I've just seen a face
I can't forget the time or place
Where we just met
She's just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see
I'm sure it's the Apple iTunes announcement but that's what's running through my head today as we release Blueworks Live. But I guess it could also be that I think Blueworks Live represents the prettiest face in enterprise software ever released. And it's not just pretty, it's pretty useful, too. In fact, as several of the bloggers and tweeters that have seen previews of Blueworks Live have said they think this may be the biggest thing to hit BPM since, well, ever. For example: "[H]ere’s a prediction – Blueworks Live will do for business processes what Microsoft Sharepoint did for enterprise content – it will get everywhere."
Apple didn't invent the phone, or even the smart phone, but they took a huge step toward the perfection of the smart phone when they released the iPhone. In the same way, I think Blueworks Live is a huge step forward toward the perfection of BPM. It is simply gorgeous. It is simply accessible. It is, simply, an elegant solution to hundreds or thousands of seemingly intractable problems in your company - no matter the size of your company. How to corral all those ad hoc processes currently run over email? How to easily collaborate and align process improvement projects that span departments, cities, and countries? How to change from a culture of me to a culture of us, through an understanding of process? Put simply: how do I improve my business not in one area but in every area without disrupting what has to get done today?
Now, Blueworks Live isn't meant to solve every BPM problem that exists. But it does mean to participate in every BPM discussion, and contribute what it can - and what a SaaS offering should contribute given the state of the world here in 2010. There are three primary areas where Blueworks Live is focused.
1) Get rid of Process-Over-Email;
2) Identify, understand and document more repeatable processes to foster re-use and consistency;
3) Amplify the voice of process excellence and re-use across your company
Let's talk about each of these.
Get rid of Process-Over-Email
Email is good for a lot of things, but it was never designed to be your central process repository. We all know the problems with email: no visibility across peoples' work, no version control so you never quite know what version of what is being acted upon, no way to measure execution metrics (SLAs)… and many others. Yet our recent research indicates that even in large sophisticated companies about 75% of the processes that white collar workers perform use email as the primary communication mechanism. And an even greater percentage - 80% - of the people in your organization use Process-Over-Email as their primary work/process technology!
80% of your people primarily do their work in the hidden factories that are email!
Of course, there's many reasons why, not the least of which is that you can do anything you want over email… so as our customers and partners demand things, we can at least get work done over email, while our legacy systems often present roadblocks to getting work done. This benefit of the ad hoc process is the key driver of process-over-email.
So Blueworks Live is attacking that problem head on. If you use it for nothing else, Blueworks Live will allow those same people that are using email today to author their own processes, giving them all the flexibility of the email they use but adding structure to the information flowing through the process and visibility. The result is that these people will like Blueworks Live better than email; they will accomplish their jobs faster with Blueworks Live than with email; and the company will benefit from having more visibility into what's going on. To be clear: 100% of the flexibility you get with email is available in a Blueworks Live process; yet virtually every downside is eliminated. And you can do all this for US$10 per user per month!
Move toward higher process maturity
The second major benefit of Blueworks Live is in how you can document even the most complex business processes. Inside Blueworks Live we call this "blueprinting" a process. When you blueprint a process, you have an easy-to-use way for business people and subject matter experts to begin documenting their more repeatable processes just as easily as they do with PowerPoint or Visio today… or even easier, just as they would do on a white board today. And with Blueworks Live you can easily do this with colleagues in real-time, no matter where in the world anyone is.
If you use the automation parts of Blueworks Live that I discussed above, you also get visibility into all the cross-process metrics so that you can see which of those processes that used to be run over email, and are now run over Blueworks Live should actually be taken to a higher level of maturity and worked on via an on-premise BPM solution that integrates the data to your back-end systems. You see, the process-over-email alternative works, as I said, just like email: there is not integration to back end systems. But Blueworks Live gives you all the data of all these previously hidden factories so now you can actually see which of those "simple" processes are actually used a lot and could benefit from more maturity that an on-premise BPM system can provide.
So Blueworks Live helps you understand which processes to focus on, and also helps you understand and document those processes that you want to move to a higher maturity level. This is obviously a more specialized activity within Blueworks Live, yet for the authors of these processes you gain all this capability for just US$50 per user per month.
Building a new process culture
And third, Blueworks Live is built to provide a robust process forum, a place to monitor all your process activities… a place for people to ask questions about how to better do their jobs and improve the business… a place where people can follow job related activities as easily as you follow someone on Twitter, or connect with someone on LinkedIn.
If you're a small company, the private and public forums included with Blueworks Live become what big companies call their Process Center of Excellence. For large companies that have a CoE, Blueworks Live becomes a megaphone, extending the reach and voice of that organization.
The arc of history is clear: technology advances always insert specialists to use new technology, taking control from the original worker. Then, as the technology matures and becomes more accessible, people with more general skills gain access to the technology and regain control over their work. From farming to manufacturing to computing this has been the case. We've spent the past half century digitizing the assets of the business and that required, in essence, that control over those assets were assumed by IT. But now it's shifting back, and BPM is the mechanism by which that move is most fully realized today. IBM Blueworks Live is a major step in that evolution. It doesn't solve every BPM problem - by design! But it does solve a set of problems that have eluded IT for decades: how do we give our businesses the tooling to continue the flexible ad hoc processes they need in a changing world, while normalizing the information so that those processes are more efficient, more transparent and easy to build and deploy.
Meet IBM Blueworks Live: the new face of BPM.