IT Directions

Keith Harrison-Broninski

The new process modelling - more about Stages

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In this blog series, I am describing a new, object-oriented approach to process description, that dispels the "Coordination Fog" around workplace collaboration (see Peter Denning's columns of March and September 2011 in "Communications of the ACM").

Project management and workflow systems treat collaborative activity as sequences of tasks, which is unhelpful for understanding its purpose and structure, and systems for analyzing communications history provide no means to design, manage and improve collaboration.

By contrast, Human Interaction Management (HIM) draws on research in multiple disciplines to propose that successful human collaboration is based on 5 principles - effective teams, structured communication, use of knowledge, use of time, and collaborative planning - and the HIMS lets you describe a collaborative work process as a set of related objects.  Rather than focusing on the order in which activities are carried out, HIM planning, forecasting, monitoring, and improvement focus on objects of business interest such as goals and their resource usage.

One such object of business interest is the Stage, which represents a set of related goals.  in previous posts, I described Stages and some of their properties.  Here I will give a real-world example that illustrates how unhelpful it is to try and define real-world collaborative work by putting activities in a pre-defined order.

Let's consider a process for what in the jargon is called Complex Sales - i.e., not buying something from ebay, but rather the work by a product/service supplier to turn interest by an enterprise client into a realized sale.  A typical HumanEdj Plan for such work might include the following Stages:

  1. Record Lead - for example, update CRM with the details of a lead
  2. Qualify Lead - assess whether or not it is worth pursuing the lead
  3. Create Opportunity - obtain the client's requirements
  4. Develop Opportunity - devise a solution for the requirements
  5. Negotiate Proposal - work with the client to agree a way forward
  6. Prepare Provisional Delivery - while waiting confirmation, start putting in place arrangements for solution delivery
  7. Close Opportunity - act on confirmation or rejection of the proposal
Here are some key observations.

First, each Stage has different people involved (including in some cases, the client) - i.e., the Roles that take part in each Stage are different. Hence, grouping work by Stages not only makes it clear who you are working with, and why, but provides a way to group communications - in other words, messages sent within a Stage go to all and only the people playing Roles in that Stage.  No more need for complicated, wasteful CC and BCC lists.

Second, it is unlikely that the Stages wil be carried out neatly in order.  As anyone who has ever helped put together a sales bid knows, it will be sensible in some cases to jump about between Stages, return to "previous" Stages, omit certain activities, and so on.  This is the natural way of working in HumanEdj, but means jumping through artificial hoops in a workflow or project management system.

Third, Stages mean that it is possible to plan, forecast, monitor, and improve work using in HumanEdj via objects of business interest (such as goals and their resource usage) rather than misleading and superficial characteristics of a process (such as the order in which tasks are carried out).  This is a huge boon to managers.

There are many more advantages than this to the Stages mechanism.  However, for now that is probably enough.  In my next post, I will describe Roles in a HIMS, and how they are in fact nothing like swim lanes.

In the meantime, if you would like to try HumanEdj, visit http://rolemodellers.com/get_started to register for an account on the demo Web instance.

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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