A few weeks back I was invited to attend a small-scale industry event in San Francisco dedicated to IBM’s Smarter Process agenda. Roughly speaking that equates to its business around BPM and ‘ODM’ (Operational Decision Management, or business rules management to some ;-) technology products and consulting services.
When I say small-scale, I mean small-scale; there were only around a dozen analysts, and we were outnumbered by IBMers—which made for an interesting dynamic. Rather than this being a big presentation fest, it was much more geared around one-to-one meetings and small roundtable sessions. I got the impression that IBM was genuinely interested in having proper conversations with the analysts, rather than just broadcasting—a really refreshing experience for me.
So what did I learn? Well, what I can talk about can be best summarised as follows:
IBM is articulating Smarter Process as its “approach for reinventing business operations—to enable greater customer-centricity—in the age of mobile, social, cloud and big data, while driving efficiency and optimization into end-to-end processes”. What does this mean? It means, in my book, playing very much to the concepts outlined in our new report The Digital Enterprise shift: Why it matters, and how you can avoid being sidelined. It means IBM is going to attempt to sell Smarter Process to COOs, while at the same time tying its offerings into client’s agendas around customer-centricity and customer experience excellence. It’s going to need to tell stories that bring in consulting capabilities from its own teams and those of its partners, as well as from its technology. Managed Business Processes (BPO) is also a key part of the overall Smarter Process story for clients, and I’m going to find out more about this in due course. It could be a really interesting piece of how IBM delivers value from its BPM and related technology, and Capgemini has already shown how this can play out. An area to watch.
From a core technology enablement point of view, Smarter Process cuts across BPM, ODM and Case Management. Clearly, there’s more IBM needs to do here to pull this together—but this is an issue that’s clearly recognised by IBMers.
The BPM roadmap includes further investments in mobile, cloud (SoftLayer support), integrated social collaboration and analytics capabilities.
The ODM roadmap includes further investments in runtime performance (with significant early results already being demonstrated), increased flexibility in deployment, and simulation.
Another investment focus is on what IBM is currently calling Operational Intelligence. The technology here builds on and extends ODM’s rule definition approach, combined with IBM’s event stream processing technology. This is currently still very much expressed as a general direction rather than a concrete delivery plan; and it’s also not clear how this will deliver value that’s significantly different from what IBM delivered with what it used to call Business Event Processing and WebSphere Business Events. Is this just another go at CEP? Let’s see..
I also learned a lot that I can’t blog about, on pain of death (or at least, excommunication). What I can say is that IBM is still making significant investments in this area—despite some commentators declaring BPM dead, IBM clearly sees there is big market potential here still to be mined.