James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Simplifying complex processes

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There are lots of good reasons for adopting business process management as an approach, and a Business Process Management System as a technology. The benefits that can be gained are real but they can be undermined by over complex process designs. If the process you end up designing is the BPMN or BPEL equivalent of spaghetti code, then your process won't be eligible and it won't be cost-effective. It's also unlikely to deliver a positive customer experience or to be easy to continuously improve. The benefits of BPM, in other words, are dependent on you developing processes that are reasonable, that are not over-complex.

In my experience working with clients, however, I find many over-complex processes are being designed. Often these processes are over-complex because the decisions within those processes are not being identified and separately modeled or managed. Instead, large numbers of process steps and branches are being used to manage gather the data a decision requires. More are used to manage some of the decision logic and/or cheat sheets or procedures are presented to users to guide them through the decision making.

Instead of mixing processes and decisions and applying a single approach (BPM) and a single tool (a BPMS), the clients I have been working with are separating them out. They find the decisions - the parts of the process that validate things, determine eligibility, calculate prices, select appropriate terms, assess risk - and design and manage these separately. They use a Business Rules Management System or a decision engine to manage these decisions. The combination of a separation of concerns and the use of a tool designed for managing decisions simplify both the process and decision. The resulting decisions and process collaborate, typically using SOA, to deliver the business result required.

When decisions are separated out like this, especially when they are also moved early in the process, a dramatic improvement in straight through processing and a matching reduction in process execution time/complexity is possible.

I recently gave a webinar on this topic and you can watch the recording - check out Simplifying over-complex processes.

1 Comment

I agree, we've implemented BPM and based on my experience it's a good way to manage enterprise end-to-end processes. BPM is a simplified and holistic approach indeed. I think the main driver for success is coordinated effort between all process areas and deep understanding of the methodology and involvement of top management. It requires organizational transformation and cultural embedding.

James Taylor blogs about decision-management technologies such as predictive analytics and business rules, discussing how they deliver agility, improve business processes and bring intelligent automation to SOA.

James Taylor

James Taylor blogs on decision management for ebizQ, and is an independent consultant on decision management, predictive analytics, business rules, and related topics.

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