What is "Good Enough" BPM – part II, BPM Components

OK. So the definition I am using for BPM – “Business Process Management (BPM) is the understanding, visibility and control of business processes, enabling them to be managed as strategic assets” covers a lot of ground, so there needs to be some way to scope what is in, and what is out of BPM. I found a nice post on BPM futures on Renewing BPM for the coming decade where he states that BPM (as opposed to just workflow) is where a workflow product includes deeply integrated workbenches for process modelling, simulation and analysis it is indeed BPM. I think I more or less buy that – BPM must have the capability to model, simulate and analyze business processes.

So that means the ability to model a process end-to-end (i.e. what I would call defining the process as a structured process) has to be part of a BPM implementation. That means by definition BPM (as the term is used today), can’t be used for unstructured, ad-hoc, human processes – since those process can’t be modelled (I would actually argue that very few processes that includes humans as part of the process can actually be completly modeled). So does a “good-enough” BPMS need to ability model?

My answer is “yes, but..”. Modelling is important (especially for structured processes), but not critical – there are other ways to provide visibilityand control.Google Wave doesn’t allow for modelling  in the BPMN sense, but on the other hand – it does provide for a mechanism called “robots”. One way to look at robots is as a way to model the actors in a process – so rather than models the flow (which is the focus of BPMN), Google Wave models the actors – and the flow is emergent. So on that account Google Wave can be a good enough BPM but with a very different mindset. If you need the modelling capabilities you could put the appropriate robots in place, and then you could simulate the process with synthetic actors. Currently Google Wave has no ability for analysis.

At ActionBase we allow for a simple model of a “recommended” flow through “process best practices” – it allow for the recommendation of next steps, but doesn’t require the participants in the business process to follow the best practice, they can do anything they think is appropriate as a next step, though the steps are tracked and visible. Tracking takes the place of modeling in the management of unstructured, ad-hoc human process – both for ActionBase and Google Wave – providing both control (in a social sense, not  programmatically dictated control) and visibility. ActionBase does provide a graphical view of process as it was executed, and stores the execution information in a standard SQL database for access and analysis. We have started to look at technologies for deeper analysis of those emergent processes.

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2 Responses to “What is "Good Enough" BPM – part II, BPM Components”

  1. Rashid Khan Says:

    Interesting.I think that if you would focus on what is important about your product you wil be more successful, instead of the “good enough BPM” theme. There are many many processes that do not need a full blown BPMS, and things like Google Wave and maybe ActionBase can address these effectively and excel at it. Every product that deals with processes does not have to be labelled BPM or good-enough BPM. Please see my recent posts on wny I think the world could benefit from simplification.

    • Jacob Ukelson Says:

      Rashid,
      Thanks for the comment. I am not trying to position ActionBase or Google Wave as good enough BPM – we are both a lot more than that. The problem is that when folks in the industry use the word “process” – they go directly down the BPM path though it may be overkill, or completely inappropriate. By using the term “good-enough” BPM – I am hoping to get tools like ours to be part of the business process conversation, and not be ignored just because we aren’t (nor do we want to be) a BPMS.

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