Processes and EIM

The world of processes and information is a world closely linked. The reason to manage your information is that it has value in the processes of your organization. If this is not the case why bother? Let’s look at the sorts of information that have value in the world of processes.

Describing the process is the first step. This can be done in either simple Word document or in a structured way like BPMN. The biggest challenge is to ensure that descriptions are as close to reallity as possible. There is a trade-off between ease of use and integration capabilities between using a corporate Word template (being far more easy and flexible) and using BPMN (because implementing a process from a technical point of view becomes far more easy).

Input and output of a process can be pieces of information. A client filling out a request form for an insurance is an input to a process. A newspaper is an output of a process. It is imperative that these pieces of information are tightly managed to ensure quality and stay inside the magic, six sigma objective of  3.4 DPMO (defects per million opportunities).

Exhaust information that enables analysis of process performance. Each time a process is executed, it generates information. This information is used in a business intelligence (BI) and/or business analytics environment to diagnose the flow of processes and enables improvement.

During a process actors communicate with each other about the product and process. This communication adds value and should be stored for future benefit. The information that is generated during communicating, like emails or IM discussions, is important because it shows how value is added in a process.

The four barriers for information productivity of course all apply to all four types of information in BPM. Let’s focus on process descriptions. If descriptions are not available to the people working on the process how can they execute the process as designed? If the workers are not able to retrieve the descriptions when they are available the same problem applies. If the descriptions are not relevant they are not adding value for the people working on the process. If the people that are working on the process cannot interpret the descriptions they will make the wrong decisions even if they have read the description. The consequence is that the highest levels of business performance are only possible if all barriers of information are removed.

What’s BPM? And what is new about it?

These two questions are often raised at our clients, even sometimes my own colleagues wonder about this. (imagine how this is on the board level of companies). I will this by using the explanation (and model) of Johan Nelis, one of the two authors of the highly valued book ‘Business Process Management: Practical Guidelines to Successful Implementations’ , who visited our company and shared his insights last month. (see also for a good summary BPtrends)

BPM combines two different expertise field, namely Business Process Improvement (BPI) and management of business processes. In short BPI focuses on designing and implementing new business processes. This field has been around for many years and has increased highly in professionalism. Unfortunately the effect of a great process design has it’s limits. For example we all know many examples where new processes were designed, but even if these were implemented (which is often not the case), were not improved during the years to come.

This is where the management of business processes fits in. One of the aspects is of this is creating an organization which continuously improves it’s processes. This is where the term governance is an essential (with roles such as process owners/stewards and process administrators), but also changing the attitudes of people towards process thinking. And of course the management of business processes also focus on measuring and acting on process information.

So BPM combines management of business processes and BPI to increase and embed the impact of the process on the performance of the organisation.

BPM and knowledge workers

In our practice and research one of the areas we focus on, is Business Process Management (BPM) in knowledge intensive organization. We think that there are different approaches for BPM needed for tackling the complex issues of increasing the productivity of knowledge workers, than the ‘normal’ BPM approach.

One of the challenges for improving the work of knowledge workers, is that the high level of flexibility and freedom needed in their work. In some cases every customer request is handled and approached differently every time, but in most cases the case is different, but the basic steps are the same. So one way of using BPM in knowledge intensive environments is defining processes on a high level. Within each part the process the knowledge worker is free to approach the case as he/she wants. We used this approach successfully at the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Here we defined policy making in process of 4 steps. This helped the organization to standardize the work of policy making throughout the organization and manage the process more efficiently. But we think that there is more to be gained, because in this example inefficient and ineffective ways of approaching the work within one of the basic steps is not handled.

A second approach we use is defining the interaction between the primary process between different departments and other processes. In some cases these interactions are widely spread within and outside the organization. In this we don’t only look within the primary process, but also to the links with supporting processes. Currently we are using this approach at the Dutch Province of South Holland, were we define the most important links to the many internal and external actors. This creates an overview of the most important actors of which knowledge worker is depended. In this case we can help the knowledge worker, with creating an overview but also making agreements with the other actors. For example on the quality delivered and time period. Also here we think there is more to be gained, because sometimes the actors to be involved differ on the case. Especially as the complexity of the cases increases, different expertises (often from different departments) are needed. So here the social networks of a knowledge workers becomes a very important influencing factor.

In this log I will discuss the topic of increasing the productivity of the knowledge worker from a BPM perspective, and share our experiences and progress in research on this field.