Trends in Business Process Management - Adaptive processes

Gartner uses a crystal ball to introduce a set of trends that companies and software vendors should look for. Some of them are often vapourware.

Anyway one of the latest trends is a pattern based strategies.

Some of the links available are these:
Some useful concept usage can be found bellow:
And where it all began:

The other one is the adaptive processes:
Some very interesting points about the subject here:
Adaptive processes. A deep look.

Today Gartner claims in the near future some processes will be unstructured, others need to be systematically modified or custom designed to meet customers needs, but I think this situation has always existed and has now been accelerated by the greater degree of transformation that is required. BPMS more than ever can help making it possible.

I had read in 2004 Michael Hammer's The agenda, and in an excellent article published in Harvard Business Review The Process Audit, companies must have the ability to involve stakeholders in process design, implementation and execution: the company itself, customers, partners, regulators, suppliers, whatever. This imply firms to move quickly making process alignment a reality. This goes far beyond to ensure information systems integration.

Nowadays some people argue the main reason companies must ensure processes adaptability is due external environment continual changes (market, regulation, politics...), especially after the latest financial crisis madness.

This argument is wrong. Despite the impact financial crisis revealed producing a lot of business changes and losses, there are other factors worth to look for.

External environment changes:
As noted above this is not the only reason. Yet it is clear that forces companies to adapt, especially those that assume a strategic position different from the ones that shape the market. Still shaping companies include external predictions when designing business process in a brown paper. Anyway process changes must be done, adapting future new conditions. Companies that introduce business processes modification after changes occur are reacting, not adapting. Pattern based strategies can be very useful to support strategic scenario planning.

Exception and error management:
A significant cause that implies process change is due to events/results not identified when the process was designed, even in those companies where a BPM culture is deeply established. The same applies to errors particularly when there are manually performed tasks, or due to poorly implemented system changes.

Unofficial process practices:
Companies that need to run processes in different locations, CRM processes for example like in utilities business, there is always the willing (if possible) to implement some workarounds. Some argue that this occurs due to poor performance monitoring. I personally think it's perfectly natural some bottom up bias. People like to freely implement improvement opportunities. The lack of formalization may be related to other aspects such as team dysfunction because they are not discussed inside the organization letting different process versions (lets call it that way) be loosely executed (some of them are better than the official).

Processes aren't intended to be truly stakeholder connected:
Salesforce took this perspective to the limit allowing it's customers design their own activities executed out of the platform and connect it back. This means that each customer that have it's own business rules and a proper way of doing things, can do whatever they want instead of swallow some kind of best practices imposed by the software supplier. This is the best living example of an adaptive process.

Like Salesforce example, the future of business process is pure end-to-end design. It's not enough to create something that satisfies stakeholder needs and expectations We are talking about letting stakeholders participate in process design and execution. It is no coincidence that Kaplan and Norton in their latest article published in HBR Managing Alliances with the Balanced Scorecard  claim under the strategic point of view "An alliance usually gets defined from the start by service level agreements about what each side will contribute, not by what each side hopes to gain. The agreements focus on operational metrics rather than on strategic objectives ". In fact I think the last frontier that BPM has to overcome is the link between strategy, design and implementation of business processes (but that is for another post). This means establishing service level agreements is not enough, permuting process data, throwing e-mails, saving data in shared databases is not enough.

What are adaptive processes anyway?

Creating pure end-to-end business processes or using a buzzword that was introduced by Don Tapscot in the book Digital Capital - making a " Business Web " a reality, can create truly adaptive processes. The concept of adaptability is not related to the ability to immediately modify business rules, to construct or change the process flow, or respond to threats.

A true adaptive process is first:

  • Ensuring complete alignment of all stakeholder's mutations. This requires a shared organizational structure and connections to make it happen.You can only achieve this if you have tightly stakeholder connections or if you have channels that allow you to detect and respond once in a time or sporadic stakeholder stimulation. Being adaptable is not the ability to easily modify the process, or create and run an ad hoc process. In my opinion this definition is an open door to process anarchy, or unofficial process practices. This is what is all about. Since the beginning BPMS have the capability to modify processes in real time and  put it on the air immediately (some processes with lot of IT integration will be more difficult). Keep in mind that changing after an event occurs is being reactive, not adaptable. Today Google Wave and other social tools integrated in BPMS Systems, can give you the ability to communicate and discuss in real time process versions with everyone. A very good example can be found is this SAP's video Introducing SAP Gravity, a Business Process Modeling Tool for Google Wave.
  • Everytime people bring hype concepts. When I heard for the first time the term adaptive processes I remember some work I've done before regarding predictive maintenance  approaches with utilities companies. This philosophy exists more than 20 years ago. Surprised? Being adaptable means the capability of being predictive. Yes.  After all what is being predictive? Is the talent of forecast change. Some are continuous, some of them are disruptive, specially when a company is shaping a market. This is tightly connected with strategy planning discipline.


Max J. Pucher disse…
AlbertoManuel, thanks but you are just referring to the process design phase. This is often referred to as Social BPM, like ARISalign. There are no stakeholders in a process oriented business. The stakeholder BECOMES the process owner. An adaptive system IS NOT predictive. It does not need to be predictive because the process is not rigid. The term ADAPTIVE means that the entity changes by its own inner means to better fit into a changing environment.

Adaptive process creates and ad-hoc process and then the users that work with it shape the process and that also creates a template. So the next time the process is no longer ad-hoc but starts from the template, while it still remains adaptive. There is no need to somehow manage stakeholder alignment. That happens by itself. Current BPM systems are unable to handle that and thus they try to improve the upfront process design by a social paradigm. That phase will pass too …
Ligurio disse…
Hello Max :
Thanks for sharing your ideas.
Some thought of my own.
If there are no Stakeholders in a process oriented business, how can a company design and run its process? When you say Stakeholder becomes the process owner (that is the swift paradigm companies need to embrace) it contradicts the no statakeholder involvement you defend.
It’s necessary to separate a system from the process. Predictive systems can be found for example in maintenance and accounting. Business processes must be predictive. Companies can only do that making tight linking to strategic planning, discussing future business scenarios, and reflecting that scenarios influencing the way processes are executed, actually changing it (taking a ride with and ad-hoc process seeing if it works until become official – this is the real thing), thus process become truly adaptive. If you don’t create business processes that are stakeholder centric, companies will create value to no one only for itself.
Anónimo disse…
I know this is just a detail, but Don Norman was at UCSD (University of California, San Diego) not USC.
Ligurio disse…
An update, because harvard business review post something in Linkedin's BP Group regarding when Process should be an art?

This is the full link

This is my reply (opinions change so quickly!)

I remember very well this article.

In this article it is argued that not all processes should be structured, as usual.

The article brings the need for some processes to be designed on an ad-hoc basis to meet specific customer needs.

At the time (lone year ago I think) it was a very interesting concept that opened new perspectives on how processes should be designed and implemented, deleting flows and documentation madness.

There is only big problem: the examples are based on a piano manufacturer, Steinway & Sons to which the authors provided consulting services and distorts the original idea, because they talk about construction a piano rather that the process necessary to do it. Also, I think the example provided is not very good because most business processes that need and ad-hoc approach are administrative type, not manufacturing type.

Nowadays the article, has written is obsolete. Ad-hoc business processes are much more than the article concept. Today the are tools available that make it possible to construct a one time business processes.

Just keep the analogy: construction a unique piano <> designing an ad-hoc business process , everything else just confuse the community. Today ad-hoc processes are much more than the article.

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