Adaptive BPM…No Mapping tools…

24 03 2010

I have had many a conversation with Max J. Pucher with regards to processes, definitions, traditional BPM, maps, UI’s etc etc. Many points on which we have agreed, and many we haven’t. However, discussion is good for the soul but also in expanding your thinking – nothing is better than bouncing ideas off of another person, and I have found that some of Max’s comments and blog posts (you can read his personal blog here do challenge my own way of thinking…

One of the key areas and things he talks about is “adaptive processes” and how processes can be spawn without a traditional BPM map, adapting based on user actions or requirements (when authorised). This effectively allows a new variant of processing to be created at a user level, based on their requirement to process that particular piece of work, there and then…. Now at first I didn’t really follow the points being raised that well, in addition, I couldn’t really grasp the real benefits, all I could see are the negatives. However, this has got me thinking more and more, and how potentially this could work with our own workFile ECM BPM implementation…

Intelligent Maps…

I am a strong believer in intelligent maps, allowing developers to define the actual engine of the process and therefore giving them all the tools they need to integrate the solution with other LOB applications, making the BPM solution ultimately more powerful and useful to the end user. I am not going to change my thoughts on this. However, with intelligent maps I propose that the “map” is the driver behind the process, yes, but this is more of an “engine” rather than the complete car, so to speak…Many BPM products place far too much emphasis on the process map and the business analyst who is trying to define the actual process, for me this is far too restrictive and reduces the intelligence within the actual processing engine (or map) and its capabilities to integrate and automate…

However, Max comments and blog posts have got me thinking, can an intelligent map be adaptive at run time? Can an intelligent map allow a user to spawn new variants or sub-processes?

Adaptive intelligent maps…

Let’s work on some assumptions (I know these are great, but we need a point to start). Let’s presume that 40% of a process has been mapped out in full by a BA. This has been translated by our developer on our BPM platform as an intelligent map, and our BPM solution is running fine. Lets also presume that allocation to “unstructured” case management makes up around another 20% of our requirement. This leaves 40% of a particular group of processes that have slipped through our system to an extent (they could always be assigned to our unstructured case management). As Max explains, in his posts, an adaptive process can cater for the rest, effectively allowing these new processes to emerge from the designed or identified process (by our BA).

When you think of an adaptive map / process in this context, you can see there is real potential and benefit to this “adaptive” thinking…Though I don’t subscribe to everything “adaptive”, I do find this idea of “emerging” processes very compelling…

Where does it fit? Lean? Adaptive? Traditional BPM?

So where does “adaptive” processes fit. The answer, I am not sure. However, it is obvious that adaptive has a lot to offer and bring to the BPM market, more so than Lean for example. With this in mind, only this week I started to get our technical director looking at how we can make our own BPM and intelligent maps more adaptive, responsive and able to provide the capabilities for new processes to emerge….Though this isn’t the complete “adaptive” picture as Max paints, I feel it is a step in the right direction and one that brings benefits from the “adaptive” and “traditional” BPM corners…In addition, can ECM be more adaptive? The answer, YES….



24 responses

24 03 2010
Max J. Pucher

Thanks, Andrew. Our discussions have always been constructive mostly because of our different perspectives. You are also right with your thinking about ECM. The Adaptive concept absolutely also is relevant for ECM and also CRM. I even propose that with Adaptive Process, the three silos suddenly merge into one, provided that the technology has all the functionality. That obviously must include pretty powerful data integration and mapping. Look forward to further discussions … Max

25 03 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I have to say, I agree with you totally. I have for a long time believed that CRM, ECM and BPM should all sit togtether as one…I always feel that integration is key, and such things as lean really do take away from the potential of the three silos merging and also the whole adaptive concept…

Unfortunately the typical large players that claim to start to do this, really dont (especially from the CRM side) It is yet another argument for businesses to look at “different” solution providers….

25 03 2010
Column 2 : links for 2010-03-25

[…] Adaptive BPM…No Mapping tools… « Andrew One Degree’s Blog Examining ideas of how unstructured/ad hoc processes fit within structured processes: basically, the business analysts can never map every possible path for some processes, so better to allow these to emerge dynamically at the hands of the process participants. (tags: bpm bpa collaboration) Posted by Sandy Kemsley on Thursday, March 25, 2010, at 8:01 am. Filed under Links. Follow any responses to this post with its comments RSS feed. You can post a comment or trackback from your blog. […]

25 03 2010
Tom Shepherd

Potentially controversial post Andrew! What would we do without maps???

In all seriousness, maps provide a means for people to try and understand the way work gets done. The unfortunate consequence of this visual representation and pre-definition is that these pictures become the “one true way” of the work, which is completely unrealistic in 70-80% of the work that businesses engage in. The adaptive concept is indeed attractive, as it lets people deal with “work happening” instead of having to create workarounds. I say bring structure and repeatability to processes where possible and effective, but only if it doesn’t impede people’s ability to do their jobs and adds value by removing repetitive work.

The collapsing of technology stacks including CRM, BPM, ECM, KM, ACM, etc., is something near and dear to my heart (here and here What I believe we’re seeing in the market is a realization that vendors from many different silos are realizing that they could solve broader problems by incorporation of other technologies into their world. Hence Pega buying Chordiant, releasing a visual process modeler, etc.

In the end, what businesses need is a platform on which to solve their business problems in as easy, effective and robust a way as possible. They don’t need (and are hurt by) mega systems for CRM, BPM, KM, ECM, and so on. Our challenge is to get people away from the silo’d thinking that they engage in today by demonstrating real-world solutions to their problems. Visibility of these kinds of solutions to consumers will continue to be a challenge because of the desire to put vendors in “boxes” with convenient labels. My question to you, to Max, and to others is, how do we get people to think outside the box?

25 03 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I personally like the idea of not having maps inside my BPM (well not in the sense that most BPM systems use maps). I like having “intelligent maps” from which developers have built process maps, but these arent graphical representations that a BA puts together, rather the business rules behind the processes that enable the BPM system to function. (I see these types of maps as abstraction of business rules by the developer). The adaptive concept is one I am starting to embrace – allowing the map to grow and adapt based on the users using the system. I think this is the way forward. (And no need for BA type maps within the BPM system, keep these for consultants of BAs themeseleves)

How do we get people to think outside of the box….hmmmm good question, one which I have (and still am) thinking about more and more. I am not sure though if it is even a question of them thinking outside of the box, rather unlearning all they have learnt through the different marketing streams of systems such as CRM, BPM, ECM etc etc. When you step back, ECM should include CRM, as customer based information is nothing more than a form of structured content. BPM is within every application an organisation uses – if you think of any business rule in your application as part of a process of work. So again, these three silos logically sit together…Can I put this into a magic paragraph that ensures “people get it”….Not yet…Perhaps Max can?

25 03 2010
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Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by ProcessTheory: What about adaptive processes & #BPM w/o maps? No designer! Maps emerging by users? /via @AndrewOneDegree…

25 03 2010
Theo Priestley

Actually, I like the idea of having no maps too. This blog made me think
more about it and after seeing ActionBase perform I really see the value of
not following a prescriptive and potentially restrictive process model
filled with rules and alternative paths to try and cater for every scenario
and exception.

I once wrote a post on a LinkedIn group about Business Process Chaos in
2009, where Customer’s naturally rebel against a strict process and cause
more exceptions than a process can handle. If processes can be intelligent
and adaptive then so much the better, but they need to be intelligent above
the current term banded around by vendors (ie simple BAM dashboard stuff).

I do see a convergence happening and taking place. Process is the central
pivot to making it work but it’s going to take a lot of peeling away of
legacy beliefs that CRM, BPM, Case, ECM are all separate and exclusive
rather than shades of the same colour.

25 03 2010
Max J. Pucher

Tom, Andrew’s post is not potentially controversial — it is!

I am not totally opposed to maps. I’m opposed to flowcharts trying to nail down every little detail of processes from the boardroom or the Process Center of Excellence in their little ivory tower. Maps that help us to understand a complete end-to-end process are most probably useful. As long as business process modeling is about understanding we are on the right track. As soon as we begin to try and put a command and control structure in place, that’s where all the problems start.

Actually, the out-of-the-box thinking is only necessary for BPM proponents. For the business users inside the process team we want them to think inside the box (of their process team). That is the whole point of having a hierarchy. That is the reason that I am opposed to creating large BPM maps that have to be signed off by every person in the business. That is utterly inefficient.

We use maps too for Adaptive Process, but we use them as displays and not as design tools. The picture says more than 1000 words. They are an important part of creating up and down the line transparency. So when we talk about no maps, then we talk about not using maps for designing all the processes In every little detail. The maps actually change while people are changing the processes and they don’t use the maps to change the process.

Obviously, the legacy is there and it will not go away soon. Businesses spent millions for the silos and feel that they cannot justify to change. There is a huge crowd of BPM consultants whose livelihood we are challenging. Don’t think that they’re going to give in easily. Just give it some time.

26 03 2010
Tom Shepherd

Fair point on maps. I was thinking of the pre-definition aspect of modeling out every detail rather than the visual representation when I wrote this, but sort of lumped them together in what I wrote. I too believe that it’s beneficial to be able to get a quick picture of where the work stands either through a map or another visual representation.

When I thought about thinking outside the box, what I was getting at was the tendency for both IT and Business to look at a problem with a predisposition to using a specific technology stack to solve it. In other words, “I have a customer service representative interacting with a customer via the phone, I MUST use a CRM solution.” It’s human nature to classify things in our live in order to simplify our decisions, however this silo’d thinking immediately limits the potential solutions people will evaluate to a list that fits in the “box” of CRM in this example.

26 03 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I think it is down to consultants to ensure that business and in house IT doesnt just jump for a particular type of solution, after all an IT consultants main task is to marry solutions and technology to a particular business problem, keeping site of the larger picture for that business….(Though the way businesses choose “consultants” it is no wonder that there is no thinking outside of the box)

26 03 2010
Norman Brown

The challenge for us will be how quickly we can drop the terms CRM, BPM, KM, ECM and so on. I’ve tried describing a services approach to customers which doesn’t use any of these terms but describes what functions and services they provide to the organisation in the overall scheme of things. They seem to get this and then start thinking about what their requirements are around each area rather than how a CRM or ECM solution fits in.

26 03 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Sounds like a good approach….I agree that the sooner we drop all these terms the better. But as Max said, this will be hard, and will take quite some time…

26 03 2010
Ashish Bhagwat

I tend to agree with most aspects brought up on this – and in general I also agree that intelligent maps or adaptive processes are good concepts with lot of practical utility. However, I also get a feeling that this agreement has also to do with “Adaptive and intelligent sound so good they can’t be wrong and they go so well with agile enterprises” kind of a thought process. Obviously, the concepts are pretty good and make you think…

Let’s see what it practically would mean for us to do. We would have a process model (in mind, on paper, on designer, wherever) being brought to the table for a discussion that would go like – this is how your process, half-baked right now but don’t worry, would be built and it will change based on how the users behave under your control. Now, does that give the business enough confidence to even put it in action? Not sure.

We’ve gone through some paradigm shifts in past.

IT vendor driven systems earlier on didn’t even ask users what they did but dictated through their systems in Enterprise Apps, mainframes, monolithic apps era. Then came the UML, Applications Design, Object modeling times when we got the businesses to agree on the requirement specs before we went into the waterfall development that required a UAT in the end for confirmation. So that was what-you-specify-is-what-mostly-gets-built-and-you-certify scenario.

Then, with BPM, we started promoting What-you-model-is-what-gets-executed, where finally after years of dealing with the challenges we have come to an Agile and iterative Process development paradigm. And business users are still concerned that they’re not able to do most execution-oriented modeling without the help of systems savvy BA and a good designer.

And now, we’re saying that we will go back to them and tell them that what gets modeled the first time is just an entry-point into a mostly blind alley with the visibility only into how convenient the product can make it for them to adapt the processes when they wanted.

I’m not questioning the benefits of using an approach on the “unstructured” processes or even the capabilities such paradigm can offer. After they see this working of course new paradigm is before their eyes, but before that what? I’m almost sure ActionBase and even other BPM vendors are using a demo/PoC/pilot based approach, but isn’t this one a little too complicated to sell and get the businesses to bet their money on this?

PS: In my post – Dynamic Process Capabilities are powerful, but use with caution –, I mentioned the risk about using the dyanamic process kits on potentially wrong places, but I wonder how would we actually move to this paradigm “selectively” when we had a huge challenge in business users to move to the Process Definition paradigm where consultants’/vendors’ behavior was more consistent.

27 03 2010
get ready to take notes… | Affiliate Reward Zone

[…] Adaptive BPM…No Mapping tools… « Andrew One Degree’s Blog […]

28 03 2010


I think you contributed a lot to bring this discussion alive, anyway in my humble opinion a truly adaptive process is not:

Being adaptable is not the ability to easily modify the process, or create and run an ad hoc process.

But is this:

1. The process in which end-users influence how a design takes shape

2. Ensuring complete alignment of all stakeholder’s mutations

3. Being adaptable means the capability of being predictive.

I’ve written something about the subject. Feel free do leave your comments.


29 03 2010
R Hariharan

Adaptive BPM will help more in the “operations” world – where most of the BPO’s take advantage of it. This happens mainly because of the big disconnect between the front line business and the back office operations; the vision is not shared between them in terms of how these two will collaborate and achieve TAT.

The technology is expected to fix the gap where the business & operations does not have any well defined processes to be implemented. The real need of adaptive BPM should be looked at from these perspective.

29 03 2010
Max J. Pucher

R Hariharan, Ashish: I propose that there are very few WELL defined processes. Yes, one can sit down and spend a lot of time to define them. But it is a lot more difficult than drawing a flowchart and implementing that process to properly execute is even more complicated. And so is changing it when the time comes.

What in the past BPM proponents promised or claimed to achieve with BPM and its products is none of my concern. How they will explain to their customers that what they sold to them is not the glorious saviour of the business is not my problem. I also did not put Adaptive Processes into the BPM domain. Gartner Group and others did! But why not?

Here I need to clarify a misconception about Adaptive Process. A business process does not only consist of a FLOWCHART, as you need content, rules, program functions, data backends, GUI, forms, role/policy authorization, business rules, work queues, priorization … a huge amount of implementation.

Adaptive Process is not just about a more flexible kind of BPM, where users can make more choices during execution! That is Dynamic or Ad-Hoc BPM. Adaptive Process is about doing away with the flowcharting process and allow business users to interact with all above process artifacts in real-time and create those processes WITH ANY CONTROL, SEQUENCE AND STRUCTURE NEEDED interactively — without needing further implementation work. PLEASE, tell me where the danger is? How can it be used wrongly? There is no need to move into this selectively because the same kind of collaboration about the goals and the outcome is needed as with upfront process analysis. The difference is that it happens in real-time, by the real people, and for or with the real customers. Therefore there is no need for simulation, as you just adapt over time the process controls to the minimum amount necessary.

Yes, we obviously propose a proof of concept approach, but this is a LOT LESS complex and risky than an long BPM analysis phase, an equally long implementation phase and then going into bureaucratic optimization loops. You are right to say that for many organizations this power is new and strange, but as you said the users love the freedom when they get it. The management loves the transparency and immediate control over processes. Changes can happen more or less immediately. The ones that are the most shocked it BPM analysts, IT architects, and IT production managers. Everyone else loves it. Unfortunately all three still need to play an important role to put a well defined process infrastructure and business architecture in place.

So the risk of Adaptive Process is not in the implementation or in the business users being forced to adhere to it as with BPM. The danger is in either management or IT being willing to hand that much power to the user.

Finally, I believe that also Microsoft will move into this direction with Sharepoint, which is a pity given their lack of understanding what users need, but it will most probably kill orthodox BPM.

29 03 2010

Am writing here from a business perspective rather than a technical one. And I have to say that the idea of a BPM/ECM system that can adapt more with the users experience is an intriguing one. There is nothing worse than setting up a system and then realising that it doesnt work quite how you think, especially because the people involved in project management are often not the people who will be using the system on a day to day basis.

And the current problem is that no matter how many meetings you have – the system is not going to be perfect until people start using it and ironing out problems.

I have heard of new schools/universities that wait to see where the students will walk before they put paths in, as otherwise the students just cut across the paths to where they want to walk anyway. I see adaptive BPM as working a bit like that!

31 03 2010
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How do we ensure a BPM project succeeds? People, technology or tools? « Andrew One Degree’s Blog

[…] I have talked about the designer a number of times, and the fact that we don’t actually need a designer. We should be using intelligent processes and processes that are capable of being highly adaptive.  If you haven’t read this previous post, please have a read through my thoughts on mapping tools: […]

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[…] I have talked about the designer a number of times, and the fact that we don’t actually need a designer. we should be using intelligent processes and processes that are capable of being highly adaptive.  If you haven’t read this previous post, please have a read through my thoughts on mapping tools: […]

31 08 2011
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[…] good case (no pun intended) for managing without maps altogether in this blog this week about Adaptive BPM (again though I have to question why we need to think about the ‘BPM’ element if […]

12 01 2014

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