Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Richard Hale, John Basso, Liz McMillan, SmartBear Blog

Blog Feed Post

Why Workflow and BPM Suck

The verities and the balderdash the impact of the cloud

I originally wrote this paper back in 2005 as a bit of a rant against the positioning of Workflow and BPM. I was reminded of it the other day and took another look only to discover that things still haven’t changed that much. So I’ve decided to revamp it a bit to encompass cloudy type things and what the impact of social media etc has had in the ensuing years. So for your amusement or edification here’s a revised version.

Many of us that were involved in the field of Workflow Automation and Business Process Management (BPM) a few years ago (and some still are I’m sure) argued long and hard about where the two technologies overlapped, where they were different, which mathematical models should be used, which standards were applicable to which part of the technology stack and all that associated puff.

Well these arguments and discussions are well and truly over more or less forgotten; the demarcation lines were well defined and drawn; the road ahead became clear.

The fact that Business Process Management has its roots in Workflow technology is well known – many of today’s leading products are, in fact, evolutions of the original forms processing packages. So there is no longer a need to debate, what is now, a moot point.

But what has happened is that BPM also changed. Rather than being an extension of workflow concepts BPM was seen as systems-to-systems technology exclusively used in the deployment of concepts such as SOA solutions. I’m over simplifying things I know, but it seemed as though BPM was destined to become an IT Technology solution as opposed to the business process solution it was meant to be. Somewhere along the way, one of the key elements in a business process – a person – dropped off the agenda. The fact that the majority of business processes (some 85% according to some very old Forrester research) involve carbon based resources was overlooked – think BPEL for a moment – doesn’t the attempt to develop that particular standard tell you something about the general direction of BPM? But be warned, even today, many vendors will tell you that their BPM products support Human interaction, but what they are talking about will be simple work item handling and form filling – this is a long way from the collaboration and interaction management we will talk about below.

The problem stems from the fact that most Workflow products were flawed and as a result, the problem in the gene pool rippled through to the evolved BPM species. So what was wrong with workflow? It’s quite simple when you think about it; most workflow products assumed that work moved from one resource to another. One user entered the loan details, another approved it. But business doesn’t work like that.

This flawed thinking is probably the main reason why workflow was never quite the success most pundits thought it would be; the solutions were just not flexible enough, since the majority of processes are unsuited to this way of working. Paradoxically, it is the exact reason why BPM is so suited to the world of SOA and systems to systems processes. A rigid approach to systems processes is essential, where people are concerned; the name of the game is flexibility.

Why do we need the flexibility?

Let’s take a simple analogy so that the concept is more easily understood.

Supposing you were playing golf; using the BPM approach would be like hitting a hole in one every time you tee off. Impressive – 18 shots, and a round finished in 25 minutes.

But as we all know, the reality is somewhat different (well my golf is different) – there’s a lot that happens between teeing off and finishing a hole. Ideally about four shots (think nodes in a process) – but you have to deal with the unexpected even though you know the unexpected is very likely; sand traps, water hazards, lost balls, free drops, collaboration with fellow players, unexpected consultation with the referee – and so it goes on. Then there are 17 more holes to do – the result is an intricate and complex process with 18 targets but about 72 operations.

As mentioned earlier, we have to deal with the unexpected. This is not just about using a set of tools to deal with every anticipated business outcome or rule; we are talking about the management of true interaction that takes place between individuals and groups which cannot be predicted or encapsulated beforehand. This is because Business Processes exist at 2 levels – the predictable (the systems) and the un-predictable (the people).

The predictable aspects of the process are easily and well catered for by BPMS solutions – which is why the term Business Process Management is a misnomer since the perceived technology only addresses the integration aspects – with the close coupling with SOA (SOA needs BPM, the converse is not true) there still iis an argument for renaming BPM to Services Process Management (SPM).

Proposals such as BPEL4People didn’t fix the problem either, all that managed to achieve is replicating the shortcomings of Workflow. Anyone who has tried to put together a business case for buying SOA/BPM will know the entire proposition will be a non-starter.

Understanding the business processes exist at 2 levels (the Silicon and the Carbon) takes us a long way towards understanding how we solve this problem. The key point is to recognize that the unpredictable actions of the carbon components are not ad-hoc processes, nor are they exception handling (ask anyone with a six sigma background about exceptions and you’ll understand very quickly what I mean). This is all about the unstructured interactions between people – in particular knowledge workers.  These unstructured and unpredictable interactions can, and do, take place all the time – and it’s only going to get worse! The advent of social networking, SaaS etc. etc.,  are already having, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the way we manage and do business.

Process based technology that understands the needs of people and supports the inherent “spontaneity” of the human mind is the next logical step, and we might be tempted to name this potential paradigm shift “A Business Operations Platform”. [1]

But what makes a BOP different from what’s gone before?

One of the key innovations (and there are many) is the collaborative nature of the platform. At last there is an environment that allows, encourages even, the business world and the technology world to align. Given that the business process is where these two worlds collide then the BOP becomes the place where the two worlds can achieve the most in terms of collaborative development and common understanding. Eliminating decades of misunderstanding. The Business Operations Platform does six main jobs.

It:

  1. Puts existing and new application software under the direct control of business managers.
  2. Facilitates communication between business and IT.
  3. Makes it easier for the business to improve existing processes and create new ones.
  4. Enables the automation of processes across the entire organization, and beyond it.
  5. Gives managers real-time information on the performance of processes.
  6. Allows organizations to take full advantage of new computing services.

Unlike early BPM offerings that were stitched together from fragments of technologies past, a BOP must be built on a standards-based and modern architecture.. With a service oriented architecture (SOA) and full BPM capabilities companies can create a complete business operations environment that can drive innovation, efficiency and agility for their enterprise. It must be Cloud enabled and capable of being deployed as BPMAAS as. It is the BOP that sets “enterprise cloud computing” apart from “consumer cloud Computing”

So why does workflow suck? It sucks because it made the fatal assumption that a business process was simply modelled as “a to b to c” – but business, as we all know, doesn’t quite work like that. BPM succeeds because of the heritage these products is in the workflow world – but BPM sucks as well because it ignores the requirement to include people.

Jon Pyke


[1] Since I wrote this paper Gartner coined the term “Intelligent BPM” but that begs the question as to what went before “Stupid BPM” ? So I’ll use BOP if that is OK with you the reader.

The post Why Workflow and BPM Suck appeared first on Cloud Computing Best Practices.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Cloud Best Practices Network

The Cloud Best Practices Network is an expert community of leading Cloud pioneers. Follow our best practice blogs at http://CloudBestPractices.net

@ThingsExpo Stories
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
Early adopters of IoT viewed it mainly as a different term for machine-to-machine connectivity or M2M. This is understandable since a prerequisite for any IoT solution is the ability to collect and aggregate device data, which is most often presented in a dashboard. The problem is that viewing data in a dashboard requires a human to interpret the results and take manual action, which doesn’t scale to the needs of IoT.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) and Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Verizon will acquire Yahoo's operating business for approximately $4.83 billion in cash, subject to customary closing adjustments. Yahoo informs, connects and entertains a global audience of more than 1 billion monthly active users** -- including 600 million monthly active mobile users*** through its search, communications and digital content products. Yahoo also co...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The best-practices for building IoT applications with Go Code that attendees can use to build their own IoT applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Indraneel Mitra, Senior Solutions Architect & Technology Evangelist at Cognizant, provided valuable information and resources for both novice and experienced developers on how to get started with IoT and Golang in a day. He also provided information on how to use Intel Arduino Kit, Go Robotics API and AWS IoT stack to build an application tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
Large scale deployments present unique planning challenges, system commissioning hurdles between IT and OT and demand careful system hand-off orchestration. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Smith, Senior Director and a founding member of Incenergy, will discuss some of the key tactics to ensure delivery success based on his experience of the last two years deploying Industrial IoT systems across four continents.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...