1. Peter Schooff
  2. Sherlock Holmes
  3. BPM Discussions
  4. Thursday, 24 April 2014
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Dynamic, flexible processes that can change with today's ever-changing business landscape are a necessity. So what is the key to dynamic processes?
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Great question. I think the key to dynamic processes are well-trained and thoughtful employees. A clear understanding of the expected outcome, an understanding of the context of their work in relation to that outcome, and focusing on achieving that outcome (versus just executing the process as it is designed) are what separate the high-performing process companies.

It is one of the downsides to automation. Automation can set the stage for employees to feel they don't have to think. They just execute the process steps they are given. That works well, until their is a shift in how the process needs to work.

I think that's my next blog title, "The Benefits of Un-Automation."
  1. Ron Webb
  2. 5 years ago
  3. #263
I should have known you would have covered this, Theo! I remember reading it, now.

I'm currently wrestling with another side of this coin. Someone that wants to automate processes because, at the end of the day, they want to see the measure (KPI). If they have the KPI, they can use that to drive behavior. But, with an automation approach, they are driving the behavior of reporting the KPI, not thinking about what it takes to improve the KPI.

I worry automation will absolve everyone in the process from having to think about how to achieve the outcome. But, they'll be really efficient at reporting the KPI (even if their performance against the KPI sucks).
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 1
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A dynamic, flexible organization to support them.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 2
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Dynamic processes are, for many large organisations, a stretch goal. The challenge of reaching this goal is twofold:

- They have a low level of process maturity. What this means is that they have not defined their processes and have their staff follow them consistently. Without this baseline dynamic or agile means chaos and inefficiency. Results are achieved by super human efforts of staff, despite the processes. But these results can never be repeated reliably and consistently across the organisation.

- The regulatory environment requires that adherence to process be auditable and therefore any changes to process to have a formal change cycle and sign-off.

That doesn't mean it is impossible. There are examples of very large food and pharma companies who live within a highly regulated environment being dynamic. But they started by getting the basics of process management mastered.

The market may demand "dynamic processes" but customers and regulators demand consistent processes.

The benefits of mastering "consistent and repeatable" are probably greater than rushing straight to dynamic ie chaos.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 3
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For me the key is support for user driven (rapid, inflight etc) rather than IT driven (slow) process change.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
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A: An organization that is open to the idea of failure.

When you change, not every change will work. When you do change, some changes will fail. Then fail fast, change again and get on to another attempted solution. Don't dwell on it, don't punish those who failed, just get past it. Great inventors and great discovers have failed more times than most of us have tried. Organizations that want to be dynamic need the same attitude.


If the organization is completely adverse to failure -- if every change has to be proven successful before you start -- then all attempts to change will be severely contained. This "culture against change" will stop all attempts at "dynamic process" before you run into any technical limitations.
  1. http://social-biz.org/2011/10/24/failure-is-essential-to-knowledge-work/
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 5
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Business rules. What!? I hear you cry, rules are the key to flexibility!? What heresy is this?

Not just any rules, of course. Named rules—rules that can be encapsulated and reused across forms, workflows, other business rules, etc. Imagine a rule called "Compliance Review Required". Such a rule may take into account dollar amounts, deadlines, type of work to be done, etc. The rule itself is managed by (an) individual(s) responsible for having that specific information; they don't need to necessarily understand every detail of every process that relies on the rule.

As a result, as business requirements change—say, total spending thresholds are lowered—one quick change to the rule and every process, every eform, every behavior depending on that rule changes as well. That normalization provides the leverage required to shift an entire enterprise with a single change.
Scott's opinions only. Logo provided for identification purposes only.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 6
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Our processes are very flexible….….in doing useless things

Are Flexibility and Adaptability the same?

BPM is about getting the right level of grip on processes. Some think that grip means ‘standardization’ or ‘force’ everyone into a predefined path.
If your processes have to deliver the same result for 20 years with no variations, this might sound ok, but that’s indeed hardly the case in any business these days.
So, ‘right level of grip’ can also mean flexibility and let executors in the process have more control on what should happen.
And that’s what this little story is about, because there are 2 levels of flexibility in processes that get mixed up sometimes, I think (some might use different terms for it):

-Flexibility in executing a process for one customer (called a process instance)
-The Adaption of a process to a changing environment (changing the process definition)

Still remember; Processes are about delivering results (about which you promise something)

I often use the metaphor of traveling because a trip has a lot in common with a process. Both have a destination. In a process that’s called a result (product, service or solved problem).
And that’s the thing to start with I think, because you always have to be aware a process is a means, not a goal. A process is a means to deliver a result. The result is what counts, the process is what brings you there.

Back to travel; assume I am in Berlin and my desired destination is Amsterdam.
So Amsterdam is my result, but to be able to design the process, I must also know what I promise about that result. That’s the goal.

That might be getting there fast, cheap, shortest route etc.
Based on this result with according goals, I can design the characteristics of my process (plan my travel).

Flexibility; being able to change during the execution of a process

Assume the trip form Berlin to Amsterdam can be made by train or by car. You can imagine both offer different flexibility to the traveler (the process executor).
If I designed a ‘train process’, the execution will be quite standardized and not really flexible. The train will bring me there fast, but if something happens (rocks on the rails) I am not able to take an alternative path because I, as executor, am not in charge of the process (the train driver is).
So when everything is predictable during executing such a process is OK.

In software, workflow systems can support these type of processes.

When more flexibility during execution is needed, using a car might be a better idea. Me, as executor, is in the lead. I can decide to take another road in case of a traffic jam. I can speed up if I like (taking the risk of not being compliant with laws anymore). Of course, in real life there will be boundaries , but it is more flexible to reach my result.

In software case management systems might be a better support for these kind of processes.

And is software really important in that? Maybe, but mostly are empowered, result aware, employees supported with good information management to base their actions on.

So flexibility is about the way to take alternative paths in a current process design (getting in Amsterdam fast).

Adaptability; being able to change your process

Above is all about flexibility in a current process design. But assume my processes were always designed to bring me to Amsterdam fast. But nowadays I want to get their cheap (it’s crisis…) . So, the environment changed. Can my processes adapt to that?

So adaptability is about being able to create new process designs. It’s not about the non-flexibility in execution a process, but about being able to design new processes.

If travel must be cheap now, but my processes keep on delivering ‘fast’ they will be running out of sync with my environment.
Back to my travel to Amsterdam. Assume I designed the current process by leasing a very fast (but quite expensive) Ferrarri for 20 years. I can get there fast in a flexible way.

But in these hard times it is better to get there cheap. But because of my process ‘stuck in the lease term’ I cannot adapt easily (for example by buying a fuel economic diesel car)

And that is what adaptability is about; getting rid of my old process and develop new process designs fast. Talking about software again; you can imagine that if your current process is ‘hidden’ in billions lines of code, how fast can you change your processes?

So standardization and flexibility are the ways you can manage a current processes.

Adaptability is about being able to change processes so they keep on fitting in their environment.

So even very flexible processes might deliver things nobody wants because they are not adapted.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
  1. Keith Swenson
  2. 5 years ago
  3. #264
These are good points. Have you considered submitting a position paper to the Adaptive Case Management Workshop which will be in Ulm in September. The deadline for submission is next week.


Full title is: AdaptiveCM 2014 – 3rd International Workshop on Adaptive Case Management and other non-workflow approaches to BPM
  1. Emiel Kelly
  2. 5 years ago
  3. #265

No I didn't consider submitting a paper. I just wrote down a story I use to help my customers to understand flexibility of processes.
But I like the the theme in your link, because I see too many organizations spending a lot of time on trying to improve efficiency in useless processes.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 7
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“Dynamic” as applied to process is a description which suggests a process can change as circumstances dictate. A “dynamic process” is therefore from plain English a process that changes itself as required? BUT it appears we are talking about the former where process applications must be capable of change by people? – another example of “FUD” for business people from vendor marketing departments?

Of course people processes must be capable of change recognising that the front line of business always changes. Unless your supporting software has that capability you are heading for disappointment, inefficiency and long term poor ROI? So do your research before you buy! Good advice from Naomi Bloom “I agree that http://infullbloom.us/602/lets-kill-off-rfps/ … applies to most major software evaluations. It's really important to "part the curtain."

So what should one be looking for as the “key” to such capability? Most importantly is to minimise need for code change or code generation in build of custom requirements. An “almost 100% zero code” environment will certainly help as will a BPMPlatform that can deliver all required supporting “technology capabilities”.
• Process engine – orchestrating as required to ensure all works to plan
• Rules engine - reflecting real world of complexity and compliance
• Calculation engine - automating system work
• State engine - real time feed back from any point
• Workflow / collaboration - everything connected in right order
• Audit trail, events, escalations - managed control and accountability
• Real time reporting - become predictive and support empowerment
• Roles and performers - people and machines identified
• Management hierarchy - see who does what and when reallocate work
• Orchestrating legacy - recognising valuable data in legacy
• User interface dynamically created dynamically populated with instance specific data - linking people, roles, task type and data via forms for specific instances recognising that user forms needs to be specific for that task in hand and with intelligent functionality should for engaging for users
• Process and task versioning control - recognising change is inevitable

All should be based on a single data structure that again will support future ready change by the business and as described in the recent forum have “agents” orchestrating these capabilities as required which can automate many routine tasks
“Dynamic processes” under my definition will become possible as greater understanding of how both the business works and how such supporting software works?
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 8
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To have processes dynamic, I think, that it is necessary to be able to offer (by a process-enacting engine) a coordination technique which is required in a particular situation.

Animals coordinate their behaviour based on instincts and, often, flocks of birds are capable to create amazing structures based on such tacit coordination technique. Fortunately for BPM (sorry Keith), people have no the same business instincts thus some external and, preferably, executable coordination is mandatory if people want to run a business.

Various coordination techniques (http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.com/2014/03/coordination-techniques-in-bpm.html) have been mentioned already and below there are different dimensions of coordination.
- Scope (biz. unit, enterprise, supply chain)
- Depth (e2e, clusters of process, individual, processes, process patterns, activities)
- Context (this process instance, process template, process governance) – thanks Emiel
- Participants’ relationship (dependent, interdependent, independent)

Depending on particular situation (which can be evaluated via the dimensions mentioned above) different coordination techniques should be used. Similar to changing the car speed via the gear-box.

  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
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I think the key to the dynamic processes is a good system of governance that systemically encourages and allows the changes required by the processes. Thus, the procedural variations can be managed with the assistance of the respective stakeholders to ensure alignment or strategic realignment. Thus, it is possible to offer flexibility and adaptability, avoiding ad-hoc operational changes, and ensure essential standards of processes in order to allow measurement and analysis improvements.
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