Process Goals, Rules, Patterns and Templates

The line-up of Adam Deane’s BPM Quotes of the week is well aligned with my own subjects.

The first one is Jim Sinur of Gartner Group who wrote a blog post “Goal Driven Processes: The Future Target of BPM” in which he acknowledges the future importance of goal-oriented processes.  Jim distinguishes goals driven by outcomes, policies/rules or constraints. I think this is great, while I do not fully concur with his assessment of what can constitute a process goal. As this is only future for the established BPMS vendors his perspective is understandable.

Goal-oriented processes in BPM have been pioneered by Whitestein Technologies who use goals and subgoals with defined subprocesses as a great way to simplify and rationalize the definition of conditional execution by allowing multiple happy paths. As goal orientation is a BPM  design pattern, all goals, rules and constraints have to be defined before execution. It is still MUCH better than conditional execution of flowcharts with gateways.

A subprocess design pattern with or without goals focuses on HOW to do things. Allowing changes at runtime would create uncontrollable results. That is the understandable reason why BPM flowcharters see my proposal of adaptability as problematic. MY reason to use goals is to do process planning using WHY in terms of goals and leave the HOW to those who know – the participants. As an executive or manager I do not care about HOW as long as my goals are fulfilled. Goal-oriented process planning starts at the outcome.

While my approach can also plan forward by using constraints to select the best path from optional subgoals, my primary interested is to support decision-making and not replace it. Humans decide by pattern matching and related emotions but not with logic. Inferring rules is therefore nonsense and emotional computers haven’t been invented yet. But to distill some user decision knowledge from the process one can not just look at the process flows, but one must look at all patterns of data, content, structure and relationships that the human uses. Following the concepts of Gigerenzer’s ‘bounded rationality toolbox’ used by humans, I chose in 2005 a heuristic concept for un- and structured processes where the best path is determined by learning from business user decisions by means of pattern matching. Rather than automating/replacing user decisions with rule logic, I decided to see user’s applying knowledge as decision points and complex event triggers. Knowing which information to use for a decision and adding it to the process is ALSO knowledge.

One cannot add new information and thus value to a rigid process. ADAPTIVE is changing the process or any resources ad-hoc and learning from it directly by changing the template and/or decision patterns! This is done by the famous User-Trained Agent. Most ‘dynamic’ solutions allow runtime modification of the flow by adding steps or routing them to other participants. That is not adaptive.

The other widely discussed subject last week was design patterns. Goal-orientated processes with human decision points are templates for use by business people, because design patterns are for engineers. While a goal can be several things I see them as a perfect way to organize and reuse knowledge templates. A template does not have to be an end-to-end, drop-in process as has been suggested.

If the goal as outcome is defined as the completion of certain tasks then the goal is just a milestone or checklist. If the outcome is a certain measurable result then the goal is a rule defining a metric. But the outcome can also be a certain customer perception and one has to get his feedback into the process. If the goal’s tasks have to be performed in a certain sequence then it is a subprocess.

Goals are in principle rules, which means they need an embedded rule capability in the BPMS and not a separate BRE. But a rule alone makes not yet a goal-oriented process. If the goal is at the end of the playing field, it is the policies and rules that define it (boundary rules), just as the authority of players and the game rules. So policies and rules make a goal oriented process possible, but they aren’t goals.

You truly use goals if they remain the same while the subgoals, tasks, participants and resources can be added, changed, deleted during process execution. Process goals can and should be linked to operational targets and strategic objectives. There is no overall defined flow, because in reality most processes have to deal with complex business events and decision points.

But it was not just Jim Sinur who posted on goals. Last week Craig LeClair and Derek Miers of Forrester Research held a teleconference on Dynamic Case Management, in which they also presented process goals as a key element. They showed the connection between strategic objectives, operational targets and process goals in a very similar way to my recent presentations. Here is one where I show the real-time optimization loop with customer outcomes.

 

Goal-Oriented Processes linked to Strategy, Tactics and Outcomes

Another post on Adam’s list that aligns with this was Loraine Lawson and her interview with Sandra Kemsley on “BPM simplified for non-techies.” Loraine asked Sandra all the right questions.

Loraine concluded at the end: “So BPM is sort of like a traffic cop, but with really good memory.” Sandra – whose knowledge and expertize I have the utmost respect for – answered “Exactly!” I don’t agree with that answer, because BPMS is NOT a traffic cop, but a dumb traffic SEMAPHORE that doesn’t understand how much traffic there is, what time of day it is or what the weather conditions are. A traffic cop would deal with all that using his experience!

My focus in my research and software development is to create BPMS functionality that will actually empower the TRAFFIC COP with more business transparency to coordinate all the traffic lights in real-time and allow each driver to understand the current situation and chose his optimal route and goals. That is necessary because the cars aren’t robots but driven by humans who are free to decide.

Also here the subject of rules came up and I disagree with Sandra’s recommendation in the article to support BPMS with externalized business rules in a BRE. I know this a common analyst view so I don’t hold that against her. Rules make only sense DURING PROCESS execution and therefore keeping data, rules and processes is sync in different engines is a management nightmare.  Having to link various systems and hard-coded applications to such a BRE backend is neither practical nor realistic to manage. Rules must furthermore be written by business users in non-technical form and verified against the process and the master data in a central repository and not coded by experts into a BRE. Embedded rules are a must for goal-orientation!

Conclusion:

The purpose of BPMS technology is not to provide tools for the process and rule programmers, but to empower the business users to create and adapt their own processes. Not in the overly simplistic manner proposed by IBM Blueworks (ex Lombardi Blueprint) but user-adaptable templates that can contain all necessary resources in context with the process goals.

I propose a template approach for adaptive, goal-oriented processes that:

  1. can be created by business users by simple assembly;
  2. are organized in understandable goals and linked subgoals following business strategy;
  3. contain EVERYTHING that makes the process executable including backend data mapping;
  4. where goals and rules can be added by business users to a process at any time;
  5. can be modified where authorized and necessary at runtime;
  6. allow the user to react to unexpected events by adding tasks, performers or goals;
  7. support the user decision points that add value to the process;
  8. are guided and controlled by policies, rules and constraints;
  9. and finally, allow template modifications to be reusable by other business users.

The business user works in real-time at real business problems while the flowcharting engineer is in the dug-in trenches of process theory! I ask you, which is the better place to create a process? A business user has several times the creative and expressive power over an engineer fumbling with his large library of abstract design patterns disconnected from the business problem. The focus has to be on the performer or participant and what he can do. IBM calls them ‘contributors’ while the people who create the process are called authors. I don’t like that distinction while participants can have varying authorities based on needs. Processes are created for and by them and it must be a continuing, ongoing activity and not BPM projects with start and end-points and intermediate AGILE governance activities.

Processes have to be looked at from the viewpoint of the contributors/participants only. I am not just talking about the GUI experience and moving to mobile but about authority, goals and means – a.k.a. EMPOWERMENT! And that is surprisingly a large element in the message of Terry Schurter’s post: “Bringing the best of BPM to participants.”

Yes! We have to finally lose the ‘M’ in BPM.

14 Comments on “Process Goals, Rules, Patterns and Templates

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  2. Hi Max,

    In co-creation parlance the goal would be described as the ‘customer job-to-be-done’ to reach the ‘desired outcomes’.

    I’d add that the template system should also suggests resources (human and data) most likely to add value to attain the desired outcome of each of the task goals on the happy path to the goal. So basically it should assemble inputs when the business user decides on the template to use for the next step. And for the human components, rather than rely on fixed roles, it should combine this with expertise-finding logic that ferrets out the most appropriate persons that are available to reach the task goal.

    Templates still focus on the ‘what to do’, i think there is potential to add ‘most appropriate people skillsets and resources’ to them to add value on the path to reaching the desired outcomes.

    Cheers,
    Mark

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    • Hi Mark, I am in general agreement. Templates can be as basic or fully developed and flexible or rigid as desired. They can contain defined content and data, or placeholders or none. Roles are typically fixed, but an additional participant can be assigned a role temporarily. Otherwise the user has to assign each authority in detail.

      Templates in my diction focus on what do I want to achieve but not on exactly how. So clearly uaers can add any people or resources they see as necessary to achieve goals.

      Thanks, Max

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  3. Yes, agree – I’m just suggesting adding some kind of resource locator to pull the right data and people in based on the task at hand. ACM adds agility to the path towards the desired outcome, I’m just trying to think of ways to go beyond the traditional roles, and introduce agility in the way we gather resources to get the job done.

    Kind of like in a factory line – just because you’ve always tightened bolts on an engine in the past, it doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to mount the wheels.

    This can be a way to add innovation through exposing different points of view and experiences to the path that leads towards the goal. This also builds towards implicating the customer in the company’s processes to understand the customer job and partnering to reach the desired outcome.

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    • Thanks, Mark. We use a skills locator. But the person identified to have the right still has to be assigned some role as otherwise the system becomes insecure. Without role that user has NO authority to do anything.

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  4. Hi Max,

    “”BPM optimizes processes? The good news: Yes! But the bad news: this does not mean that it optimizes a business…””

    What do you think of this?

    While I have some comments to your ideas that as always shine in the cloud

    When your say
    A) (is)…”to great way to simplify and rationalize the definition of conditional execution”…. I agree fully!!. But if you want to find the best solution for the business – no only the suitable process- that is not enough. The best solution always requires an economic analytical model…
    B) …”MY reason to use goals is to do planning process using WHY in terms of goals and leave the HOW to those who know – the participants. As an executive or manager I do not care about HOW as long as my goals are fulfilled. Goal-oriented process planning starts at the outcome”…. If correct, your need to know how much resources for the “HOW” are available… it is in the sufficient amount for this?. I think that you seems not interested in… In other words: is a situation in which resources fall like manna from heaven. Or not?
    C) ..”Rather than automating/replacing user decisions with rule logic, I decided to see user’s applying knowledge as decision points and complex event triggers. Knowing which information to use for a decision and adding it to the process is ALSO knowledge”…; And… “ADAPTIVE is changing the process or any resources ad-hoc and learning from it directly by changing the template and/or decision patterns! This is done by the famous User-Trained Agent”…. I am as with it. But I say also there that in these cases is necessary to confront whether shall be more affordable or more expensive because you don’t have in mind needed resources in which modified or original processes.

    the above said also applies to your assertions of conduction processes based on the decentralization of implementation. For this reason, I want to make some clarifications which I hope can help.

    All targets are not independent, non-summable directly, do not necessarily have the same value or the same relative weight to achieve the greatest benefit of a business. However your Adaptive design assumes that, and BPMS also.
    That is why I am convinced that the kind of situations for which your solution plants is one relating to decisions of middle managers. Not to managerial decisions involving strategy and results oriented operations.

    For example the BPM and even more Adaptive would apply very well to Government purchases on the internet, processes, including employees process requirement, inventory manage, orders to the seller, payment, accounting, Treasury and control, even open to the public control.
    But this is the most important issue of the State purchases? While the administration of the purchasing process is important, there are other issues that are part of the problem of Government decisions. For example he must decide about (a) what amounts can make purchases? (b) at what time must make purchases? (c) does with that type of leverage? (d) to which suppliers? (e) in order to use that places?. The latter is part of a strategic decision jointed operational capacity at a time, and which should be reviewed depending on the context. Why keep criteria and purchasing processes based on rules when the value of the currency changes? When technology or the public need changed?. If the context changes and rules and pre existing rules-based processes ( all defined based on the past facts) are kept… is certain that the process will be the best way to bankruptcy. Furthermore, middle managers can calibrate the impact in its decisions to change the context to re adapt their processes?. Will be combinations of goals the same as before in the context switching?. This is what BPM and Adaptive may not take into account.

    Let’s look at us another example. Imagine the Lenovo case with factories in Canton (China), Michigan and Brazil. You are the Argentina seller manager of the NB and you are selling 10,000 units month at current prices (by process based on defined rules). These NB come from Brazil currently. Now happens Brazil currency are revalued 40% and the price you can sell grow an additional 25% but is if you bring the product from Michigan the price would be just 5% more height; also if you bring the product from Canton could lower the price by 10 %. If your low NB 10% price you can sell 15000 units month, Taking this into account, Argentina singly quoted the Canton-based product? How long time? What you think will make the producer based in Brazil? Because Brazil to manufacture NB must import parts and components of Shanghai with a very good leverage, and its domestic market is down. and…
    Max, Could you tell me as applying Adaptive to find the best solution to this case?.

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    • Hi Pedro, nice to hear from you. Thanks for the comment. I absolutely agree with you that the key is not the process but the related decisions. Some propose that even those decisions can be automated by using things like a rule engine. That is nonsense.

      BPM takes absolutely no goals into account. BPM focuses on controlling execution in the most rigid way. ACM is however goal-oriented and can select various goals while targeting the process outcome. It now depends on what is defined as outcome. BPM is for high-volume low value processes and the benefit can lie in their large number where a small improvement sums up to a good saving. But with ACM the focus is on low-volume, high-value processes that are performed by knowledge workers and decision makers. Therefore the goals are not just simple goals but can able be business objectives. That is the ‘Strategic ACM’ approach that I have been posting about.

      It does require an architectural framework for the business with well defined business objectives to do better. ACM is then the execution engine of those objectives. There is clearly one aspect in business decisions that would have to consider many parameters and find the best possible combination of options. This is where optimization arlgorithms can be of help. Nevertheless will the final decision be always a human intuitive one. ACM helps to make the decision context better understood and to execute under the face of uncertainty, allowing adaptive execution to steer the ship around the cliffs when the winds and currents change. A fixed course of worse, a fixed rudder setting will definitely cause disaster.

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  5. Pedro, thanks for your interesting and elaborate comment. You make a view very important observations. Using the same processes and rules in the light of changing conditions will lead to bancruptcy and the higher you go up in the management hierarchy the worse it gets. Automation of processes is possible for low-value, mass-produced processes, but not for high-value ones that involve managerial decisions.

    But I have to say that because ACM does not enforce a particular process, but just empowers the manager or executive to reuse and call process goals that worked well before, that problem of decisions being strategic does not apply to using adaptive processes. Clearly, the manager/executive could use some quantative-optimized decision-making in the course of the process handling.

    ACM could be extemely well used to suggest to the executive, which kind of optimizations to consider before making a decision. In difference to BPM there is no predefined path. Anything can happen at any time and any necessary course of action can be chosen, either from a previously defined/used library or a new one.

    Thanks again.

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  7. Hi Max, thanks a lot for the response. The decision based on “intuition” is just a way of saying that one knows what to do but does not care to explain why. And no serious person should worry in an explanation because the concept of intuition involves many dimensions of knowledge and of what one remembers objectively always is only part of the foundations of this intuitive decision. Or that the “intuition” meets – inter alia – an experience of life and decisions based on analysis and the exercise of trials and errors. If you do not use an analytical tool – as StratPro – this exercise will always be poor and the result also. Elementary cases exclude them of my thought. When I design a new model to solve a new problem that more use is intuition and to this I use a mental process of association with other experiences. Do not want to imagine how many times in the first steps of modelling can read previously where are failing strategies and processes. But it is StratPro who will tell me that this is the case or not. And will tell me quantitatively indicating that ranges in value and quantity will commit mistakes and successes. These results you can rely on as previously StratPro assessed the consistency of the model in terms of the processes of obtaining profits, capabilities and goals. Then the model provides a solution that as you say is only the starting point for an analysis to decide. The case that with the help of StratPro also you can know how you can improve the business if you change these goals or those processes or these capabilities or a mix of all of this… When you are done to analyze the information that gives you StratPro you’ll have to thank StratPro for the time that you saved to the map of your best alternatives and there applying your intuition close to the matter. For a while, of course, because if there is a minimal change in the business or the context is StratPro who will alert you if you change or not the previous decision.

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    • Pedro, thanks for the comment. Human decision making is pattern matching. With Pattern matching there is no why and thus it is not caring to explain, but being unable to explain. I tried to discuss why in this post: https://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/acm-and-bpm-a-battle-of-hemispheres/

      Any kind of logical analysis is based on a modeling and data assumption and that includes causal models that will at best be approximate. Pattern matching see things that causal logical structures cannot see, even if you optimize them, linear or otherwise. The alternatives dealt with in StratPro may be good but optimization does not produce additional alternatives, which pattern matching can.

      Once a business has set some intuitive direction that exposes some alternatives StratPro could be used to compare them and it will be again an intuitive decision as to how relevant the results of that analysis are.

      I see my role and that of ACM to support that intuitive process and to make the patterns needed for intuitive decisions more visible. The best decisions do not require analytical tools. They are crutches for a lack of intuition and yes, like all models they will be wrong, but some may still be useful.

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