Received an invitation to attend “COCOA 2010: Workshop on Coordination, Collaboration and Ad-hoc Processes” which will be held on Dec 6th in Palo Alto by a another silicon valley group studying how to support unpredictable processes. I will post more information when I have it.
Some of the workshop organizers wrote this interesting paper titled “Business Conversation Manager: Facilitating People Interactions in Outsourcing Service Engagements” by Hamid R. Motahari-Nezhad, Sven Graupner, and Sharad Singhal of HP Labs. They describe how the work necessary to coordinate outsourced IT work (specifically following ITIL best practices) it not well suited for implementation in a traditional workflow or BPM system. The reason lies in the nature of the work processes:
The main characteristics of these processes include: they are
(i) non-structured, i.e., no strict or formal definition of the process exists,
(ii) non-deterministic, i.e., the execution order of the activities is not well specified, and the order may change in different engagements,
(iii) adaptive, i.e., the identified activities may be updated in engagements and at runtime, some may be skipped and new ones added. In general, there is no separation between definition and execution phases of the process,
(iv)templated or ad-hoc, i.e., there may exist templates for such processes that suggest an initial set of activities, however, such processes may be defined at runtime by the people in an ad-hoc fashion, and
(v) collaborative, i.e., both the definition as well as execution of the process may be performed in a collaborative manner between involved people.
Sound familiar? Another attempt to clarify the technology required to support unpredictable work. It is a good read, and my main purpose in linking it is to bridge between two communities that are obvious working on similar things.
They seem to be coming from a “project management” approach, citing the PMBOK. Tasks can have dependency relationships between their start and end points, much like the dependencies available on a GANTT chart.
All such systems need a way to assign a task to a person. The Business Conversation Manager allows multiple ways to associate people to tasks: “Responsible”, “Accountable”, “Consulted” or simply “Informed” about a task. I am wondering how this relates to “Reviewers” and “Approvers” which I have see required in other contexts.
Looking forward to the workshop on Dec 6th.