One of the commenters at a BPM.com “Are Processes Key to Scalability?” discussion asked the question:
“What do we call ‘process’ so the high growth CEO will see it as important?”
Here is my response:
Agree with the need for a rename.
We know everything is a process. Processes convert inputs to outputs.
We know that a “process” can be a linked set of steps or a single step, and at a practical level any mix of these (the “processing” remains the same – inputs get converted to outputs).
We know that managing a business is all about evolving strategies, defining goals/objectives, with periodic assessment of progress toward meeting these goals/objectives.
The problem is few processes are end-to-end in b2b, so we end up having to accommodate random mixes of linked sets of steps and ad hoc steps. We need a place to manage these steps – call it Case, if no one can come with a better suggestion.
Case is nothing more than a cursor position in a post-relational database management structure. The structure is not restricted to pre-defined data storage tables/fields. A Case record can accommodate objects that require apps to view the content (images, spreadsheets, .doc/.pdf/.rtf, even audio/video recordings).
Some of these objects are stored in specific database fields, some in Binary Large Object fields, some are too large and need to be “stored” in external files with links to these objects. Bottom line, Case can accommodate anything and if you need sub-Cases (multiple orders for the same customer, multiple claims on an insurance policy, multiple episodes for a patient), no worries.
What is Case Management? – is this really not part of “Business Performance Management” – relying on what we probably could call “best practices” (i.e. process fragments consisting of linked steps, plus ad hoc interventions by resources who use experience, judgment, intuition and decision support).
Surely CEO’s would relate to Business Performance Management (BPM) as an alternative to Business Process Management? (i.e. they set strategy, resources are allocated to Cases via ROI submissions and via annual operating budgets – this ensures, to an extent, that the only work undertaken is work that is supportive of strategy).
Phase II is to monitor progress at the operational level toward meeting Case goals/objectives. Where are these goals/objectives? Surely not plan-side as the end steps in flowgraphs (i.e. we have moved from end-to-end processes to process fragments).
The answer is we find goals/objectives at Cases (run-time side) and Case Management breaks down to performing interventions at Cases that advance Case goals/objectives.
Now, few knowledge workers deal with only one Case – the reason is progress at Cases is often held up for various reasons (handoffs, wait times), so most workers will be working on 10, 20, possibly 50 Cases at a time (yes, for healthcare; yes, for insurance claims; yes, for job-shop manufacturing), so, the role of supervisors is not to manage individual Cases but rather that of allocating, leveling and balancing resources across multiple Cases.
Enter KPI’s at the strategy level – this is where we narrow the gap between operations and strategy.
Strategy -> Initiatives -> Cases -> KPIs –> Strategy
Here, all we need is the ability to consolidate Case data from multiple Cases to an environment hosting corporate KPIs and CEOs have what they need to ‘steer the ship’. I.e. Business Performance Management.
Almost, but not quite.
Missing is the ability to challenge the statistics and, to do this, CEOs need corporate knowledgebases where they can, on their own or, with a little help from staff, test KPIs trends against information in the corporate Kbase (i.e. our sales in country ABC are up 10%, sales in ABC for our three main competitors are up 20%, so reporting that “10%” is “good” needs to be investigated).
Conclusion . . .
Structured sequences of steps plus ad hoc steps can collectively be called “best practices”.
Case provides the environment for performing work.
The way goals/objectives are set up at Cases and the way Cases are managed helps ensure that work is at all times supportive of strategy.
Business Performance Management is what the organization does to build, maintain and enhance competitive advantage.