Time for a "Process Manifesto"?

One key differentiator between BPM and ACM is the level of “ad-hoc”-ness related to the processes being served by those tools. A question that almost always comes up with respect to ACM is that whether it is a stopgap measure – a way to manage for processes that haven’t yet been structured, or that aren’t cost effective to structure. It is a sensible question for someone that spends their time looking at existing processes and use a BPM methodology create some order from what seems to  (at least at first blush) unstructured chaos.

By creating a formal description of an existing process (perhaps using BPMN, perhaps not) a structure is created for the existing process, formalizing the tasks and flow related to the work done in service of that process.  Once that is done, the process can be analyzed, optimized and codified.  All of that makes a lot of sense for large processes that have been around for a while, and that are well understood. I would add also for processes that lend themselves to being structured, but that isn’t the point here – so no reason to get into that argument.

Once you have done all that, most organizations hope that they are done, and now can just use their newly minted processes for ever. Sort of like the waterfall method for creating software. Everyone in the industry knows that isn’t true – that processes are living, changing entities. More like the iterative (or agile) methods for creating software. If you look at the “agile manifesto” for software:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

the principles are just as applicable to process management as they are to software development. These principles came to be after decades of software development, and people realized that the old process of building software wasn’t keeping up with customer, needs and there needed to be a change. Agile methodologies haven’t been mainstream for that long – but I think that most everyone in the industry believes that they are the wave of the future.

So how does BPM stand up relative to those principles? Social BPM is a way address the issue of customer collaboration (though in many cases the collaboration is around the model – in other words the contract). The growing area of process analytics is the industries answer to “responding to change”.

 I think that traditional BPM does less well on the first two principles – it is pretty clear that comprehensive documentation (the process model) is still a basic requirement. Probably because of the mindset – process and tools take precedence over individuals and interaction. So not so good on those fronts.

 Though many position ACM as a way to respond to change, for me it is a process oriented way to focus on individuals, interactions and working software (which make it more amenable to change).

It is interesting that the “Agile Manefesto” was created as a response to the existing “best practice” – for software development, just as ACM emerged from the process community. The “Agile Manifesto” was created by developers, not customers or analysts. I think it is time for the process community to create a “Process Manifesto”.

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