Untamed Processes at BPM Forum 2011

Craig Le Clair shared the stage this morning with Steven J Spear (author of the book “Chasing the Rabbit” and new book “The High-Velocity Edge“) to talk about complex business situations and how to support them.As you might already know, Craig has been the leading of the Case Management initiative at Forrester, having co-authored with Connie Moore the white paper “An Old Idea Catches New Fire” and then in Jan 2011 together with Derek Miers published the Case Management Wave.   Connie Moore introduced the session mentioning that they have been talking about “untamed” processes that are unpredictable and dynamic, along with investigating how to achieve high velocity organizations.  Makes me wonder if these terms are purposefully aimed to coordinate with the latest WfMC book:  Taming the Unpredictable which was launched at the event.  There are a lot of parallels.

At this Forrester BPM Forum, there has been a lot of discussion about customer experience.  Don’t confuse this with technical user experience (UX).  Customer experience really about how your business is leveraging social media and mobile to interact with customers in both directions.  Connie says that customer experience is the other side of the business process coin.

Craig got my attention with this decidedly bold statement:

Process approaches of the past are increasingly irrelevant and a barrier to innovation.

He is talking about how traditional pre-determined business processes make companies fixed and inflexible.  He told a story about how a bank requires him to provide his own information multiple times, but a pizza shop recognized his call, knew his order history and preferences.  It is this kind of personalization that all businesses are going to need to adopt, and there is no reason why a bank shouldn’t.  The challenge is offering this personalization at scale.

A case management approach is needed to allow font line workers (and maybe even customers) to be in control of their processes.  This does not mean that packaged applications go away: Packaged applications are a structured part of the process.  The case environment allows users to bring these existing fixed applications together at run time.  He sees consumer (networking) technology as the thing driving a need for these more flexible processes.

Some claim that we have lost a decade. In the past ten years, 75% of IT spend is consumed by maintenance and upgrades. IT departments are trying to meet the business needs by customizing a layer on top. For SAP implementations there is typically a 10 to 1 services to license ratio. Enterprises are stuck in cement, unable to rapidly change.  This gap can be closed by using not only processes that “control” but also processes that “engage”.

One key is going to be a what he calls a “federated deployment model” where apps from the cloud are linked cooperatively with apps that stay on-premises — I think some call this a hybrid cloud model.  Companies have to move away from managing and maintaining their own IT infrastructure, and the cloud is the answer, but it won’t all happen at once.

He sees processes in the year 2020 as escaping the current situation, and moving to being more customer controlled and centered with mobile platforms as the primary point of entry, using a mix of internal and cloud processes, and with customer based metrics aligned to strategic objectives. Personality is going to critical with processes going forward because the kids of today are used to having personality part of everything and will expect it in their business systems in the future.  He closed with this quote from Steve Jobs:

Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it is worth it because once you get there you can move mountains.

This was a perfect introduction for Steven Spear who came on stage to talk about the remarkable complexity of the iPhone, while at the same time how remarkably easy it is to use.  The complexity is hidden.  Complexity is a blessing and a curse.  He compared a 1964 Ford Mustang to the contemporary version, which looks similar on the outside, but are completely different vehicles on the inside, in both form and functionality.

There are serious dangers with the complexity of our world today, and the deep interrelations between highly specialized people.  Told a story about an elderly patient getting radiation therapy and having a “sunburn” appear.  What actually happened is that several specialists were involved, each doing their job perfectly when considered separately, but nobody could foresee that the complex interrelations between the jobs that caused this problem for the patient.

One consequence is that an organization needs to be wired to respond more quickly to any hint of a problem.  I guess this fits in with his new book: the High Velocity Edge which was handed out at the session.  I really liked Chasing the Rabbit because it really talks about how the traditional approaches (i.e. Scientific Management) are not sufficient to deal with complexity of modern organization.  Quite frankly, I got a lot of material for Mastering the Unpredictable from it.  And so I will have to read this new book and report on that.

Someone from the audience asked: How do we get people to think systemically? He responded that this is a problem: people are not trained to think about system. We teach transactional stuff instead. You have to walk people through all the complexity in order to see it. He said that it took walking the hospital management through the entire process, through the oncology department, the radiologist, and others in order to get a feeling for all the complex, subtle connections.

Overall, it is good to see the discussion at Forrester’s BPM Forum evolving from the automation and mass production of processes for routine tasks, to the facilitation (and enabling) of case management work, for complex, unpredictable tasks.

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4 Responses to Untamed Processes at BPM Forum 2011

  1. Keith, I unfortunately could not take part in this conference as I attended two the BPE and Gartner Collaboration conferences in London. Derek Miers spoke and moderated at BPE and said many of the same things that we already covered in ‘Mastering the Unpredictable’. We certainly started a broad movement in 2009. You and me have been pushing this for so much longer and earlier as one can easily see from the direction we gave to the product lines we are responsible for. Yes, it is good to see markets and analysts finally evolving to this viewpoint.

    I am ok with people jumping the bandwagon once it gets rolling, but I dislike it when they start to pretend that it was them who invented this whole thing. I have been ridiculed by BPM proponents for so long for the things I said and now they are all adding it to their marketing materials. Analysts are predicting now that BPM products ‘will get dynamic features’ when those have been in our products for many years.

    Let me just point out again here that I am not yet satisfied with dealing with the unpredictable. Just adding ‘adaptive’ facilites to processes is not enough. One cannot manage processes dynamically as long as the planning happening with flowcharts. This is where they are all still dropping the ball even when they talk about ‘barriers to innovation’. How does one break through the barrier?

    I had a briefing in London with VP Tom Austin, who is a Gartner Fellow since 1997. We demoed to him our solution of case management being goal-oriented processes and it is linked to a Business Architecture to be manageable. He said that I sounded like a McKinsey consultant and not someone who sells case management! I reminded him of his work around the ‘high-performance workplace,’ which sort of described a knowledge worker support environment. He said that this is called now ‘people-centered computing’ which was also the title of his session later that day. So it is all moving into this direction, but like social enablement, people-centered computing needs to focus on the business goals as otherwise we don’t stand a chance to improve things. But I am sure at some time someone will pick this up and claim it is their approach … 😉

  2. Hello Keith:

    I would resume the state of the nation like this:

    1. People who are inside monolithic context does not recognize that ACM is useful, thus they discharge it and discourage it’s adoption because everything is highly coupled and structured.

    2. On the other hand, people that live in the unstructured world see “classical” BPM as something inadequate because it was not thought do handle execution on a non linear fashion.

    3. But, people that are in between need to live with both realities and are the first to recognize that such things like Center of Excellence are unable to catch up the speed of light for some new products and services that must be live and die quickly.

    The paradox change will occur depending of the type of industry sector and the change in business context.

  3. Pingback: Forrester Forum | Collaborative Planning & Social Business

  4. Dave Duggal says:

    It was nice seeing you in Boston.

    I had a good one-on-one with Craig. It was a pleasure to dive into the weeds with him on open interoperability and real-time context-driven integration. Ditto for conversations with Derek Miers who has been on the Case Management frontier since the 199Os and Clay Richardson who is exploring the axis of data, analytics and process, “Big Process”.

    Forrester weaved Dynamic Case Management into most of the sessions I attended, on the BPM Forum side as well as the App Dev Forum sessions.

    We designed our Framework from the ground up around the notions of mass customization (personalization) and adaptability, so I was glad to see the attention they were given. Importantly, Dynamic Case Management was presented matter-of-factly, not as some fringe movement, but a mainstream requirement for business.

    Hopefully this will translate to more folks picking up “Taming the Unpredictable”!

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