The Evergreen of BPM - with Zbigniew Misiak

 

Lloyd Dugan:
Greetings. This is Lloyd Dugan, your host of the BPM.com podcast. Today our guest is Zbigniew Misiak, who I just call Z and most of his friends just call Z, and mostly because we're just challenged to pronounce anything that is that complex. In any event, Z is a friend and a colleague for some time now and we're going to have some fun with him today as a result. But we're going to invert the order a little bit. Usually, the shameless plug moment comes at the end, but we're going to let him start off with that, and then we'll go into our set of questions, ending with a surprise question and my rant of the day. Z, take it away.

ZbigniewMisiak podcastZbigniew Misiak:
Thanks, Lloyd. Thanks for invitation. I'm very happy to be here. So for those of you who like learning languages, if you would like to spell my name correctly, it will be Zbyszek Misiak or Zbigniew Misiak. And a shameless plug moment: so what I do. My day job is I'm a consultant at BOC Group and what we do is we help our customers with their digital transformation initiatives. So we are providing some services, tools for BPM (this is my BPM background), but also EAM (Enterprise Architecture Management) and GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance).

My specialty is modeling processes, especially with BPMN, but not only. I also do lots of trainings for people who are using our tools, especially our BPM tool called ADONIS. And for a long time, I was providing support for people who are using the free version of the tool called ADONIS Community Edition, which has lots of users worldwide. And I'm also participating in various Object Management Group working groups like BPMN MIWG (Model Interchange Working Group).

But I'm also a blogger. I have a blog at BPMtips.com which started as a hobby project and the idea behind it was sharing useful tips for BPM professionals. And I also have some courses, for example, on Udemy.

Lloyd Dugan:
Just to elaborate a bit, Z and I are both involved in the OMG effort to fill out the remaining exams for certifying on BPM and BPMN 2.0. As Z actually has a longer history with that than I do, but we've restarted some things recently and I look forward to our collaborative work. We got off to our first meeting together to actually chart out the path forward and we've got some homework assignments that are due in about two weeks. And I also was involved with him in MIWG and those discussions as well.

So Z, want to take a look a little bit right off the bat about your work with your own site BPMtips, but I'll let you plug the URL yourself. And your annual BPM skills in the coming year publication, which has now gotten so big it has to be done in two parts. So if you could give us a little bit about that, the URL specifically, the purpose for it, and what was the inspiration behind it? What led you to do this and how the heck did you end up knowing so many people?

Zbigniew Misiak:
Well, it was a little bit accidentally. So I started blogging in 2008, inspired by Sandy Kemsley, by her great posts, and she's also a great inspiration for me today. So the first post was in 2008 and then on 2015, I set up blog at my own domain, BPMtips.com. The idea behind this blog was to share with others what I learned, so to help them about common problems. This is why I selected domain BPMtips, something practical, something that they can quickly do and something that will help them to avoid the disasters. So this was my initial idea, but then I had something that I think in English is jokingly named the BFO, so blinding flash of the obvious. So I thought, hmm, Zbigniew, are you that smart? Well, no, so maybe it will be good idea to ask people much smarter than you. And that's what I thought is worth doing.

So I started by thinking, where can I ask people with different perspective, different backgrounds about their experiences. And it all started with that post”Why, when and how should business analysts use the BPMN”. As you may know, my name is not the easiest to pronounce, so I was wondering whether anybody will answer my request, whether anybody will want to participate. Why should they take time to participate, to share their knowledge, to share their expertise? But I thought maybe five people would answer.

Finally, I got 19 participants, including people very known like Laura Brandenburg, Adrian Reed, Bruce Silver and David Saboe. I did not expect that those people will find a time to share their experiences with me and my readers. And then I thought maybe we could try to do it on some slightly broader basis.

So in 2016, there was the first edition of the post BPM Skills. I did not make it BPM Predictions because predictions for BPM were already on bpm.com. I did not want to compete with such a great site. So I thought that maybe let's focus on things that people can learn. So this is why BPM Skills.

I started with a very simple structure, so what are the skills that BPM practitioners should add to their toolbox in a year, then it was 2016, and which skills are no longer relevant or not practically applicable yet, so, which are hot. So the basic answers could be set [i.e. they could be categorized as], which skills are hot and which are not. Again, I had incredible, incredible participants and some of them still participate in every edition since then, which is very, very humbling, I'm very grateful for all the participants, to all people who shared their knowledge. Maybe I will take a minute to thank all those who participated in the first edition: Josep Maria Cos, Lloyd Dugan, Ian Gotts, Harald Kühn, Marcello La Rosa, Alberto Manuel, Nathaniel Palmer, Adrian Reed, Clay Richardson, Pedro Robledo, Alexander Samarin, Jim Sinur, John Tesmer.

So it was awesome. And readers also enjoyed this format very, very much. So I thought maybe it would be worth repeating every year? And some of those editions were so big that they needed being split into two parts. So this is how it began.

Then how it happens. It, obviously, involved some emails and at the very beginning, I used Excel for keeping track of everything (which is of course not a recipe for a great success). As you may imagine if in companies we have emails and Excels, we as BPM consultants are not happy and we don't say that this is the best practice.

For me, the great insight came from my wife and she showed me Trello. Obviously, I could not afford to have sophisticated BPM suite that would help me run the roundup posts [posts with many participants]. But my wife showed me how to use Trello and this tool really helped me, helps me a lot to automate the whole process & to make sure everything runs smoothly.

So after I figured out the right process of running those posts, now it is really very, very easy to keep track of everything and make sure that everything goes smoothly. So this is how the BPM Skills cycle started and how does it run every year.

Lloyd Dugan:
Well, it's always interesting when BPM practitioners practice on themselves, right? You get some interesting results. I think we should thank your wife.

Zbigniew Misiak:
She would be much more interesting podcast guest than I am.

Lloyd Dugan:
I doubt that. Well, okay, we'll have her on next. What I will say is that as one of the contributors, as you mentioned, I do look forward to contributing to the site each year and I'm always amazed at the quality of content that is produced. It is no exaggeration to say that you managed to get everybody that I certainly know in this industry, and a few I don't, to opine at a reasonable length. None of these are deep reads, they can be read and just a few minutes. But they're all very insightful.

With respect to the annual BPM Skills, it's a two-parter now because it's been two parts for two years, at least I think now, I'm always amazed and impressed at the quality and number of people that you get. And the insights are really very strong and they're not really long reads. The individual posts can be consumed in about two minutes. If you want to read each of the two parts, it might take you 10 or 15. So these are not like deep briefs, but they contain the immense density of information.

And what I want to ask you Z is, and this is a topic that's come up in some of the other podcasts, is we talk about how BPM as a practice area, as a discipline, as more than just a market or a definition of a technology tool set, it seems to be ever renewing, evergreen in some sense. Many disciplines or practices pass through their fad stage and recede into the background. Many of them are antecedents to BPM.

But we have BPM itself seemed to be very self-renewing every three or four or five years. And despite the fact that the research services like Forrester, have long since moved on from them as an area of focus, why do you think that is? In other words, why is it so easy for you to find good content on a topic that is, by any measure, over a decade old?

Zbigniew Misiak:
Well, I would say that this is because BPM, however we call it, this is evergreen topic. There are processes, there will be processes and there were processes. I would say that in ancient Egypt, when they were building pyramids, they had some processes. Probably they did not have a graphical notation, but who knows, maybe some pictograms were process-related. But if you have some work to do you need to have a process. You may not realize that this is the process, but there is a process.

So we are talking about something that is evergreen, that is always relevant. And this is why our job is really useful and helpful for people. So this is why it is not a fad, that one year it is super hot and then nobody cares anymore about it. So, especially from my perspective, if I may share a story, and we had all around the world, we had those COVID-related situations in Poland and we had lock downs, we had lots of stuff.

At some part of this we had our Prime Minister saying that we should have more digital processes. So for me, as BPMpractitioner it was cool, wow, the Prime Minister is talking about things that I'm talking today. Wow! I was happy like a kid. And what really worked is seeing this in practice. So as in U.S., there was financial aid for companies, also something like this was for Poland. We had Financial Shields for the businesses and one of them was run by Polish Development Fund and it was great to see how automated processes really make a huge difference because they had this program for SMEs, so small and medium enterprises, and everything was fully digital. So they could send the forms, everything, in a digital way, very fast, very efficient, using AI to make sure that there are no frauds, and within days, those people could get money so their business could run, that they did not need to lay off employees.

So this is why I think BPM is important. If you know that running processes, automating them, improving them, really make sense, then you're much better suited for handling unexpected things or working with situations that you did not expect few weeks ago or a few months ago. So this is why I would say that BPM is really an important and evergreen topic, because if you know that processes exists, that you can improve them, that you can automate them, that you can do many things with them, it is much easier for you to manage your company than if you think only in terms of departments, units, or the financial results. So this is great perspective to understand how do you create value and how do you help your customers.

Lloyd Dugan:
I do think that we've been getting that kind of answer or close to it from everybody that has been asked that question. The one thing that strikes me about your answers though, the idea of BPM enabling resiliency within an organization is, to be quite frank, something I hadn't really thought about. But as soon as you said it, it was a Captain Obvious moment for me. I was like, oh yeah, of course, right? Because self knowledge is one of the things that makes you more resilient and BPM, if nothing else, it is about self knowledge of the organization.

So try to summarize, if you would, or just project your own sense of it on what you do think are the hot skills for BPM in 2021 and going into 2022.

Zbigniew Misiak:
I must begin with a warning. The reason why I’m asking other people to participate in the roundup post [BPM Skills] is because I have a very, very rare gift of missing the important trends outside my direct field of expertise. So some years ago, my boss asked me, "Zbyszek, do you think we should invest in a software that would help us do presentations online?" I said, "No way! Presentations online, it will never work, we need to meet in person." I was wrong. I'll tell you what I do with this software for doing presentations and trainings online today.

So I am not the best person for giving, let's say, insights like this, but I would say that critical skills for this and for next years, which I see in practice, so it may not be the whole answer, is being able to manage change, being agile, flexible. And this is much easier if you know what is really important. So if you have some kind of business architecture in your head, if you know the connections.

So I'm not only thinking in terms of BPM diagram, BPMN diagram with boxes and arrows, with tasks and gateways, but also seeing the whole ecosystem, the processes, customer perspective, strategy, IT, GRC, so all the risks, controls, compliance issues. So it's extremely important to see the big picture and all the connections. And this is one of the places where having common language, which you mentioned in a great podcast with Holly [Lyke-Ho-Gland], is important that you really know what the people are talking about, that you can have a common language when you show people from various parts of the company, from various parts of the organization, what we are trying to do as a team.

So this is important. But also, obviously, automation. I see that many of my customers are still very new to the topic of automation. They are not expecting that it is possible to use some low code, that it is possible to have BPMN diagram and then make process-based application out of it within days, or even faster, or not months at least. But some of them are really using RPA every day, they are starting with some fancy automation initiatives with AI and stuff. Also what I think may be a cool skill for a BPM practitioner is using haptic modelling. Fancy name, but it simply means something that can be touched. I’m a part of the DigiFoF project (Digital Factory of the Future). This is an EU-funded project. And as a name suggests we are dealing there with a Factory of the Future/Industry 4.0 topics, so we are talking about Product-Service Systems and things like this. And what we are doing there is among others teaching people that they can use haptic modelling, so based on something called SAP scenes – very useful stuff - we have a tool called Scene2Model. So they can put some, let's say, small scenes of people in their companies, in their homes, in various environments, and just small paper figurines showing what is happening, allows people to understand much better situations. So this is something very useful for Design Thinking, prototyping, storyboards. And this is a great way to help people understand what do they propose for their customers. Does their solution fit everyday lives [of the customers] or not, what people are expected to do.

So this way of doing, let's say, conceptual modeling, but also with some tangible aspect, is something very cool. For workshops it is something extremely useful, but, obviously, you could also take lots of suggestions from the participants at the BPM skills [post]. So you could say that being able to use stories is a great tool for BPM practitioner, again, working together with people from various backgrounds.

So there are many, many sub-skills, but helpful. Obviously, I would say that knowing BPMN helps a lot, but most of all, being able to think very broadly, to take into account various aspects and not focus on only one perspective, but having multi-perspective view of your organization, of the environment, and all the dependencies. So this would be my take on hot skills.

Lloyd Dugan:
Couldn't agree more. I think that the nature of the beast, if one thing that it has grown over the years is that the discipline is more integrative than ever before, requiring more skill, interdisciplinary skills, be possessed by the practitioner and applied by the practitioner. Abstract thinking is honestly a difficult thing to teach in my experience, but there should be more of it because it's not good enough just to see things from an engineering perspective.

1000 Characters left


Lloyd Dugan

Lloyd Dugan is a widely recognized thought leader in the development and use of leading modeling languages, methodologies, and tools, covering from the level of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Architecture (BA) down through Business Process Management (BPM), Adaptive Case Management (ACM), and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). He specializes in the use of standard languages for describing business processes and services, particularly the Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) from the Object Management Group (OMG). He developed and delivered BPMN training to staff from the Department of Defense (DoD) and many system integrators, presented on it at national and international conferences, and co-authored the seminal BPMN 2.0 Handbook (http://store.futstrat.com/servlet/Detail?no=85, chapter on “Making a BPMN 2.0 Model Executable) sponsored by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC, www.wfmc.org).