bpmNEXT: Pushing the boundaries of BPM

Long-term community members and customers will have seen us write about bpmNEXT. It’s a one-of-a-kind event, held every year in the US and bringing together a cluster of quasi-competitive technology vendors, consultants and industry analysts.

At bpmNEXT, instead of tearing each other’s throats out as you might expect, the delegates present their latest work, share ideas, and seek inspiration. Frankly, it really shouldn’t work; but it does. 2017 was the event’s fifth year and the best so far. The energy in the room was palpable.

Both of us—Neil Ward-Dutton and Derek Miers—presented this year. In the next couple of months, we’ll translate the thinking set out in those presentations into research documents for our premium subscribers.

Here are our key highlights from the rest of the event.

Open-source players lead the charge

Many people regard open-source projects as signs of commoditisation, but all four of the key open-source BPM technology players presenting—Bonitasoft, Camunda, Flowable and Red Hat—were pushing innovation at the core of BPM technology:

  • Bonitasoft demonstrated how private blockchain technology plays alongside BPM. Really interesting and worthy of a more considered research note in the future.
  • Camunda got the “best in show” award for their brand new process engine that handles extraordinarily high throughput and can scale horizontally/linearly, across multiple physical and logical nodes. When you think about high performance use cases, this will really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
  • Flowable / edorasware showed its new v6 engine, which directly executes BPMN models, while also enabling inline and on-the-fly modification of running process instances (effectively enabling adaptive/dynamic case management).
  • Red Hat also showed a case-style abstraction layer. Perhaps more interestingly, they also demoed a fungible constraint-based optimisation tool, Optaplanner, to help organisations make the best use of limited resource pools.

Incidentally, SAP showed its new SAP Cloud Platform Workflow service, which makes use of the open-source Activiti BPM engine.

DMN progress, in multiple directions

With the relatively recent publication of Decision Management Notation, DMN 1.1 (version 1.2 is due later on this year) we had a number of interesting discussions around the relationships between DMN, RPA and BPM:

  • Highlighting the value of the DMN standard, Bruce Silver introduced Trisotech’s tool for DMN modelling and Edson Tirelli of Red Hat showed the deployment of the models. Trisotech’s DMN modelling tool embedded Bruce Silver’s Method & Style ‘good practice’ modelling guidelines to create robust DMN models that were then deployed directly into Red Hat’s Drools environment (with complete FEEL support). Another interesting aspect of this collaboration was the out-of-the-box ability in the Drools user interface that enables users to resolve answers based on data presented.
  • Eduardo Chiocconi of Oracle demoed its new DMN-based decision management toolset, which incorporates DMN FEEL expression language. This is due to be released as part of the Oracle Process Cloud Service, creating decision services that are deployed alongside processes in the runtime environment (with independent lifecycles). Rather surprising was the planned ability to import and export serialised DMN definitions.
  • Larry Goldberg of Sapiens DECISION presented a formidable case study of how its Decision Management platform sits alongside the Blue Prism RPA offering and BPM support to support an insurance outsourcing application.
  • Keith Swenson of Fujitsu America showcased a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) for DMN implementations. Ultimately, the reality of model portability across platforms limits the power of a standard such as DMN. The DMN TCK sets out to overcome this challenge with an ever-growing set of compatibility tests.

Other notables

There were a host of other presentations worthy of mention. Here are two:

  • Neil was particularly struck by BP3’s continued focus on adding value to business process projects through the Brazos platform. BP3 presented the new Brazos CX Insights, which delivers application usage insights; much like you might get from Google Analytics or Mixpanel. By working with metadata that a process application commonly makes available for other purposes (for example relating to user segmentation) Brazos CX Insights helps application developers segment user’s challenges, enabling them to improve their overall experience.
  • Minit.io demonstrated a slick process mining demonstration. While we didn’t see anything fundamentally new in terms of the underlying process mining capability (there are a variety of tools that do similar things), they presented a compelling user interface. It will certainly be interesting to see how process mining combines with advanced analytics, decision management models and RPA to take process automation to the next level.

Given that the event is targeted at vendors and consultants, bpmNEXT fulfilled its promise of pushing the boundaries of the BPM space. We look forward to more of its kind. With luck, we’ll even get an event in Europe.