Process Is The Main Thing

@ Anatoly Belaychuk’s BPM Blog

Posts Tagged ‘BPMS’

Scott Francis about Legislating Competency

Scott Francis wrote a great post that very much resonates to our experience.

BPM projects are special because business processes are volatile by their nature. They are changing because (1) the business environment is ever changing and (2) our own understanding of what is the best way to do our job and to serve our customers is changing.

It happens all the time: as soon as the customer’s process is discovered and mapped, people at the customer side say: “do we really work this way?!” Meaning that it’s so obviously inefficient and ineffective. Yet it only becomes obvious after the analysis is done by a competent process team, not in advance.

This is why an attempt to do the process work traditional way - on the basis of rigid specifications and contract terms - is doomed. Here is how Scott describes it:

  1. Incredibly detailed specifications for the software, regardless of the native capabilities of the underlying software platforms.
  2. Named resources (staff) on the project, in the contract.
  3. The contract includes most or all of the specifications, binding the vendor to an exact implementation definition, and removing all doubt about what is desired.
  4. Having secured very rigorous contracts, with performance penalties and exacting specifications, the contract will also specify an extremely aggressive average rate for the personnel on the project.

» read the rest

About Planes That Are Good For War and For Peace

My grandfather Ivan Orlenko was a military pilot during WW II. He flied on torpedo bombers over the Baltic Sea in 1944-1945 and ended the war at the rank of regiment commander. (On this occasion I recommend to those interested in military history the site of my brother Oleg Belaychuk.)

Grandfather is at the center of the photo. The writing on the plane says it’s an American Boston A-20G, which were supplied to the USSR under Lend-Lease.

Among many stories that grandfather has left here is the one about planes that are best for war and for peace. Retelling in my own words:

When we got Bostons we were surprised with unprecedented level of comfort - they were warm! We could fly without fur shoes and fur coats which we all used to. But when we got involved into actions we’ve found that Bostons are too ready to burn. Technicians investigated why and found that heating was provided by a gasoline stove fed by a pipe running through the entire machine. A bullet or a shell fragment and the machine is down. So we dismounted the whole heating system and got our fur boots with sheepskin coats back.

It should be noted that when the bomber steers the target at the final approach it’s under the fire of all ship weaponry from the main battery to the officer on the bridge with a handgun. And being shot down over the Baltic… Grandfather’s engine has caught fire after attack once but he was able to knock down the flames and get back on one engine. Meanwhile he was “buried” at the base because the fuel calculation didn’t give a chance to stay in the air at the time. » read the rest

01/10/13 | Articles |     Comments: 12

(Русский) BPM: вернуться к истокам

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(Русский) Откуда есть пошли контент-менеджмент и документооборот

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12/04/12 | Articles | ,     Comments: 6

(Русский) Откуда есть пошли бизнес-процессы

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11/29/12 | Articles | , , ,     Comments: 1

Future of BPM: Replacement or Extension?

Gartner, Pega and IBM are pushing new acronyms:

  • IBO = Intelligent Business Operations
  • iBPMS = Intelligent Business Process Management Suite

According to the experts, the concepts behind the acronyms aren’t exceptionally new - it’s evolutionary integration of related technologies: BPMS, BAM, BRE, CEP, ACM… Looks like someone decided it’s time to put new labels over the old BPM/BPMS.

I’m not personally convinced that the market will accept this labeling game. Attempts to announce the “post-BPM” solution was made in the past (Intalio) and are made today (Metasonic) without much success. This time the heavyweights are in play however.

I would like to see the breakthroughs in technology and methodology, not acronyms. From this perspective the bpmNEXT initiative looks more interesting. Quoting the memorandum by Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer:

We both do not agree with the fact that BPM is dead… or that BPM is tired. In fact, innovations associated with the clouds, event-driven analytics, case management, mobile applications and social networks fed by innovations in the field of BPM with an intensity that we have not seen for years.

By contrast, 10 years ago the process management discipline has undergone radical changes both in methodology and technology:

  • continuous improvement instead of one-time reengineering
  • integrated BPM Suites instead of separate modeling tools and workflow engines
  • agile development instead of “waterfall”

This time it’s about “in addition”, not “instead” hence the talk about “the death of BPM” is either speculation or provocation.

And this is very good actually - let’s not start it from scratch once again: TQM, reeingineering, BPM… It destroys the market as potential customers feel uncertain. What’s the point of implementing a new acronym if the previous one - pushed by the same consultants - was declared obsolete so easily?

Now when we position the post-BPM as an extension, it makes the late majority customers realize that the “basic BPM” is a task of yesterday, not tomorrow. Plus, tomorrow promises many fascinating and useful things.

06/22/12 | Notes | ,     Comments: 6

(Русский) Размышления об S-BPM

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05/31/12 | Responces |     Comments: 7

(Русский) Мастер-классы BPMS.ru

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Laws of BPM Robotics

One of our BPM project’s sponsor said at the very beginning, when we discussed the possible project: “my employees don’t need a control, they need help”. I argued at the moment, but later I realized that he was right.

What do we mean when we are talking about controlling a business process? Should we consider paranoid participants suspecting that the ultimate goal is to control them?

After all, the prevailing view of a process management is this: let’s draw a process diagram and make everyone do what’s written in a box assigned to him. And a manager will get a nice picture: the speed of the corporate machine is running and the amount of fuel it consumes.

But the real life is much more complicated: it’s always about a network of processes communicating via data, signals and messages. In the absence of computer-aided control it’s people who control these processes: they watch the bills to be paid, the orders to be delivered timely and in accordance with specs, the capacity and materials to be synced with orders accepted. They also deal with non-standard situations: customer revoked the order or paid several bills with one transactions, supplier changed delivery date etc.

These are complicated tasks. Really complicated.

And now comes a business process specialist who doesn’t know how to do anything yet knows how to do it better. But if he only knows how to draw a primitive workflow then it’s no use.

Example:

  • A small company reselling “cool stuff”: gadgets, special gifts, designers’ accessories for bathrooms etc.
  • A group of processes “Assortment Management”: several employees permanently monitor internet, visit trade shows, get into competitors’ stores looking for new ideas, brands, suppliers. On one hand, due to the business profile, the assortment must be updated by trendy things regularly but on the other the product line shouldn’t be too large, it must be trimmed also regularly.
  • These several people assess up to a thousands of candidates per month. The company developed a three-stages filter: first an express assessment made by an expert who throws away most of the income. Then negotiations with vendor, logistics work-out and possible profit estimate. And finally all ideas that passed first two stages are ranged once per month and the top candidates are selected for sample purchasing with the total available budget in mind.
  • In parallel, the whole current assortment is analyzed also monthly in terms of diversity, profitability etc.

A lot of aspects are taken into consideration both during selections and assortment revsions. E.g. a number of items within a single assortment group shouldn’t be neither too small (a buyer doesn’t trust when there is no choice) nor too wide (the buyer becomes confused and goes away). The assortment is limited by the physical dimensions: all goods should be placed on the shelf which is limited in size. And other completely informal things like an intuition saying to the expert that particular good is going to be a top-seller.

What can be done here if the path of the least resistance is taken? Well one may automate the assessment with a five-steps process:

  1. Get the quotation from the vendor
  2. Find out logistics terms
  3. Evaluate merchantability
  4. Assign rating
  5. Make a decision about sample purchasing

But to start with, as was shown in the previous post, when the budget is constrained the purchase decision may only be made on the basis of the whole set of candidates and no way in the frame of a single candidate assessment process.

Next, what’s the use of this scheme if all steps are performed by a single employee? This is pure micromanagement. Is it the issue here to control the sequence of tasks? Of course not - the issue is to control the bunch of processes running simultaneously and asynchronously: hundreds of first stage assessment instances, dozens of second stage assessments, selection into and trimming from the assortment. What we need for this task is not a workflow but a complicated enough interprocess collaboration.

People don’t want to be controlled, they need help in controlling really complicated processes.

If you give it to them then there’d be no opposition, people will gladly use a BPM system. Verified by practice.

Yet you’ll need to overcome their distrust on the way - no one at the shop floor a priory expects anything good when “business process” is mentioned. Here is how I break it talking with people:

Imagine that you’ve got a robot assistant. Trouble-free and error-free. It will take the most tediuos, clerical part of your job. You’ll be able to tell it:

  • «Robot, make sure this application got the right desk.»
  • «Robot, prepare an invoice using these data and post it into accounting DB.»
  • «Robot, let me know when we got the payment by this invoice.»
  • «Robot, what is the production schedule for this order?»
  • «Robot, calculate this client’s rating by our standard procedure.»
  • «Robot, watch this order and let me know if it stucks.»
  • «Robot, give me all payment requests for tomorrow sorted by contractors.»
  • «Robot, what did the boss say last week about this complain?»
  • «Robot, the client revoked the order - withdraw it from production if it’s not too late.»

Now tell me - who would not accept such a helper?

Besides the BPM robot is safe because it obeys the laws. Not the Asimov’s law however.

The Laws of BPM Robotics:

  1. A robot will never be able to do what you are able to do.
  2. A robot will do only a part of what you are doing.
  3. A robot will do only a part that you won’t like to do yourself.
02/11/11 | Articles | ,     Comments: 6

Modeling Human Routing in BPMN

Unfortunately, the question “how to model human decisions in BPMN” isn’t frequently asked.

“Unfortunately” because the intuitive answer is wrong. This is not a fork but a parallel execution:

After exiting the “Approve Claim” task the process will continue in parallel on the outgoing flows whatever is written on them.

Valid BPMN diagram looks like this:

It’s implied that the process has a boolean attribute “Approved”. User sets this attribute at the “Approve Claim” task, the gateway checks its value and the process continues in one of the flows.

As you can see, BPMN authors didn’t provide a special construct for human decisions but implemented them rather artificially: a special attribute that must be set by a human and checked in the gateway immediately after.

The user interface for the task where the decision is made may look like this:

When “Done” button form is pressed the task is completed.

I agree with Keith Swenson that BPMN misses explicit support of human routings.

Firstly, human-based and automatic routings look alike at a diagram. Yet this is an important aspect of the process.

If it was my decision I’d introduce explicit support of human routing into BPMN. Since first diagram above is actually more intuitive than valid BPMN, I’d leverage on it:

The existing flow types - Control Flow, Conditional Flow and Uncontrolled Flow - are extended by Human Controlled Flow here, marked with a double dash.

Another issue are screen forms like the one above which provoke user mistakes: it’s tempting to press “Done” and get rid of the task without paying attention to the attributes.

If a decision is requested from a human then the form should look like this:

The buttons could be generated automatically from the process diagram above.

Yet it’s possible to utilize this technique for standard BPMN, too:

“Done” button is replaced by “Approve” and “Deny” here, each of them being bound to two actions: set the attribute value and complete the task.

Now I’m going to use this occasion to appeal to BPMS vendors: please give the opportunity to create more than one button completing the task and bind them to attributes. If you didn’t do it yet, of course.

12/27/10 | Articles | , , ,     Comments: 12

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