Process On The Fly #1 – Shades of Process

State-of-the-art Business Process Management Tools make it possible to support, define, run and manage processes in many different ways. Forget about carving process definitions in stone. Nowadays, depending on the specific business needs, Business Process Management can provide at least 50 different flavors of agility, ranging from classic, pre-defined, workflow-styled process integration via document-based interaction, to dynamic rules and policy-based process choreography. There are many different shades of process to consider during an enterprise’s journey toward increased responsiveness and flexibility.

What if we were to look at the processes within our organization the way we look at Google Maps? Could we identify the different shades of process immediately? We all know the benefits of a good navigation system, using up-to-date roadmaps and real-time traffic information (including your own position on that map). The way we travel by car nowadays is so much more advanced than the state of transport was only two centuries ago.
But how well do we know the traffic that goes on in our own organization? Just think what it would mean to have the ‘satnav’ level of insight in our business processes as well.
Let’s stay with analogies for a while and have a good look at our From Train to Scooter ‘Design for Digital’ building block: it differentiates the IT landscape in terms of agility and associated solution lifecycles. ‘Train’ solutions are the most stable and predictable, followed by the ‘bus’, ‘car’ and finally ‘scooter’ ones.
It works very well to understand our different shades of process. A train network and schedule is based on standardized routes where the time between stations is known down to the minute. The associated processes are therefore typically straight-through processes with few exceptions. The bus network obviously has many more stops and potential delays and detours, requiring more flexibility options in the process.
Cars can even follow many more routes (and carry individual passengers) at all sort of different speeds. As mentioned, this mode of transport has been impacted the most by the ability to use real-time information (maps and traffic information) to optimize the route. And finally scooters: highly individual, ultra-flexible means of transport that may allow taking unpredictable, on the fly shortcuts that were not even foreseen in the street design.
If we look at the portfolio of products and services of leading process management suppliers such as Pega, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce, we see that they typically support these different categories of processes. They help to define and model processes, then run them through automated support and finally monitor, manage and improve them, based on collected process metrics.
Armed with so many different ways to deal with processes, it provides enterprises with new power to reposition and optimize processes, the data they exchange and the way they are supported by IT solutions. Where data technologies makes enterprises ‘smarter’ and more insightful, process technologies help to act on insights and ultimately be more responsive and agile. It makes Thriving On Data and Process On The Fly intimately entwined.
Process Mining can come in very handy: it’s a set of algorithms that analyzes process event data and constructs the network of possible routes and traffic densities on these routes from the event data. This way, you discover how data actually travels through the processes within your organization (rather then how you thought you designed it). And one of the typical discoveries is that there are many more ‘scooters’ moving around than you expected, some using smart short cuts, but others using not-so-smart, risky non-compliant short cuts. Once you know this, you can either try to get people back into more formalized, better structured processes, or you can try to give them better information so that they can achieve there objectives more safely and effectively.
So start building your process network more interactively – possibly using process mining  – and discover all the different shades of process and the associated optimal applications lifecycles within the enterprise. Then use this information – and the right portfolio of BPM and business rules management tools – to improve the enterprise processes, over and over again.
A seductive perspective indeed.

Your expert: Ard Jan Vethman  

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2015 update series. See the overview here