Saturday, April 12, 2008

Business Process Control in two loops

Earlier I blogged about the role of Business Activity Monitoring. When talking to various vendors I found different views on the use of this. Again - this blogitem's inspiration I got from a presentation from Pallas Athena (www.pallas-athena.com)

Basically there are two efforts going on in a BPM environment that require monitoring, as part of the Plan-Do-Check-Act loop:

1. Operational management (let's call this loop 1)
This is: making sure that current procesflows (real orders, cases, complaints, whatever) deliver within acceptable scoring range.
This is the daily management process to make sure all customer/stakeholder expectations are met. It could include firefighting to make sure that one order gets delivered on time, the certain complaint gets the right attention, that the illness of employee XYZ is not impacting the question a customer had, etc, etc.

2. Process improvement management (let's call this loop 2)
This is the more structural view on the process performance. Now we are not interested in making sure a certain process instance (order, complaint, etc) is executed on time, within budget, but we want to look at the process performance as a whole. And analyse the process - where are bottlenecks, in what type of instances we typically end up with trouble, what are average leadtimes, costs, etc?

I see a number of things in the BPMS market:
1. Some vendors do not see the difference, or limit their view on only one type of management.
2. Most vendors promise that "the BPMS will help you to improve", but most vendors deliver for only one thing: Business Activity Monitoring.

My main point: BAM is not a solution. BAM can be a supporting role (CHECK) to be able to manage both management processes, but we need more in a BPMS. We need to be able to ACT.

A simple analogy:
When I see smoke pooring out of my oven, and the temperature-meter of the oven is well in the red, I have information: my food is burning, my process is out of acceptable KPI ranges.
However, the key question: what can I DO to 1. fix this now, and 2. Fix this from happening again?
My control in this situation is:
Process 1. Switch oven off, take food out, curse, start over (or eat out)
Process 2. Read the recepy, use the oven timer, set the right temperature, and maybe have my girlfriend doublecheck, plus check progress every 5 minutes

BAM is nice, but we need a linked feature called "Business Process Control" in BPMS (and some already have it, but name it differently) - the ability to:
1. Fix current process instance that are off limits (or are in danger to become that)
For instance:
- Reassign staff, temporarely hire new staff
- Prioritize processes / tasks / certain customers
- Say sorry to the customer pro-actively and negotiate new delivery conditions
(Can you think of other control activities?)

2. Fix the process
Usually people think "change process activities" when improving. But my believe is: usually much can be done through:
- Changing assignment business rules (triage, priority based, etc)
- Tune process flow rules
- Increase staff
- Train staff
(Can you think of other control activities?)

BPC - Business Process Control. Now that would be a nice feature in a BPMS.
And maybe even BPCC - Business Process Coaching and Control: a BPMS that alerts you (BAM), suggests (Coaching) possible actions ("why don't you assign this task to Mary?") and allows you to take control measures on loop 1 and loop 2.

But then again, we have enough TLA and FLA's....

1 comment:

Sandy Kemsley said...

This is a great distinction between managing the current process instances versus improving the overall process. One way is to have feedback from the process analytics to train the rules governing the process (automated), and another is to provide simulation and optimization functions based on historical process statistics that point out potential areas for improvement. Realistically, I think that we need some of each.