Work as we know it today, is about to change.
Most of us will soon have automobiles that drive themselves. 3-D printing already allows assemblies to be built that are not assemblies. AI seems to be making a comeback and we’re starting to see machines capable of self-diagnosis and preventive maintenance. In the area of Healthcare, science and technology is causing a shift away from fixing problems to preventing problems. The list is by no means exhaustive.
Work itself is not going away but we will see significant changes in the balance of work done by people, software, machines and robots.
Let’s take a look at “work”.
Our first observation is it takes time and costs money. This tells us that work needs to be purposeful. In business, “purposeful” means that any work done sustains or improves competitive advantage.
We know, in general, what to do.
“How” brings us to “best practices”. What are “best practices”, anyway?
Fundamentally, the ways you do things currently are your “best practices”.
If you haven’t paid much attention to improving your “best practices” this means you can achieve significant gains in efficiency and possibly effectiveness by moving to “better” practices. Unless, of course, you don’t care about efficiency or effectiveness, in which case your “best practices” will remain as they are, whilst competitors rush past or leapfrog you.
If you have paid a lot of attention to improving your “best practices”, your best practices will be better than those of your competitors. This is a good thing in one sense, but a not-so-good side effect is that you may be at a stage of diminishing returns or at a stage where small improvements can be highly disruptive.
Now, given this article is about BPM, where does BPM (Business Process Management) fit into all of this?
Simply stated, BPM is a business mindset and a methodology that allows organizations to improve efficiency and, to an extent, effectiveness.
BPM allows you to map out your practices, transition these to “best practices” and, with the help of a few other concepts/methods (i.e. Case, plus Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing or RALB, plus Figure of Merit Matrices or FOMM), makes it easy for people, software, machines and robots to make consistent good use of best practices.
Fine, but how?
“How” is the hard part . . . .
A good starting point is to point out that publication of a paper process diagram with an expectation that people will improve efficiency and effectiveness by staring at the map will not work
You need, first of all, a graphic canvas on which you map out each process, a compiler that can carve up your maps into steps for automatic posting to people, software, machines and robots as steps become current along processes, and, you need a run-time platform (i.e. Case) capable of hosting compiled BPM processes (i.e. process templates) in order to provide orchestration and governance in respect of the performance of work.
The platform itself must also be capable of providing Case-level background governance.
Governance in the form of rules at BPM steps and governance in the form of rules at the Case-level are essential to prevent extreme, unwanted, excursions away from best practices, given that actors at Cases are basically free to do what they like, how they like, and when they like.
Fortunately, all Cases have Case Managers who have the last say (i.e. Cases only get closed by Case Managers).
The right mix of orchestration and governance can have a highly positive impact on efficiency (i.e. doing the right things, the right way, using the right resources).
This leaves two additional dimensions to work that need discussion.
The first of these is the ability to do things at the right time and our only hope here is to carry out data mining plus data analysis to get to where we have a better idea of which sub-pathways users are likely to take and what forward task timings are likely to be as Case Managers focus on achieving Case objectives.
Lastly, we need a way to non-subjectively assess progress toward meeting Case objectives and here, the best we have in the way of methods is FOMM (Figure of Merit Matrices).
FOMM is all important in that it allows Case Managers to focus on efficiency and effectiveness. It pays not to confuse these terms. You can be inefficient, yet effective. You can be efficient, but not effective. But, if you are ineffective, it does not matter whether you are efficient or inefficient.
Read this material over a few times and you will have the foundation for increasing efficiency through process improvement and increasing effectiveness through good Case Management.
When you have a sustained focus on efficiency and effectiveness, outcomes improve.
The math goes like this
Case + BPM+ RALB + FOMM -> Better Outcomes
There are four dimensions to “work”.
BPM Business Process Management
RALB Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing
ACM Adaptive Case Management
FOMM Figure of Merit Matrices(1)
Notice the contribution of BPM at three of the four dimensions of “work”
Note the difference between workflow (i.e. the sequencing of tasks) compared to workload management (i.e. the allocation, leveling and balancing of scarce resources to tasks).
Note also the difference between efficiency compared to effectiveness. The domain of efficiency is the perceived best use of resources in the performance of work whereas the domain of effectiveness is the result of the performance of work.
Organizations can be efficient and effective. They can be somewhat efficient yet effective but it is a matter of little consequence whether they are efficient or inefficient if they are ineffective.
(1) “Predictability of the Costs, Time and Success of Development” A.W. Marshall and W. H. Meckling Economics Division (Rand Corp, P-1821, Oct 14, 1959)