Campus & Community

Stevens Hosts International BPM Conference’s First U.S. Appearance

Stevens Institute of Technology recently played host to the 8th Annual International Conference on Business Process Management (BPM 2010), the world's largest academic conference on Business Process Management (BPM). At the Hoboken, NJ campus, BPM 2010 provided a matchless opportunity for researchers and practitioners to gather and learn about developing technologies and forward-thinking applications to make businesses run better.

Although the conference has traditionally focused solely on emerging BPM research, the program this year also featured an industry track with presentations from BPM practitioners. Over 250 attendees, representing 32 countries and split about evenly between researchers and practitioners, were exposed to the varying perspectives and lessons of academia and industry.

"Attendees were vocal in their appreciation for the mix of research and practice," says Dr. Michael zur Muehlen, Associate Professor of Information Systems in the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens and the chairman of the 2010 conference. "The quality of research papers was very high, with more than 160 submitted. Out of these we accepted twenty-one for presentation at the conference. The 13 industry speakers were required to present a case study with lessons learned and provide useful take-away for the audience. The positive response to the industry track events was very encouraging. Additionally, 20 technology demonstrations showed cutting-edge prototypes of next generation BPM technology, and these provided both a state-of-the-art of the research community, and a tool direction for the practitioners."

In addition to the research and industry programs, three keynote speakers enlightened the gathered attendees in the DeBaun Center for the Performing Arts, a historic Victorian auditorium on the Stevens campus. Phil Gilbert, Vice President of BPM for IBM, provided a visionary plan for democratizing BPM technology throughout the corporate world. Research analyst and BPM consultant with Forrester Research, Clay Richardson, offered his practical perspective on managing the relationship between data-centric and process-centric approaches when initiating BPM systems. On the final day of the conference, Dr. Hans-Arno Jacobsen, researcher at the University of Toronto, presented research on a the use of service-level-agreements in a cloud-based BPM architecture.

Although the term "business process management" developed around 2000, the desire to strategically improve performance goes back to Frederick Winslow Taylor, the founder of scientific management. Late twentieth-century movements like Business Process Reengineering, Total Quality Management, and Lean Six Sigma now include BPM as a tool for meeting the efficiency demands of today. Using cloud-computing, social media, and advanced software, modern business executives wield the technology to map, communicate, and analyze processes throughout an entire organization. As businesses become larger, with vast networks of individuals working separately, BPM also offers the ability to manage risk created by complex processes, allowing companies to demonstrate compliance with regulations like Sarbanes/Oxley.

During the first visit of the BPM conference series to the United States, participants were exposed to various international approaches to BPM. The conference series, first held in the Netherlands in 2003, was developed principally by researchers in Europe, where BPM tends to be supported through a top-down methodology. The need to improve performance across the board is met through a holistic application and enforcement of BPM. American companies typically build their BPM strategies from the bottom-up, targeting one inefficient process at a time. BPM 2010 brings together practitioners working in these varying perspectives in the hopes of developing best practices using data compiled around the globe.

BPM is a growing industry, with some 150 vendors in the United States providing BPM consulting and technology services to thousands of businesses nationwide. There are, however, few academic programs in the U.S. that teach BPM. Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation UniversityTM, offers a Business Process Management and Service Innovation Graduate Certificate, a Master of Science in Information Systems with a BPM concentration, and undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in BPM as part of the Business and Technology curriculum. Students are taking advantage of this training to secure summer jobs in BPM and, upon graduation, full-time positions at BPM consulting firms. Through Stevens award-winning WebCampus, working professionals can receive advanced instruction in BPM methodology and practice.

Industry sponsors at this year's conference included IBM, whose Watson Research Laboratory works on BPM technologies; Web Ratio, a University of Milan spin-off, which improves processes in Italian financial companies; and Software AG, a Germany-based BPM vendor. Academic sponsor Widener University offers educational programs in the BPM space at their campus near Philadelphia.

Three books will result from the conference, all published by Springer. The accepted research papers were published in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science series earlier this year and were available at conference time. Two volumes of workshop papers will be coming out in the Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing series in November. The third book, to be released in mid-2011, will be a collection of BPM case studies as presented by the industry speakers at the 2010 conference. This volume, which should be out in time for BPM 2011 in Clermont-Ferrand, France at Université Blaise Pascal, will be of special value to business executives and BPM consultants in the years to come.

Please visit the 2010 conference website or Dr. zur Muehlen's research profile for more information about BPM at Stevens.