BPM – The tail is wagging the dog!


I have weighed in occasionally at the LinkedIN discussion “Why is the penetration of BPM Solutions (BPMS – the technology aspect of BPM) so limited?”

It seems to me people have allowed themselves to get caught up in details to the point where ‘The tail is wagging the dog”.

I refer to ‘standard’ process mapping notations that, in my world, are very restrictive and totally unimportant because the detailed flowgraphs we build are mainly for use by software systems not humans.

‘Swimlanes’, and shapes of flowgraph constructs, to BPMx,  are far less important than the ability to tag a process step with resource requirements, instructions, and attaching to steps all forms required to evidence completion of such steps.

The fixation with paper process maps comes from a false belief that consulting engagements are over when a map is published and training on a process is complete, whereas in BPMx, the job is only ½ done until you get to where you have “workflows that work”.

Missing from many BPM systems are decision boxes where downstream branching to one or more sub-pathways in a process map can take place, sometimes under the control of a software program, sometimes requiring human input.

Other missing constructs in most process mapping environments are multi-instance capabilities, imposed delays, loopbacks and run-time PCPs (process control points).

Workflows that lack PCP capabilities are not ‘workflows that work’ for the simple reason that no workflow, however cleverly crafted is going to be able to handle all eventualities.

Users need to be able to skip steps, perform steps in a different order, add steps that were not in the process map template, re-visit steps that have already been committed and there is no point encouraging (but not forcing) best practices if the environment  has no means of testing a process instance against its template.

And, who says anyway that a process has to comprise a sequence of steps?

BPMx accommodates process maps that have one step or hundreds of steps.  I suppose the easy comparison is a menu at a restaurant where you go “a la carte” or pick from the “menu du jour”.

Besides, the notion of manual streaming of cases onto processes is pretty much obsolete. All you really need is to stream a new case onto a default “Services Menu” and the software system can set up a “revolving door” where the case is daisy-chained through multiple process maps, with the option at any stage in the processing to direct the case to an ad hoc single step.

The nice bit is that all of this fancy processing is totally hidden from users – users engage all processing from a single computer screen comprising a to-do list on the left (floating tasks) and a traditional schedule on the right (fixed-time tasks). Anyone who can master a FiloFax is immediately put at ease.

Yes, Virginia, BPM is alive and well.

I don’t particularly like having to invent something called BPMx,  but what we do is so different that we need a way to encapsulate this so it does not get confused with a term that includes “manage” when there is not much evidence that processes are in fact being managed.

If you want to learn more about BPMx, register for our 20-hour web-based BPMx certification which will open the door to extending your consulting engagements from BPA/BPI to BPM.

About kwkeirstead@civerex.com

Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in critical infrastructure protection, healthcare, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, job shop manufacturing and b2b organizations. (C) 2010-2017 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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2 Responses to BPM – The tail is wagging the dog!

  1. Pat says:

    Interesting – I’m wondering if you think that the actual BPMS could be where the problem lies. In a correctly constructed system, shouldn’t the application allow for designers to create the system in the most optimized (and flexible) way? But I do agree that there is not enough attention paid to the depth of the process flow. Thanks for writing this!
    –Pat (www.activevos.com)

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  2. I wish I knew what my competition has.

    In the Civerex system you start with a blank canvas and the range of constructs includes nodes, connecting arcs, decision boxes (single pick/multi pick; auto-execute or manual), process control points, imposed delays, loopbacks and daisy chain constructs.

    Each product for an industry area can have ‘plug-ins’ that are specific to a particular industry (i.e. treatment plan and prescription writer have no meaning in manufacturing but ‘diagnosis’ applies equally to a person and a complex piece of machinery)

    There are always boundary conditions and we get requests on a routine basis for new add-ons and often put them into next releases of the products.

    I think the limiting factor with most of the BPMS systems is you cannot compile the graphs and run them.

    Watch for a new blog over the weekend on how we automate resource allocation, leveling and balancing.

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