Hot Skills in BPM for 2021 - Part 2

Did you enjoy Part 1 of the post about BPM skills in 2021? I have something extra for you.

Below you can find the answers from the following experts:

Now, let’s dive into the answers.

Prof. Wil van der Aalst

Prof. Wil van der AalstProf.dr.ir. Wil van der Aalst is a full professor at RWTH Aachen University leading the Process and Data Science (PADS) group. He is also part-time affiliated with the Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik (FIT) where he leads FIT’s Process Mining group and the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e). Until December 2017, he was the scientific director of the Data Science Center Eindhoven (DSC/e) and led the Architecture of Information Systems group at TU/e. Since 2003, he holds a part-time position at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Currently, he is also a distinguished fellow of Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) in Trento and a member of the Board of Governors of Tilburg University. His research interests include process mining, Petri nets, business process management, workflow management, process modeling, and process analysis. Wil van der Aalst has published over 250 journal papers, 22 books (as author or editor), 550 refereed conference/workshop publications, and 80 book chapters. Many of his papers are highly cited (he one of the most cited computer scientists in the world; according to Google Scholar, he has an H-index of 155 and has been cited over 110,000 times), and his ideas have influenced researchers, software developers, and standardization committees working on process support. Next to serving on the editorial boards of over ten scientific journals, he is also playing an advisory role for several companies, including Fluxicon, Celonis, and UiPath. Van der Aalst received honorary degrees from the Moscow Higher School of Economics (Prof. h.c.), Tsinghua University, and Hasselt University (Dr. h.c.). He is also an IFIP Fellow, IEEE Fellow, ACM Fellow, and an elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities, the Academy of Europe, and the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts (Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste). In 2018, he was awarded an Alexander-von-Humboldt Professorship.
WWW: http://www.vdaalst.com
Linked In: LI profile
Twitter: @wvdaalst

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

When I started to work on the first process mining algorithms in the late 1990-ties, processes and data were completely disconnected. Most of the people working on process management were focusing on process models and workflow automation. Most of the people working on data mining and machine learning did not consider operational processes. Process mining provided the missing link between model-based process analysis and data-oriented analysis techniques. Skills related to the combination of data science and process science have become more critical over time, and 2021 will be no exception.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows that accurate data are vital to managing operational processes. Global supply chains were taken by surprise, and vulnerabilities were exposed. Process mining can be used to create full transparency on what is happening in a supply chain and recommend actions.

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

My process mining book “Process Mining: Data Science in Action. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2016. http://www.springer.com/978-3-662-49850-7
” still seems the most obvious place to start to prepare for the convergence of data science and process science. The book is supported by the Coursera course with the same name, see https://www.coursera.org/learn/process-mining
. Most of the things presented there are timeless. Of course, there have been many recent developments (e.g., better tooling and novel applications). Currently, there are over 35 commercial process mining tools (e.g., Celonis, Disco, UiPath/ProcessGold, myInvenio, PAFnow, Minit, QPR, Mehrwerk, Puzzledata, LanaLabs, Process Diamond, Apromore, Everflow, TimelinePI, Signavio, and Logpickr).

The large-scale adoption in industry happened only in the last five years. Many organizations are using process mining today. To get an impression of this, I recommend the edited book by Lars Reinkemeyer “Process Mining in Action. Principles, Use Cases and Outlook. Springer, 2020. https://www.springer.com/de/book/9783030401719” which describes many case studies. This is inspiring, but I recommend BPM professionals to first truly understand the concepts by taking the course just mentioned. People easily talk about processes and data without having a clear understanding of the core concepts.

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

I sense that most of the traditional skills are still relevant, but the emphasis has shifted from modeling and gartering requirements to more data-driven skills. Many people are obsessed with BPMN, DMN, and CMMN, living in an imaginary world very disconnected from reality. People stressing such standards without looking at the actual processes’ traces will not contribute to actual process improvements. Many things are overhyped, as is illustrated by “Buzzword Bingo” reports like “RPA Renaissance Driven by Morphing Offerings and Zeal for Operational Excellence” by Gartner. Also, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning (DL) have been promising things that are simply unrealistic. The fact that neural networks work surprisingly well for some tasks does not imply that they can be applied to any problem, e.g., process management.

What is the role of process-related skills in the “new normal”?

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that having reliable data and resilient processes is of paramount importance. Some organizations will simply disappear because of the current crisis; others will thrive. Organizations need to be able to address compliance and performance problems systematically, also when circumstances change rapidly. Organizations built on spreadsheets and politics are unable to tackle the challenges related to COVID-19, e.g., tracking whether people get a second dose, ensuring that the right people get the vaccines, and detecting counterfeited or incorrectly handled vaccines. The many problems witnessed will provide new opportunities for digital transformations that go beyond making PowerPoints and playing Buzzword Bingo.


BJ Biernatowski

BiernatowskiBJ Biernatowski is an advanced BPM Practitioner with 21 years of IT experience, 16 of which spent implementing Business Process Management solutions. He has practical experience with Microsoft Power Platform, K2, Appian, Pega, and Tibco AMX BPM, including large-scale business transformations.

He is currently employed by Microsoft as a Process and Execution Manager on the Business Operations Team.

BJ’s work has been featured by KW World, and he has presented internationally on the topic of workplace transformation. He served as an advisor to Fortune 500 companies.

Areas of interest include COEs, Knowledge Work automation, and Citizen Development adoption of Low Code Digital Process Automation (DPA) platforms. UW Foster School of Business alumni and a Monroe, WA resident.

LinkedIn: LI profile
Twitter: @bjbiernatowski

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

I predict that in 2021 the following skills and techniques will be getting more traction in the marketplace:

  1. Citizen Developer model goes mainstream: The practical know-how about launching and managing successful Citizen Developer programs in sync with strategic Business and Process Architecture initiatives. Companies who experienced the benefits of combining Low Code technologies with the democratization of solution delivery will start thinking about harnessing this wave for widespread business transformations. This trend will create challenges for old school DPA vendors who banked their product development strategies on highly specialized skill sets, masking the complexities of program delivery. In the quest for simpler but very closely aligned solutions developed by CitDevs vs. technically sophisticated solutions designed by teams of consultants, the democratic model of Digitizing Business Processes should prevail, despite the higher perception of risk. Such programs’ individual success will vary based on the strength of the relationship with BA/Process teams driving Digital Work Ecosystems’ underlying architecture. This phenomenon should bring back some IT jobs previously shipped overseas.
  2. Process Mining: the next frontier of business process automation is hiding in logs and digital footprints left by workers in many IT systems. Over the last decade, enterprises pursued automation of business processes as articulated by people who, despite their best intentions and hours invested into discovery sessions, still felt short of capturing the whole breadth of process architectures. Modeling cases, processes, and decisions in highly dynamic environments require specialized tools and access to the right data. Companies who figure out how to mine this data for relevant, process-related pieces of information will be able to realign their automation programs. It’s not just about how fast you go if you end up in Denmark instead of in the goldfields of Alaska.
  3. Divergent Thinking: because future architectures of emerging Digital Work Ecosystems can be designed for on-premise, cloud & hybrid cloud from hundreds of complementary Cloud-native services. The number of permutations of the ‘right fit’ solutions continues to become higher and higher. Knowing where and how to start will require imagining these abstract blueprints from multiple points of view.
  4. Advanced Visualization Techniques – does the two-dimensional view of the business process truly reflect the three-dimensional and, many times, object-oriented nature of DPA implementations? How can one describe the relationship between business requirements, value chains, customer journeys, cases, business processes, tasks, and workflows using the relatively flat view of CMMN, BPMN, and DMN? If you scale up your process models into the work of hundreds of people, how can you depict each task, activity, and case at every layer of your Enterprise Process Architecture? Add multiple layers of your Cloud infrastructure, and this task becomes pretty challenging.
  5. Skills highlighted in my 2020 projections: AI-DP-RP-A, the art of influencing, collaborative teamwork, and approaching BPM as a management discipline.

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

  1. Tracking Forrester, Gartner, and IDC reports if you have access to subscriptions. Looking for free online events and conferences and hanging out with the crowd. As an employee of Microsoft and a frequent user of our services, one such event I’m looking forward to is the PowerPlatform BootCamp 2021 February 19-20 which offers an opportunity to network and learn. Monitoring Twitter for relevant hashtags: #dpa, #powerautomate, #powerplatform, #rpa, #processmining, #workflow, #PowerCAT, #poweraddict
  2. I always like going to the source when diving into a new knowledge area. Professor Will van der Aalst’s book is a great start for any person new to this domain: Process Mining: http://www.processmining.org/book/start Then dive into studying practical applications of Process Mining by reading use cases i.e.: How Microsoft uses process mining to accelerate digital transformation. Whenever you feel ready to ‘just do it’ you can check out the preview release of PowerAutomate’s Process Advisor: https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/process-advisor/
  3. LinkedIn Learning for a crash course or Business Administration degree programs like the one offered by my alma matter, the University of Washington.
  4. I am still trying to figure this one out.
  5. BPM Tips continues to be my regular go-to source for the most up to date developments on everything BPM and DPA.

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

Most skills should be reusable as long as they offer the bridge between old and new. It is hard to predict when ‘old’ and ‘new’ skills mixed together will provide you with that one visual meta-model of the future driving your next project to a successful go-live

What is the role of process-related skills in the “new normal”?

Such skills are fundamental and mandatory for the operations of any successful enterprise. Highlighting new trends and updating the body of knowledge should be done at least yearly if not more often. One cannot plan a Digital Transformation without process related skills. The new normal has only upped the bar and accelerated the push to upskill teams. I found recent thoughts coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation relevant, as they explore ways the next pandemic could be equally disruptive to the world’s economy: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/bill-gates-we-must-prepare-for-the-next-pandemic-like-we-prepare-for-war/

It may be best to sharpen the process toolkit skills sooner than later.


Adeel Javed

Adeel JavedAdeel Javed is an intelligent automation architect, an author, and a speaker. He helps organizations automate work using low-code, business process management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), analytics, integrations, and ML. He loves exploring new technologies and writing about them. He has published two books with Apress, “Building Arduino Projects for the Internet of Things: Experiments with Real-World Applications” and “Robotic Process Automation using UiPath StudioX: A Citizen Developer’s Guide to Hyperautomation”. He shares his thoughts on various technology trends on his blog (adeeljaved.com).
WWW: https://adeeljaved.com
Linked In: LI profile
Twitter: @processrambling

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

The scope of BPM has changed. BPM is no longer just focused on managing human-centric processes. An end to end process now involves humans, systems, and robots. So, practitioners need to build a good understanding of the overall process automation landscape, which includes BPM, APIs, RPA, ML, and Analytics.

In addition, Six Sigma knowledge is once again becoming important.

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

Coursera is a good starting point. For hands-on skills, most vendors now offer free training courses and/or product trials.

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

Still waiting to see large scale adoption of process mining.


Sandy Kemsley

Sandy KemsleySandy is a “technology catalyst” with a 20-year history of software design and systems architecture in several technology areas, combined with a deep understanding of business environments and how technology can impact them.

She has also founded and run three companies – a systems integration services company, a software product company, and current consulting company – with responsibility for corporate and financial governance, strategic direction, team hiring and management, and day-to-day technical contributions.

Sandy blogs about BPM, enterprise architecture and other intersections of business and technology at www.column2.com

WWW: https://column2.com
LinkedIn: LI profile
Twitter: @skemsley

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

BPM practitioners need to be enabling change and flexibility within their organization in 2021. Over the last year, companies have found that they need to be able to change their business processes and practices in a very short time to accommodate the impacts of the pandemic: in particular, work-from-home, and supply chain disruptions. BPM practitioners need to be able to identify what needs to change in order to stay competitive, and figure out the reworked business processes required to make it happen. These new processes also need to be flexible to enable constant change, so the old methods of taking a long time to document a process then “cast it in stone” are not going to work. Agile methods can help to support this level of change and flexibility.

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

Learning about agile methods for organizational change and application development is a necessity for BPM practitioners: they need to be able to understand how to determine the “minimum viable product” in terms of changing a business process or creating a new application to support that process. Some lightweight Agile training is of benefit to them, although most of this can be learned from online resources and books. The bigger issue is being able to convince people within the organization that the change is necessary and provides a way for the organization to survive disruption: this is more of a presentation and negotiation skill than a technical skill. Case studies of other companies that have been able to change their processes drastically, and quickly implement some process automation to support the changing ways of working, can help to educate others within the organization of the necessity of change. There are also a lot of counter-examples that a practitioner can bring as example of how not to do this: the news is full of cases of companies that are unable to handle increased demand and distribution challenges (remember the “great toilet paper shortage” of 2020?), or can’t properly support customers who have problems with an order or product.

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

If we look at past years, skills such as AI and data science are probably less relevant to a BPM practitioner. These skills are becoming more commoditized, and also the capabilities that they represent are being built into systems so that they don’t have to be understood on a deep technical level by a practitioner. The role of a BPM practitioner should be more focused on understanding the end-to-end processes, being able to see where change is required in order to survive disruption, and identify the best places where process automation can improve things.

What is the role of process-related skills in the “new normal”?

Process-related skills are more important than ever in this “new normal”, because it’s business processes that are being disrupted. Having a large portion of employees working remotely means that processes need to change: work may flow differently than before, and may need to be pushed to people and remotely monitored to ensure that it’s getting done on time. Different protocols may be required for regulatory compliance, data privacy and information security. The other large process-related disruption is in supply chains, where an organization may have to use multiple new and different suppliers for manufacturing, distributing and supporting their goods and services. This ties in with the work-from-home changes, since companies that usually supply businesses may have had to pivot to supply individual consumers instead. Over the next year, some of these processes will swing back towards the pre-pandemic baseline, but many will end up somewhere in between, as organizations realize that many employees can be just as productive working from home at least a few days each week.


Mirko Kloppenburg

Mirko KloppenburgHi, I am Mirko Kloppenburg. I turned 40 at the end of January and live with my wife and our two daughters in Hamburg, Germany.

Half of my life, I have been working for Lufthansa Group in various process management positions. I started as a business information systems trainee, worked as process modeler and project manager for the introduction and operations of Lufthansa Technik’s process-oriented, integrated management system. I ran a number of process standardization projects and did a lot of research on BPM governance – especially process management role concepts – in cooperation with University of Bamberg.

Currently, I am heading the Methods & Tools team for Process Excellence and we are providing process management expertise to the whole Lufthansa Group. Since Easter 2020, when Corona brought the aviation industry to the ground, I have been on short-time work and I am only allowed to work one or two days a week to keep our process management system running with the tasks that are absolutely necessary for operations.

Thus, I am currently using my time to reflect my BPM and New Work experiences. – I was also heading a new work project for Lufthansa Technik in 2019. As a symbiosis of New Work and BPM, I came up with the term New Process. New Process aims to rethink processes. It adds a human-centric mindset to the already proven BPM tools and methods we know from the past.

To put this into action, I created the NewProcessLab.com as a platform to build a community, to perform experiments, and to share experiences. I like to invite you to join the community, to build the future of process management, and to rethink processes together!

WWW: NewProcessLab.com
LinkedIn: LI profile
Twitter: @MirkoKBurg

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

I strongly believe that it will become more and more important to put people in the focus of process management. This means, for example, to trust, involve and empower people working in and on processes. This can be done by creating processes as a framework that enables people to make independent decisions without the need for approval by the hierarchy. Another example would be to encourage the individual development of the people by providing platforms and trainings. These platforms can also be used to inspire people for excellent processes and give meaning to processes or even BPM itself. A more human-centric process management will also help to foster process diversity and to benefit from different cultures instead of standardization for the sake of standardization.

To make this applicable in reality, I have integrated these New Process principles into a New Process Life Cycle. This consists of seven phases that directly take these principles into account:

As innovation and USP in comparison to other process life cycles, the New Process Life Cycle starts with (1) “Define process purpose” as first phase. – Knowing why a process exists will inspire and motivate the people working in and on the process. It will create guidance for process design and execution, and it will support a sustainable process implementation. Based on the process purpose, a (2) process strategy can be developed and a (3) new process designed to fulfill the strategy as well as to contribute to the process purpose. In subsequent phases, the process design will be (4) modeled and (5) implemented. Afterwards, (6) steering of process execution as well as the (7) improvement of process execution takes place. Within all these phases, the New Process Principles can be applied.

To point out some examples, in the process design phase, people working in the process will be involved into the work on the process and they are asked to design a process that provides freedom for independent decision-making instead of constant approval.

For process implementation, process owners are supported by the New Process Life Cycle to develop measures to train the people and to facilitate know-how exchange instead of simply publishing the updated process.

In addition, I believe that the use of process mining for as-is analysis and steering of process execution will continue to increase. I also observe automation approaches with great interest and consider these to be solutions that should be included as part of the process design phase. – I am following the acquisition of Signavio by SAP and the further development of the market with excitement…

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

I have started to build up the New Process Life Cycle as a reference model on how to manage processes. It will be extended to a comprehensive toolbox for everyone working on business processes as well as offering process management to an organization. You will find the current version on NewProcessLab.com

Beyond the New Process approach, I would like to share my favorite resources with you:

  • I regularly listen to the Process Pioneers podcast by Daniel Rayner. In particular, the interview with Michael Rosemann published in January is absolutely worth listening to.
  • For those who want to pitch ideas, I recommend the book “Beyond the Obvious” by Ole Tillmann. Ole explains very clearly how to develop inspiring presentations with the help of design thinking and storytelling.
  • If you are interested in how to use Purpose in a business context, I recommend taking a look at the work of Julia von Winterfeldt at www.soulworx.de or Benjamin Rolff at www.BenjaminRolff.de.

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

I want to emphasize that New Process is not about throwing all the “old” methods and tools overboard. Quite the opposite. They are still relevant. It is about adding human aspects to these well-developed methods and tools to reach a new level in BPM.

However, what I want to leave behind is the pointless counting of FTEs as well as bullshit bingo on PowerPoint slides.

What is the role of process-related skills in the “new normal”?

I think that organizations with a robust process management system can respond much faster to changing conditions. With regard to the new normal, this capability is more relevant than ever. A sustainably implemented process management system will help to develop process changes quickly and scale them globally in no time. Process documentation will help to bring a consistent process to many locations – especially to the many home offices around the world. Processes can help to structure and facilitate communication and processes can help to bring changing strategies to life.

In contrast to many discussions in which the “New Ways of Working” are described as a time when processes are not needed, I believe it is essential to support these new ways of working with processes.

So, let’s rethink processes together!


Harald Kühn

Harold KühnDr. Harald Kühn is a member of the management board of the BOC AG. He is responsible for the product management and the related strategic aspects of BOC’s product portfolio. Dr. Harald Kühn works in the areas of BPM, EA, their integration and the usage of cloud technologies in these domains.

He is an author of over 20 publications about various aspects of BPM.

WWW: boc-group.com
LinkedIn: LI profile
Twitter: @BOC_Group

What are the skills, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes that can help BPM practitioners create value for their organizations in 2021?

  1. Design Thinking and its Digitization
    Design Thinking methods provide great tools and procedures to capture ideas, improvements and new approaches. As low-code approaches provide means for fast and efficient process implementations, design thinking provides means to approach process change in much more efficient ways. This is backed by a steadily increasing number of simple and collaborative tools. For example, Scene2Model bridges in real-time the world of haptic on-site workshops with fully digitized design sketches (http://innovation-laboratory.org/projects/2.1_Design_Thinking_Software_Scene2Model/).
  2. Know and estimate the potential of AI/ML
    The pace of including more and more AI-based (= artificial intelligence) and ML-based (= Machine Learning) components into digitalised business processes still accelerates. RPA, Process Mining and Bot-technologies are prominent examples. But there are many more AI-based approaches such as pattern recognition, irregularity detection, predictive alerts, user guidance etc. which a BPM practitioner should be aware of in digital process design.
  3. On-the-Fly Computing
    Business process design is highly influenced by digitization. Modern, digital process designs use a plethora of internal and external digital services, online services, micro-services, pre-fabricated components, cloud infrastructure, legacy infrastructure etc. DevOps brings already development and deployment tasks together. But only partially addresses the underlying complexity. On-the-Fly Computing provides largely automated configuration and execution services for complex digitized business processes and related IT ecosystems.

What are the best resources to learn those skills? (e.g. books, articles, courses)

Which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet (hype)?

Any knowledge and experiences gathered in the past will influence decisions for the future. Therefore, even if specific skills, techniques or technologies are not really relevant any more, they are important to evaluate, decide on and apply new upcoming approaches.

What is the role of process-related skills in the “new normal”?

Everybody has seen in the last year what an insufficiently digitized process means. So, any process-related skills and their digitization contribute as “mosaic pieces” to the “new normal”. One day the social distancing will be over, and the pendulum will swing back to desired direct human interaction intensively combined with digital processes.

Zbigniew Misiak

My name is Zbigniew Misiak and I am a BPM consultant at the BOC Group, where I also take care of the the community of our free Business Process Analysis tool ADONIS:Community Edition.

As a part of my job I am also working with other BPM vendors in BPMN Model Interchange Working Group. You can learn more about our effort in the “Making BPMN a true lingua franca” article on BPTrends. I have the privilege to work with a team of great BPM experts creating new version of the OMG Certified Expert in BPM exam and participate in BPMN, CMMN and DMN task forces.

From time to time I also run the BPM courses at various universities in Poland.