The BPM industry discovers unstructured process

Takeaway: There are signs that some BPM vendors are looking at unstructured processes. That is a good thing. However, we have yet to see any software.

This is a quote from a Forrester “Wave” from earlier this year:

Furniture assembly line.[Forrester] found a clear recognition that older process automation approaches based on traditional mass production concepts no longer fit an era of people-driven processes. Moreover, as enterprises move toward an era where relatively fewer skilled resources must now tackle more varied work, jobs get smarter. Key drivers fueling this trend toward smart jobs include an increased need to manage the costs and risks associated with flexible – and even ad hoc – business processes, the need to drive the customer experience for service requests to higher levels, and new demands that regulators, auditors, and litigants place on businesses to respond to external regulations.

Here are signs of a minor revolution. Contained in this dense prose is an acknowledgment that BPM does not work for “people driven processes.”

I love the allusion to mass production. We got here because process management has its roots in the disciplines of the assembly line.

All BPM applications require predetermination of the pathway of the process. This is fine for high volume, low variation processes. These kinds of process are predictable enough to be able to, well, predict.

The only trouble is that these are not the high value add processes organizations hire expensive people to execute. The tools we still have to rely on are voicemail, email and office documents.

You could argue that the massive efforts over the last few decades to systematize workflow have been misdirected. We certainly don’t have anything like the investment into supporting unstructured processes that we do in structured.

But that may be changing. Good. Maybe we won’t have to sit through those interminable as process definition sessions.

When are we going to see these software applications? How exactly will they support unstructured process? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

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