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As BPM suites mature, they have become more accessible to a broader range of users. Whereas in the past, the design of business processes was reserved to .NET and Java developers only, now user friendly wizards and drag-and-drop canvases have made it possible for non-developers to jump in and design BPM processes as well. Today, there is a dichotomy (certainly among our customers), with approximately 60% of processes still being built by more advanced developers, but a healthy 40% being assembled (for the most part) by what has become known as "Power Users". A Power User, for lack of a better definition, is a user who is technically oriented, but does not have coding skills or experience. My question is - should Power Users be designing processes? Is this optimal or efficient for a business?

Naturally, much depends on each individual user, and it's difficult to generalize. Some Power Users just get it, and some don't and should be left for the modelling sessions only. But if we take the average Power User, I think we can come to some conclusions. First off, in most cases, a Power User does need some setup and help from a Developer to get started. Form and Activity templates may need to be created, not to mention integration with external systems such as ERP and CRM. But once the environment has been set up sufficiently, our experience is that Power Users can and do succeed in building processes. Additionally, Power Users often have a broader view of the business (they are often also Business Analysts) and that actually gives them an advantage when designing processes for the business.

The major difference is in the complexity of the customization. If the requirements of the project include complex form functionality and/or a significant amount of integration, Developers are almost always needed. If the processes and their forms are relatively straightforward, Power Users can usually overcome most challenges alone - with some help from time to time where coding is necessary.

Another major factor is cost. It's a fact that a team of Developers is more costly than a handful of Power Users. BPM suites today (at least the more advanced ones) are much easier to learn than .NET projects. Power Users can usually be trained in a space of weeks, as opposed to the years it takes to master programming in Visual Studio. So a business that has Power Users at the heart of its process development will save costs, though it might have to compromise on some complex functionality.

Perhaps the most important result of this discussion is the trend. BPM Suites, just like most enterprise software, are moving toward the Power User. We can expect that that within 3 - 5 years, this trend will continue, to the extent that there will be fewer limitations for Power Users working on BPM projects, and less reason to touch the code. Does this mean the end of an era for Developers? Hardly. I believe that just as BPM products become simpler to use, so too business requirements will become more and more complex, and there will always be a healthy chunk of work for Developers going into the future. As such, the right strategy for a BPM roadmap is to plan for teams which incorporate both Power Users and Developers among their ranks.

Eli Stutz

Head of Knowledge and Collaboration, PNMsoft

www.pnmsoft.com

A process exists for a purpose: meet or exceed customer expectations of the customer experience.

Fine and dandy, but what does this mean and how do we operationalize the definition? What strategic and tactical levers do we have to craft, operate and evolve a predictable customer experience?

This line of thinking is taking us towards a model for process quality of outcomes.

The field of business process management (BPM) is broad and has been approached in a number of ways:

Business process improvement focuses on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of individual processes for results that benefit the customer and the organization from a business perspective.

Process automation is an IT-centric approach that seeks to improve internal efficiency, control, and business agility by applying technology to speed the workflow, integrate heterogeneous systems and databases, and enforce business rules.

BPM as a management discipline seeks to manage and measure enterprise business performance from an “end-to-end” (customer-facing) process perspective and create a process culture for the organization as a whole.

Author: Prof Mark von Rosing, Prof. Paul Buhler and Henrik von Scheel

Since 2008, the Global University Alliance, consistent of +300 universities, academics and researcher have compared, analyzed and developed Best and LEADing Practices around process modelling and process architecture concepts. This includes process mapping, process relations, process rules, process measurements, process monitoring, process scorecards, process notations, linking business model and process model, process governance as well as aspects like link to strategy and goals. In this context the Global University Alliance conducted an extensive and wide-ranging research comparing existing process modelling, process engineering and process architecture concepts, method, approaches and standards. The Global University Alliance research analysis revealed the need for a fundamental shift in approach and thereby the need to totally rethink process modelling and process architecture. The foundation for this reconceptualization was to understand the objects that link and relate to the process aspects. Using ontology and semantic concepts and principles, this article describes short the results and the work that lead to the development of a new breed of process modelling capabilities that are collectively known as the eXtended Business Process Model and Notation (X-BPMN).

Henrik von Scheel and Prof Mark von Rosing

Social Media is both a threat and an opportunity

Organizations are traditionally used to being in control of customer interactions and have long built IT systems that push messages to the customer. It is clear, however, that social media and the consumerization of technology has already had an impact on customer’s daily lives and is here to stay.

Through social listening and an effective Business Process Management system, organization’s ability to listen to the conversation and respond through changing business processes will become a major differentiator. It is essential to combine social media data with unstructured and structured data from other sources to provide a holistic and representative picture of what your customers are saying. A social media strategy that is supported by an organization that is able to rapidly alter business processes, listen to and identify and manage risks early on, and also provide sales opportunities will be an effective one.

BPM projects are traditionally used to manage human-centric organizational processes. Recently I've seen more and more cases where BPM software is being used to tackle non-traditional scenarios - scenarios which would historically have been handled by other systems. Let's take a look at a couple examples, and then I'll attempt to provide a reason for why BPM was chosen in each case.

The first case is a CRM-related scenario. A Utilities provider required a system which would allocate CRM tasks to a group of service agents. The solution needed to calculate which agent had the skill level necessary and the time available to handle the task. So really, we're talking about queue management according to a set of business rules and real time availability. Does this sound like a job for BPM? Well, the company opted to use a BPM suite simply because the BPM suite already included out-of-the-box queue management and business rule features. These features (which are part of most modern BPM suites) made the project much simpler, despite the fact that there was no human workflow element involved - rather, simply a calculation and a one step assignment. The fact is that another back end or bespoke system could have been used, but because BPM suites have graduated to the level where they include many additional human-oriented features, it didn't matter that there was no actual "workflow" or "process" - BPM won out over the alternatives.

The second example we'll look at is a system which handles failed invoices. An invoice system for a major IT services provider often encounters failed invoices - invoices failing on a particular form - to the tune of hundreds per day. The provider required a system which would enable a group of agents to handle and fix such failed invoices and resubmit them to the invoice system. I won't go into all the details (this system included different types of users - those who decided how to fix the invoices, and those who performed the fix), but what the company really needed was a portal which enabled all these users to manage the failed invoices. Does this sound like a traditional BPM case? In fact, the provider opted for a BPM suite here too, since a BPM suite already has a pre-built portal which enables users and managers to handle hundreds of tasks per day. Each of these "Tasks" was mapped to a "Failed invoice", and in very short time, the BPM suite was customized to handle the entire situation. Here too, there was no standard BPM workflow or process, but because of the aspect of end-user task management, BPM won out over other options.

These cases are just a couple of hundreds and perhaps thousands of cases per year where companies are opting to use BPM for non-traditional BPM activities. This means that BPM is growing beyond its originally intended reach, and it will be interesting to see how far it continues to expand in the future.