I’ve recently returned from IDS Scheer’s ProcessWorld Conference held February 13-15, 2008 in Orlando, FL. Although I missed the closing day, it was a brief but information-packed day and a half that afforded me the opportunity to meet with the firm’s leadership and share perspectives with their clients during the afternoon of the pre-conference user day and day one.

In his keynote, Thomas Volk, IDS Scheer’s CEO and President, proclaimed 2008 the year of the “rise of the operational CEO” who, in order to return shareholder value, increase market valuation, grow the top line, and mitigate risks:

• sets objectives prescriptively
• manages accountability objectively
• monitors execution constantly
• sees potential problems early
• makes adjustments regularly

To accomplish the above tasks, Volk described ARIS as the platform to provide “corner office command-and-control of the operational strategy”. While this could stir up visions of a corporate “Big Brother”, I prefer to see it as useful advice for today’s executives to keep an eagle’s eye view of their organization’s process performance at a high level.

Yet at the same time, this strategic view must be complemented at the operational and tactical levels. This theme of transparency at all levels is reflected in the ARIS Business Performance Edition for 2008. Dr. Helge Heß, a Director for the Process Intelligence/Performance Manager solution and Dr. Wolfram Jost of IDS Scheer’s Executive Board and IDS Scheer’s executive product steward, shared some product highlights ahead of the Q2 official release:

Process Intelligence/Performance Manager (PI/PM). As Dr. Heß noted, this functionality has been out for about six months, and after significant traction, makes it’s official debut.  Packed with statistical analytical tools for process owners, this capability pulls metrics from the execution engine and displays the actual process performance against the process model.

Process Event Monitor (PEM). PEM will provide business activity monitoring to provide real-time alerts to the operational staff whenever an event breaches process parameters. The alerts come in the form of visual indicators, trend analysis tools, distribution curves, and influence coefficients (an indicator or relative sensitivity of certain variables to process outcomes).  As part of the focus on agility, this combats the latency challenges from having data analysis available only at the process owner level. This capability also highlights its new partnership with Systar to integrate Systar’s BAM functionality into the ARIS platform.

ARIS Six Sigma.  Along with the announcement of its new solution to facilitate Six Sigma implementation, IDS Scheer introduced its technology partnership with MiniTab, the leading statistical analytical tool for Lean Six Sigma practitioners.  This integrated solution will provide customers of both applications full support across the entire Six Sigma Cycle of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), further weaving process definition, analysis, and optimization with rigorous data analysis capability.

ARIS 7.1 Platform Enhancements. These include:

• Process model versioning to provide graphical comparison between process model versions
• Timeline modeling (think Gantt Chart for process model development)
• A publishing component that will allow the publishing of HTML files, provide a file repository for ARIS artifacts, and allow users to customize reports and views of the process such as a spreadsheet view, left to right process maps for process experts and modelers, or a top down fact sheet view for a process owner or line of business manager.

An internal execution engine. For the record, this is not an execution engine for operational processes, but for process governance activities such as release cycles and artifact creation to service-enable the ARIS applications. To be fair, IDS Scheer clarified that point during follow-up discussions. Nonetheless, this announcement certainly created a bit of confusion among the press and analyst corps, since IDS Scheer’s lack of an operational execution engine limits its ability to claim ARIS as a full scope BPM suite. Not to mention raising the ire of its ERP partners. We’ll stay tuned, as I’m sure will the Big Four.

The trip report wouldn’t be complete without sharing the analyst luncheon theme presented by IDS Scheer’s founder, Professor Scheer. As we found out during his morning keynote, he plays an accomplished and passionate baritone sax. He expressed that same passion during our jazz brunch, as he and his quartet played and he explained the parallels between jazz and SOA (and in this jazz lover’s view, BPM) through the jazz standard “I’ll remember APRIL”. Here’s a brief summary of the parallels Professor Scheer discussed:

“A” for Autonomy: Just as the different members of a jazz ensemble have degrees of freedom and opportunities to individually express a particular piece, there are opportunities to design processes to allow for the customization of a perfect order through a standard process. At the same time, autonomy doesn’t mean chaos, but rather a resolving theme such as the melody or rhythm of a piece, or a company’s business goals and regulatory environment.

“P” for Passion: While jazz allows an artist to invent and improvise on a jazz solo, the musician can’t hide those feelings that inspired the improvisation. The intense feeling must come out to provide the very best of the composition. Similarly in business, companies must be committed to their vision and convinced that they are taking the right path.

“R” for Risk: Once the composition is done, dress rehearsal is over, and the piece is to be premiered, artists and soloists must be willing to play the notes and make the mistakes. Only then can excellence that comes from improvisation break through. Business is fraught with risk — whether to enter a new market, take on a new methodology as part of their strategy, or to create a new product or service. This is not recklessness, but rather thoughtful risk-taking, based on data and research. Yet at the end of the day, after the analysis, information is imperfect and true leaders must be willing to make a decision — to risk.

“I” for Innovation: The beauty of jazz is the ability to take an old standard and put a new spin on it or take it in a completely new direction. A YouTube search for “I’ll Remember April” will return several musical renditions ranging from “traditional” jazz guitar, sax, and piano to ukulele, with various tempos, rhythms, and solo sequences. Similarly, SOA enables innovation and allows a firm to truly deliver value by utilizing the sustainable competitive advantage of its people and its processes. This is the true defense against the risks of commoditization competition.

“L” for Listen: As Professor Scheer noted, jazz musicians quite often close their eyes when they play. This frees the ensemble to really concentrate and hear the innovation among the individual artists — not just what to play, but when to play it, and when to transition and improvise. Whether soliciting and pursuing ideas from your employees or having conversations with your clients, listening is at the heart of business, and is critical to staying fresh and ahead of the curve.

As I shared with Professor Scheer, his morning teaser and extended lunch set summoned fond memories of distant post-college summer days spent among Paris jazz clubs and the Black Belt life. Okay, maybe Professor Scheer has yet to make his premiere at the Blue Note or Caveau de la Huchette, but as he noted, the 300 plus strong audience for his morning keynote was bigger than the German clubs where he normally blows. The fact that he had only met the other members of the quartet the previous evening reinforced the aspects of agility and innovation in jazz and business.

Andy Salunga, Senior Analyst
Business Process & Applications