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Tweetjam on Adaptive Case Management last week

July 21st, 2010 1 comment

I hope those of you in the Twitterverse who are interested in knowledge work and adaptive case management had a chance to participate in the tweetjam on ACM with the authors of “Mastering the Unpredictable”  If you did, outstanding!  If not, you should be able to find a couple of related blog posts about the content, and you can always search Twitter for the hashtag #acmjam (here).

All in all, I think it was a successful step in education around the benefits of ACM, however, I agree with Jacob Ukelson that it was a touch more “tech” than “business” at times (you can read his thoughts here).  Still, the response overall was quite positive and I for one was excited by the passion and enthusiasm most of the participants showed.

Some of my favorite tweets were:

ronaldrotteveel: @maxjpucher I think it’s mainly out of fear. ACM requires you to give your workforce more or even total empowerment. #acmjam
piewords: The fluidity in the working of a case must be captured & categorized to be leveraged as a resource for future cases. #acmjam
piewords: If you approach solving ACM from a #BPM angle, you will fail. Start in the middle with person working the Case, then move outward. #acmjam
passion4process: Companies will likely have a continuum of processes that span structured and unstructured #acmjam
mishodikov: You can model anything. Is the model accurate is a different story…RT @ActionBase: @appian If you can model it, it isn’t an ad-hoc #acmjam
frankkraft: In ACM the knowledge workers themselves standardize, if they agree upon. #acmjam
cmooreforrester: the chaos is often the highest value work we do; but try to standardize as u learn over time RT @tomshepherd: So embrace the chaos? #acmjam

I draw a couple of conclusions from these.  First, and this is pretty critical, is that there is an acknowledgment  that knowledge work, and in fact many of the core business problems companies face, is generally non-repeatable and unpredictable (good thing since the book was title “Mastering the Unpredictable”).

Second is that Adaptive Case Management needs to enable the end-user to adapt, to deal with work as it happens, and to generally exercise their judgement and apply their expertise.  This isn’t shocking to me, I hear it all the time from customers.  The point is that there is a groundswell of interest in the topic of ACM, not because of the vast benefits of the widget of the day, but because there exists a set of problems that either aren’t predictable enough to use existing solutions for, or are too complex and therefore impractical to try and “model” with any success.

I’ll wrap it up with another good tweet from Clay Richardson of Forrester:
passion4process: My take: ACM is credible and extends capabilities of BPM approach, but clear methodology needs to be defined to make it work #acmjam

Totally agree, and that’s the focus of my presentation on “Adapting to Case Management”, found here.
Categories: BPM, Case Management

Predictability, Practicality and Passion

April 20th, 2010 No comments

The past couple weeks have been all about three P’s; Predictability, Practicality, and Passion.

    Predictability

You might have heard that the new Adaptive Case Management (ACM) book, “Mastering the Unpredictable,” was launched last week. One of the primary tenets of ACM is that knowledge work is unpredictable. This has generated a surprising amount of discussion and, in many cases, disagreement. Keith Swenson asked recently for every blog to have a glossary, which is a fantastic idea and one that I’ll get around to in the future. For now though, let me clarify what I’m saying when I use the term unpredictable.

Here’s what Reference.com defines predict:

–verb (used with object)
1. to declare or tell in advance; prophesy; foretell: to predict the weather; to predict the fall of a civilization.

–verb (used without object)
2. to foretell the future; make a prediction.

And using that, here’s how Reference.com defines unpredictable.

-adjective
1. not predictable; not to be foreseen or foretold: an unpredictable occurrence.
–noun
2. something that is unpredictable: the unpredictables of life.

Doesn’t that second one violate the whole rule about not using a word to define itself? In any case, the root word, predict, is what I’m focusing on here, and the first definition is the most important. The reality of many business processes is that you simply cannot predict with a high degree of certainty the order of events. Yes, you can approximate the order of the “happy path”, the path most often taken, in some scenarios. And yes, you can likely come to some distilled version of the process through a lot of compromise. But in the end, many of the problems that knowledge workers face need to be flexible enough that trying to predefine them via a process map is an exercise in futility. I say this not because I don’t believe in structured processes, but because I believe in the right tool for the right task, and structured processes are often too rigid. I’m sure this concept will get some folks up in arms, which is fine because it leads into our next P.

    Passion

What’s been fascinating about watching discussions around the nature of knowledge work is the degree of passion and conviction people display. I referenced a prime example of this between Keith Swenson, one of the co-authors of the ACM book, and JJ Dubray here during my talk last week at Process.gov. I’ll admit that I lost the plot a bit during some of the more theoretical / academic aspects of the conversation. With that said, what I took away from the conversation was two things. First, the fundamental disagreement was around whether it was possible to model the entire universe as a series of states and transitions, effectively predefining and predicting everything (more on this one in a moment). And second was that peoples’ beliefs around approach and theory are deeply rooted and contradictory opinions can evoke very strong responses. Hence, Passion.

Passion is good, because a strong conviction and excitement can be contagious and can help spread knowledge. The most articulate people I know aren’t simply good communicators because they speak and present well, but also because they are passionate about the topics on which the speak. This is one of the reasons I am active in the ACM community, because I feel strongly that applying ACM can make a substantial impact on how companies do business and how people get their jobs done more effectively.

Where passion goes wrong is when belief in a singular concept or approach drives people to close their eyes to alternatives. I say this not thinking about process improvement alone, but also about life in general. I’m reminded of a favorite book that I read a few years back, “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. It’s not really about passion per se, but rather about change in general. There’s a preview of the video for the book here that’s worth a quick watch if you haven’t read the book (or even if you have).

My point is that as ACM evolves, peoples’ world views will change. Folks that have invested significant time and energy into things like BPMN and various process modeling tools may not immediately gravitate towards ACM because at some level it requires a shift in approach. We won’t all agree all the time, but my hope is that over time, these discussions will help people see the value that an ACM approach can offer. Which brings me to the final P for today, Practicality.

    Practicality

I’ll be posting a screencast of my presentation from Process.gov in a couple of days, but one of the themes I focused on was practicality. Through all of the discussion of predictability and structured / unstructured, there is one theme that I see that I think is most important. It’s simply not practical to predefine every possible choice or event for complex business problems. Sure, you probably could get to a fully predefined, rules-driven process map, but at what cost? My preference is to structure and control what can be, but provide capabilities to deal with the variability of business instead of spending months of time and excessive amounts of money to implement a “perfect” system that will, in all likelihood, soon be out of date. More on this concept in my slidecast, which I’ll post later this week or early next.

So, with that, thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? Suggestions or experiences?

Categories: BPM, Case Management

It feels like I’m driving a Toyota

March 31st, 2010 2 comments

It feels like the Case Management / BPM world has the accelerator stuck in the “go” position. Now before you jump on me for my poor taste in jokes, let me say that I’m a happy owner of two Toyotas, so I say this in jest. Truth be told, life is getting busier and busier, and it’s a struggle to keep up at times.

First, I’m really excited to announce that the launch of “Mastering the Unpredictable”, a book on Adaptive Case Management that I contributed to, will be at the Process.Gov event in Reston, VA on April 14th. I’ll be attending the event so if you’re there, stop by and say hello.

Second, if you haven’t heard, I was interviewed by Theo Priestly of BPM Redux. We cover a range of topics from the convergence of BPM and CRM to the future of BPM and Case Management. You can read the post here. Thanks to Theo for that, he’s a great resource for all things process-related and someone I highly suggest you look in on (@ProcessTheory on Twitter).

Finally, lot’s of discussions going on about the definition and future of case management. Take a look at blogs from Keith Swenson of Fujitsu, Andrew Smith of One Degree, and Max Pucher of ISIS-Papyrus. My reading list just keeps getting longer!

Categories: BPM, Case Management

Is Case Management the same as BPM?

September 16th, 2009 No comments

Good thought provoking article on the distinction between Case Management and BPM here. I don’t entirely agree with the conclusion (see the comments there to understand why) but it’s good to see more and more CM discussions happening.

Categories: BPM, Case Management

Has Business Productivity Hit a Wall?

July 31st, 2009 No comments

Interesting article by David Mitchell on Business Productivity at CIO Today. David leads with some good statistics on worker productivity and costs, and moves into a comparison of the BPM industry with the Discrete Manufacturing industry in the 1950’s.

One of my favorite bits is as follows:

That’s why I believe that business process improvement today has hit a wall. When it comes to process management initiatives, organizations today over-respect the importance of process automation –- how work moves through an organization -– and under-respect the contributions of workers –- how work gets done.

The BPM industry has spent the better part of the last several years making better and better “modeling” tools, but how many people does that really help as a percentage of the total user population? I’d argue pretty low, so the overall productivity gains are limited.

In any case, good article, one worth checking out.

Categories: BPM