and finished in 1580. There is beautiful lacework in stone, with statues of saints and navigators, maritime instruments, animals from Africa, vegetable elements, ropes in connection with boats, monsters of the ocean, and medallions with faces of the natives of different countries like America, Africa and India and so on, in what we call Manueline style, a decoration in the special limestone of Lisbon. The 92 meters long church is 25 meters high and is considered a masterpiece of architecture that refused to give in to the earthquakes.
The stained glass windows are replicas, the original being destroyed by an earthquake. Even so, the structure stood firm being the ceiling a masterpiece of architecture, which seems to be uphold in the sky by graceful palm-trees. The new world had been recently found as the discovery of the sea way to the East, thus bringing new concepts, trade and wealth to the country, that was partly used on the construction of monuments like this.

Process Relevance: After standing for a while admiring the workmanship, I turned to the gentlemen next to me and wondered out loud "Look at the detail and accuracy, isn't it amazing that all those hundreds of years ago we were able to construct the most complex of structures, using only the simplest of tools. Yet, here we are today talking about process and we seem to need the most complex of tools to do the simplest of things - and we call it progress!

From the Cathedral we moved on to the Belem Tower. Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland.

It is a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.

Built in the Manueline style, it incorporates many stonework motifs of the Discoveries, sculptures depicting historical figures such as St. Vincent and an exotic rhinoceros that inspired Dürer's drawing of the beast.

Originally standing proudly in the centre of the river protecting the people of Lisbon, today stands on land and serves as nothing more than a monument to the past.

Process Relevance: Just as the changing course or the river caused the fort to change its role and relevance in order to survive we too need to change. Have or will our businesses and processes change fast enough? or are we still busy creating what will surely become nothing more than monuments of the past?

Next up on our whistle stop tour was a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator. Portugal is a country that has no coast along the Mediterranean Sea so the country's advances in worldwide exploration centuries ago comes at no surprise. However, it was the passion and goals of one man, Prince Henry,  who truly moved Portuguese exploration forward. Prince Henry was born in 1394 as the third son of King John  Portugal. In 1418, at the age of 24, Prince Henry founded his Institute at Sagres on the southwestern-most point of Portugal, Cape Saint Vincent - a place ancient geographers referred to as the western edge of the earth. The institute, best described as a fifteenth century research and development facility, included libraries, an astronomical observatory, ship-building facilities, a chapel, and housing for staff.

The institute was designed to teach navigational techniques to Portuguese sailors, to collect and disseminate geographical information about the world, to invent and improve navigational and seafaring equipment, to sponsor expeditions, and to spread Christianity around the world. Prince Henry brought together some of the leading geographers, cartographers, astronomers, and mathematicians from throughout Europe to work at the institute.

Process Relevance: Prince Henry (CEO) decided he needed to create a new future, so he learned new skills, and created a Navigation School so as to equip his people people with the skills they needed in order to support this future. In our businesses we tend to try and tell the management what the future should be, and they in turn decline the opportunity for us to meet people and learn new skills. It seems that hundreds of years ago smart CEO's knew that in order to make change happen, they first had to train and educate the work force in the skills required to succeed. 

Our last stop was to be the center of the old town, where no surprise, refreshments would be in order! On our way we were told by our guide to expect to see something special and something that most Lisboners fail to see.Of course I was intrigued. What we were shown were hundreds of meters of some of the most ornate pavements All sorts of designs and colors in exquisite patterns. We were then told that the reason that the people of Lisbon don't see them is that they are too close, for the these are simply the routes to walk for their work, or play or perhaps just shopping. It is only when such things are looked at through the eyes of a tourist do people see what is actually happening in front of them.

As I said at the top of this article I will leave it for you to judge whether I succeeded in my challenge. No comments needed about the sadness of seeing work in everything I do, I am fortunate enough to live and work my passion, so in the end work is play.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is There Really an Enterprise Architecture Market?

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Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Gartner EA Conference in London. Although the event appeared to be well attended from a delegate perspective, the same cannot be said for the exhibitors! There were only 9 of them - Alfabet, Architecting the Enterprise, Casewise, IBM, iterplan, MEGA, Metastorm, Software AG and Troux.

Seeing so few vendors present led me to ask the question, is there really an Enterprise Architecture market. Sure there are greater numbers of people talking about EA, attending events and joining groups, but this alone does not create a market. If one was to add together the EA revenues of all the players present I estimate that the sum would be at a maximum $100m, then if we add in the revenues of other vendors not present we might get to around $200-$300m, not an insignificant number, but in software terms not really enough to make a market.

I may not be alone in my assessment, looking at the signage of the booths and talking with the vendors, even they seem uncertain. Alfabet were at pains to point out to me that they were not an EA player, but an IT planning tool vendor (apparently they only play in EA because Gartner say they are in the EA space!), MEGA seem to be playing increasingly in the GRC (Governance, Compliance & Risk) market, although they still had an EA story - as an aside they were making an interesting claim, they suggest that they are the only EA vendor that is profitable and debt free, I am not certain about this claim. Iteraplan told me that they are really a consulting company with a tool for their customers to use. Metastorm are mainly a BPM vendor, only playing in EA as a result of their acquisition of Proforma. Software AG with IDS Scheer talk to EA, but seem more rooted in BPA and now SOA and middleware.  From what I could see, at the event at least only Casewise and Troux appeared to be seriously promoting EA (Others such as MEGA did talk to it, but it did not seem there key message).

Changes are apparently afoot at Gartner too, some of the vendors told me that this year will see a revamp of the EA magic quadrant, with open source tools and other small vendors being included. A sure sign that Gartner too feel that they are not getting enough traction in their EA practice (from vendors).

While at the event I also managed to catch up with Brian Burke, Gartner VP, it is nearly 8 years since I sat down and recorded an interview on the state of the EA market with Brian, so a catch up was long overdue.

According to Brian "EA as a discipline is intended to solve a wide variety of problems IT/Business and Application oriented, it is intended to provide insight and enable organizations to be more proactive. However, for the most part it has not been focused enough on the the high impact business problems. A skilled EA knows how to cut through the noise and to focus narrowly on only the key business problems and then delivers value against those quickly." Brian also reminded me that too many people "still think of EA as and end in and of itself."

I also asked Brian about how he saw the market changes over the past few years, as it seemed that the products in the space did not seem to have evolved much. He shared some thoughts which best remain private, but did point out that there are now more people doing EA than there were before. He did seem to suggest, though not in as many words, that perhaps the EA space was more of a focused niche than a full market.

His final thoughts were that perhaps "EA could do more to assist with looking ad the value added activities and managing in a boundary less world."

The other fashion that seems to be taking hold is around Business Architecture (indeed I recently wrote a paper which Casewise bought on this subject, 7 Steps to BA Success you can get a copy via This causes me to wonder if EA belongs to an age of Data Centricity, whereas today in a world of process centricity Business Architecture may make more sense, maybe it has a greater emphasis on those value adds that Brian talked off.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Playing With Casewise's New iPad App

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If you have been following my "tweets" then you will know that I was lucky enough top pick up an Apple iPad a few weeks ago while in the USA, and I have to say I love it! Some of you may already be playing with it, while others may be waiting anxiously on the postman next week to see if he will bring you your pre-ordered machine.

Much of the press coverage has centered around the fact that it is a potentially game changing personal multi-media, content serving device. This of course may be true, but some software developers with a more visionary approach, see that it has major applicability in the business marketplace and are looking to develop applications for the device.

To my mind at least software vendors in the BPM space have been a little slow in understanding and embracing mobile devices and the iPad in particular. One look at the US App Store says that in other segments developers have been preparing their offerings for some time.

Now that appears to be changing, I was fortunate enough to met up with some of the team at Casewise and they told me about some of their plans. More importantly (for me!) they kindly installed their new iPad App on my machine and have let me play with it. I have to say that it looks really cool and from what I can see has the makings of something very special. As with any product, it was easy to come up with a wish list or an if-only list, but many of those things I thought already appear to be on the roadmap.

In addition to looking at the App, the team also shared with me some of their thoughts about how the market is changing and what people will need in order to be able to respond to those changes. Radical, was the word that sprang to my mind, but at the same time relief, that at last someone seems to get where the market needs to go. I am a firm believer in modeling, but also a worrier. A worrier in that unless the modeling tool vendors really step up their game they will find it increasingly hard to compete against other genres of tools taking a relatively lightweight approach to analysis and design.

Of course, they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, and sure enough tomorrow I have to repay their kindness by showing the App to visitors at the GartnerGroup EA Conference in London - seems that if you actually have an iPad right now you are in demand! So if you are attending the event and are interested to see it, pop by their booth and make an appointment.

You can learn more about what Casewise are planning for the iPad and a whole host of other devices by reading the press release that they put out today.

Click here to read the Casewise iPad Press Release

Friday, 19 February 2010

IS BPMS Just the New Word For Application Development

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With the recent acquisitions of Lombardi and Savvion some are questioning the long term viability of BPMS vendors. They may be right, they may be wrong, but certainly things are changing.

If you look at some of the key players in the BPM market today you see names like Progress, Software AG, Oracle and IBM, all of whom come from an application development background. Interestingly enough in the case of the first three they were also key players in the 4GL market. This brings me back to the title of this post, is BPMS now just becoming the next incarnation of application development.

Of course interestingly enough back in the 1990's we also had three other vendors of note TI, Forte and Dynasty, each of whom were trying to promote the idea of a model driven approach to development with little or no programming involved. At the time these vendors struggled and one by one fell by the wayside, due in a major part to resistance from programmers who suggested that black box application development was not appropriate. I wonder if they were not more right than people realized at the time. One could have thought of them as the BPMS vendors of their time, if it were not the case that largely they took a data-centric rather than a process-centric view of life.

Today the world is very different; many organisations have either downsized or outsourced their development teams. The armies of developers seem to be shrinking. The time taken to bring applications to market is shorter and the need for flexibility is greater.

It was during this potential trough of disillusionment that we saw the rise of package applications, component based development with a high level of granularity. The use of such applications certainly enabled organisations to focus on their own business rather than that of building systems, but the high cost of maintenance, the challenges of implementation and the monolithic style seems to be going out of favour. Again we see the needs for agility and flexibility going against the traditional ERP type approaches. It some ways these vendors helped to make us understand process better, for many it was not until they started to change their organisation to fit the application that the need to understand how people work really came home.

So we saw the rise of the BPMS approach, it was to be a marriage of good process thinking and practice with new technology to enable us to do things we never thought possible. In part this has been true; in part it has missed the objective. The needs of any organisation are complex, to consider process without considering data is highly risky, and now increasingly interest is turning to rules too. So if we are to create systems taking into account process, data and rules, then we are simply going back to plain simple application development, hence the inevitability that that as the market matures we will see the dominant players coming from the ranks of the application development vendors.

So who may yet come to the party? Sybase, Compuware, and Unify are all names that have yet to seriously enter the BPMS fray, while one cannot be sure they will, given their strong 4GL heritage I think they offer good potential exit routes for some of the BPMS vendors and it is hard to see how they can let the others in their space have things their own way for too long.

As the market evolves other vendors such as Magic Software are likely to see resurgence too, they played well in the 4GL, application generation market and are still operating in the market. Interestingly enough we may yet see another twist before Magic comes to the fore. Magic changed their business model many years ago, recognising that actually their clients did not simply want to build applications, they wanted to buy them. So Magic started to use their own products to build applications or solutions for specific verticals. This is likely to be something we see more of over the next few years, BPMS vendors selling not just a platform, but core solution blocks, with the added benefit to clients that they can easily be customised to suit their own environment. This will be important to users as they seek to maintain competitive advantage in their markets, something that the ERP solutions made difficult for them.

So it could yet be that the Object Management Group's (OMG) vision of Model Driven Architecture may yet come true, just that it may operate at a far higher level of granularity than they envisaged. MDA being used to assemble and customise components, rather than create components.

Finally then to the Modelling tool vendors, here my hope is that at least some of the independent vendors survive, they will have to work hard to deliver more by way of pre-built models and to play more easily with a greater number of vendors, but we need them. As mentioned before we need to address issues of process with issues of data and to be able to deal with rules too. When you combine that with the need to understand and mange impact, to communicate effectively and to address proper anlaysis, it is hard to see how we can manage without them. The raft of BPMS Vendor based and free tools are certainly giving users choice and make some things easier, but in the long run to model one piece of the jigsaw without the others is to create another problem.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Oracle to buy Metastorm?

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With the blogs and news services full of the story of IBM's acquisition of Lomabardi, I thought it might be nice to look at what else might be happening out there. As others have stated we have no idea of the price paid and so what premium or discount there may have been on the business. But, what we can ask is if Lombardi were really doing as well as they say, if it really was leading the pack as some suggest, then why give up now?

Of course we can argue that it is just part of the natural consolidation in the industry. Well that maybe so, but the industry as we call it is still full of many small to mid size players, all of whom are having to focus too many of their hard earned dollars on product instead of market development. Some would argue and I would agree that the pace of consolidation has been far slower than we might have imagined 2 or 3 years ago. In part I suggest this maybe due to unreal valuations and in some cases the ego of the CTO lead businesses, for others it may be that the money they were taking was not impacting on the majors, whereas now it may well be.

So as the shake out continues who will be seen as the players, well obviously we have to say IBM and Software AG are the main players, with Tibco and Oracle also getting good mentions, from my own perspective I would not rule out Global 360 as staying in the game, they have a solid customer base and good support revenues from which to keep building and Cordys are certainly one to watch. Despite the acquisition of BEA and with it Fuego, Oracle it seems to be is still not seen as a major player. I am sure that what they have appeals to some Oracle customers but i don't really seem them making waves in the space. (I have purposely chosen not to comment on SAP or Microsoft here, because they can move in whatever direction they want with just marketing and without even needing product)

Of course it may well be that Oracle is content to stay as they are, but I doubt it. With Software AG buying IDS Scheer it is likely, in my opinion that Oracle is on the lookout for another modelling partner. While they could easily purchase either Casewise or MEGA, or indeed any of the new kids on the block, my own opinion is that Metastorm may be the better target. With one acquisition they could buy a pretty sizeable customer base, get the ProVision Modelling tool, which already integrates with some of Oracles ERP applications and get what seems a pretty decent process engine into the mix.

Of course this is all conjecture on my part, however, as they say there is no smoke without fire and the story of IBM and Lombardi smells of smoke to me. Not just the smoke of one vendor but that of potentially many.

On the up side for small vendors it does show that size should not be a factor in selecting suppliers, larger suppliers are just as likely to want to switch you from one set of technologies to another. So don't bet the farm on anybody, just make the best choice you can to solve the problems you have.

The People Side of Change

Redditch 2nd/3rd February 2010 and Watford 9th/10th February 2010

A new workshop designed to help you deliver your BPM and Process Projects more effectively

So much of the focus today is on technology, but such projects are largely about change! And change more often than not revolves around people. This highly interactive workshop will provide you with knowledge, skills and insight into how people work and how you can harness this in order to be more effective. Thanks to some sponsorship there are a limited number of places available at the highly discounted price of £175.00 per person.

To find out more or to book your place please visit "The People Side of Change" – you will also find a short video which will provide you with the thoughts from others who have participated in the program.

Business Booming in France?

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Last week I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Paris. It is a City that I know pretty well, having lived there in 2000. On this occasion though I was not there to admire the Christmas lights on the Champs Elysee or relax watching the world go by from a pavement cafe. I was there to work. I had been invited by the management of Casewise France to attend their user conference. My prime interest as ever was how the users were really getting benefits from modelling, but they were also keen to share with me a new analyst report from However, having made many friends in Paris the opportunity to catch up with them while in town was too good to miss.

Given my passion about people and relationships, I always love spending time in France and talking with French Business people. I so admire the fact that still in an age of teleconferences, webinars and video conferences, face to face relationships still play a major part. Call me old fashioned, call me a technophobe, call me what you like. I still believe what I was taught more than 25 years ago – People buy people first and everything else second! While the rest of the world has moved merrily on their way into less personal ways of promoting and selling their wares, for my mind at least the French have stayed with the "I want to get to know you and decide if I trust you, before I do business with you". The result of which is of course that historically many US and UK based businesses have struggled to break into the French market, even when recruiting French locals, they were still measuring many of the wrong things.

My first port of call was MEGA International, where I spend some time with my friend and former boss Lucio de Risi. As the founder and CEO of MEGA, Lucio by his own admission was very nervous at the start of the year. Just like the rest of us he was concerned as to how the challenges in the economy were going to impact on the business. However, it would appear that 2009 has been fairly kind to the company, as Lucio puts it "I am enjoying business and am happy that I can once again sleep easy at night", this in itself says a lot. As well we all know there are still a lot of technology company CEO's who cannot say the same. From what I could tell it would appear that much of the success for MEGA this year has come from the US Federal market and the more general need of their clients for risk management solutions. The risk market is certainly one that MEGA were very early to see and where they have worked hard to provide a detailed solution.

Next up was dinner with someone who I respect greatly, Henry Peyret of Forrester Research. I have known Henry for many years and we always have great fun comparing notes and debating the directions in the modelling market. For me Henry is one of only two analysts working with the major firms who really appreciates the challenges faced by modelling tool vendors and takes a pragmatic approach in helping them with ideas to move forward. As analysts it is easy to put on rose tinted glasses and hide behind either the company line or suggest that you speak to more clients than the vendors, or worse still forget that these vendors still have to grow profit and revenue to survive. Talk to many technology vendors and they will tell you that the costs of developing to the vision of many analysts would send them into bankruptcy. And of course the analysts just like the vendors are also attempting to use a crystal ball into the future. Henry is one of those rare people who balances all of these perspectives and who is always willing to listen, debate and even change his views if the arguments are compelling, so as you might imagine we had a fascinating exchange around where the BPA, BPM and EA tools market was headed. Unfortunately, because some of his ideas are so new it would not be appropriate for me to share them, however if you get the chance I am sure you will find it useful and informative, if not a little surprising to hear where he sees the market going.

So on to the second day of my visit and my whole reason for being there. Of course given what I said above, it was going to be interesting to see not just the users, but find out whether Casewise were one of the exceptions to the rule abut UK software companies in France.

Although the group size was fairly small around 30 people (there had been a strike that day in Paris!), there was certainly plenty of buzz about the place. I always find it fascinating to stand off to the side and watch the interactions taking place. Of course I also stand to the side because my French is poor, with speaking something of a challenge; however I do comprehend conversations on this particular subject pretty well.

For me and I suspect others the highlight of the day was the two user presentations from Swiss Life and The Ministry of Education. The latter was one of the most passionate and engaging talks I have ever seen at a user conference. I am sure the Casewise team loved it, not least because the presenter was happy to say how they had previously used and thrown out one of their competitor's tools and migrated to Casewise. In his eyes Casewise offered a much better Enterprise Architecture tool and provided better support both in terms of service and product than their previous supplier. In his words "Casewise helped to reduce my stress levels and make my life easier".

I guess he should know what he is talking about. The size and complexity of the undertaking by the Ministry was breathtaking. I have to say as he first outlined their story I was thinking "Here we go again another architecture for the sake of it project", but by the end I was sold. This team at the Ministry of Education have started to achieve what so many dream of. Undertaking a large scale Enterprise Architecture project but linking it to realisable business benefits that kept all the stakeholders engaged and involved. I for one hope to hear more from them 12 months down line to see if they can keep up the impetus on the project. I am also sure that the Casewise team hope so too! It seems that off the back of this contract there are many other people now taking on Corporate Modeller.

The other presentation that caught my interest was the first one from Swiss Life. Another of those user presentations you just love. One where they talk about what did not work as well as what did. So, what you ask did not work? Well not so much did not work but a lesson for the future was that they realised that they had left it too long before bringing on board the appropriate tools, for them it was Corporate Modeller. I got the impression that analysts had suggested that they should start without tools and then only bring them on later. Although they kept to time, they suggested that this delay could have had a big impact on the project. Certainly I got the impression that some of the impact analysis could have benefited from proper tooling sooner.

Swiss Life were achieving a lot from a pretty small team, they appear to only be 3 people in their core team, yet they managed to capture and describe over 100 processes in very short order. From these they were able to add risks and identify compliance challenges very quickly. Again another of those projects that are being presented half way through, but great to hear how smart people can really make modelling tools work fast and effectively.

So finally, to answer my own question. Yes, it does appear that the Casewise team are bucking the trend and that a UK company is doing very well over there. This is in no small part due to the way Casewise are approaching the market. France as has been said are very people centric, they want to engage with people before they buy and they want to know that people are on the ground able to visit and talk when there is a problem. Before anyone tells me this is too expensive, think differently. The French are less willing to pay a premium for service than we are in the UK, but they also won't buy without a relationship, so avoiding the relationship is simply avoiding the revenue.

The People Side of Change

Redditch 2nd/3rd February 2010 and Watford 9th/10th February 2010

A new workshop designed to help you deliver your BPM and Process Projects more effectively

So much of the focus today is on technology, but such projects are largely about change! And change more often than not revolves around people. This highly interactive workshop will provide you with knowledge, skills and insight into how people work and how you can harness this in order to be more effective. Thanks to some sponsorship there are a limited number of places available at the highly discounted price of £175.00 per person.

To find out more or to book your place please visit "The People Side of Change" – you will also find a short video which will provide you with the thoughts from others who have participated in the program.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What can BPM Vendors Learn From the iPhone?

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Over the past few weeks I have been in contact with a lot more BPMS vendors than I would normally speak with. I have found it fascinating to see and hear how many of them are wrestling with the same issue. How can I make my product stand out from the crowd and get more sales?

Now it is not for me to judge in detail, but to my simple mind it appears that so many of these products essentially behave in the same way (I know there are things sold as different, but when one looks at the key functionality they are all getting nearer and nearer to each other). Of course some of the differential depends on the platforms you wish to run on, but in essence they appear to be sailing in a sea of sameness, with convergence being the order of the day.

This set me thinking that perhaps this was similar to the mobile phone market. Mobile phones have been around for many years now and whilst some people prefer Nokia, others Blackberry, or HTC or… handsets. Largely the handset market is pretty similar (and very crowded!), sure we can choose up market phones or basic phones, but in essence you would think that most of the angles had been covered. Major manufacturers have invested many millions of dollars developing their phone platforms and trying to make profit from them. The making profit increasingly be the hard part.

So it is into this market that Apple steps just a few years ago. A market that by all accounts was saturated and filled with manufacturers all struggling to make the returns they need. Whether you love iPhones or loathe them, you can't argue that they are an absolute phenomenon and are driving amazing revenues and profits for Apple.

So what might lie behind this success? Well in the first instance Apple focused on the aesthetics, they designed a quality product that looked both different and enabled people to interact with it in new ways. So tick box one, they understood that having a great platform was only one piece of the jigsaw, making it look nice and work in a way people found more intuitive, was equally if not more important.

If you have ever seen the quick demos of BPM products you will know that to date very few vendors have actually invested in User Interface design, either for their design tools or in their generated applications. Interestingly enough, this is an area where Global 360 with their "Persona based BPM" are taking a different approach. They have engaged with a design agency and are now in the process of delivering new interfaces with a greater focus on aesthetics and natural ease of use. The approach has still to reach deep into their design tools, but it certainly looks fantastic on the generated applications. The idea is simple, if we can generate applications that the user finds easy and pleasing to engage with, then our clients will be more successful and we will sell more of our own product.

This leads us on very nicely to the second tick box in Apple's success. Applications! Apple realized at once that it was not the technology platform that would stand alone, other companies are quickly trying to mimic the intuitive interface of Apple and as a phone it has pretty well the same (in some cases actually less!) functionality than other phones. It would be applications that would make the difference; Apple very quickly built or helped others to build a wide range of applications for the iPhone. As well as making money, it was the applications that made the phone successful. Those who have and love their iPhones are increasingly spending more and more time using the device for a wider and wider range of tasks and activities. (Of course this brings in to focus the challenge of battery life! But we can't have everythingJ)

So, perhaps in order to break out from the pack, BPM vendors need to focus less on their technology stack, their platform and instead focus more on creating or having created libraries of applications. Perhaps the time has come for component based BPM. The idea that we can simply build and assemble BPM applications from various vendors and assemble them together seems to make some sense. Not so easy I know, but if Apple proved that User Interface and applications are what generates sales and profits, even in a crowded market, then perhaps that is what it will take for a BPM vendor or two to break from the pack. We all know that swimming in a sea of sameness is a recipe for disaster and as SAP also proved you don't have to have the best technology underpinning your software product to succeed.


The People Side of Change

Watford 25th/26th November and Redditch 1st/2nd December

A new workshop designed to help you deliver your BPM and Process Projects more effectively

So much of the focus today is on technology, but such projects are largely about change! And change more often than not revolves around people. This highly interactive workshop will provide you with knowledge, skills and insight into how people work and how you can harness this in order to be more effective. Thanks to sponsorship from Casewise, Lanner Group and Global 360, there are a limited number of places available at the highly discounted price of £175.00 per person.

To find out more or to book your place please visit "The People Side of Change" – you will also find a short video which will provide you with the thoughts from others who have participated in the program.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Casewise; Taking a Fresh Look

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Yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting of the Casewise User Group in Watford. As many of you know I am of course more familiar with the offerings from Popkin, MEGA and Proforma, having worked for those organizations. So it was good to have the opportunity to hear what one of my former competitors has been up to and I have to tell you I was very pleasantly surprised.

In the first instance the company who I had always seen as being in a bit of backwater, now seems set to shake the modelling world up again, just as it did when the company was launched 20 years ago. I was amazed by how many of the people that work there I already knew! I met people I knew from MEGA, Popkin and ID, all of whom seemed genuinely excited by the new developments taking place at the company. This year has seen major management changes and new people from inside the industry joining to add impetus to the company's growth. As I understand it there are even more people from their competitors waiting in the wings to join Casewise, this is certainly a different story to the one I was hearing about just 2 years ago.

Modelling, in the professional sense has always been a passion of mine. So to see companies in the space doing well always warms my heart. However, with the current economic problems, technology companies across the globe have been feeling the pinch and cutting back on staff. So it was nice to hear that Casewise had won over 100 new customers so far this year and had actually been increasing revenues and headcounts, a sure sign that more organizations are waking up to the true benefits that modelling can afford them.

Alex Wentzo, the COO for EMEA is an unassuming sort of person with a strong belief in customer service and quality. It is these strengths that have seen him take Casewise from being almost invisible in France to being seen as one of the dominant players in the French market. He also suggests that part of Casewise's appeal to global companies is the number of languages they support natively, apparently the tool is available in 14 languages. He also suggests that as a company with growing revenues and cash in the bank Casewise are in a better position to capitalize on the current market challenges.

What Alex does not say is that their success is, in part at least, due to the impressive range of new products the company now have to better serve their clients and prospects. To the best of my knowledge the company's Corporate Synergy Product is the only process execution offered by a modelling tool vendor into the market. Other vendors have partnerships with BPMS vendors, but the Casewise approach is to offer their own solution to their customers. The product being sold and supported by them directly means that customers only have to deal with a single vendor and a single development team, always a big plus. During the meeting we were treated to a customer case study on the Corporate Synergy product, and it seems that the customer in question has achieved some very impressive results in a very short space of time. I will talk more about this in a later post.

Many vendors in the modelling space talk about Web based modelling, SaaS solutions, hosted solutions or interfacing with Visio, but it seems that Casewise now offers their customers all of these. Of particular interest to me was the company's V-Modeller product. Here they have not simply provided a Visio interface, but actually provided their customers with the ability to use Visio as an alternative means of modelling. They are working on the premise that the true value of a repository based approach can only be realized if all the data is contained in the repository. So by allowing customers to use Corporate Modeler, Visio or Web Modeler they can make it easier for their clients to roll out the modelling based paradigm to a wider audience. A brave move and one which this writer certainly hopes and believes will pay off handsomely in the months and years ahead.

With the increase in interest in process modelling you could argue that the market is coming back to Casewise. Process modelling is where they started 20 years ago and although latterly the company has become better known for the strength of their Enterprise Architecture offerings, I think it will be the strength of their process modelling that will again provide the impetus to the company. As well we all know successful EA projects are increasingly finding process at the heart of their success, SOA and BPM projects can't succeed without clear process understanding.

Whilst there are many vendors in the space, independent vendors in modelling seem to come and go, Casewise certainly impressed me with how far they have come in the last two years and with other information they shared that is not appropriate for me to publish I think they may once again rise to prominence in the industry. As long as they do more to get the word out and become more visible!

If you would like to understand more about the Corporate Synergy and V-Modeller offerings, simply click the clicks to find out for yourself what has impressed me.

Monday, 20 April 2009

“Chunking” as a Tool for Effective Process Communication and Change

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The principle of "Chunking" is said to have first been put forward in the 1950s by George A. Miller, a Harvard psychologist. Most people today will be familiar with the theory he put forward "The Magical Number Seven", Plus or Minus Two". The original research was related to our short term memory, how many numbers we can remember a few minutes after being told them only once. However, his work has gone on to be applied far beyond numbers. The principle of seven plus or minus two, is now well established as a "Golden Rule" for presenting, selling or communicating information to people. We know that we should try to follow the principle on slide bullet points, written communication and oral presentations, but "Chunking" has other applications that are vital for effective business and process improvement projects.

Beyond traditional means of communication it can be, and has been, successfully applied to the creation of maps and models e.g. no more than nine activities/ processes/ objects in a single map/model. If we have more than nine then we should break them down into manageable "chunks". The application of chunking to our maps and models aids comprehension and ensures readability.

"Chunking" is also used in a completely different way in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). It is this alternative use of Chunking that is extreme value in our process improvement or BPM type projects. I am starting with the assumption that many people struggle to either get buy in for change or to have the proper level of detail required in order to be able to implement a solution. In my own experience this has certainly appeared as the conundrum on many projects. Well perhaps you might find the answers you are seeking in the NLP concept of chunking.

In NLP "Chunking Up" refers to our moving to more general or abstract information, while "Chunking Down" means moving to more specific or detailed information. Whilst this may be similar to the point discussed above regarding maps and models, it is in fact quite different. The focus on the techniques in this case is on how we reach agreement with people or how we can elicit greater levels of specivity from people.

Learning the technique and practicing thinking about it will greatly enhance your ability negotiate more easily, to find common areas in order to reach agreement, generate new ideas and to identify the details that matter.

In order for us to chunk up on a particular piece of information we could use questions such as the following;

  • For what purpose?
  • What is the intention?
  • What is this a part of?
  • What is this an example of?

As an example, let us use sport and I assume that you are an avid fan of soccer, while I, for my sins, think cricket is the best sport. We could spend hours debating and arguing the relative merits, without ever being able to reach any form of agreement, or we could use the technique of chunking to quickly and easily reach agreement. So the example questions might now be:

  • What are soccer and cricket both examples of? – Team sports?
  • What is the intention of a soccer or cricket match? – To win?
  • What is the purpose of a soccer or cricket match? – To entertain?

Thus, we might quickly establish that we both agree that team sports are good, we might agree that we find them entertaining and that we enjoy our team winning.

We can apply the same principle to methods and approaches to process improvement. All over the world people are still arguing or debating Lean vs. Six Sigma vs. BPM, vs TQM etc. What, though, might happen if we asked everyone to apply the following questions to their preferred approach or technique?

  • What is the purpose of (Lean, Six Sigma, BPM etc.)? – To improve a company's performance
  • What is the intention of (Lean, Six Sigma, BPM etc.)? - To deliver performance improvement through the optimization of processes
  • What are (Lean, Six Sigma, BPM etc.) examples of? – Structured approaches for identifying and removing waste

You may have other answers but hopefully you will agree that when we chunk up like this we can see that the essence of all the approaches is the same. In my examples we have reached similarity on one step, but for more complex examples it may be necessary to chunk op to or more levels in order to reach the level of agreement. The principle of chunking up allows us to focus on the "forest" rather than be stuck with the "trees".

At other times we are in need of additional information or detail so we can use the technique of chunking down, examples of questions that can assist in this would be;

  • (How, what or who) specifically?
  • What is an example of this?
  • (How or what) is a good way of doing that?
  • When would we use/do that?

Going back to our sports example let's assume that I do not want to debate your love of soccer, instead I want to understand more about it, then I might ask the following example questions;

  • What specifically do you like about soccer? – Playing it
  • What is a good way of doing it? – Joining a team
  • What is an example of this? – I play for the company team

If we chunked up as above we could reach agreement, but we might still be missing vital facts, in this case by chunking down we can increase our understanding. Of course we could then chunk back up from here based on playing, teams and the company and it is possible we would reach an even stronger agreement. Even if agreement was not the purpose we would still now have more useful information.

With our examples around methods and tools for process improvement we might enquire;

  • What specifically is it you like about (Lean, Six Sigma, BPM etc.)? – A structured approach to change
  • What is an example of this? - the way we restructured our complaints process
  • How specifically? – we provided knowledge to enable one touch resolution

Here we can see that rather than talking about a method (abstract) we moved down into what it is used for and then drilled down to an example of how it had been used and what we specifically used it for. So now we can talk about the benefits of the approach, rather than simply selling the approach itself.

The examples presented here are kept simple to aid clarity, but chunking is also invaluable in getting us to think laterally. Lateral thinking is often taught and used as a way of getting us away from problems and into solutions. To effectively use chunking in this scenario one simply chunks up one or two levels and then chunks down again. As an example suppose you have to take a package to a particular destination and you do not wish to use your car. To identify alternatives, first chunk up, i.e. what is driving your car an example of? One possible chunk up is a mode of transportation. Now chunking down, you can easy identify many different modes of transportation which are on the same logical level as car i.e., Motorbike, train, airplane, walking, etc. And you can select the mode that meets your other needs.

The principle of chunking is widely used in negotiation and mediation to great effect, which is also the objective of many of our change efforts, and so is extremely useful to process and performance related projects.

Additionally in NLP teaching we make use of two models which help with and can facilitate better Chunking. They are the Milton Model – which uses vague or abstract language – to help us in chunking up and the Meta Model – with a number of different language constructs – which help us in obtaining specifics and thus helps in chunking down.

To summarise "Chunking" can be thought of as organizing or breaking down some experience into bigger or smaller pieces. Chunking up involves moving to a larger, more abstract level of information. Chunking down involves moving to a more specific and concrete level of information. Chunking laterally involves finding other examples at the same level of information. It can be used to reach agreement, obtain additional and accurate detail, to move people from one plane of thinking to another and many other useful ways. I consider it as an important skill in effective process analysis, design, improvement and change.

N.B. "Effective use of Chunking" is one of the many tools and techniques taught in Mark McGregor's 5 Day "NLP for Change Professionals" and 2 Day "The Process of Change" courses, for more information on these please email Mark directly

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Process of Change

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With the phenomenal pressure on organizations to make changes and fast, it is inevitable that processes are increasingly seen as a key to success. If you like me spend time talking with people about how they will go about understanding and improving processes, then you will know that pretty quickly the discussion turns to methods and tools. We soon find ourselves discussing the relative merits of BPM vs. Lean Sigma vs. Six Sigma, of EFQM* vs. AQPC*, of which modelling tool to use or which BPMS* vendor talk with.

Very soon people are talking about how they are going to analyze processes and problems and how they are going to improve or automate them. Keep talking and listening and eventually two things will come up. Firstly, there will be a discussion around how the method or technique needs to be applied without the associated training, "because we don't have the budget for training" and "we know how to do it but people are simply not buying into the change". Of course other issues such as communication and lack of management support are also factors, but in some ways these factors also relate to the issue of change.

I have found it fascinating over the years just how few people or organizations have in place or have even studied the "Process of Change." If change is so important to us and is such an ongoing thing, then why does every organization not have a well documented and well exercised process for change? Why do people not understand that effective change begins no t by analyzing the problem, but instead by elaborating the opportunity or eventual goals/aims? Perhaps it is something to do with the lack of breadth of our studies, or perhaps it is because the people we rely on to do the work are analysts and so naturally they are good at analyzing problems.

This reminds me a little of the ongoing debate between those with a background and training in psychotherapy and those who believe in NLP. There are many in the psychotherapy field that have no time for and are dismissive of NLP, they believe in their own approaches which in some cases can take years to produce results in their patients, they diligently work away analyzing their patients problems and slowly trying to chip away at the causes. They suggest that it is crazy to think that people with only a few weeks of training can produce life saving changes in people with only one or two sessions. They suggest that it makes no sense how people can help others without having to know all about the background and circumstances that bring them to where they are today. Yet all over the world there are people who have had their lives changed for the better in a matter of hours, who did find that good practitioners have taken them to where they want to go in one or two hours, after they had spent years in therapy. There are always new ways of doing things, the old is not bad, just old, new does not have to be good, just new. The art is to blend what works from the old with what works from the new and that delivers the best results in the shortest practical time (with the least possible pain)

Within the IT and Process space I am often amazed at just how narrowly people study, we might learn everything about our chosen method and spend a fortune on our chosen tool, but we seem to only pay lip service to other bodies of knowledge. Areas such as creativity, innovation, communication and facilitation are not learned or taught as an everyday part of Business, Systems, or Process Analysis, or when they are it is only to a small degree. I wonder just how many analysts have read Daniel Pink's "A whole New Mind" or Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and then combined that reading with things like Robert Cialdini's "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" and Marcus Buckingham's "First Break all the Rules" – these are just examples of reading that cause as to have a wider perspective, there are many others and types to choose from.

Personally, I have been fascinated at look at process improvement through the eyes of Psychology & Neuro Linguistic Programming, through the eyes of nature & energy healing, in addition to the more traditional approaches. My reasons and guiding principles have been simple; in the words of Einstein ""We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." So we need to look wider than the traditional ways of doing process analysis and design and of J. Krishnamurti "If all problems are problems of the mind, then surely all solutions are solutions of the mind, in which case if we spent as much time focusing on solutions as we do on discussing problems, we would find that solutions would come with equal measure." So how can we help people focus more on thinking about solutions and new ways of doing things as opposed to simply analyzing where they are now.

Over the past 20 years I have read studied and practiced many aspects of NLP*, I have also been fortunate to learn from many great teachers, but I have also been able to study the subject directly from one of its creators, Dr Richard Bandler. In NLP training we are taught an extensive range of tools and techniques that can help people make changes in their life, overcome fears and phobias, break down emotional barriers and to create the life of their dreams. What tends not to be taught explicitly though is the process of change, it is implicit in the training, but few people seem to notice it. A part of the original thinking in NLP was that if we could find a way to codify how great people achieved the results they did, then we could find ways of learning those patterns and teaching them to others. It was with this in mind that I took the opportunity, two years ago, to discuss with Richard the process of change and to ask him to validate my process for change. What follows is the discussion we had.

"Richard, we have learned many new skills and we have had plenty of opportunity to practice those skills. You have taught us how to make changes, many of which we have seen can be quite profound, yet I am not sure that people really understand what the process of change is, I mean how to consistently apply the learning and techniques such that good results can be obtained across a wide range of issues." To which Richard, as you would expect replied, "An interesting statement, do you have a question?" "Yes" I said, "May I repeat to you what I understand that process to be and have you comment on it?" "Sure" he said "Fire away."

"Firstly, you seem to focus on discovering what it is that somebody wants, have them describe their compelling vision of the future or positive view on why their life will be better. Then you have them go into detail on this in such a way as to have them really associate with it. During this you listen very carefully for clues and challenge them so as to ensure that they really do want to make changes and test for the level of seriousness. Once you are satisfied you appear to move on to the next step. This is when you start to analyze, to ask questions of them to understand more about what might be stopping them achieving the results they desire. Also, to think about which of the tools, techniques or patterns might be the most appropriate to achieve the results they are looking for. Once you are happy that you understand what they want and how you might help them you design an approach to achieve the desired result. Before actually performing any change work, you then check in with them to validate that they are totally happy to make the changes and will be comfortable with the results, only when you are sure that you have total agreement do you move on. If you don't have full agreement, you appear to go back to the first step and once again try to rediscover, analyze and design before one again trying to validate. Now, with their full agreement you undertake the change work, you implement the changes with them and lead them to the point where they are learning new habits, behaviors and changes for themselves, you are providing them with new choices and helping them get a different perspective on things. Once they have come to their own realization, or had their own 'aha' moment, you help them to integrate those learning's. Help them generalize the learning out into other areas of their life, areas where they believe that the new choices will serve them better. Having integrated the change, you provide them with techniques to ensure that they can hold on to the gains they have made to control the changes and themselves. Finally, you have them look at other areas of their life where the new perspective can serve them better, to have them generalize and improve those things that will serve them more usefully in the future."

"Yup!" said Richard "That seems to sum up what we actually do to make effective changes"

So, if this appears to be the process by which one of the most successful change agents of our time uses, and the one on which most other successful personal change personalities have based their own work and businesses, then why is it that we seem to try and avoid using the same process in business? The process of change is universal and the above can easily be adapted to business and process problems. The longer we try to avoid such a process then surely the longer we are going to take to successfully embed a culture of change within our organizations.

Now the question is, where will you look to enhance your understanding of the process of change? How can taking a different perspective enable you to be even more effective than you are now?

If you would like to read and learn more about NLP from the creator, then Richard has released two excellent books this year "Get the Life You Want: The Secrets to Quick and Lasting Life Change with Neuro-Linguistic Programming" and "Richard Bandler's Guide to Trance-formation: How to Harness the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless and Lasting Change", both of which I would highly recommend.


* Abbreviations used

EFQM (European Framework for Quality Management)

AQPC (American Quality & Productivity Center)

BPMS (business Process Management System)

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)



Friday, 13 March 2009

FREE Mapping & Modelling Survey Report Now Available

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At last, after weeks of poring over the details and reading the responses, the report is now available. The report gathers together the thoughts and responses from over 500 people around the globe, making it probably the most comprehensive report on the subject to date. In addition to the collation of the survey response I have also included commentary on a number of the topics raised by the survey.

The report at 48 pages provides a detailed analysis of what tools people are using, which methods they are using and what features they rate or use in their tools. Some of the results may surprise you, they certainly surprised me!

Process mapping and modelling is a key skill for successful BPM or SOA projects, yet it is still one of the least understood and least valued disciplines. Given the long history this might be surprising, but it also seems that at least some of the indifference may be down to the number of methods in use and the large number of people who do non-technology process improvement and for whom many of the tools are just too complicated and too expensive.

One of the early readers of the report Dave Curry, Director of Process at Vertex says "The report provides an excellent analysis of survey results relative to the use of process modelling tools. The comparison of perceptions by end users, consultants, and vendors along with the commentary analyzing the results provides the added value." While Jerome Pearce, Executive Director Process Mapping Pty Ltd added "This is fascinating. I don't think I have seen the results of a survey that interested me quite as much."

It was certainly fun to contrast the views of end users with those of vendors and consultants and I am very grateful to all those who shared their thoughts and opinions so freely.

You can access your own personal copy of the report from

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Effectual vs. Efficient

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This particular blog article has been running around in my head for some weeks now. But having listened to Barack Obama's speech to congress this week and come across an article by the BBC business editor, Robert Peston. I decided that I could delay no longer. Originally I was planning to write about effectiveness vs. Efficiency, but as you will read even those terms did not get across the key difference.

Some of the very positive feedback I received in the Cost vs. Waste article started to make me worry. The reason for the worry was that people were very positive about chasing out waste and the benefits that will bring to them. Many of them even relating to the damage caused by previous cost cutting campaigns. People were still looking to use it as a technique to increase efficiency.

So why would people doing great work in chasing out efficiency worry me? It worries me because I see people around the globe using efficiency to try and rescue/recover/grow their organizations. The danger being that we are using the same mindset that created the problem to solve it. Something which Einstein warned us against with his quote ""We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

So, as with other articles in the series let's start by taking a look at some dictionary definitions. As we can see at first glance the differential between the terms efficiency and effectiveness is not as clear cut as in other areas we have considered.


a) the quality or degree of being efficient

b) efficient operation

c) effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with cost (as in energy, time, and money)

d) the ratio of the useful energy delivered by a dynamic system to the energy supplied to it


a) producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect <an effective policy>

b) impressive , striking

c) ready for service or action <effective manpower>

d) actual <the need to increase effective demand for goods>

e) being in effect : operative <the tax becomes effective next year>

Again I am using the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as the reference point. Further reading of the definition of "effective" produces, to my mind at least, the bigger clues to the differential. From the reading of the synonyms we can see that while efficient is all about "avoiding" (loss, waste, energy, money etc.) something we need to do. Effectual is about actually "accomplishing" desired results.

synonyms effective ,effectual, efficient mean producing or capable of producing a result.

  1. effective stresses the actual production of or the power to produce an effect <an effective rebuttal>.
  2. effectual suggests the accomplishment of a desired result especially as viewed after the fact <the measures to stop the pilfering proved effectual>.
  3. efficient suggests an acting or a potential for action or use in such a way as to avoid loss or waste of energy in effecting, producing, or functioning <an efficient small car>.

Now, do we need to be efficient, well of course we do! But, what if we are efficient without being effective? One of my favored examples here is the auto industry. Whether we consider the ailing US firms or the almost totally non-extant UK firm is of no consequence. In both cases in response to pressure from Asian car companies the US/UK manufacturers seemed to chase two things in particular. Quality, they woke up to the fact that they needed to drastically improve their quality and efficiency, they tried (and are still trying) to become more efficient, producing their cars at lower costs. They have all to a greater or lesser degree made some major strides in both of these areas.

However, notwithstanding the current financial crisis, as Barack Obama says, they have still not made the changes they need to in order to give themselves a real shot at long term survival. To my mind unlike their Asian counterparts they were too focused on efficiency and not enough on being effectual. If we look at the world market for auto's over the past 10-15 years we see that it is Japanese companies who have consistently delivered the products that customers wanted, not merely trying to find innovative ways of getting customers to buy what the manufacturers wanted to make!

Another way of looking at the difference between the two is that efficiency tends to be an inside out perspective - what can we do to be more efficient (improve OUR processes, cut OUR costs, remove waste from OUR system). On the other hand effectual is an outside in perspective - it does not matter what we want to do, what does the customer want from us and how can we deliver it to them to the quality they seek at a price they are willing to pay (causes to only do the steps we need to and therefore eliminates unnecessary work and doing things that customers won't pay for.

Anyone who has spent time on process analysis will have countless stories to tell of how when they looked at a process from the outside in the waste became obvious. Going further when the process is looked at properly from end to end the amount of "craziness" that exists in organizations is sad.

Truly successful organizations in every sector have proven that understanding what the customer wants and will pay for is critical. To operate processes that deliver to these criteria makes sense. To then identify ways of ensuring that the required activities are executed efficiently is obvious. It is these things when taken together that means we are and can be effective and makes our processes effectual. To do anything less is to waste time, money and other resources and to risk the entire health of the enterprise.

By way of an example of how "efficiency" by itself can be misleading, consider the following quote:

"RBS was a slightly odd organization in those days. In many ways, it appeared remarkably successful. Having acquired NatWest and expanded massively in the US, it was one of the world's biggest and most profitable banks. But it was always rather secretive and surprisingly defensive: I'm struggling to remember a single on-the-record interview given by Goodwin to a broadcaster or newspaper. It was more inward looking than most huge international companies, and was very prickly about even mild criticism. That said, many in the City, and many journalists,
admired the bank for its efficiency and Goodwin for his "Fred-the-shred" moniker - his reputation as perhaps the most fearsome and effective cost-cutter in UK corporate life. So it's striking that the new chief executive, Stephen Hester, has identified some £1.5bn to £2bn of cost savings at the bank, which are apparently above and beyond what has already been disclosed. And Hester will announce as much this Thursday"

Robert Peston, BBC Business Editor in Feb 2009

Here Peston is talking about a company that was seen as successful as measured by its industry peers and its apparent efficiency. The key points being that it was defensive, unwilling to accept criticism and inwardly focused. How many organizations can we think of that these terms could apply to?

Had they been more focused on being "effectual" I suggest that they would have been better able to find the learning from criticism, would have been more open about their failures and would have been thinking about their business from the outside in. Now, given the problems in the whole financial sector, it would be naive to suggest that these things alone would have prevented failure, but, I strongly believe that they would have a) made even more profit on the good days b) reduced some of the bad lending c) won even more customers as a result of being easy to do business with and d) had a more understanding ear from governments, shareholders and customers when things went wrong.

As a footnote to the story it is also interesting to note that even one of the most apparently efficient organizations in their industry can mysteriously find such amazing amounts of additional savings when push comes to shove.

I suggest the questions we need to pose of our organizations, as well as each of us as individuals is

1. Are we willing to take and learn from criticism? - If not what can we change now so we can

2. What is it that customers really need? - What do we need to do to ensure that we only conduct operations that do just that.

3. How can we be more open - With our customers, staff and other stakeholders.

If we start to approach business in this way then we will start to be more effectual, it will also cause us to change the way we think about business and avoid the perils as suggested by Einstein above.

On the flip side if we don't then we will I am certain enter a death spiral of "Legislation which will increase business costs. Increased business costs will cause price increases. Increased prices will mean losing customers. Losing customers will result in decreased profits. Decreasing profits will reduce investment. Reduced investment will stifle innovation. Lack of innovation will cause stagnation - all of which will cause governments to think passing legislation!" - Hardly what we could call evolution or progress methinks Charles Darwin would be turning in his grave!

Finally as a reminder to those who are looking at saving struggling businesses by removing waste (cost if they prefer), it is probably already too late. Companies like GE, Toyota, South West etc. never stop removing waste and they know that the time to really keep your foot on the gas is while business is booming and you still have the resources you need to restructure and make changes. Sure these companies will struggle too, but I would bet on them coming out stronger in the upturn. Of course in the process community this is not news, in fact it is history repeating itself. The same could be said for many of those who came late or not at all to the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) party in the early 90's.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Mapping vs. Modelling

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If we think about maps the most familiar to us is the road map. Then we can have many maps together and create a road atlas. These are great for allowing us to see where we are and where we might want to go. We could even use our maps to trace a route in order to plan a journey. However, if there had been a new road built or an old one dug up, we would at best waste time and at worst be unable to complete our journey. Our maps or atlases are static representations of the world and once drawn they are difficult to edit and change, especially if a change on one page or map has an impact on another. So in process terms if we are simply drawing pictures on a page then the chances are we are creating maps and most maps are just that – pictures. Visio and PowerPoint being the two most common mapping tools used today.

Something else that we should bear in mind about maps is that we can have many different types. We would not want to use a road atlas to go walking in the hills, or detailed ordnance survey map for driving. We know instinctively that each form of a map has a specific purpose. Maps are also only representations of the world as perceived by the creator of a map, think for a moment about how maps themselves have evolved over the years. You would not want to use a map from even 10 years ago to navigate around the world today.

If having created a map you wish to undertake any kind of analysis, be it impact, time, what-if, resource or any other kind then maps will not be suitable, in order to do this you will need a model. In today's world the best example of rich models which we use can be thought of as GPS Navigation systems. With these devices we can asses multiple route options based on a whole host of criteria. Compared to our road atlas the maps in these devices are seamless. It takes much longer to build a model than a map, as for each shape on the chart one will be required to input additional data about such things as resources, cycle times, wait times, costs etc. The richer the "definition" contained in the chart, then the then the richer the analysis that can be performed. In part this is why modelling tools are perceived as being harder to use, they are designed to provide a richer analysis experience and to allow the use of the computer to do some of the comparisons and calculations for you. Maps can only really be compared with other maps by using the human eye and a whole host of other spreadsheets and calculators. Even then such analysis is not especially efficient.

Whether to use a map or a model depends on your purpose, it may be that using a simple map as a first stage in knowing what the process is and how to simplify it is a good step. Indeed this is the approach taught in my classes and seminars, as first step tremendous waste opportunities can be discovered.

However, if you want to do more detailed analysis you will need to take the simplified map and enter it into a modelling tool for that to happen. It is also better in the long term to store maps in a modelling tool as it makes it significantly more practical to maintain both the map and the interdependencies. Many suggest that the effort to build models is not justified; perhaps what they are really saying is that they cannot be bothered to undertake proper analysis? Or maybe they do not care about calculating timing or cost information – this would be surprising today.

Certainly for those who wish to undertake any kind of automation the models will need to be built. The cost of implementing a badly designed process or procedure is just too expensive. There is also an assumption here that your business contains more than one process and that understanding the interdependencies would add value and enable better business decisions.

In summary, use a map to understand or define a process or problem, then use the map to look at waste reduction or other quick hit opportunities. Then when you have eliminated wasted activities, rules, moments of truth etc. then you would be better to capture the resultant map in a model, adding details as required.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Focus on Removing Waste not Cost

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This is a repost of an article I did last year, it is being reposted a) because it is highly topical right now and b) because some nice person hacked it on the blog!


So at last, governments around the world have woken up to what businesses have known for a long time—we are in a downturn, which seems set to turn into a recession. So with everyone scurrying around looking for ways to minimize the effects and hoping that it won't turn out to be as bad as that of the late 80's / early 90's, what can we do to help?

Well, it is pretty certain that many organizations will look to Business Process Management (BPM) as a way of reducing costs and trying to manage their way out of the situation, and for some this may well be the correct approach. The challenge will be how well they manage the use of BPM; will they go with a sledgehammer to crack a nut, or will they look at the wider possibilities and allow themselves to position for success.

It will be fascinating to see whether we go for the history repeating approach or learn the lessons from the past. Those with long memories will remember that Business Process Reengineering (BPR) was seen as a way and used as a tool to help businesses out of the earlier recession, then as business picked up people said that BPR did not work and was too blue sky. The lesson, of course, is that everyone was focused on removing cost as opposed to removing waste; it is the removal of waste that will serve us when the upturn in the market starts.

Pretty well for the last 15 years or so we have seen steady growth in the economy overall and revenues and profits have grown with it, primarily as a function of scale and market sector growth, especially in newer sectors. Inevitably this means that businesses have not needed to be as efficient as they might otherwise be. Of course many would argue that they have been on top of efficiency or that they have always managed costs—well, I am sorry but this has not been my experience.

Now though, there is a need to chase efficiency and, whilst true to form, many will simply ask their purchasing people to squeeze their suppliers. I contend that this is a lazy approach and is management acting without managing. Simply taking costs out of a business across the board has never been seen as a successful long term survival strategy in the past and there is no reason to believe it will be the right strategy for the future.

Instead, managers should focus on getting a better handle on their cross functional or business processes and allowing their own staff to identify waste or non-value adding activities that can and should be eliminated. By removing waste as opposed to cost will mean that the company is not being damaged in any way and will, in fact, be in a better position to serve its customers in the market upturn. Some smart organizations may well realize that if they do this well, they may actually be able to go to their clients and offer cost reductions without being asked, thus forging stronger relationships and, potentially, even increasing the share of their customers business that they get. Now, wouldn't that be neat; remove waste, leading to lower costs which leads to higher revenues, seems like a win-win to me.

To benefit from waste or non-value add removal it is a simple matter of process analysis and redesign. I say a simple matter, because it does not require teams of analysts to be set running around taking months to report back before coming up with a redesign that is based purely on reduction or deduction. Instead it requires a few good coaches or facilitators to help people identify what they are doing now and get them thinking inductively about how they can make improvements. The caveat, as ever, is that managers need to focus on empowering and leading rather than controlling and managing.

The outputs from such exercises can literally save some companies millions for only a few days efforts. They also serve to provide IT people with a much better brief on what might be expected from, or required of, some kind of process automation. This in turn means cheaper system implementation costs, lower resistance to change and greater value from the IT part of the project.

Now, if we move forward and deliver on this vision people are certain to look make this time and say that BPM helped them deal with the issues and was indeed practical and results focused. In summary, we learned from the lessons of the past, focused on waste and helped to ensure the survivability of our organizations and ultimately our jobs!