Connectivity, Efficiency, Experiences

23 11 2011

When looking at BPM (Business Process Management) solutions, or talking about BPM the concept, many of us think of how it relates to actual business processes or business goals, cases, targets etc. This is the main aim of BPM, to address how a business achieves a goal or carries out “work”, agreed? Ok, but my observation is, Is this right? Does the term BPM limit our thinking in real sense?

 

Outside of the business

If we take everything that we do towards a desired goal or outcome as a process, then BPM applies to everything we do in life, it’s not just limited to Businesses! For example, our own bodies go through processes every second of every day to achieve a goal. Think how we breathe, there is a distinct process, think how we turn food into energy, a distinct process, think how we run, a distinct mechanical process.

Now these examples are to simply prove a point that processes are around us and a part of our daily lives massively, which means any one process is made up of many others. Me running is a process, but in order for me to run, my body goes through a number of other processes, breathing and turning food into energy. This means businesses should not see their process as “the process”, rather as simply a smaller part of an overall and far bigger customer experience.

 

Real world example needed

To get my point across I want to use a real world example. Ok, I purchase a printer from a store. On checkout I provide that store with some basic information about myself. I then get home, install the printer and start using it. I fill in the warranty card, post that off, and then forget about it. A few days later the product breaks down, and I need to get it replaced. From the point of view of the manufacturer they don’t need to take into account any of the process I have just gone through, in order to kick off the process of dealing with the fault, but should they?

I believe yes.

 

Connectivity

Connectivity of devices and processes can have massive implications on process efficiencies, and the ability for external processes (that may not be directly related) to have a positive effect on our business processes.

First off, connecting and sharing data between different processes obviously provides added efficiencies and data accuracy. If we take our printer example, the process of checking out and paying for my printer should be integrated with the process of me completing a warranty card and informing the manufacturer.  That’s a process I shouldn’t need to be doing, and with improved connectivity of processes and data, I don’t have to. Now relate that back to the process of me returning the faulty printer, you see that process will be improved because of this connectivity in a different process. Both the store, and the manufacturer now know me, the product and the warranty, I don’t need to go through a number of steps at the start of the manufacturer’s faulty product process.

Secondly, device connectivity can have a massive impact on process efficiency, especially when connecting multiple and sometimes very different processes together. In the typical BPM world, do we take this into consideration?

Since the rise of the Smartphone, we have started to take into consideration connectivity to processes from different devices; we now see not just eMail being accessed on our mobile devices, but also ECM concepts along with the ability to actually work. However, when we flit between devices, such as our laptop, tablet, PC and mobile, often we have to do things again. Think deleting emails from your mobile device you have already deleted, think re-downloading a document we were working on etc. These are small things, but they can rack up a lot of time, and frustration amongst your work force. Now think of this from the point of view of a customer? You can see how better connected devices mean we can deliver better connected experiences to our customers, which have an impact on process efficiency.

Connectivity is a big thing, and one of the problems with multiple platforms and operating systems is the lack of connectivity. As a consumer, we like single user experiences, and we now want and like flexibility to do things whenever we want and on whatever device we want. Unfortunately having a different OS on my phone to the OS on my tablet, to the OS on my laptop and PC is not great for connectivity or user experiences. I’m not sure big players such as Google and Apple get this. Apple do it better than Google, and currently Microsoft, they learnt from the disjointed approach of Microsoft in the 90s. However, Microsoft seems to understand this connectivity and single user experience far more now, and they are moving ahead of the others. With Windows 8 and Windows Azure, one connected OS across all devices is only a few months away. That potentially provides massive connectivity bonuses to business and consumers.

 

Efficiency

BPM, APG (Adaptive Process Guidance), ACM (Adaptive Case Management) all aim to help businesses in a number of ways, raising efficiency, increasing standards, increasing accountability, ensuring compliance and improving customer experiences. These are just a few arguments for BPM thinking.

Efficiency is often looked at in terms of processes businesses own. Let’s look at our example process again. The manufacturer can improve the actual faulty printer process internally; it monitors what goes on, tweaks it here and there and improves it. However, external processes and greater connectivity should be leveraged to drastically improve this process further. Make sense?

In order to get a working printer, I the consumer, will follow through a process, which is a bigger process to that which the printer manufacturer has for handling this issue. If we step back, we can see that this process of getting a working printer spans over the store and the manufacturer, but if we step back further it also incorporates the process of me purchasing the printer in the first place. Do you see how a bigger picture of a process now surrounds my manufacturer’s simple process of dealing with my broken printer? If you do, then you can start to see areas in which we can make the manufacturers process of dealing with the broken printer far easier and more efficient than what is currently in place.

Essentially, if along the entire process of me purchasing the printer the manufacturer was thinking about the returns / repairs process, then they would want to get the warranty and customer information at the point of sale. This drastically improves the process efficiency for returns, in terms of internal efficiencies but also from the point of view of the customer, improving their relationship with that store and the brand of printer they have bought. I’m not going to break down the process further, rather I believe I have made my point, that business can improve process by taking into account external processes, especially those of their customers…

 

Experience

This post is about delivering a better customer experience. Leveraging the connectivity potential of devices and the connectivity potential of processes, business is able to improve its own processes. Taking our faulty printer example we can see how improved connectivity leads to external processes improving the manufacturer’s returns / repair process, in terms of efficiency internally and for the customer. We also see how connectivity of devices makes the customer experience far easier, simpler and more efficient, including for the manufacturer.

So with efficiency in mind, we look to greater connectivity, put the two together and you get drastically improved experiences…





Adaptive Working Environment (@WE)

17 02 2011

In previous posts I have spoken about the importance of a holistic approach to delivering IT to business, which aligns IT solutions more closely to the actual needs of the business. I have also posted about the importance of being highly adaptive and flexible to business needs, which ultimately includes the needs of end users and the most important of them all, customers…So with all this in mind, Adaptive Working Environment (@WE) makes a lot of sense, if you understand what it is…

It was interesting to read Max J. Pucher post on ACM is Dead! Long live ADAPTIVE as many of his points regarding ADAPTIVE are areas I have been working in / towards for some years now. Sure the terms are a little different and even the areas are (I have come from a far more ECM orientated silo) but many of the points he raises about ADAPTIVE can be applied to not just the areas we frequent (CRM, BPM etc). My previous post touched on some of this, and I thought it was time I spoke about the holistic and adaptive concept I have been working on and off for the past 8 years now…

What’s the concept?

8 years ago, myself and a colleague had the idea of delivering a single platform for ECM, CRM and BPM. This isn’t that radical really, but the concept was to ensure that it was a single platform, no silos loosely related requiring integration, rather a single platform that delivered these functions.  We also wanted the platform to be as highly flexible as possible, allowing end users to change its structure, change classifications and even definitions of processes / work that had to be done. That concept started its life as project workFile, which has since become a company in its own right. The concept itself has gone through iterations too, with new “terms” being used to describe our big idea, new methods and even new approaches to delivering on that concept. But the concept has remained, a single, highly flexible platform that looks at a business problem in a holistic fashion.

Now Im not saying this is something unique, and there are vendors out there with the same holistic approach.  But what I spoke about many years ago, and what the drive is at workFile now, is an Adaptive Working Environment (@WE), which is more than just an adaptive mindset, or an adaptive holistic approach to CRM, or BPM or whatever…

The Adaptive Working Environment drive if you like, is to embrace both adaptive and holistic thinking fully. So thats in terms of a single platform, how that platform is architected, integration capabilities and delivery through a single extensible user interface. With the areas I work in that means a single platform for adaptive ECM functionality, adaptive CRM and of course Adaptive Process Guidance (APG) in place of traditional BPM.

But an Adaptive Working Environment (@WE) needs to be more; it needs to make life easier for the end user in terms of human computer interactions, so to do that, a single user experience is required. When I talk of a single user experience I mean this to be delivered through a single application, not multiple applications accessing the same platform, but a single application delivering a single user experience. That single application also needs to provide integration possibilities, have extensible capabilities so that other solution screens can be built, and delivered, via that single interface. How much simpler is that for the end user?

But we still need to do more to be completely adaptive to the business needs. We need to be aware that business will have many more applications and solutions running, many of which may need to be integrated with either tightly or loosely. That integration should be made as simple as possible, and as flexible as possible. With this in mind, the @WE (Adaptive Working Environment) needs to be built completely on a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA). A good SOA coupled with an extensible user application, provides the maximum flexibility in integration requirements.

With this kind of thinking we are delivering an Adaptive Envrionment for users to work within (hence Adaptive Working Environment). This environment empowers staff fully, it allows the business to utilise their users brains as assets, and it ultimately leads to a more efficient business that provides great customer services.

 

Can @WE be used for other silos?

Well I have termed @WE for the areas in which I have been working in, so that’s the adaptive holistic approach to CRM, ECM and (in my case) APG. We also use the term to convey other important points, such as being built soley on a SOA, and providing that single user experience that is highly extensible. 

However, the point is to be holistic and adaptive to your approach to whatever, and taking that as the point, then Max’s definition of ADAPTIVE is what we / you are embracing. As I said, we use the term @WE to describe not only our “concept” but in many ways how that concept is implemented (built on SOA, single extensible UI). 

I would argue that any platforms that embrace ADAPTIVE thinking (not necessarily related to ECM, BPM, CRM etc) can be termed ADAPTIVE, perhaps we should ask Max. I would agree though that if they are adaptive, holistic and then implemented using nothing but SOA and deliver a single extensible UI, then they are an @WE…

 

The key @WE elements to remember

To deliver an @WE, IT solution providers need to carry out the following, which will align their platform far closer to the actual needs of business:

  • Embrace a holistic stance / approach (address the complete business problem)
  • Embrace complete adaptive capabilities
  • Build their  application on a solid SOA, providing clear integration possibilities
  • Deliver the option of a single user experience that is extensible to the possible integration needs of the business

If IT does this, then we are delivering Adaptive Working Environments to the business and end user…





Long live ADAPTIVE

15 02 2011

Today I read Max J. Pucher’s blog post “ACM is Dead! Long live ADAPTIVE!” and I really wasn’t surprised…Many are surprised though, as it sees one of ACMs strongest supporters leaving the camp, in a…well rather public fashion. But should we be surprised?

For a long time Max has spoken of ADAPTIVE capabilities and goals that reach beyond silo approaches, so why have these defined in an a three letter acronym that essentially means only a fraction of what he conveys…After all ACM is Adaptive Case Management, and that doesn’t make me think of:  

“a globally encompassing technology approach that is linked to business architecture and strategy” – Taken from Max’s post.

So why is ADAPTIVE the key term

Well read the article for yourself to hear from Max. But for me, adaptive capabilities are at their heart, about returning power to end users and putting them at the centre of how business operates, empowerment is the term and is really the only route to great business efficiency and customer services.

So with this in mind adaptive capabilities stretch far beyond Case Management, BPM and whatever else you want to throw into the mix. Business is not about IT based silos, or IT platforms or applications…Business is about getting things done, and therefore requires a holistic approach to platforms, architectures, solutions and applications. But let’s be more specific, this holistic approach needs to be highly adaptive too, in order to empower the business users…I think the term ADAPTIVE conveys this thinking far more than ACM, so horray, ACM is dead, long live ADAPTIVE…

Adaptive Working Environment (@WE)

This is a concept that we thought up at workFile almost 6 years ago now (though then workFile was a fledgling product of One Degree). Sure it has grown and changed a little, but in essence the concept was, and is, a single adaptive platform for business needs, that brings together typical silos such as CRM, ECM and BPM.

In realising this concept, the “adaptive capabilities” have often been the issue, especially for BPM. The adaptive requirements have seen us move from a typical BPM implementation to one that leverages “intelligent” business process maps that are built by developers, along to a far more flexible approach now, with APG (Adaptive Process Guidance). It has also seen us move away from a silo module approach to a single solution platform with a single user interface…

So what workFile terms as @WE (Adaptive Working Environment), I believe Max is driving at with ADAPTIVE (though Maxs products are out there to purchase and workFile Vision 2.0 is only at an alpha state). If anything, ADAPTIVE could be far wider reaching than @WE. ADAPTIVE thinking has the potential to change the way all platforms and applications are structured and delivered, in essence, how business users work with IT solutions (if we remember not to pin it to a particular silo, methodology or platform)…Now I wonder if that is what Max is conveying, or if I am reading too much into the whole ADAPTIVE thinking?

If you want to know more on workFile @WE concept then have a quick read at http://www.workfilesuite.com/what-is-@WE.aspx





Adaptive Process Guidance (APG), more than just a concept

30 01 2011

Since my post on APG (Adaptive Process Guidance – http://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/adaptive-process-guidance-apg/), I have had a number of comments (either on the post itself, via twitter or from other professionals that I know) stating that they like the concept, but see BPM as the implementation of that concept (or ACM). For me, I take this as a positive step towards looking at better ways of empowering the workforce while still maintaining a level of management and process structure (as opposed to an unstructured approach or highly structured and rigid approach to processes). Perhaps APG should be seen as a complimentary concept for both BPM and ACM….

However, looking at APG simply as a concept, or a methodology in the way professionals should be thinking is wrong and not where I was going in my previous post. The point regarding APG is that an APG solution can be implemented in both a BPM type fashion and or an ACM type fashion. In addition an APG solution can be implemented in its own unique way also, providing a blend of unstructured and structured thinking to the same process. This means APGS (to distinguish between a concept and an implementation) can deliver solutions for processes that would currently be seen as BPMS, or equally for processes that are currently seen as Case Management (or ACM). This is the point of APG, that it is a singular way of thinking / approaching and implementing processes right across the enterprise.

APG as the implementation

Currently there are no APG solutions out there, or implementations, so if you want to embrace APG then your implementation will be a blend of BPM or ACM (which could be costly as an investment to an organisation). Tom Shepherd in a response to my APG post made a great analogy, “Think of ACM / BPMS as the terrain across which the driver (user) navigates and the APG solution as the GPS”. This could be seen as true, but I see the terrain as the content and the actual work that needs doing…If you see the terrain as ACM / BPM then you must see that to implement APG correctly, that you need the flexibility and functions from both ACM and BPM at least. This means that across the enterprise you will need to invest in both ACM and BPM…

I see APG as a solution that spans both BPM and ACM, so perhaps I see them as complimentary concepts of APG (if you want to look at it from another angle). But lets look at Toms analogy as it is one I like. To take Tom’s point futher, I see the terrain as the content and the work that needs to be done. APG is both my GPS and my car. This means APG is giving me all the information I need to guide me through the terrain and the tools to actually cross it. However, APG is also giving me the flexibilty to take my own route, allowing me to drive the car where I want. So as the driver (user) I can decide to pick an alternative route from the good old trusty A-Z map in the back seat of the car, or, more likely, I will take my own route based on my knowledge of crossing this terrain many times before…

What we are working hard on at workFile is this implementation of APG as a solution in its own right. An APG solution will provide a user with guidance to how work should be done, but that’s not all. It will also provide a user with information on what actually has to be done, what may need to be done and how best to carry out that work. It will, wherever needed, strictly enforce certain business rules, but it will also provide facilities, in general, to work far more adaptively and freely (simply being guided in the right direction). Business will have options for how they tackle processes, either in a very structured, rigid fashion, or in a highly unstructured fashion, or perhaps a blend of both (for the same process). The point of APG is that you can make it as unstructured and as flexible as you like, while on the other hand, making it as enforcing as you wish when you need it to be.

The benefit here to business is that a single APG platform meets all of their process needs.

Being more holistic…

One of the big drivers for me is this holistic approach to how we work or more importantly how we see work right across the enterprise. I am all for breaking down artificial silos and delivering a single platform that embraces all of the business functions associated with these, wherever they are complimentary or highly linked. I have spoken about the obvious silos being broken down such as CRM, ECM and BPM (or now APG once you accept it as a solution), to deliver a more empowering, simple and richer user experience while improving efficiency and service outcome.

As a business if you want to take control of processes (unstructured, structured or both) then I believe APG is the right type of platform, its better at delivering a holistic approach to business and empowers users in doing their work. I also believe APG delivers a more holistic approach to implementing processes within a managed environment across the enterprise. Why? Well because APG can get into more processes within the organisation, it’s not limited to either structured or unstructured processes…This is a good thing in terms of user experiences, departmental communications and of course management, not to mention IT admin and investment…

Final thoughts…

APG should be seen as both a concept / way of thinking about processes, and as a platform for taking control of both structured and unstructured processes. APG should be seen as a solution in its own right, one that embraces the good points of BPM (for structured high volume, simple repeatable processes) and the good points of ACM (for unstructured, adaptive processes), while also providing its own unique blend for processes that require a bit of both…

I appreciate that analysts and vendors out there are already heavily invested in one camp or the other (BPM or ACM), and that they will argue for their particular camp, as well they should…However, I just hope people read and digest what I am actually driving at here with APG, and that they are willing to have a look at workFile Vision 2.0 with APG implemented, once it’s release is made…





Adaptive Process Guidance (APG)

28 01 2011

Now this isn’t a term I had heard, in-fact I think I may have invented it when talking to the people at workFile some weeks back (if you have heard this term before, let me know), but it seems to fit much of my thinking regarding BPM. So much so that I have been mentioning it now on numerous post responses and Twitter…

I am a strong believer in a holistic approach to BPM, one that also includes real adaptive capabilities (such as those found in ACM – adaptive case management). For me, much of what is termed BPM is far too rigid, too structured and doesn’t really allow BPM to expand into many processes a business may have.

BPM, too rigid, too structured

Thinking of BPM in the traditional BPMS sense, we find we need to design up front structured processes, typically through a designer tool. Even if we are practicing BPM and not actually using any software, we still end up using flowchart type tools. The problem here is that BPMS implements the solution based on that flowchart, which is highly structured and very rigid. This is the perfect tool for medium – high volume processes that are simply and repeatable, but how many of those do you have in your business?

When we start to look at other processes across our organisation, we find that the same structure, and rigid approach to a process doesn’t work well here, and as such, many organisations won’t implement BPM for those processes / departments. This means that for these departments, many of the benefits that BPM is there to provide simply can’t be leveraged, benefits such as increased efficiency, increased accountability, visibility and the ability to enforce a certain level of standards. So what’s the solution? Some point to Case Management, and they are right, Case Management here does fit, but, our business then will have to invested in a Case Management solution, the professional services that come along with that, and a BPMS, and the professional services that come with that too…..That’s a lot of investment….

Adaptive Process Guidance

So is the half way house a solution that has adaptive capabilities, similar to those found in ACM (adaptive case management), and the process like steps found in BPM? I think yes…

So, we want the best from ACM and the best from BPM, but compromise will have to be made somewhere. So that compromise is process guidance as opposed to process enforcement (as found in BPM).

Process guidance allows for us to deliver highly adaptive capabilities, with users identifying processes as they work and updating our platform accordingly. We can also allow our platform to adapt based on what tasks are actually being done by users in a process. In effect, we are empowering users to work how they want, and allowing them to update the process guide to ensure standards, accountability, visibility etc. etc. (all good points of BPM) are still maintained in a solution.

Adaptive capabilities in process guidance allow individuals to work how they chose, and who is to say that the way Dave works is the best way for Dorris to work (sorry couldn’t think of names off the top of my head there). The adaptive capabilities allow a user to identify, that for this particular peice of work, the process needs modification, and they can have the option to update the process guide, for good, or just update it for this single instance (adaptive capabilities can also allow our platform to learn from these changes and how often they are being made). In addition, the way we choose to work as individuals or as teams is changing, many of us want to, or need to collaborate on a single piece of work, there are even studies suggesting that teams will swarm around a single piece of work to complete it as soon as they can. This is very different to our traditional BPMS which is all about a completing my work, and moving it on to the next person (or group) and the next step in the process. With this in mind, our process guide needs to be as flexible as possible, allowing users and departments to work how they feel is best.

Don’t think though that this will lead to inefficient processes. We still can monitor our processes, update process guides based on information provided by the platform and identify further efficiency gains. SLAs can still be put in place and there are areas that we can be very strict on. We will also find that the adaptive capabilities will ensure that all of the process is captured within our system, rather than just that which has been designed and our agents having to work outside the scope of the platform.

For these reasons I prefer a process guidance to enforcement, and I believe this approach will lead to more processes within an organisation finding their way into the solution, and most importantly, more processes benefiting from the solution. APG works well for adhoc processes, collaborative working and for medium-high volume structured processes (which BPM currently handles very well). This ultimately means that as a business, you need only invest in a single process management solution, so that’s reduced investment and a far more appealing ROI (if that’s how you want to measure success).

Social?

Social is a big buzz word at the moment for BPM and Case Management. APG is no different, the concept of capturing social interactions and how they impact a particular piece of work or process is just as important. The big difference here between APG and traditional BPM, is that this interaction and capturing is far easier, you can have social interactions actually updating our process guide. This can be a highly empowering tool for your teams, allowing processes to be detected, discussed and implemented. But the most important thing is to capture these interactions and ensure they are presented when reviewing process efficiency. For all the benefits of allowing users to update processes, a BA can still add value by identifying new areas of efficiency gain possibilities…

Throw in Holistic APG

Now we throw into the mix the holistic approach, ensuring the user has a 360 degree view of all the information they need, and we have a platform that really empowers end users. With a single silo, that incorporates ECM, CRM and APG (with APG effectively acting as ACM and or BPM, however you want to look at it) you have a complete holistic approach that delivers everything the user needs to a single desktop. This is real empowerment and is enabling them to work more efficienty and effectively for the company. This level of empowerment will lead to efficient processes, better customer experiences and more and more of the organisation benefiting from APG (and much more).

Quick conclusion?

BPM is Business Process Management, which is all about managing how work gets done. Case Management is all about managing how work gets done…The difference is how they enforce / enable users to get that work done. Adaptive Process Guidance is no different; it’s about managing how work gets done. The big difference is that APG is more flexible and easier to fit into many more business processes. It works just as well as BPM for medium-high volume, simply and highly repetitive processes, and it works just as well as Case Management for adhoc adaptive processes…

All in all, APG could be the future for how we choose to manage how work gets done…Or it could simply become yet another term associated with the world of BPM, workflow, Case Management, Adaptive Case Management, Complex Adaptive Solutions, Dynamic BPM, Social BPM etc etc etc etc….








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