Adaptive process guidance: Andrew Smith explains

Editor's Note: In this Q & A, Peter Schooff speaks with Andrew Smith, a developer, enterprise architect and managing director of One Degree Consulting Ltd. Smith offers insights and tips about BPM, social BPM and adaptive process guidance (APG).

PS: In our first podcast, we discussed taking a holistic companywide approach to BPM [in general]. How do you think a holistic approach can help with social BPM?

AS: There are two areas when we talk about social. The first one is obviously the social communications between the business and the customers themselves. There are many ways we can communicate now, [such as] Twitter or Facebook. One of the big challenges for BPM is to capture all those interactions, no matter where they've come from. We've got to remember as well that that [information] will probably be sitting in our customer relation management [(CRM)] system, or it could be a part of a particular process that we're working on now, so we need to make sure that we have the whole conversation. Because social is very conversation-based, it's very easy to lose the context of particular conversations or any work that has to be [done] from those conversations.

By being a lot more holistic, and having a single platform that covers customer relationship management [and] that covers your business process management and the enterprise content, you actually have all those conversations stored and accessible from one place. As a customer agent picks up the phone to talk to particular customers, they can read those social interactions, be they from Facebook, Twitter or wherever, and actually make sense of them. That's a very important point to make with the customer experience-and that includes from a business process management point of view. As work moves along a particular business process stream, we're going to need to look at a particular part of a conversation, but we don't want to lose the whole context of it.

PS: And the second part of social that you mentioned?

AS: The second part is really talking about how social interactions at work impact the particular business process stream. My colleague could say, "When you pick out this particular piece of work, you need to add tasks X, Y and Z to it." BPM needs to be able to understand that now, as a user, I've got a real-time need to update the process or update my particular piece of work and include those new tasks in a new task definition.

You can take that further. Obviously social interactions happen when we come to actually design a particular process. It's good to actually capture those and store those somewhere in a holistic fashion so that when we look back and say, "Why does this thing happen in a particular process?" we understand the decision-making and the interactions that led to that particular design.

PS: Now for this term "adaptive process guidance:" Why do you think this is a better option for being a holistic approach to BPM?

AS: To feed into a holistic approach, we need the single silo, really. The problem I have with business process management as it stands, or [with BPM suites], is that I believe around only 20 to 25% of business processes really suit a good BPM- type system. That's because the processes are highly structured, they're medium-to-high volume throughput and they're relatively simple, yet highly repetitive. That leaves us with 75 to 80% of processes outside the scope of BPM. These are where we have good arguments for adaptive case management [(ACM)], that particular paradigm that's relatively new. But what about the solutions or the need or processes that fit in between BPM and ACM?

If we're having a holistic approach, we need to be able to deal with the structured processes, so that's the 20 to 25% that BPM really handles, the ACM processes and the gap in between. So the APG is providing business with the methodology and the actual platform in the long term to tackle both these types of processes-structured, unstructured and that gap between the two of them. APG already has been primarily about being adaptive, so that's adaptive every single sense, that's adaptive to the needs of the business so it's providing guidance to end users and empowering them. But it's actually been adaptive to whatever the need is of that end user and of the business.

So it could be the actually players in the process. It could be the process definitions, the actual task of work that needs to be carried out, the content that we're using, and even the ability to enforce strict business rules where we need to--without the highly repetitive processes, and actually removing them where we don't need them. Or it's actually having that flexibility to say, "Here, we need to be adaptive; here, we don't need to be adaptive; here, we need to be rigid; here we don't need to be rigid." I think APG, this concept of guiding the user through particular processes, fits that a lot better.

Because of that, I can see APG penetrating more business processes across the enterprise. If you've got one platform that penetrating more and more of your processes, then that feeds into that whole holistic approach and that means more of the processes across your business that are benefiting from…all the things associated with BPM and ACM, such as greater efficiency, savings, etc.

PS: Looking ahead, what do you see for APG in terms of its rolling out and acceptance?

AS: APG is a very new concept. At the moment, I'd say it's at the concept and ideology stage. One of the things we're working hard [on] is actually building that platform that delivers APG--not the concept, but APG the implementation. And then you knock down those silo walls and you include it with [enterprise content management (ECM)] and CRM--even better if they are adaptive ECM and adaptive CRM. So I think what we're seeing for APG is actually a move from more of an acceptance as a concept than an ideology. People are saying, "Yes, I can see how this makes sense and how it would help penetrate more business processes." And [we expect] a movement from that acceptance to: "Let's start building actual implementations that use the APG philosophy."

Some people will probably build those on top of BPM and ACM structures and say, "Your company's already invested in BPM; here, we'll provide you with an APG platform that sits on top of it,"...Or you'll see an emergence of platforms that are pure APG in their own right. So I think it's quite an exciting time-but it's the early days at the moment.

This Q & A was excerpted from a more in-depth ebizQ podcast. It has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at

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