Posted by: Adam Deane | 23/03/2011

Extreme BPM

Extreme BPMIt’s all a matter of balance.
Too much salt is bad for you. Too little salt is bad for you.

In our professional life, we are always pushed to excel in our field, to be the best in what we do.
Usually it’s is a good thing. Sometimes not.

The expectations of professional modellers, the guys and girls that model processes for a living, are sometimes too high.
There is no such thing as a perfect process. A business process is meant to change. As business changes, so will the process.
Trying to build a perfect process solution means leaving space for change.

I know that the ACM gurus will jump and say: Adaptive!!
Yes and No…

Processes need to be adaptive to change. The structured process should still be structured but flexible enough to change.
Error handling is part of the process. The ability to change the process without breaking it – is key.
The end-users should not have control over the flow, unless it is a requirement.

Process Modelling is a highly skilled profession. Some have been in the profession for years. Most are workaholics. All of them take their job very seriously.
It’s all a matter of balance. Embedding error handling in the flow does not make the process incomplete. It makes it better.

To err is human. To implement smart error handling – devine


  1. Adam, what is wrong with letting the business users change the processes as they see fit as long as they fulfil the goals set? If that is too hard to do then the BPMS is at fault and not so much the process modeller. Clearly, those hard working, epxerienced process modellers will say: “… and what about my job?”

    The same thing happened when the first Linotype machines replaced the typesetters, and it happened again when Linotypes where replaced by desktop publishing and it is happening once more with electronic media replacing print media. The world moves one regardless.

    BPM consultants, practitioners and designers need to face the reality of technology advancement. In ten years there won’t be anyone doing flowchart process design! The analysts are proposing very dynamic, socially unstructured work environments (work swarms?) which I think is a bit far fetched, but things are moving in this direction.

    Software will advance to the point of processes not being rigidly flowcharted with error handling and execption routines, but assembled from linked resource objects with the own state/event controls and socially connected people being authorized to perform actions on them. We already provide such software and struggle with human resistance to change. It is however human to use intelligence, experience and intuition and to not follow a process illusion is not an error! To err is to think the world runs in processes.

    You can be a seriously balancing workaholic and still be utterly wrong …

    • “what is wrong with letting the business users change the processes as they see fit as long as they fulfil the goals set?”.
      It’s a good question Max. I’ll answer it in next week’s postings (the topic will be ACM…)


  2. What prehistoric events have driven our human need to “manage” everything?

    One thing is certain, whatever event or causality was part of our evolution, the change from caveman to modern human was caused by genetic “errors “ that improved our ability to survive.
    “Errors” are part of nature and the very reason species will/can adapt to their environment.

    Also I am very certain that many great inventions were not done by ratio but rather by accident (error). Only after the accident we used ratio to find out what happened.

    In my opinion BPM is just an expression of our human habit to fight this natural disorder. I find no certainty BPM(S) will improve anything. BPM(S) might also cause more bureaucracy on an already bureaucratic society and therefore cause the “extinction” of a company.

    Since I am not so sure we have gone very far from caveman I could even argue that it is best not to manage at all, and leave people to do what they do best of all species…socialize! Let them create goals to achieve and let them make mistakes so that they can adept to their changing business environment.

    A great example of how that works is a 1500 people homecare company in Holland.
    No BPMS, No expensive IT, No managers just clear goals…the result, a very successful homecare company in Holland.

    For those who think that it does not work in production environments I would like to refer to the WWII scenario where in the US due to absence of “skilled men” the “unskilled women” group had to drive the war machine production plants.
    This is where the concept of Kaizen was born and where small groups of people socialize on how to smoothen the road to their goals. Later this concept was brought to Japan for post WW2 rebuilt and was finally referred to as Kaizen.

    To improve this “socializing” aspect of human species I indeed think that technology plays a huge role actually it might even be the catalyst. Modelling however does not need to be a part of this technology.
    Already I have seen great examples of small groups of people creating a paper based workable solution to improve their processes, during the process a form of extreme programming is used to built and maintain the software to support the ever changing process. Modelling would only slow change down.

  3. One the best linkages between ‘socialization’ into BPM I’ve read in a very long time … my general $0.02 is simply that it need not be an either/or, that social-slash-group dynamics and BPM modeling/execution need not be mutually exclusive. The trick is to accommodate ‘controlled flexibility,’ for lack of a better term, so the setup is neither stifling nor chaotic.

  4. Adam, I don’t know where I’m at on this post – depending on where this “error scenarios take us” – for instance to unstructured territories? I like the suggestion that one needs to build to accommodate exceptions – now that is different from “build for flexibility” which is where again the debate has started off I guess. But you know what, if someone has bought a BPMS solution already it is very difficult to convince oneself on the non-fitment of such solution for certain processes, and same with an ACM solution.

    It is really weird that majority of my response today on this could be easily summed up by the post that I wrote more than a year back! 🙂

    Few things have changed though. I might want to fine-tune some of what I said to allow for the more popular terminologies now for the same stuff, but I hope that’s not required.

    • Hey, and BTW, Max and Keith already added some meat to that discussion on my post – interesting how things cross-link!

      And Max, you may want to revisit it – just for fun, may be 😉

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