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…





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….





An interview with Peter of eBizQ

15 12 2010

Well I have given a quick interview to Peter Schooff of eBizQ, talking about a more holistic approach to BPM…To be honest, it seems like such a small conversation topic, but it is one that can have real massive impacts on vendors and on businesses, if anything its the biggest thing in BPM?

For those of you who have followed my blog in recent months, you would know that I have been going on about a more holistic approach to business solutions for some time, especially when it comes to ECM, BPM and CRM. These three silos are already a natural fit, and in many cases often come with the business need to integrate with each other…But do they really integrate as well as we need them too? Ideally, business wants a single system that delivers all three, that’s easier to administer, easier to maintain, cheaper and above all, empowers users much much more…

Needless to say, I stumbled around some of my words in the interview, but I hope I get some of the key points across. I will admit that I don’t think I gave that greater solution to the challenges that this can bring, but I do feel that the challenges for a more holistic approach are easier than the challenges an organisation faces to implement a single silo in the first place. If anything, the challenge is justifying moving away from individual silos due to the amount of money that has been invested in them over the years….

In the New Year, I will go into more detail behind my own initiative to break down barriers between silos and why I think this is needed now more than ever. I will also look at how a more holistic approach will deliver better penetration across enterprises for BPM and how organisations can benefit from this…

For the moment, I will leave it there as the Christmas period can be quite a hectic one. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to talking with you more in 2011…





Convergence of BPM and Case Management

7 12 2010

In the past weeks I have talked and tweeted quite a bit about bringing together silos to deliver better solutions and experiences to business. The big silos I have spoken about are ECM, CRM and BPM. However, some people have pointed out that I haven’t spoken about Case Management (our technical director is one of them), and he / they are quite correct. So why haven’t I?

Well it’s quite simple, number one, I simply forgot (takes a brave man to admit that doesn’t it) and number two, though I always state Case Management isn’t BPM, the two really should be seen as one from the business perspective…Which means my silos being brought together, should be ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Mgmt. Phew…

In the past I have banged on about Case Management not being BPM, and have had a good moan about those vendors and consultants that push case management as if it was / is. However, in my vision of the future (especially that of workFile), I believe business should see BPM and Case Management as the same thing…Oh, and if you’re not sure, case management is not just for law firms, rather case is just a term for a process / work that has to be done…

Case Management isn’t the same as BPM

Case Management isn’t the same as BPM, well not the same when you look at case management and BPM vendor solutions. BPM is far more structured, follows process maps (more often than not) and is used for clearly defined processes. Case Management is used for more ad-hoc and “loose” processes within an business. So they aren’t the same…

If you look at BPM as a practice, you will also find it doenst fit with Case Managemetn theory. Rather BPM as a practice is all about mapping and understanding flows of work, putting together processes etc etc. Case Management is more about just identifying work, and lumping it together in a case…

Case management and BPM are the same

Ok, here we go…Forgot vendors, forget lengthy definitions by technical or marketing people trying to sell you something. Case Management and BPM are the same thing. BPM is, Business Process Management. It’s all about managing business processes in a structured, more controlled fashion. So what is case management? Well it’s all about managing business processes in a structured fashion…So you see, they are the same thing, its just our “practices” and software interpretations that make them very very different.

Bringing BPM and Case Management together

There are many good points for both as individual silos. For example, BPMS works great for simplish, highly repetitive, medium-high volume business processes. It can raise efficiency and streamline work. However, thats only for a handful or processes within an orgasnisation, hardly enterprise wide is it (don’t let anyone tell you it is). So for those processes that are still high value, but not so simple or repetitive we have an issue…

On the other hand, case management has no real flow of work, no steps or structure for each step along the process, so it isn’t great for areas where BPM can excel. But, Case Management is great for ad-hoc type processes, or exception processing, which is exactly where we see many case management implementations (sometimes even tied to BPM implementations).

But what of those processes that are complex, highly collaborative, require an adaptive approach, still require some form of structure. These types of processes can be found right across the enterprise…Well that the big problem isn’t it…What do you use…

My vision is for a single silo approach (ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Management). If you take the best from BPM, and the best from Case Management, and ditch the areas that are restrictive (strict case and work definitions, BPM structured flowchart maps) then you are well on the way to a solution for the enterprise…

Case and BPM Evolution

Our own product, workFile, is to incorporate the good points of our BPM platform, and to remove the rigid restrictive areas (namely the flowchart map). In addition, build on the flexible components of Case Management, while removing the rigid definitions of a case and work that makes up a case.

Here you can see that our BPM is moving towards Case Management, and Case Management is moving towards BPM, it’s almost like evolution of the two bring them together as one, quite naturally. Though I aim to speed this evolution up at least within our own company, I don’t fancy waiting millions of years for this to happen. Even in IT evolution can take its time, simply because we have x number of vendors sticking to their definitions and solutions, x number of consultants doing the same and x number of businesses not understanding the benefits of something new…

With workFile Vision we aim to implement this evolution though. However, we will throw into the mix real adaptive capabilities. And by that I mean adaptive processing and process definitions, allowing agents to update the process, allowing agents to define and update the type of work that is done within processes and allowing agents to discover and create new ones. The only way of truly being this adaptive and flexible, is to bring Case Management and BPM together, and throw away anything rigid. Its almost a case of unlearning what we come to expect from BPM and Case Management solutions, vendors and consultants…

Finally, lets take things further and ensure our solution understands CCS (content, context, status) of all its components at any moment in time. To really ensure that, you need a single silo to incorporate your content (ECM), to incorporate your customer relationships (CRM) and your working processes (BPM and Case Management).

The benefit here is a solution that can be used for every process within an organisation, right across the enterprise. It’s a solution that gives staff some form of empowerment and say in how work is done. It’s a solution that provides structure, ensures process efficiency and ensure compliancy and accountability, all while delivering flexibility and agility to an organisation…

Conclusion

BPM is Case Management, and Case Management is BPM…Well it should be with a little evolution…With a little more evolution, you end up with a single silo for ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Management, and its not that hard to see why…





Case Management and BPM Tweet Jam…

30 06 2010

For those interested in Case Management and BPM, you may be interested to know that on the 15th July, at 7pm (UK time), a tweet jam (#acmjam) will be hosted by Connie Moore of Forrester Research. It will be focusing on Case Management and Business Process Management (BPM).

I myself am hoping to find the time to join in as no doubt there will be some lively conversations, some strong opinions and for me, hopefully, some new radical thinking…

If you have any form of interest in these areas as a consultant, vendor or user then I would say get involved. If though you are looking at Case Management and BPM for the first time, or thinking of investing then still drop by, just don’t get put off by the jargon…..

For any more information visit http://www.masteringtheunpredictable.com/





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 http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/) 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….





Do people get BPM and Case Management? For some, Case Management is critical…

19 03 2010

There has been yet another social case in the UK where, it seems, case management just simply is poor. I am not talking the technology here or anything like that, just the ability to manage cases in many cases (far too many in the public sector – though the private sector can be equally poor) where they simply cannot manage cases…

This has become a bit of a discussion thread on Twitter, and a great question was raised by @tomshpepherd, “What steps do we as a whole take to help them get it?”. In this case, them was aimed at the public sector, however, it can be aimed at anyone who hasn’t invested in BPM / workflow or case management…

So what steps can we take…Well here are a couple of things I believe the industry has to do in general.

Keep things simple…

With BPM, Case Management and workflow, the problem is that the jargon and marketing surrounding these technologies can turn people off of them. My experience of many decision makers (more so in the public sector) is that they want the basic facts, and they want them without the frilly marketing bump. Unfortunately just wonder around the web looking at topics surrounding case management (more so BPM and workflow) and you will find it things aren’t in simple terms.

By putting things in simple terms I feel that the benefits of these technologies are more clear and understood. For example, if you said to a decision maker that Case Management provides:

  1. You won’t lose sight of cases. Things are always visible
  2. You can track who is working on a case and when
  3. You ensure all required tasks are completed for each case
  4. You can process more cases easily

I am sure they will be interested in what you have to say. However, often we don’t say this. Rather we talk of audits, accountability, process efficiency, reduced cycle times, SLA’s, process maps and possibly “lean” (in the case of BPM) etc. If you don’t really grasp BPM or Case Management, then this really isn’t going to help…

Provide relevant demonstrations

Far too often I have seen demonstrations focus around the good old “Expenses” workflow – for Case Management, BPM and workFlow solutions. While the expenses case is good, it really makes things hard to understand how Case Management or BPM fits into your own requirements, especially if your requirements are more personal, such as Social Service Child care for example.

Relevant demonstrations make it easier for people to grasp the real benefits of the technology and your platform. If you do this well, they will soon be telling you how they can use your system…

Integration, Integration, Integration…

This is so so so important, yet it is often treated as a “simple” thing, almost dismissed by sales and marketing as “yeap, ofcourse we can integrate” – without providing real information. Integration is key to these types of systems working well. A system that integrates with other systems, departments, divisions etc brings far greater value and makes the agents / workers life far easier (which means they do a better job). When talking about Case Management and BPM – we should all take integration very seriously and go in-depth to how we integrate successfully and in a fashion that works best for the client (not just how we think it is easy to integrate).

Show real world benefits

If you can show a real world benefit, be it human based, money based or whatever – you are going to help people understand Case Management and BPM. By the way, when I say “real world benefits” I also mean real to the customer (whatever their work is)…

 The more people that understand the benefits of these types of systems, the more companies will invest in them and reap the benefits of them. This in terms of Social Workers and Child care (for example) could make the difference between life and death….Now that’s a strong statement, but it can be true…In many cases, poor case management has dreadful consequences for actual people…