Process Is The Main Thing

@ Anatoly Belaychuk’s BPM Blog

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BPM = Less Costs + More Value + More Agility

There is a new post at Jim Sinur’s blog: “Business Process Management Grows Value While Saving Costs“. He says how great it is being able to achieve two results by single activity:

1. BPM Saves Costs

2. BPM Increases Value

Not quite new idea but Jim adds some specific arguments which makes the post worth to read.

Yet with all my respect to him I dare to say that the list above isn’t complete - it misses:

3. BPM Increases Agility

Sounds too abstract? I suspect many people aren’t really sure what the hell this “agility” thing is. OK, let me show you the money behind it.

Generally speaking, there are three ways to compete:

1. A new market segment is opened by innovators who excel in time-to-market. They offer something that didn’t exist before.

2. Then comes those who deliver superior quality.

3. And finally when neither the concept nor the production quality is no secret then it all becomes about the cost.

Do you see? The second list matches to the original one in reverse order!

Now how does this third advantage like in practice? Quite simple, actually: there is a strategy of “waiting for the window of opportunity to open”. This strategy implies that you must be fast because the window only opens for a short period.

Let’s assume that you are a bank which achieved an outstanding agility from SOA+BPM that allows you to launch a new product say in two months while industry average is six months. Being in such position you are able to copy any good idea that your competitor may get while he won’t be able to copy you because you’ll make the next step meanwhile.

(I used a bank as an example because for them product = process. For other industries it isn’t that obvious but still being able to implement a new process or redesign an existing process promptly is a clear advantage.)

Still not conviced? Here is another argument: it’s well known that business, warfare and chess have much in common. Both in chess and war strategy there is a notion of “tempo”: if you made your opponent stressed in time then it increases your chances to win. Hence it’s not uncommon to exchange say a pawn for a tempo in chess so this “canned time” is absolutely material thing in chess.

And so it is in business. When you invest some resources into BPM you not only obtain more customers and serve them more efficiently - you also posess a “canned time” which makes you better prepared for changes, either positive or negative.

The final note: the process management discipline has a long history and it always was about costs and value. Agility is a new thing that BPM brings. So we shouldn’t forget about it and shouldn’t be shy to articulate its value to our customers.

04/30/09 | Responces |     Comments: 9

Humans Swimming In The Intalio Pool

Somehow I got involved into the long discussion with Rick Geneva about best practices of process modeling and execution. Now after we’ve spent a lot of bytes at his blog it’d be fair to allocate some of my provider’s. Besides, after initial verbal firefight Rick resorted to the heavy artillery of process diagrams. Being unable to retaliate in comments at his blog I had to retreat to my own turf. :)

I spoiled Rick’s intention to remain vendor-neutral and eventually we came to studying Intalio’s way of using pools and swimlanes which I believe is… well… not quite obvious and not widely used. Yet it’s great for me to know how things are done with Intalio because I know several specialists who seem to be happy with it but couldn’t get the idea.

Rick presented a diagram of a simplified sample process where a manager wants to hire someone:

Rick comments:

The diagram style is a hybrid, which shows both the swimlane approach and the single pool approach that shows only the BPM automation system. In this case the primary participant is the automation system. However I could easily reverse this to have any one of my people participants to be the primary.

Now this is how I’d model the same process:

It differs from Rick’s diagram in many aspects:

  • Pools are used for external entities and/or processes. “Candidate” is such an entity: we don’t control his process, all we have is a messaging protocol.
  • There is no such thing as “primary participant”. There is a single swimlane in “Hiring Process” pool but it’s only because we simplified it to a bare minimum. In reality there would be also “Functional Manager”, “Security Officer” and maybe others. From my point of view, the idea of primary participant is bad: the process is supposed to break the walls between department walls. More participants, more separated they are in terms of geography and organization structure - more value one may expect from process management and BPMS.
  • There is no such thing as “executable system”. For me it’s like drawing “DBMS” on a database diagram. 

Rick argues:

Systems that only support one pool with many lanes are implying that they are human centric workflow, with some system capability.

Sorry Rick, I have enough of this: one party call the other “some legacy workflow vendors” and they in turn call the opponents “webservices orchestration vendors”. OK, I draw this diagram in a modeler that doesn’t have execution engine yet I can see how it can be executed in Tibco, Interstage or Oracle aka Fuego. The key is engine’s capability to process messages flow - workflow can handle only control flows.

Anyone wants more pools? No problem, I can draw internals of the Candidate’s process:

Is the diagram better now? I don’t think so. The beauty of process choreography is loose coupling: the changes in one process does not affect the other as long as messaging interface is followed. One cannot achieve this with process orchestration as I noted in my previous post and I believe this is Rick’s point too.

Previous diagram lacks loose coupling so I’d rather draw the candidate’s process in a separate diagram:

I share completely Rick’s concern:

I suggest the collaborative approach where IT and BA work together.

But sorry Rick - I didn’t meet a business analyst that would accept your style, it’s too technical. So we fall back to the traditional way: an analyst draws some vague diagram then throws it over the wall to developers and they convert it into executable code that the analyst is unable to read.

And I don’t believe it must be that technical like it is in Intalio.

04/19/09 | Responces | , ,     Comments: 4

(Русский) Инструментарий BPM в “Открытых системах”

Sorry, this entry is only available in Русский.

03/10/09 | Responces | , ,     Comments: closed

Process Issues Symptoms

BPMInstitute announced a presentation: “Secrets of a Business Process Consultant Shhhhh…Processes, Tools and Techniques that the Pros Use“. The presentation is too pathetic to me but one slide is worth to be memorized:

Have You Ever Heard…

  • “You’ll need to come back when Sally’s here, she’s the only one that handles that.”
  • “That’s the way we’ve always done it”
  • “They don’t do things “our way”
  • “That’s not my job”
  • “They just sent me to see you, now your sending me back?”
  • “Why are you making this so hard?”
  • “You’ll need to go back to the _______ to get a signature”
  • “I didn’t need this the last time I submitted…”
  • “That department does it differently”
  • “Well, whoever told you that was wrong, this is the right way.”
02/06/09 | Responces |     Comments: 1

(Русский) Семинар по BPM - ответы на вопросы

Sorry, this entry is only available in Русский.

01/06/09 | Responces | ,     Comments: 1

Very Stylish Presentation

Is it possible to fit 100 slides into 10-minutes presentation? Check out this:http://blog.gardeviance.org/2008/10/gang-up-now-before-aas-cloud-gets-you.html

The presentation is about relatively new concepts - SaaS and Cloud Computing - but you’ll enjoy it even if you don’t care about these matters. I love when serious topics are delivered with artistic style. Wish to be able making presentation this way: perfect language, creative video row and at the same time sharp logic and usefull information.

12/25/08 | Responces |     Comments: closed

Levels of process thinking

Bruce Silver posted an article “BPMN’s Three Levels, Reconsidered” on his blog. (It’s a fllow-up to the earlier post on the matter: “Three Levels of Process Modeling with BPMN“.) From his two-years experience of giving BPMN classes Bruce noticed that many of students (he even says “most” couple of paragraphs forward) are simply trying to document, analyse and improve their processes and don’t bother about executable models. Bruce calls this Level 1 of BPMN usage. Level 2 also covers activity flow model suitable for direct execution inside BPMS that includes conditional logic, exceptions, events, messaging (process choreography assumed yet not mentioned).

But is it about BPMN really?

I like the statement Mark McGregor made on the cover page of his new book “Winning With Enterprise Process Management” (freely available at markmcgregor.com):

…process thinking takes many forms - Business Process Management, Continuous Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, Business Process Reengineering and many others…

Mark is right: it’s about thinking. Process thinking. Different kinds of process thinking, to be precise.

Do you remember the times when object-oriented programming was just invented? It was noticed that it’s not about programming languages. One could write object-oriented software even with Fortran (and some people did when there were no decent C++ compilers) if he catched the idea. And of course you can (and many people actually do) write 100%-functional code on C++.

An interesting observation was made at that time: it’s much easier to teach C++ to a newbie than to experienced C programmers. The reason - it’s about installing a certain kind of mindset (object-oriented in that case) or changing it. The latter turns out to be much harder than the former.

Now I have absolutely the same experience with people trying to understand what BPMN (BPM, BPMS - you name it) is about. Those who deal with business processes for years and have strong background in BPR, ISO9000 etc. can’t grasp what’s so cool about executable process models. They always considered execution to be “implementation details”, something IT should care about. Some of them become irritated enough to say or write that BPM is nothing new, it’s pure marketing, it’s an “umbrella concept” etc.

By contrast, every student and/or junior consultant becomes excited about possibilities that this concept opens. When you just draw a process diagram you can make a dozen of them, all being valid and all being different. That’s no good. When execution is involved - even in it’s simplest form, with simple automatically generated screens and zero integration - you go from “diagrams” to “the diagram”. The analyst isn’t in position to draw an unconsistent diagram any more: if he does, the diagram returns back to him with developer’s note “sorry, can’t be executed this way, please correct”.

Getting back to BPMN Training - Bruce uses Process Modeler for Microsoft Visio by itp commerce for his classes. It could be a perfect choice: high level of BPMN compliance and strong simulation capabilities. But there is no execution. And you just can’t explain what is the execution by words and slides, without showing it.

When we realized this fact several years ago, we recorded and published a simple demo video showing BPMS modeling and execution. And it became a hit. Many people said “thank you” because it helped them understand the directly executable process model concept, regardless of BPMS used.

So Bruce, if you wish more people moved from Level 1 to Level 2, you must show them how a model can be executed in BPMS and how iterational modeling and execution is done. Don’t leave it implicit and don’t assume people know it already. Because as you say it yourself - most of them don’t and it’s the key assumption behind BPMN.

12/08/08 | Responces |     Comments: 22

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