Wednesday, October 28, 2015

BPM.COM Podcast on Digital Business

Recently I spent some time with Peter Schooff, managing editor of BPM.COM, and we discussed Digital Business and what it means to folks trying to reach the goal of "going digital". Obviously this means different things to different people, so Peter tries to sort through some of the questions he hears on a daily basis. I try my best to address his questions in the following podcast. Enjoy and let us know what you think. The image below is my latest art piece representing iteration and movement that is my visual representation of incremental transformation.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Selecting Technology Partners for Your Digital Business Platform

While you will probably not be able to buy a complete and integrated Digital Business Platform (DBP) from one vendor, you can now identify some key technology partners that can help you get started. If you have created a logical (conceptual) architecture, like I suggested in an earlier post, you can start selecting technology partners and seeing how they map together in the physical world through proof of concept projects (POCs). It's a bit like putting together a puzzle even if the pieces come from one cornerstone vendor. Keep in mind, selecting technology partners is only one important step in your digital transformation journey and the business drivers and resulting business models are crucial.

Here are my candidates for the five logical digital architectural areas I outlined in my previous post. My goal here is to help folks with a jump start identification and evaluation of the digital players that could become giants in the digital vendor arena.

See the following chart for my key picks based on listening to the vendors or listening to clients that have successfully implemented incremental benefits while transforming to a more complete digital organization. These vendors were selected for their ability to help clients become agile and deal with shifting needs and targets. I selected the vendors based on early success or significant investment in research and development. Some potential partners have made acquisitions and are in the process of integrating them or providing services that do so. Keep in mind that if you pick multiple vendors, you will have to do some integration or outsource that integration to one of the vendors or a service provider.

I have categorized my winning picks into two categories.  One is a "Key Vendor", marked in red, that has proven to scale and have a reputation in the architectural area they surround in the diagram. The other is a "Kewl Vendor", marked in / blue, that has interesting successes in the area they surround, but not to a large extent yet. Keep in mind this is my first cut and it is early in digital transformation efforts.

* Note the Internet of Things is a mix of machine to machine, machine to software & machine to human vendors. Right now robotic management is included here. 

Net; Net:

While it is important to map your business transformation to digital before you pick your technology partner(s), there is a certain interplay and iteration that occurs between what the business wants at the moment and what the technology can do at the moment for your specific situation. Keep in mind that this is the first version of this chart and it will change over time.

Additional Reading:

Digital Definition:
Logical Digital:
Digital Processes:
Bimodal Business
Algoritmic Bus:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Creating a Digital Business Platform

Is it too early to pick a digital business platform or will many bet on multiple horses in the race?  I would suggest that organizations come up with a logical architecture and then later pick the vendors that will get you to an excellent digital business platform. That architecture will depend on what your business will need and what your leadership and culture will tolerate. If you are a "pick a mega vendor and follow them" type of organization, the architecture can help you influence the direction of the mega vendor(s) you have selected. Don't forget understanding your existing assets and figuring out how you might leverage them as well. I have created a jump start architecture chart that points to the kinds of platforms to consider when creating your logical architecture. Each platform type brings strengths and challenges.


Application Platforms: These are business application driven platforms that have adapted to support some of business and technical needs of the new digital world.

Process Platforms: These are process and application composition platforms that support agile process applications with significant operational visibility.

Analytic Platforms: These are algorithm or cognitive driven to support decision or knowledge work.

Integration Platforms: These are platforms that bring data, system and event islands together for application, analytic and process platforms to further leverage to sense, decide and act.

Internet of Things Platforms: These platforms support machine to machine communications as well as machine to system communications. They emit events for the integration platforms

Net; Net: 

Ready or not, the decision for your digital architecture and vendors will be coming up soon, if you haven't had to face creating a digital business platform yet. Start with a logical architecture and drill down to build a feature list when the time comes.

Additional Reading:

What is Digital?:        
Platform Advantages:
Intelligent Processes:
Analytic Economy:
Digital is Bimodal:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What is Digital Business?

If you ask a number of folks what digital means to them and their business, you will get a myriad of answers. It's really hard to create a plan to get to a digital business if you don't have a common definition of it. To compound the problem, the components of a digital business are all evolving and new components are emerging constantly. Few companies have a similar starting point even if they are in the same industry. So what do the experts say? Compare theirs to my attempt.

Gartner: Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.

Forrester: Digital business must deliver epic digital customer experiences while simultaneously fostering agility and efficiency through digital operational excellence.

IDC: Digital Business employs digital technologies coupled with organizational, operational, and business model innovation to create new ways of operating and growing businesses. 

I have no intention of criticizing any of the above definitions as they all capture key aspects and attributes of a digital business. It's kind of like trying to capture requirements to define a process or an application when the business professional only knows it's right when they see it in operation. 

Sinur:  Digital business is the leverage of available or emerging resources to compete effectively to win temporal or permanent loyalty of all parties that interact with the business while maintaining business longevity by changing / evolving the business model and shifting decisions or work to technology. 

With that said, there are a number of trends and moving parts under the covers of all of these definitions. Besides the normal goal of attaining operational excellence while staying germane to a set of customers and prospects, there are new forces to deal with in this new digital world. It's almost like another planet compared to the high quality and stable business models, processes and applications that we have traditionally dealt with in the past.

New Human Experiences:

In the digital world the customers and other business parties will interact in a different way beyond social, mobile and cloud. The customers will be greatly influencing their interfaces with your organization and the way they expect to be treated. At the same time they may not know if they are dealing with a person or a bot of sorts. The visibility and dynamism expected will cause a revolutionary battle for relationship management and experience immersion

A Moving Target:

If you like your business as it is, just wait a couple of nanoseconds. Change will be occurring on grand scales during some periods and quiet in others. This means that your business model, competitive methods and products will be changing even in the hands of the customers while they own them. This means that your business and what digital means will shift as time travels.

Increased Speed:

All pedals to the metal. The speed of business operations, change and development will increase significantly. Also there will be a dynamic balance between portions of the business, emerging processes, applications and systems that might move slow and those that move in a nanosecond fashion (aka bimodal). This will put a premium on prediction and quick collaboration with the help of algorithms and cognitive assists.

A Cognitive Revolution:

Speed and change alone will generate a revolution in cognitive assists (cogs), but the complexity their interaction plus customer relationship and interaction demands will make it difficult for humans to do it alone, This revolution will put knowledge and wisdom in the hands of people and in the flow of processes, applications and systems. While on the surface, we see only a couple of large participants, their are number of specialty cogs emerging from smaller vendors.This is the first step of distributed intelligence. Imagine a world where humans collaborate with cogs for better results for all.

Swarming Resources:

Once we trust the decisions and actions of processes, systems and machines, we will allow them to swarm to solve goal directed problems. At first, it will be small scale and isolated decisions and operations, but wider latitude will be won. Imagine a world where resources swarm in one way to reach a goal and swam in another when the context changes. This is part of a larger effort to push decisions and actions at the edge of the business with proper governance through constraints and visibility. This is the second step in distributed intelligence and the first step in distributed control.

Net; Net:

I'm not sure anyone is ready for what digital ends up being, but it is clearly a journey and we will all have to deal with the incremental change getting to that moving destination. Strap yourself in as we are headed down this road.

Additional Reading:


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Intelligent Process Management in Your Digital Business Platform

Intelligent process management suites (iBPMS) aren't the perfect bimodal technology platforms, but they certainly are a great business hub technology and can act as a lynch pin technology platform. No two iBPMS suites have the same set of strengths, but they all are good at handling different speed of operation and speed of development and adaptation. Yes they will have to be augmented by deeper technologies and business functionality for certain business use cases, but the iBPMS should be at the center of your Digital Business Platform (DBP) for no other reason as it can bridge the new with the old and is great for incremental transformation.

During Business Operation:

An iBPMS can orchestrate, communicate with or respond to multiple people resources, patterns, triggers, bots along with standard software, This is invaluable for creating a digital platform. It can handle long running knowledge collaboration task to nano second auto response situations. A good iBPMS can control or be controlled in order to act in an central control fashion or a distributed control fashion. As intelligence moves out to the edge, the ability to intermix control points and dynamic connections, the ability to control or participate is essential. Nearly all iBPMS platforms support big data analytics, social, mobile and cloud, so they play well wherever or whenever they are called upon to support digital efforts.

During Development & Adjustment:

An iBPMS supports both model driven and SCRUM approaches and reduces the code because of explicit rules. The speed of prototyping and development is crazy fast as you can build, test and visually observe what is happening quickly. Resources can be added quickly. Process snippets (mini process pieces) can be used quickly and dynamically in new contexts.  The iBPMS is a master of composing in addition to development, so adding new bits of business capability is easy. Sometimes, where governance practices allow and the situation demands it, changes can be immediate during full production operation. Of course some of the old code leveraged will be on a slower track, the old code can be retrofitted with explicit rules or configurable parameters to keep up with the speed of the model and rule driven iBPMS.

Net; Net:

In most cases an iBPMS can solve at least 80% of your technical demands and is great at surrounding existing business functionality or including new and growing functionality. A digital strategy with a iBPMS at the core will allow the leverage of new resources and functionality easily. Most iBPMS platforms will handle both structured and dynamic cases that are agile driven by the speed of business and technology evolution. If you haven't considered one, you will probably include one sooner than later.

Additional Reading:

Model Driven:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bimodal IT Supports a Bimodal Business in the Digital World

Digital demands that businesses have to think in two different ways to support business outcomes. Some of this is because there are parts of your business that are static and stable and other parts that are evolving. The management of these two styles are quite different and the line between the two modes can shift and blur overtime. New changes in a market or industry can shift the split. However, both modes are being impacted by an acceleration in speed that seems to be overarching. If IT does not deal with this different styles and support both, the business will take over the fast exploratory and nonlinear portions of the business and IT will be the utility over the non-differentiating portion of the business that is easy to eliminate through outsourcing. There are two ways to deal with this emerging situation. 

Successful Defensive Approaches:
For organizations that have a more conservative culture that believes in evolution and incremental results, there are a couple of approaches to cope during the rush to Digital. One popular approach is to wrap stable and time tested system functionality and make the system of engagement quick to deliver visible change to constituents. Another popular approach is to leverage SCRUM like methods to iteratively develop thus creating a software factory that will deliver in a faster time to market, This is often called "wagile" that combines the best of both worlds. The quality of water fall practices with the speed of prototyping. The useful life of any legacy software can also be extended by externalizing rules for quick adaptation that could avoid traditional programming. 

Successful Offensive Approaches:
For organizations that are more risk taking in nature that believe that a certain amount of failure is acceptable, as long as you fail fast there are a couple of approaches that can work well. One is to create an environment of innovation by rewarding people for taking risks and trying new methods, techniques and technologies on a small scale in isolation and then push big upon success (if it will scale). This is what I call the "Do it, Try It, Fix it" approach. The other is to retake shadow IT from the business and move it back to the IT department now that innovation is available now inside of IT. Care must be taken with this later approach to prove to the business that IT is no longer a utility that fights change with all it's might. This is the "Get on Board or Get Out of the Way" approach.

Net: Net: 
The answer is balanced for most organizations that are going to thrive in the new digital world, so IT organizations are going to have to pick up on all the approaches above and more over time. The clock is ticking for IT to get it together. 

Gartner Defines Bimodal IT as the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Algorithmic Economy is a Great Start

Gartner is emphasizing algorithms, interconnections and relationships as the core of Digital Business this year at Symposium. This is a good start, but I think there are some missing pieces unless Gartner is redefining what an algorithm is in the digital world. In the past algorithms were the math formulas or calculations that help in problem solving. In this sense, algorithms are rising as important digital contributors, but I can see other contributors such as knowledge, cognition and context. Since digital is speeding up things, putting these other contributors in the mix is critical. This is why cognitive computing will catch on to go beyond just algorithms. Cogs and swarming agents will be additional contributors to the Digital Economy. 


Knowledge is awareness or familiarity gained by experience of facts or situation. Knowledge takes in data, judgement and situations. Algorithms generally only work on data and are typically focused on a few situations. It usually takes judgement to decide where to apply an algorithm. Besides just facts or information, knowledge can be the skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.


Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. A result of cognition is a perception, sensation, notion, or intuition which may or may not result in an action. Cognitive services are not predictable algorithms, but may use inference, statistics and algorithms in combination. Cognitive services (COGs for short) will be as plentiful as algorithms in the Digital Economy.


Contexts are the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Algorithms rarely consider context as they usually operate as a black box and are predictable. Contextually sensitive algorithms generally require knowledge and cognition to thrive beyond specific uses singularly or in combination with other algorithms.

Net; Net:

I hope Gartner meant something far beyond the traditional meaning of algorithms, because I think it is a disservice to what Digital will become. I believe that along with algorithms, knowledge, experience and context will be necessary for technology to learn (machine learning) and to behave as software Agents & Cogs on behalf of people or the Internet of things (IoT). As these agents mature more intelligence will be added to these agents so the they swarm to serve to reach goals that represent desirable outcomes. 

Additional Reading on Agents:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Big Change is Enabled by "Cared for People"

Change is in the air everywhere you look, particularly in this race to be a great digital business. While there are hurdles in this race like learning to exploit new trends and technologies, but the big wall is how people deal with change. I'm not sure we are considering how to get people to accept or embrace change. We really can't replace people with robots anytime soon or even replace all of our people with different ones, so we better get good at helping people with change. People have free will and we need to carefully move them along by understanding what they have to do to shift their habits and behaviors. Here is a change cycle that has helped me over the years that worked without threats or intimidation.

Identify the Change:

It's important to describe the goals of the change and why they are important to the organization. This is important even if each of the steps of the change journey or the complete end state is not described perfectly. Frequent updates and adjustments are part of the change process, but honesty goes a long way.

Change Perspectives:

People are going to react to the described and anticipated changes. It is important to discuss the impacts, both positive and negative with all involved, repeatedly. It would be important to have early adopters or people who inspire others as key communicators.

Motivate the Change:

Change can be positively motivated, but many managers slip into negative motivation too early in the cycle. There should be rewards on the line for those that are involved. For learners, it's the change itself. For the average person, it's a chance to get an appropriate reward. For the resistors, the gradual success will convince them eventually. Making the results visible is crucial for the change to gather momentum.

Align the Priorities:

Priorities have to be aimed at the change at the highest possible level. Those that are ambitious will show the way. Early rewards can help the momentum and shape rewards for further steps. Examples of success, well communicated, go a long way.

Make and Measure the Change:

Planning good measures and making them visible will create momentum. but a true post audit that prioritizes on truth will help folks understand how serious organizations are to learn to be better. Some changes are long lasting so intermediate measures and goals are helpful.

Reward and Repeat: 

Pay out the rewards handsomely and you can expect better results over time. Some folks will have to shift to new areas because they can't make the change. If they are treated fairly, future steps will be safer.

Net; Net:

Handling people with care has a direct relationship on the success of change and gets organizations ready for the next hurdle. It's all about avoiding a faltering in the race to digital.

Additional Reading on Change: