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

30 01 2011

Since my post on APG (Adaptive Process Guidance –, 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…



15 responses

30 01 2011


Which variants from will be handled by APG?


30 01 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree


I like your post, it does give a nice representation of the possibilities that are thrown up in business today.

The point of APG is to handle ALL of the variants that you show. By being not so rigid in enforcing how we choose to implement a process (be it a template, or process map), APG provides flexibility to handle all of them. APG should allow you to change any of its parts, so that could be the definition of a particular type of case, or process flow, and should also include users, teams etc as parts that also can be changed.

What I think is hard to grasp, and for me to articulate, is that process guidance need not be enforcement, yet it can be enforcement. Process guidance need not be completely designed, nor does it need to be completely discovered (yet you can work with APG in both ways).

The emphasis with my vision of APG is the adaptive part. By focusing on everything being adaptive, we see that the process itself becomes more of a guide, one that potentially can be changing with needs of users and the business. If you see a process as a guide like this, then you can see quickly how it can adapt to a business need, or equally effectively to a change in the way a particular peice of work is completed…Enforcement of particular parts should be busines rules built into a particular step or process flow, or tasks within an unstructured case. Enforcement and flexibility should also be seen as an adaptive component of APG.

30 01 2011

Thanks Andrew,

I expected that your answer will be ALL.


30 11 1999
Andrew Smith @onedegree

i presume thats a good thing…

1 02 2011


I’ve finally caught up and read this and the previous post. Quite interesting stuff!

A few comments.

I think you’re right to focus on the adaptive part… and the need for governing/controlling/visibility into the adaptive part. Right now, it’s all or nothing, as you say. But, companies that can take advantage of the brains in their people (if anyone from HR is reading, by people I mean resources that you give healthcare insurance too, as opposed to the resources you have maintenance contracts on), will really have an advantage. These companies will give their employees guidance, and be able to measure the success of the judgement shown by the person in executive that process. Very intriguing, and perhaps a way to have an impact on what I see are very inflexible, boring jobs, where all the thought’s been squeezed out of them in order to optimize the process.

It also perhaps means that the process doesn’t need to be fully defined up front. Sort of like the eternal-google-beta, but for processes. You can improve parts, without improving the whole, and without having to ignore the parts you can’t affect.

Some of the challenges I see though… I hear you when you say APG gets implemented. What does a company who already have case management, or BPM do? Can you run on top of existing BPM and just add APG? Or, must you implement the whole stack?

Also, from WorkFiles’ perspective… if you’re calling yourself a separate segment, you’ll need to convince the analysts of that. And, organizations will have to have people in charge of APG…otherwise, they’ll just compare you to BPM or Case Management (or ignore you because APG isn’t their problem, they care about BMP).

From a messaging perspective, APG might actually add to the ROI of a BPM solution on which it rides on top of, because you can implement processes that are not so fixed, and therefore have a larger universe of processes that can be managed.

Anyways, good luck, and I look forward to hearing more soon.


1 02 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Thanks for your thoughts David…

I think you raise some very valud points and challenges…

If you already have Case Management / BPM, can you run APG over the top of it…I think you can as a concept, as an implementation I would see that as a long way off. I think things could get very confusing and messy when trying to allow your APG implementation to take control of other platforms. I would therefore say you would need to implement the whole stack…But is this a bad thing? Probably not if you want to embrace the holistic thinking behind APG. So a single platform that delivers you APG and adaptive ECM and adaptive CRM…

I am very interested to read your point regarding workFile’s perspective. This is something I have thought about a little and as we grow our own APG implementation, I will need to think about more and more. My hope is that as more people understand the difference between APG and traditional BPM / ACM (or at least the implementation differences), that we will see more people seeing APG as something more than just ACM or BPM. Then we will see analysts on-board and people in charge of APG….Its early days, and one of the reasons why I have posted these blogs is to start to engage analysts etc with the whole APG thinking…If you have your own thoughts on this, please feel free to share them…

1 02 2011


A few thoughts, somewhat randomly.

1. You might consider running on top of a popular system, as a way in the door. Your marketing can then focus on adding APG to X (Oracle, IBM, TIBCO, SAP, Software AG etc.), and your value propositions can be more powerful as a result because the value you add isn’t only relative to the scope of your installation, but the installation of the whole stack. The math – let’s say they spent $1M on the stack, $100K of which is APG. If you give them a 10% boost on process efficiency… you’re actually free – because you’re boosting 10% on a $1M spend, not just on your $100K spend. This is the value of improving someone else’s stack. Especially when that someone else is an embedded player at every large account. Not to mention that it aligns your company for an exit strategy… but that’s a whole other point altogether.

2. The challenge with new creating new segments is that it’s more than just the Offering. It’s the buyer. And, it’s the person who gets the value (which hopefully is the buyer). Let me give a real example of this challenge. At Progress (I’m no longer there) we were trying to combine Application Performance Management (APM), CEP, and BPM into a single offering called RPM (Responsive Process Management). It’s a great story, Progress has many of the pieces, and it really resonates with the business leading to some really fantastic conversations at the right level. However, when you go to implement, you get pushed down to the CEP group, or the APM group, etc. And, the CEP group, well they care about events, they don’t care about processes or transactions (transactions were the word we used for APM – it’s not like a two-phase commit transaction, but rather the end-to-end experience across multiple processes that could be formalized in a BPM or ad-hoc). It became difficult to sell the solution tactically because the buyers didn’t have influence across the whole product suite offering. That said, I think it’s “easier” to sell up in an organization because of that… and I believe that the transformation that Progress is going through is a result of that… bringing in people who can sell up like that is a different skill than those who can sell technology, or who can collect maintenance, or sell through a channel (the channel bit is something Progress was excellent at).

In short. you may not want to compare APG to BPM or ACM, but your customers will because they need to put it in a bucket and figure it out. Now, that’s not always the case, but as you go from niche to a broader acceptance (still before crossing the chasm though), you will run into the established market. And, remember this is a market where the software is for the most part “free” because it’s already been purchased in one way or another.

That’s why, in my opinion, why smaller vendors go vertical… because if you’re competing on technology buyers will compare (inappropriately as I’m describing above)… but if you come in and say we have the best solution for “pig farmers”… even if they already have IBM, they’ll listen because IBM has the best technology but they’re not pig farmers.

By the way, a few caveats:
1. I’m not picking on IBM, just using it as an example.
2. I didn’t choose my words carefully, there’s a lot of subtlety to what I’m discussing above in how it gets executed and how people behave and how it call can be influenced.
3. I know nothing about pig farming.

Finally, I’m not in any way suggesting you can’t/shouldn’t go up against these established “markets” and win… it’s just that the tools you use to sell need to take into consideration the scenario I mention above. You won’t sell this like a BPM solution (for example). At Progress, we accepted the resistance we’d get by trying to sell CEP people BPM (for example), and we created tools (questions, use cases, customer examples, role-plays, etc) that we used for training the sales people so that they’d be prepared to overcome these challenges.

Let me take a liberty by the way of introducing my new web site,, where I hope to share these sorts of ideas and others. The site is not quite complete (are they ever?), but I’m excited about using my experience to participate in the community with discussions like we’re having here, without any vendor/customer (perceived) bias.

1 02 2011
Alberto Manuel


Despite the concept blend BPM/ACM/BPMS with which I disagree as my previous posts, think that you should evolve the APG concept trying to put it in practice. This would be a great challenge and it would allow clarification, meaning the concept concluded kitchen table stage and started experimentation.

3 02 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, It is great that you advocate tp be adaptive. But I don’t see where you are going with APG. Would you mind stating what features EXACTLY you propose that ACM does not cover compared to APG? I can’t make it out from the fuzzy descriptions in this and the previous post. Thank you!

3 02 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Hi Max,

As far as I am aware (or at least my understanding of ACM), I do not have the option to create highly structured and highly rigid process flows in ACM. By a process flow I mean a series of steps that are interconnected by system and business bound rules. For example, I have a process that is high volume throughput and one that has a number of participants in it across multiple departments, all working in a production line type fashion. So, in APG I can define the process guide as steps and then build their interconnection rules (very much like BPM with a designer, though without a designer flowchart tool). So step a) is completed, this feeds to step b) which then feeds to step c, or d directly, based on some field values, calculation or whatever you want…from step c) we go to e) from d) to we go to an automated step which is f) etc etc before all finishing at z somehow….Process routing rules are built into the guide either enforcing these steps to be tied together in this fashion, or providing the user with all the possible processing steps for them to move to.

This example is very much a traditional BPMS area, but one which APG can easily handle. I dont believe ACM can deliver this type of process definition and or execution, thats where I see the difference is between APG and ACM. If anything, APG has more in line with traditional BPM than ACM, yet it still delivers ACM type capabilities….

At the moment we are still working on the APG concept and just how it is to be implemented, hence not some hard definition of execution as yet, which is what you are looking for…I am optimistic that in the next few weeks I can provide one though…

3 02 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I would also like to take things further. APG doesnt need to have as such a common end point, by that I mean it can be a guide with no actual work within it. This is quite different to classic BPM.

An example is guiding an agent through a conversation with a customer. Think support desk, or bank clerc talking to a customer. The agent can follow the guide based on information at the start of the conversation (problem and customer details for our support desk user, banking information for our bank clerc). The user is given a guide to follow, which they can choose to in order to acheive a particular goal. However, they navigate through the guide based on responses there and then or they simply ignore it completely or just certain parts…

This is another application of APG. We dont need any tasks or work to be actually done, rather suggestions and guidance are provided in this case.

My point with APG is that we have the flexibility to do this within a single platform. So while many concepts will cross over with ACM and classic BPMS, there are also elements which are more application workflow and pure guidance facilities. This is why I believe APG offers something different and brings something a little different to the table…

As I said, our definition of what an APG solution should deliver will be coming very soon….

4 02 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, I am not an flowchart advocate, but I believe in process outcomes and that makes me accepting BPM as a paradigm. It is just that I don’t see rigid or rules controlled flows eading to those outcomes. If you guide anyone through something and it has no desirable outcome then you better throw it out because you are inefficient. Yes, one can have goals and outcomes and give no guidance at all and leave it to the people to execute at will. Yes, one can guide them to it with a variety of means. And no, one can not enforce an outcomes through a rigid flowchart when it comes to human interactions.

ACM is about performing process, case, project and program activities in a single, holistic, socially empowered environment that is managed through well-defined objectives, targets and goals that reference well defined data and content resources.

So I feel that APG is encompassed that way I see ACM and once again not all ACM propoents share my extensive view.

4 02 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I strongly disagree…When I say that a process has no tangible outcome or goal, I mean by which something can be assigned as “job done”, there is no completed state to a particular case or piece of work. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a goal or objective. In my example the goal is to help the user, provide them with the information they need during the conversation and to show them that info as the conversation progresses, almost like a wizard type process. At the end, is there a tangible goal such as “sale made”, perhaps, but that’s not part of the process guide. The guide objective was to help the user go about his job (which probably could be part of a bigger process and part of a bigger process guide).

As I said, I believe APG provides a blend of structured and unstructured processes, and even processes without tangible work items. I don’t see this in ACM definitions.

I hear what you say with your definition not marrying up with others definition of ACM, and if asked, from my limited understanding of your solution I would say it delivers more than ACM.

At the end of the day a name, such as APG, ACM etc., is trying to get across what function it delivers. BPM conjures up rigidity, process maps, strict rules etc. Case Management conjures up thoughts of unstructured processes with cases and tasks. APG makes me think of a guide to how work should be done, incorporating the structured and unstructured. This is also the main reason why I don’t agree with those who advocate that ACM etc etc comes under the BPM umbrella. The BPM umbrella produces images of something ACM, APG and workflow aren’t and that’s a big problem…

5 02 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

A ‘perceived outcome’ is the core element of a process, regardless if you socialize, guide, rule or flow. They are never tangible but in the mind of the customer only. Tangibles are business targets such as KPIs. Process goals are milestones or checklists. The guidance you describe is like Harrison-Broninski’s HIM Human Interaction System from 2005 that I see embedded in ACM.

Let’s ot argue as we want the same thing: I wrote in Dec. 2009:
I propose that we need to provide Adaptive Process technology that exposes structured (business data) and unstructured (content) information to the members of structured (business) and unstructured (social) organizations to securely execute – with knowledge interactively gathered previously – structured (process) and unstructured (case) work in a transparent and auditable manner.

More here:

7 02 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

This is the whole point of what we are working towards…

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