The Process Quality Blog Rotating Header Image

BPM: A quick look back at the S-BPM One conference 2010

image The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology hosted the second S-BPM One conference this thursday. For those unfamiliar with S-BPM, the ‘S’ stands for ‘subject-oriented’, which sounds slightly academic but is in fact a massive shift from the abstract control-flow approach to the workplace-centric (hence subject) view. S-BPM, besides its theoretical foundation, has also found its way into software products, with Metasonic (formerly jCOM1 AG) offering a complete BPM suite entirely based on S-BPM.

The conference itself focussed on current research projects at various universities and research institutions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Russia. After a great keynote by Prof. Komus on the findings of his latest research into BPM Best-Practices (some surprising results there! wait for the book), attention quickly shifted to the more technical research issues. What was very noticeable in all presentations was that the researchers were concentrating on issues concerned with supporting processes where they take place: at the individual workplaces. The presentation by Y. Stavenko on applying S-BPM to ITIL processes made the difference (and advantages) between control-flow and subject-orientation particularly obvious to see.

As the conference proceedings will again be published by Springer, I’d point you to the upcoming book to find out more about this – from a process management perspective – very promising method. A good starting point on S-BPM is the article by Albert Fleischmann, the father of S-BPM, in the 2009 conference proceedings “S-BPM-ONE: Setting the stage for subject-oriented business process management” (Buchwald et al., 2010).

Albert Fleischmann doing the introduction...and regretting it later on?

'The man' himself Albert Fleischmann doing the introduction...and regretting it later on?

Finally, as I promised to do during the conference, here is the official apology for my presentation: I apologize for saying that research and science is as much to blame for the failure of BPM as the vendors and consultants are. It is – but I didn’t mean you personally!

In fact, Albert Fleischmann had asked me to be as provocative and undiplomatic as I could be in my presentation, so during the conference I did a quick rewrite and talked about “The need to rethink BPM research issues” and urged researchers present (and willing to listen) not to focus on the usual technical stuff but to widen their scope and work more on the interdisciplinary issues of BPM.

I gave them my list of 10 topics I’d love to see some scientific results on and urged them to acknowledge that IT focussed research was just one aspect of BPM research and to accept that it is not an isolated research area.

10research issues

What industry has learned over the years, namely that management theory, organisational theory, change management and many other disciplines contribute to BPM, is something that science and research has managed to successfully ignore. Not that we need another grand unifying theory of everything, but at least an awareness that whatever IT does will only turn into a solution when other factors and contributions come into play as well.

Not sure if I got my message across, the audience seemed to be laughing throughout at my illustrative slides, maybe I shouldn’t put up jokes during a scientific conference, it might lead to distraction. Or maybe they thought that my introductory slide was meant as a joke???


You MUST be joking Mr. Olbrich

Regardless, I now have to make up for my faux pax by writing a serious paper for the proceedings so that all will be forgiven by the time of next years S-BPM One conference. (BtW, just for a change I didn’t do the usual Process TestLab sales plug- there was no need with the taraneon banner right in front of the conference room :-) )

Did you like this? Share it:


  1. Dear Thomas,

    sorry that you feel sad because of mine. Thomas it was a great talk and you have waked up all of us. Today we discussed your presentation again and everybody confirmed that you presented very serious issues in a very humorous way. But everybody confirmed that your statements are true.
    Thomas thank you!

    Best regards

  2. Thomas J. Olbrich says:

    thanks for the vote of confidence :-)
    I’m still not sure where science and research is taking us with BPM, if indeed it is taking us anywhere at all. I think I’ll start a couple of discussions on BPMNexus to collect opinions from others.


  3. [...] last week I attended the S-BPM One conference at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Although I was originally asked to present a paper on “What industry can learn from BPM research and visa versa”, listening to all the scientific presentations I felt compelled to do an ad-hoc presentation instead on “Where research is getting it wrong“. [...]

  4. Ayelt Komus says:

    Yes, Thomas, I absolutely do agree. No, Thomas, I don’t agree at all.

    I believe in the technology area we will have to go on with our discussion of all those BPMNs and BPELs and so on. So in this field we are on track.

    On the other hand:
    Yes, if we want to realize major benefits, we will have to use our heads before we start discussing all those technology-related aspects.

    We will have to ask ourselves all those very basic questions like

    What’s the real problem?
    What are changes and improvements we are looking for?
    What is it going to cost?
    What benefits can we hope for?
    Will we be able to explain the idea?
    Will we be able to convince the team working on the process every day?
    How will we make sure everybody understands, that the major improvement has not been accomplished when the new system is finally productive, but that the never ending work has just started …

    All those simple questions that are just so difficult to answer and very often force us to leave the comfort zone of thinking.

    Yes Thomas, you did not only ask the right questions, but you also asked the important ones.

    But I am afraid, as the answers won’t possibly come in a mechanistic form of formulas and if-then statements. Very often we won’t be too excited about them, because it won’t be simple to understand them. It’ll still be hard work to put them into practice.

    Yes, we have to go on working on those topics. Actually these are the questions of paramount importance for a successful BPM.
    But, obviously technology will be important to get those improvements realized or make them possible at all.

    And, one more thing: There are successful BPM-Projects! Lots of them. Some of them you’ll find in my upcoming book “BPM Best Practice ” (coming out beginning 2011 in German). Many more are there if you look for them. And the results are quite impressive!
    On the other hand. Not every project turns out to be a success. But that’s what happens, if you are courageous enough to tackle the difficult problems.

    Once again it’s many aspects we have to keep in mind.
    Improve our technological means and methods, make sure we improve our methods to manage and control the BPM-projects (ask the simple questions), try to understand what makes best practices so successful and try to understand why others failed.


    P.S. For those who are interested. Some ideas of how to bridge the gap between technology and management-perspective are described in the presentation I held at the S-BPM-Conference (

    P.P.S. No way your apologies can be accepted. Too many things said that hit the bull’s-eye. Therefore it has got to be a personal matter;-)

  5. Thomas J. Olbrich says:

    it seems to me that the best-practice companies you identified are successful because they understand that BPM is more than automation or BPMS deployment. In particular, your research seems to suggest that ‘culture of change’ and process training (vs. system user training) are key factors to sustainable BP management. Contrast this with a quick show of hands poll I did a couple of weeks ago when I asked 25 participants of a leadership training course if they felt able to at least provide a rough description of the key process they were involved in and only 3 (three!) felt able to do so.

  6. [...] für alle folgenden Seiten entschuldigte. Ob zu Recht, können Sie gern selbst entscheiden…. hier finden Sie seinen Rückblick auf die Konferenz zusammen mit seinen provokanten Thesen, für die er [...]

  7. Interdisciplinary research is often difficult to achieve. A holistic BPM approach needs to integrate many research areas, such as strategic management, organisation, IT, quality management etc. For established research fields it is always easier to focus on singular aspects that completely fit into their domain. It’s easier to get funding, to find approprate conferences and journals to publish your results.
    So the question is: who could possibly initiate such joint research efforts in this field? Maybe this could come from industry. If they state the need for such a research, national and international research programs may detect BPM as an important holistic research area …

  8. [...] um 40% senken oder den Wert eines Prozesses nachweisen kann. Die komplette Liste findet sich hier. [...]

  9. [...] S-BPM-Konferenz hat  mein Kollege Thomas J. Olbrich viele Diskussionen und Lob vor Ort und in Blogs ausgelöst und Teile der BPM-Welt wachgerüttelt – nicht nur deshalb, weil er sich bereits vor dem Vortrag [...]

  10. [...] Nice location, maybe better known to you as the home of AUDI whose main plant we will tour at the end of the conference, a closing event probably much more to the liking of many than last years closing key-note. [...]

  11. [...] that I had given a – in the eyes of the gathered research community – somewhat controversial presentation (never a good idea to tell your audience they got it wrong). The publishers have now made the most [...]

Leave a Reply