From John Morris: As we are increasingly dependent on software technology for every aspect of our personal and business life, there are strong arguments that software be made open for inspection. The arguments include arguments for safety and arguments for economic fairness. And because business processes instantiated in BPM technology, along with business rules, are the clearest statements of what goes on in software technology, the question of software transparency is really only practical when applied to BPM-based business processes.
I think companies would want to keep their processes private for various reasons (competitive etc.)
But maybe certain kinds of processes should be published - the processes that are controlled by regulation or consumer rights or what have you. It would certainly be interesting if they were at a conceptual level, even if not at an execution level.
And I was already surprised by news last April about the law that European companies are forced to use BPMN for process modeling in 2016
Some cantonal laws in Switzerland already have process diagrams - see ref1.
First, what exactly do you want to share; the model, the documentation, the program source code, the DDL, etc.?
We brought this subject up many years ago and, unfortunately, nobody wanted to cooperate. For example, the basic logical models of banks are all the same, as they are in insurance, and just about any other industry. Such models could obviously help others, but there is no desire to share such knowledge for competitive purposes. Maybe in the government or nonprofit areas, but not in commercial companies. As to regulation, forget it, that's like asking the government to conform to standards. It will never happen.
Aside from the software part of the issue, from a Sunshine Law standpoint it could be very helpful to see how government processes run, particularly in this age when we constantly hear how "broken" government is. The first benefit may be that someone may actually have to map processes where they haven't been yet. I personally have no idea how proficient governments and agencies are in this area, but I would expect there's plenty of room for improvement. The most difficult part may be handling and organizing the firestorm of help (and criticism) that would come from the publicdomain in a way to get value out of their suggestions. Another issue would certainly be that of secrecy and security.
There are several reasons why, even though it is a great idea, it won't happen. For well run businesses; competitive advantage. For public sector; acute embarrassment. For BPM vendors; commoditisation reduces profits.
However, there are some vendors who make "best proactice" availalable as accelerators such as AQPC and OpsDog.com and although relatively simplistic they are a great starting point.
Thanks to Peter for posting this question. The original trigger for the query was an article in The Verge by @NickStatt:
Interestingly the search keywords linked to the article include the following, which are clues to the core of the item:
internet-of-things privacy paranoia data volkswagen-scandal
The article has some reasonable analysis and comments by researchers (one can skip over the first few paragraphs of clever intro . . . )
I have the sense that regulation is on its way, whether executives like it or not.
This article, even starting more from the consumer/citizen perspective, is a "signal" of what's to come.
And if transparency is coming to business and government, come what may, that transparency will certainly involve process models and process instances.
The aficionados of BPM.com are champions of the technology of business process management. It's probably fair to call the regulars "evangelists" for the good news of BPM.
So it's not surprising to see some terrific insights concerning the possible application of BPM technology to the problems of transparency of the work of business and governement.
However, these insights include some real and informed skepticism that making public or private sector business models public is possible, or perhaps even desirable.
This skepticism is warranted, because the natural inclination of any organization is not to be transparent.
All organizations, public and private, resist change, usually in defence of some privilege or monopoly rent. But privilege and monopoly aren't fairing so well in the world in which we now find ourselves, for many reasons.
A few comments about why some transparency of some business process models is inevitable:
1. DIFFERENT SCALES -- The meaning of process model transparency is very different depending on the scale of subject processes, for example process models for industrial processes, process models for shipping of medical supplies, or process models for departments of motor vehicle registration. Arguments against transparency don't hold uniformly across scale.
2. DIFFERENT SECTORS -- Model transparency can be justified on risk or public service policy; when you start adding up risk associated with different sectors of the economy and easy-to-justify transparency, one is probably over 2/3 of the economy. Arguments against transparency don't hold uniformly across sectors.
3. DIFFERENT AMOUNTS OF TRANSPARENCY -- Being transparent about some processes is not the same thing as having to deploy BPM everywhere, always. The argument that "it is impossible to document all our processes" is a rhetorical strategy which distracts from the possibility and opportunity to start somewhere . . .Arguments against transparency don't hold uniformly across all levels of process transparency.
4. SOFTWARE EATING THE WORLD -- Individual, group and societal risk is increasingly a function of software technology. Software is now infrastructure. We regulate bridges; software regulation is only a matter of time. We don't want to meet personal or societal black swans. There are very strong risk-related arguments in favour of regulated transparency in given situations.
5. COMPARISON TO ACCOUNTING AND THE QUESTION OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE -- The strongest argument against transparency of business processes is simple: "Never in a million years will I allow you to know how I operate, that's my hard-earned way of doing business". Compare this to accounting however, which is now standardized and highly regulated, including for transparency, where appropriate. Competitive advantage too often is a euphemism for something that means exactly the opposite -- I don't want to compete so I'm building as many barriers to transparency as possible. My response is that we shouldn't hide behind poor processes and secrecy, the better to conduct poor business. Working in the dark is not a long-term strategy for success.
BPM is just a technology for managing work. Really the technology for managing work. "Transparent, open business" means sharing process models and process instance data.
So when business, government, customer and citizen requirements include understanding how that work is done, then BPM processes will be made transparent.
And that new transparency will result from a combination of social pressure, business partner pressure and government regulation.
It will probably take a while.
The whole question of transparency in software-driven decision making goes far beyond BPM. For example, you may wish to know if the self-driving car you are so eager to purchase may decide to kill you for utilitarian reasons.
It is not a bad idea, really, to require full disclosure on these sorts of decisions. But probably not at the level of "process models", which will do little to inform the average consumer. Ethicists, legislators, technologists, consumer advocates, safety experts... there's a lot of discussion to be had here, I think—discussions well worth having.
It is irrelevant whether companies want their proprietary or embarassing processes to be public. Perhaps they should be. However, history suggests that sooner or later, someone else is going to commoditise process models whether you like it or not.
If we’ve learned anything from the success of open-source software and Wikipedia, to name two obvious examples, it’s that although your business model may rely on some information being proprietary, someone else will come up with a reason or a business model for commoditising that information for some other kind of benefit or profit.
My follow-on question is this: what would it take for there to be a ‘WikiPedia for process models’, where a community that has no need for models to be private can share/discuss/remix the models they have?