Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Xenia von Wedel, Don MacVittie, Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, Pat Romanski

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

@CloudExpo Stories
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the ...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.