Saturday, December 09, 2006

On production workflow and usefulness

There seems to be a lot of discussion on the use of BPM systems and their focus on "production workflow". See...
And of course, mr Brononski and Pyke "workflow sucks"

Unfortunately, there is a large group of people still thinking that everything in an organisation can be pushed into fixed algoritmes. BPEL as the process programming language. It leads to "workflow sucks", which is not the right direction for BPM...

My theory: probably 20% of business work can be defined as production workflow processes. These are usually the so called Hygiene factor processes (e.g. those things you simply have to do right, otherwise you are a really dumbo). Opportunity for BPM? Unfortunatly yes, simply think of all those companies that are still not able to handle correct invoices, orders, complaints, call's, etc. So, BPM analysts, do your thing.

But then there are many processes that have other properties.
What properties do processes have actually? Or work in general?
A simple brainstorm:
- Volume and frequency (how often and in which volume is the work done)
- Predictability/structure (does the work follow a certain flow, following certain patterns and rules?)
- Amount of collaboration (how many people are involved while performing tasks)
- Risk (is correct execution of the task/process of vital importance to the company)
More - input welcome!

Based on this set of dimensions, we can start to classify work and processes: a process taxonomy.

Some will be: high volume, very structured, low collaboration. And we can chose to support these with BPMS, with production workflow: each process instance has the same process template. Great for lean-six sigma.

Some will be: high volume, less structured, low/more collaboration. This is something for case management - BPMS-tools that support process instances, where the instance can use one of more process templates (maybe even unique for this case)

And some will be high collaboration, less/no structure. BPM structured process support? No!
Automation/IT support possible? Well, yes, but with carefull thinking. High Performance Workplace, knowledge management, groupware, process/context aware technology, HIM.
It reminds me of this great article of a Xerox guru:
The lesson: for these types of "processes", don't send a BPM production workflow analyst... Users + the analyst will get very unhappy. Send in a anthropologist!

And don't forget, if 20% is hygiene production workflow (let's call them simpy best practices), the other 80 are not. Make sure they stay your "next practices" - competitive edge.

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