Sebastian Stein's picture

BPM 2008The second day of the business process management conference in Milan was started by the keynote talk of Prof. Rosemann from Queensland University. Prof. Rosemann is also a member of IDS Scheer’s research network. His talk focused on the relationship between research and industry and how both can contribute from each other. It was a very inspiring talk, which challenged the perception of many researchers as the question and answer session after the talk showed.

Prof. Rosemann started his talk by describing what research currently focuses on. He extracted the hot topics by analysing the past five editions of the BPM conference looking at the different works published there. On the other hand, he presented a list of topics currently hot in industry. His team at Queensland University has done a survey among BPM practitioners to see which topics are relevant for them. Comparing both lists was refreshing, because there was only little shared topics between both communicates (i.e. academia and industry). In his view, this shows that currently research is not really covering all topics relevant in industry.

A topic shared in both communities is standardisation. A prominent example is BPMN. Practitioners are currently looking how they can adopt it, what trainings are needed, and which impact this modelling language will have. Research is also working on BPMN, for example evaluating in experiments the usage of different BPMN constructs. Such findings are then forwarded to the standardisation bodies to take the insights into account.

However, such a shared topic between both communities is not really a common example. Therefore, Prof. Rosemann outlined how research must be conducted to address problems relevant for industry. For example, his PhD students are forced to use empirical methods like interviews, surveys, and case studies to evaluate their models in an industrial context. He also maintains a list of industrial people, which can be contacted in case they are looking for feedback on scientific findings. It is interesting to see that he basically uses ideas from customer relationship management (CRM) to expand the impact of his research.

There also some dangers related to industry-based research. For example, Prof. Rosemann pointed out that even though PhD students have to work with companies, they still have to follow scientific rigor. This is a challenge requiring detailed knowledge of scientific methods. To show that the integration between both communities is possible, he provided some examples where collaboration is done successfully. For example, some years ago his institute was asked by a company how they can measure their maturity in BPM. They took this question as a research challenge and came up with a maturity model for BPM. Today, this maturity model is used successfully in many different organisations in Australia and outside of it.

IDS Scheer is actively trying to inspire research as well. There is a long tradition with local universities to work on topics identified within our daily business. For example, tomorrow I will present a case study at the BPM conference, where we tried to use different research tools like model checking, automated model transformations, and domain specific languages. The main idea of the talk will not be on presenting the formalisms applied, but on what open points we see and to encourage researchers to take up the challenges we face. We hope that this will help in better aligning BPM research and industry.

Tags: BPM