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From a comment Max Pucher made on this Sandy Kemsley blog where he wrote: "There is no process without content and content without process is waste."
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I couldn't agree more but with most customers/clients I've worked with, they equate content to documents (i.e. scanned images). Content can be anything that needs to be worked, including data feeds, online requests (generated via by a customer on a website or internally from one department to another), and more.

Regardless of how you define content it should be applied to some sort of a process, even if the process is "I got it and I put it over here." A process is not defined by the number of steps involved! So, yes, there is no process without content.

On "content without process is a waste" - man...I need to remember that one as it is so nail head hitting accurate. Why would anyone not want to put their content to work? Much like previous discussions, companies do them a disservice by simply storing content...they are only taking it partway.
Managing Director
ClearCadence, LLC
http://www.clearcadence.com
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 1
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Powerful question. Forces one to consider what exactly one is doing when using process automation technology.

Just one example: Content includes the idea of "narrative" or "story" -- which I claim is one way of defining what BPM software technology does. Which is, "automate stories". Very structured and limited stories for sure, as in "we paid XYZ Corp. the $ 1,200 owed, as recorded in our A/R ledger". That's a "tiny story". Add up a lot of structured tiny stories though and you get an project narrative, then a organizational narrative, etc. In this example, process and content-as-narrative are inextricably linked. (The whole concept of "customer journey" is a version of narrative.)

Another example: Content is proxy for "dynamic instance information" but could extend to encompass "explicit skill" and "explicit knowledge" too. We know that any process is also dependent on "tacit" skills and knowledge; even a process instance will include tacit or implicit content. It's always a question as to how explicit and detailed a process model should be. As part of process modelling then, the idea of content itself is negotiable, and defines boundaries between explicit and implicit process. And that boundary is a function of cost and social power.

@MaxJPucher and @SKemsley are totally correct. My questions are "why does this even need to be stated?" (in other words, what useful things can we learn from actually having to ask the question?) and "what are the implications of such a close linkage between process and content?" Answering these questions will uncover more opportunity than one can imagine. The BPM story is only beginning.
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@John, it MUST be stated, indeed. Far too often both processes run without any content whatsoever, and contents evolves chaotically without a process.
  1. more than a month ago
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Processes need content

All processes need to build logs as part of proof of execution of instances. Log entries need system-applied date/timestamps and user ‘signatures,’ plus data (content), as it was, at the time it was collected, on the form versions that were in place at that time. Since the logical venue for process instance execution is Case, we can narrow the discussion relating to logs to “Case logs” or Case Histories

If processes do not carry data forward along instance pathways to steps, humans have difficulty enriching the data or making decisions at branching decision boxes re which outbound sub-pathways to take; software is unable to execute rule sets at steps; robots are unable to take actions at steps etc.

Data at forms is easier for humans to view when it is posted to context/situation-appropriate forms at process instance steps.

Data is easier to collect at process step instances when structured forms are attributes of process steps.

In respect of documents, videos, images that become context/situation-appropriate at process instance steps, these can be stored in manila file folders or in computer file folders but why do that when you can attach these to process instance steps at Cases, where they become part of the Case History?

Content needs processes - content is more easily managed when it is context/situation-appropriate (entered/attached at process instance steps -> stored in Case Histories)
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@Karl Walter, very precise and practical description of relations between process and content.
  1. more than a month ago
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Just as with data+process, process without content or content without process makes no sense.

This artificial dichotomoy comes from their evolution as separate domains (and subsequent deepening specializations) at the IT vendors.

Fact is, the customers don't care and don't want to care about such dichotomy.

They never describe their processes as: "now let's switch to the data model view, or the ECM view, of our process". They simply say: "this guy records the invoice and then archives it. this girl approves the invoice and then it goes to treasury" etc.
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
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These kind of quotes assume that a process is some kind of list activities. To me a process is everything you do and NEED to solve the problems of a customer. So that means I'd like to talk about the stuff you need to set up to make a process work:

- Some workflow (the actions to be executed on a case)
- Data/content (on different levels)
- People.
- Supplies,
- tools
-software
-management style

So I agree with Bogdan. Stop these discussions and understand what 'makes a process do what it promises', get to work and do it bettter little by little
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 5
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Basically Content and process both are different and both have different aspects. There is a theory of both content and process. The two have different concepts like:

Content theory outlines the reasons for motivating an individual while process theory underlines the effect of behavioral patterns in fulfilling the expectations of an individual.

• Content theory or need theory can be identified as the earliest theories related to the concept of motivation.

Process theories include Reinforcement, Expectancy, Equity and Goal setting theories.
References
  1. http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-content-theory-and-vs-process-theory/
Kritika Pandey (Software Analyst)
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  1. more than a month ago
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Interesting to see this pop up after such a long time: I made this comment for the first time nearly twenty years ago when we started to link up inbound and outbound content into common processes. I remember that at the time an analyst commented: 'They want to merge document scanning and printing and no one knows why!' This was an absolutely true statement! Yes, clearly they were separate software stacks and in most cases still are. Show me the BPM tools that have a fully embedded content capability? They are all just stacks glued together with complex integration. Content is in most cases the start of a process and what makes the process complete. And as a matter of fact, data+process does not exist. Processes are useless without the transactions that turn the data into business. Content and process is however real.

The problem is the limited mindsets and being stuck in them. I said in 1990 that the future of copiers will be a scanner and an inkjet printer and I was told by a Xerox copying expert that this was like shooting yourself in the knee. They started to become common in 2010. I said in 2010 that the future of collaboration is not orthodox BPM. That means BPM will finally be replaced in 2030, and until then they (like Emiel and Bogdan) will most likely consider all forms of digital interaction BPM evolution. One of the reasons why mobile is still not on the agenda of most corporate IT departments. Cloud is just a marketing model for controlling the mobile users which investors favour.

It seems to require that the people stuck with an outdated idea go into retirement. It seems to take 20 years ...
References
  1. https://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/quotes/
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  1. more than a month ago
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Of course a simple phrase that reflects the fact that business is simple with people process and content and the fundamentals never change. Sure computers which undertake processing of data and new gadgets which fit into processes but the business logic remains simple. Sadly IT has evolved has made complex and such complexity examples in the origins of this debate!

Let's just remember BPM is the discipline not a technology and just reflects what is needed to create the desired business outcome. That need will never change but the supporting technology be it delivery or functionality will. The no code is the start of the final journey in enterprise software which will reflect how operational business can be readily supported with low cost putting business in control...not IT. We started that pioneering thinking 30 years ago......ignored and even ridiculed but change is coming as the is "swamp is cleared"....some call "retirement"...!
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 8
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@Bogdan and @Emiel make compelling pleas to focus on business, and highlight that business people don't want for (and certainly don't have time time for) philosophizing about any distinctions between process and content.

Fair enough. My question though is where does this leave us where a specific technology is concerned? Specifically the technology of business process management automation. BPM technology is the technology of the work of business, for sure. So it naturally lends itself to being "all about business". Which is a temptation . . .

My problem is then that the technology disappears. Process and BPM (and content) become just about business. And we lose the leverage that BPM technology gives us. And even the ability to sell it!

As with accounting, where we have accounting specialists, with BPM, process and content, we have specialist cadres to wrangle the technology. That cadre is the business analyst. BAs perform work that overlaps but which is not identical to the departmental financial analyst.

By all means, let's let business people perform the hard work of business management. And let's give them new more powerful tools to achieve amazing things. If this requires someone to seriously engage concerning the theoretical and practical distinction between process and content, that's just the price we pay. And a great career for business analysts.

Let's not hide our light. Accountants have debits and credits. Process has its task orchestrations. BAs can handle it.

And business management will see real breakthroughs in the tools they have to work with. Because the hard work, the specific work of process technology wrangling has been done.
Comment
  1. David Chassels
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5228
Well said John but who is going to give business the confidence to use the emerging breakthroughs which will challenge conventional entrenched IT .....and their supporting analysts who fail to do real and deep research?
  1. Emiel Kelly
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5229
Sorry for taking a business view, but most of my customers want to be better (faster, cheaper,more compliant, higher quality) in what they do ( Things I call processes).

They never (maybe that's not 100% true) never ask fro BPM, ECM, whateverM.
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5230
Emiel -- No apologies necessary! Business is what BPM is "for". By the same token, business also uses accounting to help get "faster, cheaper, more compliant, higher quality etc. But you can't say 'I'm uninterested in debits and credits and cash flow etc. etc.". All business people must know some accounting. And then specialists are hired for accounting policy making (CFO and Treasury etc.) and bookkeepers (often now outsourced) for day-to-day working of accounting.

I hold that, as with accounting, that there is specific irreducible knowledge in BPM (both as technology and methodology). And that BPM technology can only be useful when that knowledge is used explicitly. Who does this and how much of that knowledge needs to be known and used in the executive suite is a question that is not yet answered. A BPM sociotechnical revolution awaits. Accounting took hundreds of years. Doesn't need to take that long for BPM and process.
  1. David Chassels
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5231
John a hot topic for me as I endeavour to get my professional accountancy body to understand that where information is created i.e. BPM arena is vital area to understand to give assurance on accounts.....
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5232
Thanks for your kind initial comment @David. And per your second one, there's a whole world to discover. And when it happens it will be quite amazing I think. I've seen research notes in the accounting field which seems to be both well-founded and even radical ("What's that? Accounting? Radical you say?") although I am certainly not in a position to assess.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
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The question deals with issue of how do we define ideas of "process" and "content". For me the most powerful quote on this issue is: "The map is not the territory". We can frame the question also like: what is the difference between "theory" (= something we imaging), and "practice" (=something we actually do). All good process description have somewhat both. There nothing more practical than good theory.

In daily language "process" can of course mean both depending on the context and situation. We might mean with the "process" actual "deeds"/"action" which by definition deals always with content such as data, real people and situation. Or we may mean with process the description of "input-activity-output", which may be content related or not... such as the name of data (<customer name> or " John Smith";) or role (<service person> or "Joanne";). There is no process without description.

Here is very challenging question: How much content we should take into our process descriptions? The issue is more challenging and complex than it can be described it this short writing. Just to give an example of the issue: All the processes in the world can be described based on Plan-Do-Check-Act (or similar)... almost no content at all, but very useful. If we take the actual people, action, behavior and data into our description all the processes are different. This is about the purpose of the process description. When we describe Business processes we want to understand the difference between marketing process and delivery process. Very content intensive and data sensitive detailed description would destroy our understanding. In the case of problem solving we might need a description of actual people, activities and data.

br. Kai
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@Kai, inside a model content is usually illustrative to highlight model potential on bright examples. Real content processing happens only during execution.
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5236
Even Plan-Do-Check-Action has content. It is a sequence of symbols each of which has semantic content. We are now into (if we ever left it) the world of language.
  1. more than a month ago
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Process is a certain sequence of actions aimed to achieve certain business goal. As such this schema has no immediate value. Value appears when a process runs within an intended business environment.

Process cannot operate in vacuum. To start and achieve its goals process requires a set of initial conditions, prerequisites and actors, which further interact in various ways to produce certain results of the process. These can be commonly referenced as business objects and tenants of the process.

In a wide sense, most business objects can be considered as a sort of content. Even in case when an object is not purely IT based but has specific physical representation, such as a building, vehicle or equipment, it still has a mirror projection in an IT system to denote it as a process content.

In this sense, practical execution of the process always involves relevant content management. Vice versa, any manipulation of content always goes on a certain process, either implied or explicitly enforced and supervised.
Comment
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5237
"Process cannot operate in vacuum" and "a tree makes no (practical) sound when falling in a forest, heard by no one".

Note "physical representation" and "mirror projection" and compare the the growing interest in the idea of "digital twin" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_twin). Google search on the phrase "digital twin" has an inflection point in November 2016.

Why does the question of content and process matter?

The post above captures the importance of this question in the phrase "practical execution". I say the implication is "take responsibility for your assets and how they can be represented and managed better through digital systems". If one does not consider work, process, representation and physical assets all part of a holistic business model value chain, then one is missing an opportunity. The sum is most definitely greater than the whole.

On one hand embarking on a programme to manage "holistically" is not easy. On the other hand, (1) the digital tools are better and better and (2) you will find that you are focusing on the business domain that you know -- and maybe even love -- much more than on disconnected tools that are hard to connect to domain.
@John, thank you. In fact, a process MUST always be a digital twin of physical assets and actions in an organization. With present trend for total digitization, it more important than ever to always see real objects behind digits. Otherwise, there is a danger of falling into digital process matrix, which exists outside reality. Alas, these abstract digital universes can be quite convincing even in business sense until the moment when content comes to scene and destroys false imaginary projections with facts.
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