Why BPM Is Unique & Important: Part 4 - BPM Software Technology Ready For Business Use

Part 4 Automation Artefact Manufacturing As First-Class Function Of BPM

In addition to the concepts of work and process that are first-class citizens of BPM software technology, automation artefact manufacturing is also first-class in BPM.

Specifically this means the BPM software technology natively supports the modeling, deployment and usage of new business process artefacts.

BPM Automation Artefact Life-Cycle

Automation Life Cycle

The BPM Automation Artefact Life-Cycle diagram shows the work of manufacturing new process automation artefacts. It seems fairly straightforward. We model the process. Then we make a usable process artefact. That process automation artefact is the result, ready for our use in day-to-day business. And it’s likely that we will keep improving process over time.

Behind the scenes things aren’t quite so straight-forward though. A full discussion of important technical issues related to the automation artefact life-cycle is the subject of Paper III: Challenges of Being A Pioneer: Using BPM Software Technology Effectively.

So let’s explore automation artefact manufacturing as a first-class citizen of BPM software technology, and especially Step No. 2, “Model”.

Modeling As Work Of Value Creation

The main focus of automation artefact manufacturing is on modeling, Life-Cycle Step No. 2. The process modeling that occurs in Step Two is where technology-supported BPM value creation occurs.

And given that you are working with BPM software technology, where the concepts of work and process are first-class citizens of the system, your modeling of new automation artefacts can proceed faster than with any other technology.

A BPM technology-based automation programme concerns specifying and deploying automation artefacts that contribute to the goals of the sponsoring organization. Thus a BPM programme is itself an exercise in value creation, the creation of valuable automation artefacts.

Those automation artefacts are created by the work of modeling, conducted by staff using BPM modeling software as part of the BPM software technology package.

Model-Driven Artefact Manufacturing As First-Class Function Of BPM Technology

Model-based automation artefact manufacturing is also a first-class citizen of BPM technology. This means that the necessary software functionality for building automation artefacts from models is present in BPM software.

And for users this functionality shows up as the entire BPM automation artefact life-cycle.

BPM software technology, and indeed any software technology that supports model-based manufacturing of automation artefacts, will always have two functionalities: (1) support for first-class domain semantic models and (2) support for the automation artefact life-cycle.

In the case of BPM software technology, this means that artefact models can be built on the basis of the first-class work and process models which are part of the software. And then those artefact models can be easily or even automatically deployed as automation artefact instances.

With any other software, those same business managers and business analysts would not be able to directly build a new business process in software, for two reasons.

  1. CONCEPTS OF WORK -- In all other software, the concepts of work are not first-class citizens. Task or activity and workflow are not first-class citizens in all other software products – because if they were first-class citizens, then those products would be products which include BPM functionality, by definition.
    Without BPM software technology, if you want to build a new business process, your ideas will be mediated by a process of building software artefacts which “doesn’t speak work”.
  2. MODEL-DRIVEN ARTEFACT MANUFACTURING -- In software that is not model-driven, artefact manufacturing itself is not a first-class citizen. This means that there’s no easy path to adapting an application to changing needs. There may be some limited table- or parameter-driven customization available. But “manufacturing” means efficiency and freedom to build new artefacts, within the limitations of the semantics of the system.

Model Scope & Management

It’s a common observation that any model is a simplification of reality. This is the power of modeling, to provide abstraction tools that humans (and machines) can use to understand and work with reality. From this perspective, models are a weapon against complexity.

But of course, insofar` as models are also simplifications, there will always be edge cases where the model is insufficient. As they cliché goes, all models are wrong, some models are useful. Reality is always richer than your models. As you get better at process modeling, part of your mastery will be knowing what to model and what to leave out.

The questions of “modeling cost” and “model governance” are important business concerns in any BPM programme. Any model takes time to build, and thus has a cost. When you buy an ERP module, one of the things you are paying for are the embedded process models which someone else took time to build. And even as models reduce complexity, models also have their own complexity, which could again add to costs.

An ecosystem of domain-specific process models is also developing, including open source models and standard models defined for given industries and especially ecommerce. You may be able to lever such process models to start your modeling process, and then extend these models as required.

Penalties For Not Using BPM Technology

When business ideas of work have to be mediated by technology before those ideas are realized, the cost is very high – and those costs are typically much higher than we generally acknowledge.

These costs of building artefacts of work from scratch appear in multiple dimensions:

Costs of Building Automation Artefacts Without BPM

  1. DIRECT COST -- It’s much more expensive to build anything when you have to build from scratch;
  2. OVERHEAD -- You are maintaining overhead labor which is unrelated to your business;
  3. AGILITY OR TIME – Acquisition of new business capabilities is much slower.
  4. CUSTOMIZATION – Business capabilities are much more difficult to fine-tune for market needs.
  5. INFLEXIBILITY -- Change is hard and technical debt is high;
  6. RISK – You have greater responsibility for the whole “stack” and thus your risk is higher.

In contrast, constructing new business process artefacts using purpose-specific BPM software technology means you can construct new business capabilities much faster, and at much less expense, and with greater flexibility to evolve.

Paper Road Map

There are four papers in the Series: Explore BPM Technology As Revolutionary Enabler:

  1. This first Paper, “Why BPM Is Unique & Important”, introduces the exciting topic of BPM software technology and why BPM so relevant to business today. Work, process and modeling are revealed as built-in to BPM software, enabling rapid construction of new business capabilities. Published in five parts.
  2. The second Paper, “Minimum Viable Definition Of BPM”, introduces the whole BPM ecosystem but then zeros in on the Minimum Viable Definition. Promotion and adoption of BPM software technology is facilitated when the unique value of core BPM is clearPublished in one part.
  3. The third Paper, “Challenges Of Being A BPM Pioneer”, highlights technical keys to success for a BPM programme. BPM software technology is not mature, and “results may vary”. However, there are ways of narrowing the “cone of outcomes” for your BPM programme.
  4. The fourth Paper, “Adoption Process & BPM Institutionalization”, covers how BPM software technology adoption can accelerate beyond the current technology grid-lock, a process which is less about technology and more about community.

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John Morris