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The benefits of business process management (BPM) can be remarkable. However, capturing the inherent complexities and dynamic nature of business processes is often a tremendous struggle. Work processes tend to evolve iteratively in response to various situations. Often struggles ensue when IT and business managers convene to apply BPM technology to these changing workflows. Business users feel penned in by seemingly rigid workflows, while IT managers are faced with supporting endless workflow “exceptions”.

To initiate BPM projects, organizations typically start out with detailed process maps that visually capture the flow of activities or business rules that cause different paths to be followed. While these maps initially prove valuable for promoting understanding of internal activities, they quickly lose value as the complexity of tasks increases. What’s more, new rules and issues often crop up before the initial processes are ever deployed. Thus, process maps are never actually complete because change is always occurring.

To avoid these challenges, many companies are adopting a new adaptive discovery approach, which allows automated processes to be deployed, without requiring complete process maps and definitions. Adaptive discovery compresses the scope of up-front discovery efforts. The BPM team still includes business and IT representatives who define tangible aspects of a process. Business teams are also aligned with process experts. Business managers provide detailed knowledge of the process, business environment, and the impact of the flows and rules they are creating while process experts define the flow, rules, and recipients of work on the fly as needed. These individuals are responsible for ensuring that the process can change and adapt quickly to support unique business needs.

This approach involves understanding the following components:

Roles The definitions of user responsibilities that enable work to be assigned in a flexible dynamic manner.
Rules Logical expressions that define either the routing of work or the execution of specific activities within the process
Steps The discrete tasks that are performed in some sequence to execute the process
Forms The user interface that people use to complete their work activity on a process
Integration The system connections from within a process where work is performed in existing applications on behalf of a process (The growing trend is for process integration activities to be performed using Web Services or other similar software components)
Data Model The core set of data that is used in the process.


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