A Familiar, Collaborative, and Managed Approach to Knowledge Work

I often get asked how ActionBase relates to Business Process Management Suites (BPMS). From my perspective the simplest answer is that we focus on unstructured, unpredictable, ad-hoc human processes that knowledge workers do, while BPM suites focus on structured, predictable processes – and the two approaches are complementary. Adaptive Case Management (ACM) has been very useful in helping people understand that structured processes and unpredictable processes really do need to be thought (and handled) about differently.

Usually once we get past that hurdle the next question is what is unique about our approach to managing knowledge worker processes.  After having tried various explanations here is what I have come up with:

Familiar– email and documents are the way most ACM processes are handled today by most people. Most other approaches (e.g. wiki based approaches) want people to trade in their familiar tools (i.e. Outlook and Office) for new tools tailored more to this usage. I think the “rip and replace” approach to managing these processes just won’t work, since managing these processes make up the bulk of what knowledge workers do. Using a new tool (instead of Outlook and Office, or their equivalents) for executing these processes is almost equivalent to replacing email in general – and that just isn’t going to happen any time soon. If we really want to put this ability in the hands of the business people, we should leverage technical metaphors they already use and are comfortable with.

Collaborative –unstructured, unpredictable, ad-hoc, human processes need a lot of collaboration (i.e. negotiation, discussion) between the participants in the process. Today most tools take either process centric, or collaboration centric – knowledge work needs both equally. We leverage and enhance email to enable it to be a collaborative environment for knowledge process execution and management.

Managed – to manage these processes the trick is to apply enough structure to make the process manageable, but no so much as to strangle it. Our approach to management is that we don’t dictate the flow (though we can suggest a best practice), but rather focus on visibility. By providing the process owner and process participants visibility into the process as it unfolds – we provide them with the information they need to manage the process. By storing all ofthe information about these processes in an “system-of-record” we allow the organization gain understanding and insight into these emergent processes.


One Response to “A Familiar, Collaborative, and Managed Approach to Knowledge Work”

  1. Tweets that mention A Familiar, Collaborative, and Managed Approach to Knowledge Work | ActionBase Blog - Thoughts on Collaboration Process Management Unstructured Compliance and Audit -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandy Kemsley, ActionBase. ActionBase said: A Familiar, Collaborative, and Managed Approach to Knowledge Work – http://bit.ly/bWPUsQ […]

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