The Power of a Process Repository (or Process Warehouse)

I believe, and I think that a lot of people would agree, that one of the key benefits of embarking on a business process project in any organization is the opportunity to understand and model existing and to-be processes in an organization. As far as I can tell that is the pervasive form of business process management – creating a model and understanding of processes (and using simple tools like Visio, various process modeling tools, paper and pencil).

The problem is that no matter how serious a company becomes in their modeling efforts – they will be only able to scratch the surface of the actual processes that make the business run. Since most processes are ad-hoc, unstructured human process and trying to model those would be difficult, and expensive. As an aside, I would claim that these human processes are the ones that matter most, since they truly are the processes that differentiate the business.

But lets imagine you could – lets imagine you could create a repository that contains an up to the minute description of all your processes, including your human process. It would be a goldmine! Like with data warehousing and BI which can give you enormous insight into how your business is doing – a process warehouse gives you the information on how the business actually gets its work done. Just imagine – data BI can show you where things are going well (or poorly), but process BI can give the insight into why they are going well (or poorly).

Of course to make this work you would need to be able to capture your processes, and store them in some appropriate format. Also, just like with data warehousing and BI – you need a lot of relevant process data for it provide true value, you need a way to store the data, and you need a way to access it.

I think emerging human process management technologies like Google Wave, ActionBase and Adaptive  Case Management tools are starting to provide the answers on how to gather enough information on these business process to make the analysis of these processes interesting and valuable – and that is the key to making a process repository work. It needs to have enough data. There are ways to store process instances in standard databases.  There are ways to data mine and visualize processes. So again the key is getting enough interesting process data.

So the pieces that are needed for creating and benefiting from a process repository are falling into place. Now as most of the process community is waking up to the role of unstructured, ad-hoc, human processes in organization – I think that we will start seeing more and more emphasis on process repositories – as a side effect of human process management. But the truth is – the side effect may be turn out to be  the key value from an organizational perspective.

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