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IT Directions

Keith Harrison-Broninski

Big Processes 3 - Overarching processes

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Following on from my post Big Processes 2, in this post I will discuss the first type of Big Process - Overarching.

Overarching processes help managers improve productivity.

It may sound as if this is a tautology.  What else do managers do except improve productivity?  In fact, this is the function of a specific form of management. HIM theory divides management into 3 separate "Levels of Control":

  1. Management Control, which is about improving productivity;
  2. Executive Control, which is about focusing resources on strategic goals;
  3. Strategic Control, which is about setting strategic goals.

Here I will look at a case study of using a HIMS for Management Control.

In a HIMS, work processes are thought of as "Plans".  A Plan divides work into "Stages", with different Stages having different purposes.  In each Stage, the people involved play Roles to provide deliverables.  You must be a member of a Stage to have access to deliverables of that Stage.  Messages sent as part of a Stage are automatically sent to all members of the Stage.

The work as a whole is overseen by a Plan owner, who adjusts the Plan throughout its life as the work progresses, starting, ending, adding, removing and changing Stages as necessary.  Others in the Plan have more limited options for changing it, restricted mainly to their own Role.

There is a lot more to a HIMS, which must implement the 5 principles of HIM, via the corresponding modeling framework (http://bit.ly/him-qrc).

However, the simple scheme outlined above - the most basic use of a HIMS, and often all that is exposed in a Web user interface - is enough to radically improve productivity.  A systems integrator who used HumanEdj as the focal point of a platform for newsroom content creation and distribution found that, from the very first user trials, productivity improved four-fold.

The platform used the HIMS to synchronize hand-off between the various different tools required.  Unless you know the media industry, this may sound like a typical BPMS application.  The real problems, however, are the numerous unpredictable exceptional cases that arise when video material or accompanying soundtracks are poorly matched, either to each other or to the supposed purpose of the content.  Not only are such cases very common, but they occur under intense, frenetic and highly pressurized conditions in which rework typically leads to wasted effort and repeated frustration.  The HIMS eliminates such stress - i.e., feeling out of control - by making the entirety of the Plan visible and transparent to all involved, and giving the Plan owner the means to make immediate changes that solve problems.

Note that each HIMS Plan calls a BPEL-based workflow system for the automated transcoding and routing of media content.  Any problems encountered during workflow processing are reported back to the appropriate member of the corresponding Plan, who then addresses the underlying cause(s) with minimum delay and with full knowledge of the context.

The key insight here is the separation of highly flexible work (content creation) from highly repetitive work (content transcoding and distribution).  Although both are tightly structured in process terms, and require integration between multiple software tools, their respective position on the Business Process Spectrum above means that the former is HIMS territory and the latter BPEL territory.  Trying to deal with unexpected rework in a BPMS process generates an unusable forest of loops, and structured messaging between more than 2 people is not possible at all.  Similarly, a BPMS provides Web service integration tools that cannot be matched by a HIMS.

Further, content is king, so the HIMS process calls down to the BPEL process, which responds with notifications as appropriate.  Recognizing the primacy of knowledge work leads to a clean and effective division of labor.

Most organizations that deploy HIMS software for Management Control look next at using the Goal-Oriented Organization Design (GOOD) method to extend HIMS into the domain of Strategic and Executive Control (http://bit.ly/good-method).

GOOD was developed originally for use in a major government programme, in which several hundreds of millions were spent to co-ordinate activities across multiple areas and organizations.  In future posts I will discuss the adaptation of GOOD to smaller scale work, and the application of HIMS technology to GOOD.

[HumanEdj is available free]


Management Control, which is about improving productivity;
Executive Control, which is about focusing resources on strategic goals;
Strategic Control, which is about setting strategic goals.

This sounds no different to what Balanced Scorecard does.


Balanced Scorecard operates at a single level only, whereas HIM "Levels of Control" provide a way of relating different tiers of the management hierarchy to one another.

More importantly, Balanced Scorecard is a reporting tool - a way of monitoring activity against expected outcomes - whereas HIM Levels of Control are an operational framework. You use them first to understand the relationship between the responsibilities of different managers, and then to set up "Plans" that relate to one another accordingly.

Balanced Scorecard can be a useful tool within a HIM framework, but I recommend instead using the GOOD methodology associated with HIM, which subsumes the Balanced Scorecard quadrants under more comprehensive process-based measures such as Business Motivation, Stakeholder Management, Benefits Realization, and so on.

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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