At least according to Forrester Research, which defines BPM as designing, executing and optimizing cross-functional business activities that incorporate people, application systems and even business partners.
An example from Forrester analyst Ken Vollmer: automating a manual mortgage application processing process, incorporating steps like having the loan specialist check a credit report. “Or you could even have the client go in through a website to trigger a BPM process that automatically goes and captures all the related information in 10 minutes, versus three weeks,” Vollmer says.
Now that all sounds great – but in the midmarket, companies are taking a more departmental or niche approach. It’s what Janelle Hill, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, calls workflow coordination as opposed to true BPM meant to redesign and transform business processes.
And in any case, midsized organizations aren’t turning to enterprise BPM, content management or repository technologies to do this work – tools like Documentum and FileNet, Lombardi Software and Savvion, webMethods and Oracle (each set aligned, respectively, with what Forrester calls document-centric, human-centric or process optimization BPM).
Instead, midmarket companies are relying mainly on Microsoft SharePoint to handle departmental and manual workflow processes such as approval processes for purchasing or travel, Hill says.
Vollmer agrees; he says Microsoft technologies were listed as one of the top choices for BPM by 164 architects surveyed last year. Now since Microsoft does not have a BPM package, the assumption is they are using SharePoint and BizTalk, Vollmer says.
On paper, Microsoft SharePoint, Windows Workflow services, InfoPath and BizTalk Server are appealing to the midmarket, but SharePoint was not built for BPM purposes. “People using SharePoint have to build a lot of the logic themselves, whereas a BPM tool has logic prebuilt,” Vollmer says.
Midmarket organizations may cite cost cutting and lack of skills and IT resources as the reason for not looking beyond Microsoft, but that’s not all. “Many [midmarket companies] are Microsoft-centric, and they follow and wait for Microsoft to do everything, whether it is new business applications or SharePoint,” Hill says. “The more they can consolidate and leverage Microsoft technology investments, the easier their lives become.”
In comparison with the features and functionality of, say, Documentum or FileNet, SharePoint is weak, Hill says. “There’s very much a mentality amongst midmarket companies that [SharePoint] is good enough; we don’t have to push the envelope or take a big risk and be the first to try things.”
Cost savings and cost cutting continue to be the No. 1 and No. 2 concerns for CIOs, so it’s no surprise given the economy that Microsoft technology, which is easily 20% to 30% less expensive than Java equivalents in the area of BPM and content management, wins out with midmarket organizations, she says.
Are you in that group of companies sticking with Microsoft for business process management? Do you have advice for peers for its usage, or regarding BPM in general? Is BPM a strategy that’s top of mind at your company this year, and do you agree with the analysts’ definition?]]>
The NCAA will be streaming live video of every game, from the round to the last – including a new high-quality option (requiring a Microsoft Silverlight download). CBS will also be providing the live games online, something it has been providing for free for the past four years. Just to provide some scope for how many people will be streaming this game online this year: In 2008, the online audience for the NCAA men’s tournament grew 165% over 2007 with 4.8 million viewers (way up from the 2006 number of 1.3 million people).
Streaming video, as opposed to another productivity buster like online shopping, affects the entire network. According to one calculation on the effect streaming video can have on the network, in a company of 10,000 employees, if 75 of them (on a 100-megabit network) were streaming video at the same time (on decent-quality video streams with other Internet apps going on), the network could be slowed down to a stop.
One company I talked to experienced a 2x increase in bandwidth utilization on Thursday; its normal average of 15MB increased to 30MB. This IT director told me there wasn’t a noticeable slowdown because the company is able to burst to 45MB, but if usage increased further, he was going to lower the priority of CBS SportsLine on the firewall to make the user experience poor and give more important applications better performance.
So that’s one approach to handling NCAA enthusiasts. What else can you do before or during non-work events likely to cause a network slowdown?
Strategically plan for the event with public viewing areas. Set up televisions within the office so employees can keep up with the live footage during breaks. The workplace can only go so far in accommodating employee interests during the day, but for some public interest events like the inauguration or national disaster updates, providing the televisions can help separate work from other things.
Limit the access with policies. Block video during the workday, providing only a limited window of opportunity for streaming or downloading (8-10 a.m. or 1-2 p.m., etc.). This may be away to provide a positive work experience while safeguarding the company from loss of productivity and network overload.
Block it. For many the hassles and risks are just not worth it, and blocking video on the network is a quick fix. The flip side of this? Some employees may try to access the video through less reputable sites, posing a security/virus risk.
The good news is, if you’re thinking about how to handle network slowdowns before it becomes a problem, you’re already strategically planning. Monitoring, preparing and understanding the risks are important when it comes to staying on top of your IT game.
The Forrester report predicts that total jobs in IT will drop by only 1.2% this year. Indeed, compared with past recessions, the impact on IT “will be relatively mild” this time around. That’s largely due to the bloodletting IT has been going through since the 2001 tech recession. Most IT departments are already quite lean, Forrester notes.
After three consecutive years when IT jobs grew more than 2.5%, 2009 will be a down year. This is especially true for IT occupations at IT vendors, where jobs are expected to fall almost 3% in 2009. On the other hand, IT jobs in IT departments will decrease by only 0.7%. Still, both these numbers are substantially less than the 4+% job shrinkage after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.
The good news is that a number of IT occupations will add jobs in 2009, according to the Forrester analysis of Labor Department figures. Some of the IT job opportunities are as follows:
Conversely, job opportunities in four areas will decline: software engineers for applications and for systems, computer research scientists, database administrators and help desks.
It’s the network, stupid
The job picture tells you a lot about what IT departments will look like in the future, according to Bartels.
The areas of growth and the areas of contraction reflect the changing face of IT. Network analysts are in high demand because of the rise in mobile technology and workers who are either based at home or on the road. Companies need IT experts who understand the security and communications requirements of a workforce that is becoming more and more extramural.
The part of IT that is contracting — computer programming, computer operations and research — tells you how much outside vendors (commercial software companies as well as outsourcing providers) have co-opted these responsibilities.
We are curious to know if your experience matches the job data described above. Is the recession hurting the IT job picture in your company? Have you been laid off?
Of course, knowing that many IT capital budgets are history this year, I was curious as to how those upgrades are going. The Microsoft executive I had access to, Craig Dewar, responded that upgrades are included free in Microsoft’s software maintenance packages, so cost is restricted to services for the upgrade. (We didn’t discuss those maintenance packages, which are a whole other ball of wax.) He assured me that the company was “seeing a huge amount of interest in ERP now,” especially because the best time to upgrade core systems is when business is slower.
I don’t dispute that logic – many cyclical industries already have a discrete window of downtime each year in which to perform significant systems work, and it’s a reasonable assumption that is there some business “downtime” out there now. But I have a hard time believing that given how strapped I’m hearing many IT shops are, they’re adding ERP upgrades to their to-do lists.
So hear ye, Dynamics AX and NAV users: Are you upgrading to these latest versions, and if so, when? Is there functionality you found worth the time and expense to go after now, or is your upgrading a function of Microsoft’s release philosophy and the fact that you have the time do it now?]]>
President Obama selected Vivek Kundra as his first federal CIO. Kundra, formerly chief technology officer for the District of Columbia, has been recognized among the top 25 CTOs in the country and as the 2008 IT Executive of the Year.
Is he an example of the next generation of CIOs?
Kundra, who refers to citizens as “co-creators,” has received a lot of attention in his 19 months of service with D.C. mayor Adrian M. Fenty – adopting the latest computing trends and introducing popular social media tools into his bureaucratic processes.
Keeping up with the ever-changing beat of technology, engaging citizens, lowering the cost of government operations and spearheading innovative projects are some of the many things that make Kundra stand out.
Young and change-oriented, Kundra uses YouTube to post the bidding process for city contracts and Twitter in the office, and he wants to let drivers pay parking tickets on Facebook. Imagine that: Accept a new friend request and pay your fine, all in one login.
For midcareer CIOs who don’t use social media and may not be making innovation and big change a priority, especially in this economy, Kundra and others like him may feel like a threat. CIOs get replaced because they become too comfortable in the way things are and are unable to see new opportunities for change and transformation, or are unable to make it happen.
Granted, Kundra’s big ideas and plans may be so forward thinking as to be naive, given his resources and the potential four-year shelf life of his position as federal CIO. But there is something to be said about a big-dreamer with fresh ideas who is able look beyond the tried and true. Kundra launched a contest in October called Apps for Democracy and got developers to submit 47 Web applications to provide residents with city data. According to The Washington Post, Kundra said he spent $50,000 for the contest, including prize money, but he estimates saving $2.6 million by not hiring contract developers.
Willing to take risks and able to visualize new ideas and situations, Kundra was able to engage citizens, save money and come up with a series of applications for the people in his last job. As he demonstrates similar gusto as the federal CIO, do you applaud his youthful energy and ideas as a welcome reprieve from everyday government, or foresee him having to learn hard lessons about change, resources and the politics of IT, as many of you have in the trenches of corporate America?