BPM Conference Portugal 2013

The first edition of the conference was held last week on April 18th, and brought a blend of different viewpoints on the most advanced and innovative themes on BPM, as also, had practical approach rather than a conceptual only approach.

For the first time I was involved as a chair of the event. The main difference between being invited to participate or manage the conference regarding the sessions, the agenda, the themes, is that when you deliver your talk you strive to make your best and inspire the others, while when you are the chair, you are responsible for all the speakers that ultimately constitutes a very different kind of challenge. Again, I would like to thank to everyone that make this possible. The event organizers, the speakers, the attendees. I retain the idea the event equalizes with others around the world (taking into consideration the size of the market), much more forward thinking (I fight for that) and I hope that future editions will have more sessions around the HOW TO DO IT that is something that attendees expressed in a hand full of informal talks I had. They are not looking for workshops, but for sessions that explain how the result was achieved.

If you think you can make e difference in 2014 edition, send me an e-mail and I will be glad to enroll your presentation proposal.

The themes of the conference:
The topics of BPM Conference Portugal were: Cybernetics, or the ability to deal with diversity; Adaptation, how companies sense, innovate and change the way operations are performed and Socialization, how managers can change the way people get engaged out of the organization charts and use other approaches to achieve the intended results.

The goal of the event was to provide new perspectives on the challenges companies face; new methods to overcome challenges and see in practice, in real life, how to achieve competitive advantage.

I opened the conference with a very concentrated pitch around the conference themes summarized bellow:

The baseline of the conference is the fact that company environment has not changed. It continues to evolve, but faster.

  • The pace of change in the economy has been increasingly accelerated, fueled by ubiquitous access to information and enterprise systems that are allowing to change the way work is done. Predict what will happen next is exponentially more difficult. Uncertainty has become an enduring variable, as companies have noticed lately. This implies constantly changing, or in other words adaptation.

To perceive is to understand patterns.

  • Is a fact that today companies have immense analytical capabilities, but how managers understand a fundamental challenge for organizations that is to deal with all this interaction variety is necessary to understand patterns. Understanding patterns is not predict behavior, but infer trends, so people can think, act and adapt.
  • Organizations that manage to be better aligned these three perspectives: social network, knowledge type and process design, are those that will be ahead in terms of execution capabilities, flexibility and adaptation to change.

The role of human resources development.

  • Without retaining and nurture highly skilled workers, knowledge cannot be applied effectively.
  • In the current context, organizations need all kinds of knowledge of all organizational units coming from all business units. Organizations need to use all styles, because organizations never know in advance which people they need to solve a problem, taking into account uncertainty times we are facing.
  • People are deeply knowledgeable of the organization’s rules and apply them in the work they do because systems are imbued with logic and interoperability required for execution. Not only the type of technology has to be different, which often involves changes in technology architecture, but enabling people directly in the design and execution of business processes.

The conference sessions:

José Tribolet: Adding value to BPM by enforcing the fundamental principles of Enterprise Engineering

Professor Tribolet is a disciple of Dietz’s Enterprise Ontology method and he and his team is applying it in government agencies. The case presented was around handling judicial procedures where it was possible to identify that failures occur in the acts related with process execution, with an impact in delays, complains, superseded judicial decisions.

DEMO, (Dietz’s method) is somehow misunderstood around the community because is difficult to understand  (heavily based on computational science and three axioms: social agreements; content of communication; means of communication ) difficult to apply (it’s necessary to have a lot of conditions to be used like being able to trace process actions recorded by enterprise systems), but effective if you want to evaluate  consistency and completeness of your process models in run time mode.

Business transactions specify the pattern-based behavior that describes how actors collaborate in order to achieve business results. The method takes as input a process model that is converted to a transactional model. The transactional model is then analyzed and revised so that all transactions comply with the Ψ-theory axioms. Finally, the original BPMN process model is revised to become consistent with the transactional model and complete in the sense it expresses all transactional steps.

As a result is possible:

Identify consistency issues:

  • Activity sequencing (control flow) violates the transaction pattern.
  • Data flow violates the transaction pattern.

Identify completeness issues:

  • Behavior of an activity cannot be classified as a coordination or production act.
  • Coordination or production acts cannot be mapped to any activity (i.e. the act is either implicit or missing on the process model).

Keith Swenson: Planning and Supporting Innovative Work Patterns

Keith split his presentation in two parts: the concept around anti-fragile systems and adaptive case management.

Most of the talk was around anti-fragility a concept rose by Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. Without being repetitive you can find most of Keith’s key points in his own words on this post. I would add in a different perspective and revisiting Ashby’s law,  any system, any process must be able to handle the complexity of the elements that constitute in an active and adaptive way to survive and thrive. This implies that any attempt to limit the existing variety will lead to the system, the process, the organization, will lose the ability to adapt leading to implosion, in Keith’s words, turning into fragile. This idea was also presented by Vitor Santos when we was arguing in his talk around the concept of enterprise elasticity (that I will come back to it in the end of this post).

Without changing the objectives of Keith presentation, there is a concept that I think (but I might be wrong) managers don’t even understand yet when dealing with enterprise systems deployment. Most are worried with the function, with the features, with business support and forget system engineering concepts, I mean how the system was conceived (engineered) to evolve and adapt to changing conditions (probably to revisit  in next edition sessions). I do no mean that the system itself will have such kind of character (by the way those that say IT can behave like complex adaptive system are in science fiction mode because one thing is the system to behave like that, other are the patterns that emerge as humans act on systems), but hey should be engineered with that objective (that can be evolved taking into consideration enterprise ecosystem, rather substituted).

Regarding adaptive case management there where some key ideas I would like to stress: the future is more around  providing guidelines that show people where to go, but do not prevent deviations if they are necessary, rather than enforcement where people fight against process design. Still, the idea that knowledge workers know what to do, because they understand the business model, the business rules and apply their knowledge building solutions to business problems was refuted by Tribolet. On his words, sometimes knowledge workers do what the hell they want to do and enter into contraction with company objectives. Hence the idea that knowledge workers know best to achieve the goals, sometimes does not apply and business suffers. It’s a matter of human behavior.  This is something we should make a reflection about.

Denis Gagné: Business Process Simulation: How to get value out of it

For those that are familiar with Deni’s style, already know that his sessions are very practical oriented. Denis talked about the reappearance (some argue that never disappeared) and the importance of simulation.

In the past simulation was seen like an evil tool that did not deliver value because process models were incomplete,  data used in simulation was inappropriate (mostly because it not even close of reality). There are some seminal reflections on simulation of Process Mining godfather Will Van der Aalst  were it argues that any attempt to simulate will be an incomplete exercise and will lead managers to make the wrong decisions, but as I envisioned before (something that for sure Gartner and Forrester will bring to the intelligent BPM assessment reports) Process Mining and Simulation are poised to merge. This is because today most of what we do is recorded by enterprise systems and it’s possible to construct real world models and use real world data to hep to build scenarios and make decisions about future directions.

Back again to Denis’s presentation, one of the key points was bringing awareness about what is the difference about process improvement that can be done using a myriad of approaches and business process management the management philosophy (not project based; continuous improvement culture and process-based management).

Regarding simulation he stressed more on capacity simulation aspects of a process model, usually dynamic analysis (using discreet simulation methods). Finally he talked about BPSIM the standard that allows data interoperability embedded into process models providing for pre-execution and post-execution optimization. As I told in the conference closure session, simulation is sexy again and it’s a way to explore how to improve process redesign in an era where all the data you need to do it is available inside your enterprise systems, rather than some years ago where you took cumbersome effort making studies driving you into the wrong direction to make decisions.

Ivo Velitchkov – Reasoning with Taskless BPMN

For me this was the most innovative presentation of all, because it challenged the current state on BPMN process modeling. BPMN is difficult to learn (but once it’s learned believe me can produce rich process model models) it has an endless symbol pallet, modeling by itself can lead to highly capillary detail or to high level approaches does not tell the complete story, in order words produce incomplete models. Hence Ivo, presented a new approach, based on taking from the process map the tasks (tasksless).

He defended the idea that taksless model diagrams, based only on process state transitions, conditional events and process rules, can produce easily understandable process models. On his words, tasks try to restrict what should be done during run time with what is known during design time. I see great potential of his ideas, translating business models into high level IT requirements, substituting state transition diagrams.

Tom Graves – Serving the story how BPM and EA work together in the enterprise

In a time where Enterprise Architecture finally is being understood as something valuable, that goes beyond creating boxes like collecting trading cards or tokens,  because today when you carry a process improvement initiative you realize you cannot anymore “automate” something because the pace of process change is touching other processes, systems, people if you don’t have the broader picture, aligning business model, value chain, organization and  IT all together, the risk your transformation project will fail is high.

Tom, brought a different perspective of how to do EA right. Putting people talking to each other in order to provide each of enterprise architecture layers (business model, value chain, organization, IT) perspective to the project.

He somehow stressed that enterprise architecture is not about IT like TOGAF framework, letting no place to the people that make part of the enterprise that know what the enterprise is all about contrary to the silicon servers. On his words, let the people include the people-story otherwise EA will be incomplete.

Michael Poulin – Business Processes in a Service-Oriented Enterprise

Michael walked mostly around a set of principles on Service-Oriented Enterprise, but I will highlight the concept that Michael created around Purpose Case Management. Conceptually, Purpose Case Management makes the blend between ACM and BPM (in this context BPM is structured process not the management philosophy) at it can drive smoothing transitions between unstructured and structured actions across ACM/BPM independently of the approach.

Robert M. Shapiro – Visual Analytics and Smart Tools

Robert talk was also on simulation, focused  on using data on executing processes to get an understanding on what is happening, what problems are and where you should look where to make improvements.

He walked through on a a very practical perspective intended to combines the process model, simulation to add data to the model in order to capture the behavior of the process model, analyze the different dimensions of the simulation result (time, cost, resources) and optimize that makes comparisons regarding different improvement scenarios. He also presented a method on Return on Investment on thinks like spending money on training with people’s performing the task in the process vs IT task automation, calculating benefits that can be used on process deployment, helping managers to decide before the rubber hits the road. This was very new to me.

Vitor Santos: Organizational elasticity with BPM

Vitor tried to demystify the approaches to build IT systems. He talked about the engineering approach that tries to align the enterprise holistic approach, and pointed out the concept of IT adaptability (elasticity on his words) built on the concept of viable systems that prevent the hike of maintenance cost or replacing IT time to time rather than making a bigger investment upfront that will fulfill business for a larger period.


In the next couple of weeks, videos from the sessions will be available. If you are interested, take a peek at the conference website.

Interested in a different view about the conference? Here is Tom’s view.

4 thoughts on “BPM Conference Portugal 2013

  1. Thanks for writing up this summary Alberto. Sorry I couldn’t attend. It would have been nice opportunity (and setting) to meet with everyone face to face. I’m glad it went well.

  2. Pingback: Is Lisbon the place for Business Process Innovation? | Collaborative Planning & Social Business

  3. Pingback: BPM Conference Portugal 2014 | End to End BPM

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