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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