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I love it when things go right. Whether I’m trying to configure a new software program or make a rental car or hotel reservation, it’s great when the process runs smoothly and I don’t have problems.



But unfortunately, that’s not the way that things always go. More often than not, I find myself in the middle of a process, confronted with an expected situation— Either a step that I hadn’t anticipated, information that’s wrong, or some type of problem that I hadn’t accounted for.

Of course, I’m not the only one this happens to. These types (or, more appropriately, similar types) of process exceptions also occur across, and throughout, most organizations on a regular basis. In fact, as more and more organizations focus on automating their business processes and increasing their ability to manage them with ever-greater business process management capabilities and toolsets, the more important (and visible) the exceptions to those processes become.

When business processes are not automated, these types of process exceptions are almost taken for granted—they’re simply another step in the expected process. But as organizations automate and move to manage their processes more closely, process exceptions can become an important discerning point between an efficient automated solution and an inefficient automated solution.

To understand the difference, let’s look a little more closely at the issue.

Business exceptions are typically generated when transactions (such as a new order or insurance claim) cannot be completed by core processing systems or by a company’s standard business process flow. Exceptions can occur at any process point where transactions are rejected or set aside by a system and are not automatically moved on to the normal next process step. In addition, they frequently require special (usually offline) handling.

For example, consider a fairly basic scenario—the entry of a customer address for an impeding order. Let’s say the customer service representative enters the wrong zip code during the order entry process. As the order moves through the fulfillment process, the provisioning system recognizes that the zip code in the master customer record conflicts with the zip code that was entered during the order entry. In which case, the provisioning system typically would not be able to resolve this type of problem, and might generate an exception that needs to be handled either manually or by a different business process. In this case, the exception might be sent to a call center, where a customer service agent would call the customer, verify the appropriate zip code, update the order, and manually resubmit it. That’s typically a lot of extra, time-consuming, and potentially error-inducing steps.

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