1. Peter Schooff
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  4. Thursday, 21 March 2019
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As Bob Larrivee wrote in a recent discussion: "The simpler the process, the greater the customer experience. It should not be difficult to take action either as an internal customer, or an external customer. Simplicity is key." What do you think?
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If we define "simple" as "simple User Interface", then it is all important.

The essentials are

a) tasks need to post as they become current along process pathways
b) tasks need to post to all users with a particular "responsibility area" or "skill" tag match to the tags assigned to each task plan-side. If there are three users with a match, the task should go to all three. The 1st to "take" the task owns it and is expected to either complete it or pass it on to a subordinate or put the task back in the pending task pool
c) escalation protocols alert a supervisor if the task is unreasonably held up or a customer asks for escalation of a deliverable (sub-Case or Case level escalation). The super will call the owner or designate a named individual to complete an escalated task.
d) the UI needs to be clean & simple i.e. one-click retrieval of an instruction manual context-situation appropriate extract that new users can refer to (text, image, video) , layout of data display/ data collection fields at forms that fits the way users think/work about each task.
e) auto-carryforward of appropriate data from the Case or sub-Case (where sub-Cases exist) to tasks as they load.
f) rule-sets that test for missing mandatory data; boundaries, reasonableness of input, reasonableness of calculations with hold-up of a task until errors are fixed or a supervisory override has been effected.
g) no option to bypass'/skip posting of all data at the Case History, with auto-tagging of date/time and user signature - data, as it was, at the time it was collected, on the form versions that were in effect at the time. (i.e. all data is automatically posted to the Hx, with no facilities for making changes to the data once in the Hx other than strikethrough, with a pointer to the forward recording in the Hx that corrects a bad entry in the Hx).
h) in critical application areas (i.e. healthcare, being one example), 'break glass" protocols at tasks to prevent supervisor takeover or supervisor re-assignment when a user tries to put back an uncompleted tasks to the task pool without providing a reason.
i) easy three-tier scheduling at Cases and across Cases (auto-posting to today/now; user re-scheduling to a different time of day or different day; supervisor leveling and balancing of tasks within and across Cases).
j) overlay of task progress (done, current, pending) both for supervisors and for users who need to better understand the context of their actions at a task they own.

....... possibly more I have not thought of at this moment.
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
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Thank you so much for this reference, I am honored.

Yes, it is my belief that even the most complex processes, should be simple for for user interaction. If dealing with manual processes - still found in way too many organizations - map them, validate them, improve them, then automate them. Many processes have steps providing no value yet they are there because something happened in the past, a step as inserted and it then became the norm. A lot of times, exceptions become the rule when what should be done is identify the underlying cause of recurring exceptions, make corrections, and improve the process.

If dealing with automated processes, monitor them, refine them, and look for ways to further improve the automation. If a process is too cumbersome, user adoption will be weak at best. When user interaction is simplified, adoption will be greater. Example: I once had a client who insisted his company had to have a 21 step manual transaction process for client invoice processing. When we looked at what they were doing, why it was done that way, step values, and players, we found that this could be brought down to 5 steps and then we automated to a point where only exceptions needed processing. Additionally, we were able to provide 24/7 access to the customers, so they could review their invoices at any time online by extending portal capabilities as an additional project.

In my opinion, while automation and process improvement may be the focus, it is very important in the end that the user interaction be as simple as possible.
Bob Larrivee
President and Founder
Bob Larrivee Consultancy
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Simplification of processes is the essence of improvement. Usually, when we analyze As-Is based on the business objectives that we want to achieve (it can be the improvement of the customer experience or others), we see levels of complexity that do not add any value. In this way, its simplification is enforced, allowing significant gains, from cost reduction, increased efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and the consequent increase in sales, etc.
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Definitely, I agree with Bob Larrivee.

Many times organizations focus on "avoiding a problem" that could happen once in a thousand cases, rather than improving and making simpler the other 999 cases. This is also known as process bureaucracy. A process improvement approach (as a key part of the BPM discipline), should help. If you can measure how often this "problems" happens, you may define to consider them as exceptions and simplify the process for the normal case. This would be a very relevant process improvement.

As important as simplifying processes from the customer point of view, is to provide friendly user interfaces generating a great experience. Some BPM Suites have failed in providing such interfaces, and no matter how good are the processes behind, the user/customer feels that the experience is ugly.

Best regards,
CEO at Flokzu Cloud BPM Suite
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Business processes are complex and businesses can't hide from the complexities given the competitive markets, slicing/dicing of products to have customized offerings. The business anatomy is complex and the key to me is getting process into atomic 'simple' processes that can be molded into larger, orchestrated business model to execute the business. Atomic Process forming into processes aligns the business anatomy. At the human touchpoints, Process needs to be simple in a customer interaction or IN FACT, success hinges on hiding the process to the customer. Customer interactions should never feel process or have to navigate a business activity. The business has to lead and/or solve the customer need without any aggravation or friction. That is the driving factor and one of the key pillars of digital transformation. Not everybody is there yet but that is the desire of digital transformation(s) when focused on customer experience, interaction etc.....
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It depends on the purpose of the business process. If the purpose is to communicate the way of working to the internal staff, then it should be as simple as possible. The same applies for the process of customer interaction (or customer journey if you like that phrasing better).
If the purpose however is to document a business process for the sake of automating it, then you should never hide complexity, the correctness and completeness of the process is than more important than the simplicity, if you ask me.

I could not write it in any shorter form :-)
BPM is all about mindset first and toolset later....much later
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Outstanding question on the importance of keeping business processes simple! The answers are a fantastic resource for anyone driving process automation! And there are the two views -- "simplicity" (mostly) versus "complete and correct" (one vote, by @Casper). I'm for both sides, in the right circumstances.

What about economics? And Jobs-To-Be-Done? Specifically, what is cost of mental effort to the process user? For participating in the work as presented by BPM process automation artefacts? Whether internally for invoice processing or externally for customer experience, an automated process exists to help get work done. "Help" means the BPM artefacts make it easier to get work done.

But poor process governance can lead to "process bloat". Why exactly is process bloat bad? Process bloat is bad because it costs effort. Because a human has to think more. It's expensive.

We are not arguing for "simplicity for simplicity's sake" here (although invoking aesthetics or Occam's Razor in support of simplicity is not a bad idea). The simplest process to get the job done means "the least mental effort" to get the job done. And there are all kinds of strange ways that process software adds to mental effort (some of them have been alluded to above).

I suspect that @Bob's standard of "five steps" reflects a deep aspect of human thinking, i.e. the "number of things" that a typical person can keep in mind at once. It's likely that a long multi-step process ( hello "booking a software subscription deal!" ) creates it's own mental overhead independent of the actual work itself (in other words the mental effort to navigate a 10-step process is more than double the mental effort to navigate a 5-step process). UX principles of semantic chunking can applied to BPM to break up long processes. (We can add that the opposite of simplicity is complexity -- and complexity has its own intrinsic problems.)

A process user will very quickly perceive that they are being required to perform useless effort. A poorly designed process is almost a process whereby the process worker is being robbed -- because process people are typically held to account for results. And regardless -- most people want to do a good job anyway. But they don't like waste or being robbed. Making me walk through unnecessary steps -- because you didn't ruthless prune your process map -- wastes my time. I'm already working hard. Bad process will lead ultimately to cynicism and demoralization. A good process is efficient -- and contributes to esprit de corps too.
@John... Interesting. . .

My take on the question was that corporations do not roll out processes that are any more complex then necessary

For this reason I put the focus on ease of a team of actors running through the steps along a process.

Moving forward from the position of "whatever it is, has to be what it is", if we provide actors with local easy-to-access instructions, easy-to-fill-in data collection forms, rules that guide/assist, I don't see how more steps as opposed to less steps matters.

Methods like RALB take away most of any mental overhead because . . .

1) you don't, with in-line pre-processing, get to see a task unless/until it has all of the info/forms you need to perform that task.
2) post-processing ensures that you don't get to leave the task unless/until you have done all of what downstream actors at downstream steps will need.
3. If you perform / manage all of your work at an ACM/BPM workflow/workload platform, you have one and only one place to go to see what is done/pending/to-do across all of your Cases/Initiatives.

That said, one of my UX essentials (i.e. overlay of task progress (done, current, pending) both for supervisors and for users who need to better understand the context of their actions at a task they own lets an actor (or supervisor) back out to see the big picture.

Not quite there yet in my case at manual branching decision boxes (just anther process step), is a 2nd overlay generated from predictive analytics that would guide the actor re which sub-path to take out of the branching decision box.

Are we on the same page?
  1. John Morris
  2. 4 weeks ago
  3. #5991
@Walter -- I think you are suggesting that RALB in fact removes non-essential mental effort from the foreground. Which means that the actor doesn't have to maintain those symbols and relationships. But the hidden detail is available as needed. If this thumbnail is correct, then RALB is an excellent expression of business process technology according to good UX design.
@John -- Precisely.. . . very effective for tasking in various application situations/areas

a) checklist processing at homicide investigation crime sites where you can have 5-10 investigators roaming the site and where any errors/omissions can result in the case getting thrown out of court
b) tasking relating to MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul) of, say, Blackhawk helicopters, where each incoming unit needs custom fixes/updates.

RALB (Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing) is something I invented to reduce typing, but the method came from C.E.I.R.'s (RAMPS) - Resource Allocation and Multi-Project Scheduling, I am still in touch with Winston Riley III who was the resource at CEIR we used to talk to.
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WIth respect to Bob's premise:
In my opinion, while automation and process improvement may be the focus, it is very important in the end that the user interaction be as simple as possible.
...it would be hard to disagree. Of course, now we're just begging the even more fundamental question: What makes a user interface “simple”?

Designers of mobile UIs, I would imagine, face this challenge more than anybody. And the results have been decidedly mixed. For example, I've historically been a huge fan of Apple's designs. But today's iPhone interactions are modal, subtle, and often confusing: swiping from the bottom of the screen does one thing, swiping from an inch above that, another; double-clicks mean one thing when the phone is locked and another when it is not; the settings are a confusing jumble of partially-alphabetized options; etc.

Does anybody think Apple hasn't hired enough great UI/UX folks? I don't think that's the issue at all; rather, the UI/UX problem is simply very, very hard to solve, and most of us are terrible at it.
Scott's opinions only. Logo provided for identification purposes only.
I think Apple could use some UI/UX folks. Several Apple devices I have been asked to figure out have come close to falling on the wall.

Looks like Boeing could also use some UI/UX help, where, it seems, the 737 Max 8 MCAS "feature" gets engaged when you switch from auto to manual? Is that confusing or what?
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The simplest process is the process that doesn't exist. So stop your business, go to the beach and let others care about making their processes simpler.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
  1. John Morris
  2. 4 weeks ago
  3. #5998
Sounds like a koan. Or the mathematics of the null. By elimination, there's no work either. Maximum entropy. :)
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The simpler the better... but don't follow the advice of some BPM tool makers when promoting simplicity, that "80% is good enough" - i.e. that you should ignore the things that make processes complex. Our number one rule for defining processes, simple or complex is - they must reflect real life - otherwise the people involved in the real world activity have difficulty providing an accurate account of what they do. This is where BPMN doesn't help.

The thing that kills simplicity and automation are 'exceptions', the actions that are not catered for. They need to be eliminated or normalized - i.e. become part of the process. They are one of the main reason's BPMS automation didn't take off in the 00's. The epitaph for BPMS reads "Killed by the work-around."
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Keeping the process simple eases the overhead of maintenance & troubleshooting. Additionally it also sets foundation stone for reusability of the process across the application/LoBs/enterprise (example: maker-checker kind of approval process, exception handling process, log management process, authentication/authorization process etc.)

But, how simple is a simple process?
The quantified value or the metric for calculation depends on the type of application and the imperatives that guide the implementation from a functional view point (be it driven by the business analyst or the customer journey experts)

Designing a process is an art and should be developed not just from an immediate requirement fitment perspective rather with a far sight of reusability, scalability & maintainability

Can we consider every process as simple? May be not, though we definitely strive for the same. It is not a standard blueprint that can be replicated for every enterprise. There may be commonalities but the legend defining the term "simple" has to be tailored and contextualized for the application/enterprise.

If we take an analogy of the human body as an enterprise and the bones as the various processes. We have the combination of the smallest (ear bones) and the longest bone (thigh bone) which are created with a purpose & fitment (similar to the simple or complex processes we define in an enterprise landscape).

The smallest bones in the ear play an important role in the sense of hearing by transmitting sounds to the inner ear. Similarly the longest thigh bone helps in running & taking long strides. We definitely can't replace/switch them even in the wildest dreams. If we take a complex integrated bone set-up it can be the spine or vertebral column - a combination of 33 odd bones making our body sturdy & flexible. Same applies for an enterprise, we always have to make an informed decision based on classifying/building a process as a simple or complex (but flexible)

Lastly, "a smallest process in the application landscape may not be always eligible for being tagged as a simple process. Its the criteria's like ease of maintainability, scalability, adaptability, reusability and efficiency in terms of troubleshooting that sets it apart"
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Business Process are simple once analysed down to step by step the business logic and the required "rules" . With the right supporting software Processes remain simple and transparent and the discipline of BPM can ensure a good structure to the required thinking.

The most important component of any process is the UI and the challenge is to ensure this is delivered as simple and logical yet should be able to deliver complex user needs. An example would be say a customer wanting to buy a product which has multiple options. The options should be presented to allow separate decisions on each option and as it progresses options only offered based upon previous decisions and once complete the customers gets presented with his custom choice. This dynamic capability requires the UI to be embedded into the custom supporting back office system as required and of course once decisions made the next tasks in the process kick in. All designed to be simple yet engage the user for a satisfying experience which should always be the end result for well designed Processes.
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Worth pointing out that Keith has responded to many of the comments made at "Do Business Process Models Hold Companies Back?"

Some of these comments have relevance in the area of "keeping processes simple", so make sure you go back to read his comments.

Simplicity is super important in my work both at the operational level and even more so at the strategy level where we have to be able to host 50,000 data points at one sheet or canvas (medical kbase apps, infrastructure protection kbase apps, etc.)

See "3D Strategic Planning – What you need to know about it"
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
Hmm..Keith seems unwilling to respond to my views..I wonder why...maybe ignoring no code for over a decade might be embarrassing as head of research....reminds me of brief interaction with a coder at conference who after listening to what we had created departed acknowledging "sure but not in my lifetime"....
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Simpler for whom? For everyone who participates in a process? Your computer is simple to use because it was complex to produce.

Staff, services, customers, etc. are participants of a system of processes of an enterprise. BPM is good enough to make individual (even synthetic) processes for some of participants and optimise such processes differently. Let us make some customer-facing processes simple.

@Alexander - I like "BPM is good enough to make individual (even synthetic) processes for some of participants and optimise such processes differently".

BPM and ACM/BPM are ideal for "work" which is nothing more than taking one output as input and adding value to create a new output.

If the SOW at a task is clear, aside from occasional glances at the big picture whilst paying attention to "optimise such processes differently" you improve efficiency and effectiveness,

@Karl, yes, a good point about the big picture, highly-specialised tasks and optimisation.
Scott Francis
Blog Writer
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Ah this question and discussion are quite interesting.
First, if we’re talking about the process model - it should be as simple as it should be, and no simpler. If you try to oversimplify you’re not making an improvement to the process. Also: keep in mind that it is a model, and therefore by definition a simplified version of the reality.

If we’re talking about the customer or consumer, of course we want their experience of any of our processes to be as simple as possible... but if we’re talking about the perspective of our own firms or inside our own walls - we always have to guard against the possibility that we are simplifying our own work at the cost of increasing complexity or work for our customers or consumers... (that might be a good idea if the consumers/customers perceive value in the work they are doing - like sharing on social media networks, but it might be a bad idea if we’re talking about procuring a consumer product like a handbag or a phone)

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