Posted by: Adam Deane | 22/09/2010

BPMS: Nitty-Gritty Questions

Nitty-Gritty QuestionsOne of my roles that I particularly enjoy, is running technical sessions with new partners/new customers.

It’s an interesting challenge. Although I’ve heard most of the questions before, I get thrown a curveball from time-to-time (which forces me to stay alert).

I’ve added below some of the topics that I get asked about. Things that don’t usually get highlighted in RFIs and POCs. Mostly around process execution.
They are not deal-breaker features , nor cutting edge technology features.
They are just issues that most companies need to use in their day-to-day work.
If you’ve got them – excellent. If you don’t – you might think of adding them..

Ad-hoc Delegation
I’m not talking about delegation for an employee that is going on a planned vacation and sets the dates in a calendar.
I’m talking about an employee that called in sick without previous notice.
The tasks cannot wait in the employee’s task-list until they return.
The employee’s manager wants to move tasks from the employee to others.
How hard is it for him/her? Can they move quickly tick some of the messages that need delegating and forwarding them? Or not..

Enterprise policy requires that if the task is not done in 2 hours, the employee gets a polite reminder.
If the task is still not done 2 hours later, the employee’s manager gets an escalation alert.
If the task is still not done 2 hours later, the task is delegated to another person in the group/department.
Now add additional complexity like: each of the tasks in the process has different policy requirements (sometimes 2 hours, sometimes 3 days).
You’ve got a process with 20 steps. What does the workflow look like after adding the escalations? Cluttered? 120 steps? or does an external policy mechanism control the escalations.

Does it audit everything in runtime (timestamps, who approved and when)
Does it audit everything in design time (changes to the process)
Can the duedate be calculated without weekends and holidays, working hours..

Impact Analysis
Design time: a employee has left the company, or a role has been made redundant.
Can you find all the places in all of the different processes that is affected by this change.
Runtime: An employee has been promoted, or has been given an additional role.
How will the new change affect the amount of tasks they have?

Each employee has a different company cost rate (due to different salaries).
Does the simulation take it into consideration? Does the simulation provide financial analysis or just time calculation?

How hard is it to connect to an external database?
How hard is it to connect to an external web-service? Wizards? Code? What technical skills are required?
If the external web service crashes, can you catch the exception?
Can you run transactions? Can you automatically retry? Can you bypass the step?
Are errors audited?
If an external server has been down for a few hours, can you retry all the stuck processes in a batch or only manually one-by-one?

Silk, Silk, Silk
What do cows drink?
– Ok, that’s not a BPM question. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention…

Can attachments be sent out with system email alerts.
Can the system set up Outlook calendar appointments?
Can they be automatically deleted when the task has been completed?
How does the system react to an “out-of-office” message?

How long does it take to install three environments (dev, test and live)?
Can it work on the latest version of windows/linux?
Does it support load balancing? DRP?
What are the system limitations?
Does it require users to download anything to their desktop?
Does it require internet access?

Process Initiation
Can I start a process from:
an incoming email, from a file dropped in a folder, from a database event, from a scheduled event (end-of-month..), from a web service, from a WCF webservice, from user initiating manually…

Can it make coffee ??

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