Saturday, April 14, 2007

Future Feature of BPM-Suites : Predictive BPM

I remember, when working for a large insurance company, that they were struggling with workforce planning. Basically, once a year, they looked at the average workload per employee, and based on that estimate and some predictions on future developments, they agreed on the workforce numbers for different teams in front- and backoffices.
What they forgot were seasonal influences. In insurances, a lot of work happens during the beginning of the year (renewal, new pension plans).
A typical result was the following: agreed workforce started in januari, and (since workload was much higher), a backlog of work started to grow. Managers unsatisfied, pressure on teamleaders and, in the end, the workforce. Around june, backlog was unacceptable, expensive external temps were hired, which caused an initial extra drop in productivity (more experienced workforce needed to guide temps) and in, say oktober, things started to be in control, leading to november estimations for the next-year workforce, where, well, you guessed it, memory was short, so about the same numbers were planned....
And customer service? Well, in this company, it was seen normal that pension overviews of the previous year were send in Q3/Q4 of the next year on average.....

Of course, workforce planning is sometimes difficult. It requires process maturity to measure, be realistic, and take out politics. It takes process maturity to evaluate plans and have the courage to adapt when needed.

A great thing would be, if BPM-Suites came with a feature, which I would "predictive BPM".
Take a typical moment in time, with a running BPM Engine. A great number of process instances exist, each with a certain state in their flow.
It would be great if you could ask your engine the following basic questions:
1) How much workforce effort is needed the coming say 10 weeks, to finish the current process instances, if these processes are to be finished in a certain (SLA) timeframe?
2) What is the estimated influx of new process instances for the coming period, based on a seasonal analysis of previous years?
3) What is the total required workforce (current process instances + new instances) to finish all work required to meet SLA's?

Sure, this is complex stuff.
A BPM-S would need (or a tool above the BAM/BPM Suite):
- Knowledge of workforce - all people, their productivity, their work-assignments
- Knowledge of procesflows - typical flows per process (% for each branch and sub-branch)
- Task duration and effort
- Process history - a log of all process start events in previous years, #per day, % per type per day

But what a great planning tool would be possible. I could even see business analysts help managers with what-if scenario's...
- What-if our competitor is delivering 10% faster throughput, how much more workforce or productivity increase would we need?
- What-if we are able to change seasonal influences with some incentive?

In manufacturing, this type of planning is already there. The services industry is behind.

But it's promising to see that "Predictive" and "BPM" already are delivering hits on google.
Because what's process management, if the only thing we can do with BAM is look in our back-mirrors?