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IT Directions

Keith Harrison-Broninski

Big Processes 1

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It is now over a year since the first large-scale Human Interaction Management System (HIMS) deployments started - the reference implementation of a HIMS, HumanEdj, came out of beta in early 2009.  Here are some HIMS case studies, along with discussion of what they tell us about the new landscape emerging for process management software.

Let's start with some general observations.

Real-world deployments have confirmed that the HIMS is not a replacement for other process management tools such as BPM systems or software for Case Management ("Adaptive" or otherwise).  Rather, it is complementary - more often than not, a combination of technologies is required.

Here is a diagram from the Human Interaction Management (HIM) Web site illustrating how the various types of process management software fit together:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for The Business Process Spectrum.gif
Processes are shown on a spectrum ranging from the most static and automated (many finance processes are like this - payroll is the classic example) to the most dynamic and human-driven (complex sales, project management, issue resolution, incident response, and so on).  Different software tools are required for different types of process.  For instance, invoices are often issued from an ERP system, and insurance quotes approved using a BPMS.  However, few organizations would use anything without the flexibility of a HIMS to handle an internal restructuring, just as few governments would use anything without the flexibility of a HIMS to resolve a dispute or fight a war.

Although this breakdown makes intuitive sense to most people ("horses for courses"), and corresponds to their own experience, there is still an architectural question - how to integrate a plethora of software products including not only those for process management shown above but also diverse supporting systems (content management, email servers, business rule engines, and so on) into an effective IT backbone for an enterprise.  Just saying "SOA" is not going to cut any mustard here.  Web service calls are a means to an end - but what is the end?

Stay tuned ...

[HumanEdj is available free]


Keith, I am really interested in the HIM stuff. I am just disappointed that no one wants to rock the boat and say that a solution replaces another, simply because it will cause jitters in the organisations that might employ them.

I think that Adaptive Case Management the way I see it - meaning not just checklists and tasklists - is very much the HIM that you speak about because it has the same requirement of becomes the 'umbrella collaboration layer' for a business that integrates and replaces as many silos as possible.

We ought to have a bit more guts and tell our customers the truth - meaning that these huge technologoy stacks are killing their ability to deliver IT proactively.

Don't get me wrong, I really like your work and approach. It is very much aligned with mine.

Hi Max

I wouldn't say that HIM and ACM "have the same requirement", and neither would the ACM pioneers who wrote the book. See http://bit.ly/acm-panel for a public discussion in which Keith Swenson and Dana Khoyi agree that ACM and BPMS tech are both part of a next generation stack at the top of which is a HIMS such as HumanEdj.

Re huge technology stacks killing proactive IT, I do agree that it often makes sense to dispense with some of your existing infrastructure - Paul Strassman, for example, makes a well-founded ROI argument for doing so. However, in a large-scale enterprise environment, it can be expensive and difficult just to trim the dead wood. Like ourselves, organizations acquire junk DNA ...

So my argument is essentially this. Put a HIMS on top of whatever you have now, and things will immediately get much simpler and cheaper. You may then find that you are in a position not only to leverage past investments that never really paid off (ECM and knowledge management are good examples) but also to make strategic investments in new tech such as ACM (since a HIMS provides both the interface and the incentive for non-technical people to use new tech).

All the best

Keith Harrison-Broninski cuts through the hype in his hands-on guide to where enterprise IT is really going

Keith Harrison-Broninski

Keith Harrison-Broninski is a researcher, writer, keynote speaker, software architect and consultant working at the forefront of the IT and business worlds.


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