Process Is The Main Thing

@ Anatoly Belaychuk’s BPM Blog

The Unified Collaborative Work Environment

In the previous article we divided the collaborative work continuum into projects, processes, cases, document-oriented workflows and issues.

We also noted that it was made for analysis purposes only; in reality, they are interrelated. As an illustration, the PMBOK (Process Management Body of Knowledge) talks about processes more than about projects; similarly, the big part of BPM CBOK (Business Process Management Common Body of Knowledge) is devoted to processes improvement and process transformation projects.

This interrelation shows itself in the following: » read the rest

Managing Projects, Processes and Cases

Interestingly, when you meet a certified project manager, he/she almost immediately starts talking about how important is to manage projects and how it should be done. Similarly, a process management expert looks at the world through processes.

In reality, however, most organizations have to deal with processes, projects and cases which are somewhere between the two. Therefore they need a balanced, unbiased view of projects, processes and cases that in essence are just different kinds of collaborative work. Projects, projects and cases have more in common than it may seem at the first glance: whatever approach is taken, there always is an initial state, resources and goals to be reached.

Yet it’s hard to be an expert in different knowledge areas. One can learn the theory but it takes years to become an experienced practitioner. That’s why it’s relatively easy for an organization to find a project or process experts but there is risk that they will overestimate the importance of one approach at the expense of the other. » read the rest

Functional and Process Management: Tools Support

In the previous articles, we positioned Project Management and Process Management as systematic ways to compensate the issues of pure functional management: loss of control at handoffs, loss of focus on corporate goals, sub-optimization, etc. Let us now consider the tools (i.e. software) support for functional, project and process management.

Let’s start with the functional management. First, there are standalone applications – accounting, warehouse, product lifecycle management (PLM), advanced planning & scheduling (APS), etc. targeted to specific departments. Historically, these applications have appeared first as the earliest form of management was functional management. » read the rest

Processes vs. Projects vs. Functions

In the first article we described how the division of labor increases productivity of an individual employee yet, at the same time, creates a disconnect between departments reducing the company’s effectiveness.

These problems arise when the company grows. As long as the founder is in charge, and the number of employees is limited, the mutual understanding and motivation among managers is sufficient to limit “friction” to a minimum. Then, e.g. a new ambitious sales director comes onboard to reorganize the sales department.  The changes might be positive overall, but the former mutual understanding with the director of Manufacturing is no longer there, leading to tensions, that evolve in a search for a “scapegoat” in meetings with the CEO.

Another case: a business owner (who is also the CEO) decides that the business is finally standing firmly on its feet, and he can withdraw from the operational management and devote his life to surfing. In few months, the company plunges into a feudal disarray.

What options does the executive have in dealing with the coming disorder? » read the rest

How the Division of Labor Lowers Productivity

It’s all because of Adam Smith! Wasn’t he the one who introduced the division of labor? What, he didn’t invent it but simply described it? Anyway, it’s the phenomenon that we are going to talk about, not the person.

It happens all the time: as soon as we find a solution for a problem, the solution becomes a problem itself. The division of labor is not an exception: it increases the productivity indeed, but it also decreases in other cases. » read the rest

Where Is The Beginning and The End of Processes?

No, it’s not about processes start and end event, it’s about what should be named as process and what shouldn’t.

A few quotes showing the range of opinions -

Paul Harmon comments the “Process and Capabilities” discussion at LinkedIn BPTrends group:

One of the major differences in the field is between people who use “process” to refer to a diagram, or even more narrowly to the pattern of activities and flows, and those who use “process” to refer to everything that is involved in producing specified outputs. I am definitely in the latter camp… for me, the idea of separating “recourses” or “people” or “managers” from “process” is simply to take a very narrow view of process… The “capabilities” the Army cites are small processes - activities if you would - that get assembled into larger processes when necessity requires. One capability is landing by rubber raft. Another is hiking 10 miles very quickly, etc. Once a specific hostage situation arises a process (project?) is assembled of many discrete activities and executed.

As we can see, Paul tend to name “process” literally everything - activities and combinations of activities of any scale, and makes no difference between processes and projects. » read the rest

I’m Back to This Blog

I want to apologize to the readers of this blog for not updating it for more than six months.

If a professional blog becomes silent, it means that either the author has lost interest in the subject, or right opposite - the author has become too busy. The latter is my case.

Firstly, I’m now a BPM Evangelist at Comindware. I consulted the company for several years and now joined them. This is a very strong, professional and ambitious team and I’m proud to be a part of it. This is a chance for me to implement the ideas that i’ve got after ten years of BPM practice.

While Comindware already has two products Comindware Tracker and Comindware Project we are going to release a breakthrough product early in 2015. It will feature records keeping, support for projects, processes, adaptive cases, end-to-end resource management, social interaction and mobile interfaces. As a technology evangelist, I’m involved in defining the vision of technology and software products and translating this vision to a broad audience through articles, social media and public appearances.

In addition to this activity, I was deeply involved into Russian CBOK project initiated by ABPMP Russian Chapter. It costed me about a thousand of hours but now the translation is over and I’m able to get back to normal life.

I have published several articles during last months so the next blog posts will be the reposts. I look forward to your comments.

12/12/14 | Notes | ,     Comments: 4

What Are the Biggest Challenges BPM Will Face in 2015?

That was the question Peter Schoof asked at BPM.com forum. It provoked long answer that I’m copying here to get back next year.

Peter, is your question about technology? Management discipline? Capabilities and overall process maturity of today’s enterprises? All of these? Ambiguous questions provoke misunderstanding.

If accepting the widest scope (i.e. considering all three aspects) then where is the bottleneck, I wonder?

» read the rest

12/12/14 | Notes |     Comments: 3

What Is a BPMN Process (And What Is Not)

The term “process” has different meanings depending on the context, confusing BPMN beginners. This brief note should help.

1. BPMN process is repeatable

E.g. “Company closure” is not a process because it may be executed only once. (Of course if you do not provide liquidation services for others. )

2 . BPMN process is predictable

A process may take different paths depending on data or events, it may run in parallel etc., but it is assumed that we know all the gateways in advance - not at the execution but at design time.

This is a strong assumption that doesn’t match everything we call processes in everyday life. For example it’s hardly possible to predict the route of patient’s treatment at the hospital from his admission to the emergency room. The same applies to a case in court: the opposing party may submit a document that will turn the course of the process by 180 degrees from what we’ve planned in advance.

Such unpredictable scenarios should be treated as projects or cases depending on the context.

3 . BPMN process is non-trivial

If a it can’t be decomposed into tasks then it’s not a process. A process is a set of related tasks and/or sub-processes i.e. it’s not atomic.

A subprocess is non-atomic too. The difference between a process and a subprocess is that a process is associated with external events (it responds to an event at start and initiates an event at completion) whle a subprocess is triggered not by an external event but simply by a control flow in the parent process or subprocess.

4 . BPMN process is concrete

A BPMN process has a well-defined start event, a predetermined flow of actions and defined set of completion states.

“Budget process”, by contrast, isn’t a BPMN process. From BPMN perspective it’s a set of related processes (e.g. “Budget approval”, “Budget execution reporting”) plus tasks belonging to processes from other domains like “Check budget availability” in the “Purchasing” process.

Similarly, “Promotion process” isn’t a process but a family of related processes in terms of BPMN. “Manage something” probably stands for a process family, too.

5 . BPMN process is discrete

If there is a flow in your process that returns it to the very beginning e.g. after an approval task then consider an altenative option - to end the process with a negative status having in mind that another instance may be started any time.

E.g. if a hiring process didn’t succeed then it’s better to end it with appropriate status than to loop. It can be started over again, probably with different input (with a more generous salary offered).

It’s better in terms of monitoring and analysis: we honestly admit that the process is not always successful. The process duration data becomes more trustable, too.

6. BPMN process inputs and outputs are primarily events

The common view of a process is something processing inputs into outputs - here inputs and outputs are resources.

BPMN processes are different: they respond to inputs and generates outputs, i.e. inputs and outputs are  events. I’ts also possible to model input and output resources in BPMN but these are optional while start and end events are obligatory.

Process start is a handler of some external event, process end initiates an event in the external environment. A particular but quite common case is “none start” (free will) event and “none end” event that produces no effect to the environment.

7. BPMN process is the story of an object, not of a subject

Do not attempt to use BPMN for things like “employee’s working day”.

The right approach is to model processes like “Client’s order end-to-end”.

8. BPMN process is not completed until all the work is done

BPMN process starts when someone is willing to initiate a certain sequence of activities or when an external event (e.g. a client’s order arrived) triggers it and it doesn’t end until the very end, i.e. while there are things to do (e.g. a customers service called a buyer after shipment) .

“Here the sales process ends and accounting process begins” is a bad idea - it’s a single cross-functional process, not two separate ones.

9. BPMN process is customer-oriented

Treat a process as end-to-end, ruled not by business units boundaries but by the customer’s view (external customer’s, ideally): start from the customer’s request and continue until valueable result is delivered.

Switching from traditional “inside-out” view isn’t easy so use the following method: instead of modeling the saless process consider the process of buying by your customer; the process of submitting a complaint and obtaining response instead of internal complaint processing and so on. Find out what is the optimal process from the customer’s perspective.

Internal consideration’s should be taken into account at some stage of process design too but it’s better to start from the customer’s view of the process.

10. BPMN process is macro-, not micromanagement

It’s possible to use BPMN for detailed regulation of a single workplace activities but it’s not why we love it. If employees are not trained then it’s a problem indeed but it’s a functional rather than process problem. And there are many solutions for it apart from BPMN.

The process problem is this: employees are functionally competent (i.e. are able to do their jobs) but the whole process is complicated as it requires precise coordination of efforts of business units separated by the hierarchy and geographically. The responsibility for the handoffs and for the end result is unclear, resulting in poor overall performance.

BPMN is the tool of choise for this kind of problems because it makes the interaction between participants explicit and equally clear for all stakeholders - top management, business units and “process engineers” (including IT) responsible for the process implementation.

04/04/14 | Articles | ,     Comments: 15

Takeaways From bpmNEXT’2014, Twitter Style

Below is the collection of tweets I didn’t send from Asilomar. The asterisks designate my personal favorites.

March 25, 2014:

Foreword from Bruce Silver: We gathered people well-known in the industry. People knowing the answers, no sales guys.

Me: there is more use from smart guys saying wrong things than v.v.

Brayan Reale (Colosa/ProcessMaker) presented FormSlider - nice app builder for structured and ad hoc workflow. If you have to set it up then it’s designed poorly. #ui

Me: in few years desktop development tools will become obsolete.

Romeo Elias (Interneer): BPM for small-IT or no-IT organizations. Ability to work offline and store everything locally until reconnected. #ui

Scott Francis (BP3): Brazos mobile UI, continued from last year. Responsive HTML rules! Mobile UI should not just match the desktop UI - it should be superior. Proposed: register and play. Promised: 1) single UI for different engines (so far: IBM and Activity) 2) make Brazos Open Source. #ui

Me: there is a room for industry initiative - standardize process engine API.

Roger King (TIBCO): task/resource management in big organizations (thousands of branches). Started talking about modeling but has fallen to program code too far. #org

Me: thanks for the reference to Resource Patterns work by Van der Aalst et al.

Jim Sinur (not Gartner): the next catch phrase is Intelligent Agent. #agent

March 26, 2014:

** Tom Baeyens (Effektif): value of cloud - register and login vs. install and setup. No dependency on IT, cheap (do it yourself), scalable from personal to enterprise (oh really?). Inspired by UI from Trello and IFTTT. Decisions implemented via buttons on a user task preceding the gateway (questionable). #ui

Me: thanks for the reference to Amazon Simple Workflow.

* Stefan Andreasen (Kapow, now part of Kofax): hook up web applications by emulating browser session. Robot (web crawler) presented itself as API to a specific app. No coding: build by example. “Best on show” winner. #integration

Me: similar approach was used to wrap up “green terminal” apps in the past. So the idea is not that new but the implementation looks pretty nice.

E. Scott Menter (BPLogix): GANTT instead of BPMN. Predict future timeline of the process. #analysis

Jean-Loup Comeliau (W4): global model for process and data. BPMN data stores mapped to data classes. #arch #bpmn

Denis Gagne et al. (Model Interchange Workgroup): live model interchange demonstration between 12 BPMN tools. #bpmn

Me: from BPM practice perspective, model interchange is more a “checkbox feature” than a necessity. Yet from BPMN adoption perspective it’s important to make BPMN a true standard.

*** Denis Gagne (Trisotech): manual BPMN validation by pinging a token plus live process flow animation by triggering multimedia content on a click. #bpmn #ui

Me: there were many talks about simplicity but Denis was the one who really made it simple - bravo! My personal vote for “best on show”.

Bruce Silver, Stephan Fischli, Antonio Palumbo (BPMessentials/itp commerce): generate “good BPMN” (based on Bruce’s “Method and Style”) by wizards. #bpmn

Me: process modeling is business programming after all. It may be simple in certain cases and complex at other. It requires professionalism. I don’t buy wizards and automatic verification in general programming neither I would in process modeling.

Gero Decker (Signavio): bridging the gap between BPA and EA - integrating Signavio with Archimate (leading enterprise architecture tool) by links. #arch

Me: don’t like loose coupling and don’t believe in round-trip. EA capabilities must be implemented within BPMS. From “What You Model Is What You Run” to “What You Architect Is What You Run”.

John Reynolds, Amy Dickson (IBM): preconditions for ad-hoc activities. Any BPMS is an event process engine. #case

Ashok Anand, R.V.S Mani (Inswit): how to democratize BPM by lowering acceptance barriers with appyio platform. #arch

Jason Bloomberg (EnterpriseWeb): Agent-Oriented Architecture. Policy-based, data-driven intelligent agents. #agent

Me: sounds great but would you approach a business analyst with “intelligent agent”? Or better yet to a business manager?

March 27, 2014:

Harsh Jegadeesan (SAP): intelligent business operations with SAP HANA, using global logistics operator as an example. Cycle time forecasting. Monitoring and KPI implemented as BPMN extensions. XES: let’s standardize on process logs for easy process mining. #arch #analysis

Me: that was probably too much for the format suggested and the case looked too tailor-made to make general conclusions about the future of BPM.

Dominic Greenwood (Whitestein): Intelligent Process Controller, another variation of Intelligent Agent theme. Using DHL as a reference: accept transportation orders on the fly, relocate track routes dynamically responding e.g. to traffic jams and other cool stuff. Goal-driven BPM. #agent

Me: similar to SAP case, too tailor-made for generalizations.

* Jacob Freund (Camunda): open source engine for java developers. bpmn.io: BPMN javascript framework, to be published soon. Amazing: simple BPMN engine implemented in javascript. Live BPMN forum. #bpmn

** Keith Swenson (Fujitsu): Cognoscenti - federated case management. Open source. Personal ACM environment for every participant. Clone projects (copying case contents) at handoffs. Let’s accept silos as domains of control. #case #arch

Me: the use case isn’t quite common but anyway that was the boldest ideas presented at the show.

James Taylor (Decision Management Solutions): model-driven rules engine. Decision Model and Notation (just beta-released by OMG). Everything at the diagram has URL. Elements: rules, documents, knowledge sources. OpenRules open source engine. #arch

François Chevresson-Aubain, Aurélien Pupier (Bonitasoft): modify connection properties on the fly for better robustness. #integration

Me: isn’t it a standard function of ESB?

Robert Shapiro: Optima - a holistic simulation and analytics tool. What-if resource utilization vs. cycle time analysis. Optima Process Capture: generate process map from log data and make predictions. #analysis

John Patton (Sight Software): another analytical tool. #analysis

Alfred Godeke, Chiel Labee (Vision Waves): from enterprise management ontology via model-driven execution to connected. #arch

Me: impressive but probably too much for the format given.

Best in Show nomination:

Special thanks to:

Now let’s look at what others say:

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