Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If its not Structured Chaos, it doesn't need BPM!?

I received an interesting thought from someone who questioned my post on my preferred patterns for implementing business processes. In my post I discussed why I felt that a business process automation or management solution that arrived at effectively a Straight Line of activities was great result, and why I felt that highly complex models were Structured Chaos. The question implied that in wishing to arrive at a nice straight line (or effectively a manual straight through process), potentially I was trying to oversimplify the process. This is certainly a valid consideration.

To me, this type of virtual straight line is a thing of beauty. It represents refinement of the process and removal of waste (a la Six-Sigma). It more importantly represents the real world of business processes that involve people.

To me, the complex business process that attempts to model every possible variable and combination of interaction between people and systems working together is incorrectly trying to force fit a process on top of a system that requires collaboration. If you must use BPM for some of the advantages it offers, model the collaboration through a Single Step or Star.

I'm sure that over time, some of my beautiful straight line processes will become complex, through the addition of plug in requirements, new rules and careful extension. In reality, I also acknowledge this as the success of the original process. It was flexible enough to enable this, to be extensible, without being initially restrictive or brittle and dangerous to touch from the outset.

So I thank the person who chose to give me this thought the opportunity to talk a little more about my design philosophy for processes. I hope to continue with my 'simplistic' approach to business processes, which can be put into production (without any infrastructure at the start of the project) in under 12 weeks, with minimized risk of failure.

In my dim, distant past I was part of the Structure Chaos implementation team, and 9 months in, as now, I never want to go there again. Give me the go-ahead to use an agile, iterative, release early and often approach to BPM, with a nice flexible straight line process, and I'll give you a solution that works on time and to budget, and you can build on in the future.

A post from the Improving It blog


James Taylor said...

One of the ways to avoid complexity in processes is not to confuse decision making with process. Separating out decision making can make processes smarter, simpler and more agile. Separate decisions to get processes that look more like your ideal
My blog on decision management

Phil Ayres said...

James, your observation makes a lot of sense. The combination of rules/decision management with process management should allow both toolsets to be used in the most appropriate way. Still it is hard to avoid having every rule option leading to another path in the process. This needs some careful design.

As ever, I'm enjoying your blog