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

30 01 2011

Since my post on APG (Adaptive Process Guidance – https://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…

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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….





Framework, solution, or both…

21 01 2011

This week I read an interesting blog post on Case Management with it concluding that most Case Management platforms are more frameworks than workable solutions. The solution is effectively provided by the Case Manager reseller, either as their own system/solution, or as professional services with the solution being customised to your needs…To be honest, this is true of many “silos” out there, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, businesses should understand that more often than not, the solution they actually purchase is indeed a framework, the solution part comes later…

In this post though, I want to look at how you can deliver a solution and not just the framework…Or even better, deliver both as a vendor…

Why not a solution from the vendor

Well it can be very hard to put together a solution that fits and works well for all. It is easier, and in many ways makes more sense to build a robust framework, and ensure a solution that meets the client’s needs is built using that framework. There are many benefits of working this way, many of which include greater control, integration possibilities and a real sense of ownership of the solution.

Let’s also think about the complexity here for vendors. Most vendors will specialise in a particular silo, be it Case Management, BPM, CRM, ECM etc. This means their framework is built to solve that business need. Even vendors that provide multiple silos, they still focus on each silo individually. The problem arises at the business end, as that business need in the real world works hand in hand with other silos. Effectively, what is a silo vendor, cannot provide you a real workable business solution, as they only provide a part of one. This means it is down to resellers to put together “best of breed” solutions for example, and develop that solution for the business – integrating the different silos needed…

The problem I have with this approach is that integration is time consuming, can be very costly and in the long term, can cause issues with finger pointing between systems and silos. All of these are potential problems, but none the less for many projects out there, they are real issues…

We are being sold Solutions all the time

It’s true that many vendors will claim they are selling a complete solution, that you can use their system out of the box almost straight away…But in my experience, this isn’t quite true. You can use their out of the box experiences, but end users will find them clunky, and probably will hate them. Which means you end up having resellers or professional services build software on top of the framework, that meets your needs…

Also look at the solution you are being sold, how much “coding / configuration / professional services” do you need to get to a finished solution? I think it’s a few man days…

All this being said, there are complete solutions you can purchase out there, think small scale, like SAGE line 50 for example, thats a very workable solution for many SMEs. The issue here is that with bigger organisations, or more complex needs, the solution starts to show a lot of weaknesses, you can’t do with it what you quite want, you can’t integrate it, you can’t have a third party add in new windows to the UI etc etc…

Holistic solutions can help

Holistic solutions and a more holistic approach ensure your vendor is dealing more closely to your actual business need. This means that the framework delivered will be fuller, and as such, makes it easier to build a workable solution, without integration points and lots of professional services…

Vendor delivering both framework and solution

One of the big things I am working on with workFile and the workFile Vision product is framework for delivering full solutions. That may sound like classic IT vendor talk, but what I am trying to achieve is a platform that can deliver a complete out of the box solution that is a good end user experience, but also provide the flexibility needed in todays world, to allow resellers to extend the UI and core platform to meet even more needs of the customer.

So how are we doing this. Well firstly, we have a complete holistic approach now to things, there are no longer silos within workFile, rather workFile is a single platform. This means the workFile framework incorporates all of these traditional silos in one place (ECM, BPM, CRM etc). Secondly we have identified the difference between framework and solution and as such, split the user experience into its own framework, separate from the actual platform framework…

The big benefit here is a separate framework for delivering solutions built on the workFile platform. The UI framework allows us to deliver a rich and complete solution to a business. But it also allows resellers / integrators to modify and hook into not just workFile, but also its native UI. This means no additional software needs to be written on top of something, rather it is written within the UI framework, speeding up development and providing a far better end user experience.

You can even take it so far to use the workFile Vision UI framework without using the underlying workFile platform, if you wanted to. By working in this way, workFile delivers the frameworks, the solution, and the extensible capabilities to allow it to meet pretty much any business need. The end result is solutions that fit the business need more closely, solutions that can grow and evolve with the business and solutions that are easier and more empowering to end users to use…





Adaptive capabilities deliver content as an asset

14 01 2011

I have spoken about adaptive capabilities quite a bit in the past 8 months, but today’s is a high level look at why adaptive capabilities will help ECM & BPM deliver content as an asset to an organisation, and why as an asset, this can lead to greater innovation within the organisation.

The current state

The current state of ECM and BPM within organisations is pretty good. In 2010 I believe we saw many more organisations starting to understand the potential capabilities of both of these technologies (probably more so BPM). However, there are reasons why both ECM and BPM aren’t rolled out across more departments within an organisation (let alone the complete enterprise). Most of these focus around the rigidity of both solutions, in terms of how they work, and how an end user can choose to work with them.

Because of this, content as an asset does get lost when looking across the complete enterprise. This means as an asset, a business is not seeing the whole picture, which means innovation based on a particular asset (content and process in this case) is simply never found…

Rigid definitions

Both ECM and BPM need some investment upfront (in terms of time to define elements of the solution). For ECM you need to invest time and effort with key staff (and probably a consultant) in defining rigid class definitions, ways in which you want content to be stored and accessed by. With BPM this time investment is far greater, as key staff along with a BA in most cases, need to identify work, how different types of work are processed and all the things that user needs to complete work.

The problem here is that while for departmental implementations this can be annoying and time consuming, these annoyances escalate with each department and with the maintenance of the solution. Though the business defines this content and processes, and in many ways its value, it is unable to do this quickly and easily at all times.

If our ECM / BPM solution is far more adaptive, then the business has a bigger ongoing stake in what’s going to happen with content as an asset. This means the value of content has increased, and because of this, and the adaptive capabilities, ECM & BPM is then deployed into more and more departments. With greater deployment comes greater value from content as an asset, which ultimately leads to more research into what to do with that asset, and how it can be used as a valuable and ongoing asset to the business. Adaptive capabilities here really then unlocks the door to greater innovation within the organisation.

Adaptive adaptive adaptive

Adaptive capabilities allows the business to rapidly adapt their systems in terms of content definitions (ECM) and how the organisation works with that content (Process definitions – BPM). With an adaptive solution, especially one that takes a far more holistic implementation (merging CRM, ECM, BPM into a single silo), the business can manage the content asset far more easily and have far more visibility of that asset from all directions. Because of this, rolling out the solution is made easier across the enterprise. The business stake in content as an asset increases with each departmental roll out.

An ECM & BPM platform is there to help organisations become more efficient and to allow them to innovate. An adaptive platform will allow businesses to innovate around how they use content as an asset, simply because they have far greater accurate and flexibly control over that asset and the processes that relate to it. From here innovation becomes more obvious, easier to implement and businesses can reap the rewards of understanding content as an asset.

So while there are many obvious technical and business benefits of adaptive ECM and BPM, the adaptive capabilities open up yet more doors to organisations in managing and leveraging content and processes. Adaptive solutions increase the value of content to any organisation…