BPM via DEMO (3) – Lessons Learnt

Alexanders Horned Sphere

Figure 1: Alexanders Horned Sphere

As an old saying goes, “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. A design tool can be very seductive with its drag-and-drop of a box here, a box there, and connecting line here and a connecting line there. One can do this literally with ones brain switched off!, the tool will alert you when there is a syntactic error, of course it will not alert you if the solution is a dire representation of the business process. Yes, of course, you will lend a cursory ear to the business owner, but the software tool will win. Software tools developed without considering the business users input or involvement in the design are the type that attract the technical designer since they had such individuals in mind when being architected. The picture never tells the whole story.

EPC representation ....

Figure 2: EPC representation ….

The same can also be said of Figure 2, as an EPC representation of the process it looks fine to the uninitiated, but it does have some incorrect nodes and connections. It is not possible to identify the errors by knowing only the process, one also needs to understand the correct rules of EPC. The best tool helps you validate the diagram, not just at the end, but also during the making of the diagram. As the process gets more complicated so does the figure to represent it, and this precludes a manual validation; far too difficult and time-consuming. One other major problem with a diagrammatic representation such as Figure 2, of the process is that it fools you into thinking that it is a flow. One box connected to another inevitable suggests that there is some kind of temporal connection between the two boxes, one ends the other starts. This is a trick of the human mind; it hastens to make connections where perhaps there are none. This is yet another reason to modify ones mind-set and think about the process outside of the flow thinking. In our case in particular the flow mindset would fail us; it would be the wrong way to implement this process.

The process is an example of Adaptive Case Management. There is always a goal to be achieved for each instance of the process, that is, to provide the client with the resources as quickly as possible. Does the goal emerge? In a manner of speaking it does. No case instance is like any other case instance. Not all steps are executed the same number of times for all case instances. The process is not adaptive in the evolutionary sense, but is in the sense that the knowledge worker adopts the activities as required for the particular instance of the process. We may be taking liberties with the absolute meaning of the term “adaptive”, but it is not too far from the truth. The process is driven by the knowledge workers decision as to the activities and their order, although, there are some activities that must be executed in a specific order. For example, you cannot schedule an interview without a prior receipt of a candidate CV.

It is for all these reasons we chose DEMO as an analytical tool particularly in view of the fact that it is backed by a formal method. The implementation of a business process requires a different approach than the classical one of software development. As someone remarked “the process is the business”, hence the business process will always produce a tangible or intangible benefit to the organisation. Implementing a business process requires an understanding of the organisation, its structure, the organisation roles and how these collaborate in the execution of the process. What documents are required or are generated in the process? How to integrate the information generated in the process to the organisation information system? These are the points that need to be understood for an appreciation of the process and thus its implementation.

DEMO was developed for much bigger role in organisation theory than our use in understanding to model a single process. But, this was an example, there is nothing to stop us in applying the method for the whole service organisation. It may provide us with a way of mapping an organisation as a series of processes, those that are direct revenue generators, and those that are not, providing a better opportunity to optimise the right processes from a automation perspective.

About KM Mukku

Kick-start, build and manage teams in product development (particularly in the financial domain), and enjoy all in adaptive case management, business process design and business process improvement. Currently holding the position of CTO at coMakeIT.
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