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Blogs > MWD Advisors

Touch me, I'm a process
Neil Ward-Dutton By: Neil Ward-Dutton, Research Director, MWD Advisors
Published: 22nd April 2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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I’m a little late getting around to blogging about this, but I think it’s worth sharing nonetheless. Did you see the launch, in October last year, of Metasonic Touch? This is the result of a collaboration between BPM technology vendor Metasonic and the Communications Engineering Department of the Kepler University, Linz.

It’s based around an interactive table, with some similarities to a PixelSense device (formerly Microsoft Surface), around which people engaging in process discovery and design sessions move blocks representing states and messages sent and received by subjects (work actors) as per Metasonic’s Subject-oriented BPM (S-BPM) methodology.

By placing and moving these blocks and touching them against other blocks, people working with the table start to describe the behaviour of, and communications between, subjects. Cameras inside the table recognise codes imprinted on the undersides of the blocks to discern the structures being mapped and, once captured, the information is transferred to the Metasonic software environment where it’s shown on-screen and saved for further refinement within the more traditional design tooling.

I’m really impressed to see a company like Metasonic innovating in this area; user interaction technologies have advanced very significantly in recent years (think Xbox Kinect, Wii, Google Glass and so on) but the tools we use to describe and interact with enterprise systems are in the main still stuck in the world of WIMP first implemented in the 1970s. Metasonic Touch is a bold exploration of what’s possible and I hope we continue to see more exploration along these lines by Metasonic and others.

But will it have a significant impact on Metasonic’s business? I’m not so sure (though I’ll wait with interest to see the customer stories).

In the trailer video for Metasonic Touch the company emphasises that this approach to mapping will enable businesspeople to participate directly and physically in modelling exercises: but that presupposes that businesspeople will engage with the S-BPM concepts and methodology. Metasonic’s approach is pretty interesting, but although it does mirror the logical constructs we use in everyday speech (subjects, verbs, objects) when you get into the detail it’s not something I can imagine an average Customer Service Director or Warehousing Manager having the motivation to get to grips with. Business Analysts quite possibly, given the right training and support—but given a team of trained business analysts, what is the marginal value of working with an interactive table vs a computer with a large monitor?

Still—as I said, in principle I’m really excited to see some early innovation in this area from a company like Metasonic. What do you think—is it a game-changer?

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