- Guided document authoring, review and approval
- Coordinated contract creation, negotiation and execution
- Tracking of business events and issues through to resolution
Most structured business processes require tasks to be performed both before and after the working life of a particular document and across multiple constituencies. They run as the result of some trigger, using and abusing varying resources along the way until an eventual outcome is reached somewhere down the line. This is way out of the scope of the four walls of a collaborative workspace and BPM rises to the challenge.
The thing is that in the life of every business process there comes a time when you just need ad-hoc user interaction. BPM doesn't really do a good job of this, having neither the tools nor the inclination to let people run free and do their own thing for an extended period of time. Collaboration has both the tools and the inclination, but it doesn't have the social skills to achieve it.
New Account Opening as an exampleLets take the example of new account opening. The extended end to end process is highly summarized as the block arrows at the top of this diagram:
Collaborating in BPM The blocks below the main process show key interactions: data interchange with business partners and systems; exception handling; audits. The last two may be very unstructured.
For instance, the requirement to perform enhanced due diligence on certain high-risk customers requires extensive ad-hoc research and human knowledge to perform. Audits, well the randomness of them goes without saying, and in this scenario they may be performed on a sample of account applications that pass through the system.
As can be seen, there is a need for true collaboration capabilities at certain points (usually well defined) within a structured business process. The challenge is to get ad-hoc, introverted collaboration to play well with highly controlling, extroverted BPM (I'm sure someone could tell me the zodiac signs for this pair!).
Collaboration as a service Rather than treating collaboration as a pure user application we need to treat it as a service. This provides us an approach for BPM to orchestrate a complete process including points that interact with a collaborative environment. At specific steps in the process, BPM can now call out to the collaboration service, allowing the ad-hoc work to be completed before carrying on with its structured duties.
What next?I have seen plenty of use cases that could benefit from collaboration inside structured business processes. I haven't really seen a system that does it well, so if you have, let me know.
In the next post I will talk in a little more detail how I believe collaboration as a service could work to meet this requirement.