I had an interesting discussion on January 20 with Jacob Ukelson, CTO of ActionBase, which--according to its PR material--says it provides "human process management" software as specifically opposed to business process management (BPM) software.
I'll blog about ActionBase, and its plans to expand into Europe and North America from its home base in Israel at some other time. But my first question to Jacob was, "So why do you want to talk to me? I'm a BPM guy."
ActionBase uses the term human process vs. business process because its reason for being is to help manage activities he and I ended up calling "unstructured processes." I understood what he was doing better that way because I could align it with my understanding that there is much more unstructured data floating around the information technology (IT) world than structured (e.g., relational data base) data.
Which lead to a light bulb over the cartoon character (me): Are there ten times as many unstructured processes in the world as structured processes just as there is ten times as much unstructured data as structured data? That's per research by Sue Feldman at IDC, which I am pretty sure she has made public. If so, what an IT/enterprise need and what a software supplier opportunity.
Turns out that I am late to the party I guess. McKinsey has been calling them tacit processes or interactions for some time. It and others theorize about tasks in which there is very little consistency of flow and that tend to get done using email, documents, and even--heaven forbid--meetings. They're careful to call them tasks and not processes. They are the purview of the knowledge worker, not everyone.
That's where the theory starts to lose me because BPM is about helping all workers including knowledge workers. As I said, thinking in terms of unstructured processes helped me understand the ActionBase concept better but I am not convinced that managing less structured processes is something different than BPM or something BPM is not good at. It turns out John Seeley Brown called them "loosely coupled business processes" five years ago. Others tell me he writes about the equivalent of human processes too in his voluminous work but I couldn't find a citation. What do you think?
And even if you think that what ActionBase is doing is BPM, I'm sure they'll still be glad to help you.