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How can collaboration best help BPM?

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As Tim Walters from Forrester says in this recent podcast we recorded (here's the transcript), "There's no inherent value in having more collaboration just for the sake of having more collaboration. Why do you want more and better collaboration? How is business value going to be created?" So how can collaboration best help BPM?

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  • Why do you want more and better collaboration?

    How about more open knowledge sharing for starters. Less reliance on so called 'Subject Matter Experts' who's sole responsibility is to make themselves appear indispensable by withholding information.

    How is business value going to be created? Internal or external value, either or both ?

    If an organisation collaborates internally more effectively then the speed and execution of reacting to a change in business conditions will be improved, if not more proactive in preventing the extreme effects in the first place.

    Translate that to BPM ? It becomes adaptive, fluid, dynamic.

    I agree with the first point, for the sake of it there is little value, but if the means of collaboration is understood then the benefits are far reaching.

  • Collaboration is key to success in any BPM effort. To ensure the new solution meets the needs of those directly involved in the workflow, they must be engaged throughout the discovery and definition process. With the great WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get)development tools that are available, it’s easy and more cost effective to quickly build prototypes and get feedback from your stakeholders during the design process. Collaboration not only ensures the new solution meets the stakeholders’ requirements, it also increases acceptance and adoption.

  • Collaboration is the cornerstone to good BPM and the polar opposite of collaboration is an expert system managed and used only by the experts (all too often the case).

    This is what makes social technologies so interesting in the BPM space...collaboration has been around for a long time, but the ability to contribute to and follow conversations around how work gets done raises the stakes considerably. The impact this can have on the speed of change and flexibility around business process can't be ignored.

    Collaboration without governance, however, is chaos. There has to be a nucleus of common understanding and accountability for the collaboration to occur in an efficient manner.

    Great question!

  • Every day I meet with customers and it continues to fascinate me that we are still burdened with siloed thinking in how we organize our businesses. Of course there are historic reasons for this, as well as geographical and political ones and let's not forget plain old self-interested ones. What invariably suffers from siloed thinking and siloed execution is collaboration.

    BPM delivers the enforcement of collaboration across silo boundaries. As we implement the policies, procedures and practices of the business through BPM we are breaking down the departmental boundaries and shining a light on the information. Team members are required to complete all their steps, add all their content and sign their name to the fact they are sending this task on to their counterpart. Anonymous submission of some form, or the faceless rubber stamping of some document or the passive approval on some silent conference call all now become replaced with affirmative engagement in the process.

    When you have to put your name on it, and you know it can be tracked back to you, you do your job to the best of your ability and hand off fully completed work to your peer. Isn't that what we really mean when we say collaboration: everyone fully doing their part for the collective good?

  • Why do you want more and better collaboration?

    If processes are executed on a truly end-to-end basis it's critical to assure effective collaboration. Does not matter if the nature of such collaboration is knowledge or is robotic, I would prefer call it interactions.

    But the next frontier to collaboration is integrated ontology.

    Systems still do not have intelligent capabilities to interpret information exchanged.

    Continue to be mere information repositories in relational databases, and do not allow people to get the artifacts they need.

    There are two domains ontology can accelerate collaboration:

    >> Interpretation: Time lost to interpret the artifacts;

    >> Research: Time lost searching for information and their intra-relationships.

    Hence, ontology enables employees to obtain content in a structured and facilitated manner to execute work.

  • Isn't the question the wrong way around? Shouldn't it be "how can BPM best help collaboration?"

    In this way process provides a focal point for collaborative efforts.

  • To break the points down:

    "There's no inherent value in having more collaboration just for the sake of having more collaboration."

    I completely agree that more collaboration just to emphasise the buzz word does not add value

    "Why do you want more and better collaboration?"

    You only want more and/or better collaboration if there is leakage or weaknesses in the full lifecycle process that cannot be addresses in the organisations current state. Managers of the process should be regularly reviewing to adapt as the business evolves and BPA will highlight this.

    "How is business value going to be created?"

    Business value is created by focussing skillsets for collaboration on their respective tasks. In the insurance world if surveying time is taken up with simple queries that could be dealt with by handlers then less time is available for scheduling/estimating, and therefore turnover and profit margins are affected. It's the same reason why account managers are required, or business analysts. They may not directly create profit for the company but indirectly these skill sets add significant value given the right exposure to parts of the process that emphasise their abilities.

    "So how can collaboration best help BPM?"
    BPM does not function without collaboration. It is one of the core organs of BPM. The challenge is understanding how to break BPM down into relevant modules to allow the correct people to operate in the most effective way. Achieve this and the message to the board is that you are maximising profits using BPM.

    • Kev, I agree with most of your comments up to the notion of breaking down BPM into relevant modules. That implies that there's some authority that regulates this break down. In the new era of social, organizations are increasingly flat and BPM initiatives have to still be able to achieve results in this context. Having the right people work on the right thing at the right time without the need for someone to oversee and manage all of this is the real challenge. Or is it the opportunity...

  • Hi Mihnea, thanks for bringing this up but it doesn't always imply an authoritarian breakdown. The only difference in true social is that everyone agrees and breaks down the relevant modules so then everyone collaboratively reviews and analyses. This is very rarely the case as a business grows and becomes a varied hybrid of the social/hierarchical models to enable the flat approach while providing necessary reviews to directors/accountants/clients/stakeholders etc

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