The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Why do we have people in our processes or why won't workflow work?

In the past few months, I've talked to some groups about the use of information technology to optimize people out of day-to-day business processes and focus the people on turning the anomalies in those processes into opportunities.


I've met with few organizations that are willing to initiate projects today in this space, even though I can give specific examples of where teams within EDS have been using rules engines and pattern recognition like this for over a decade. In fact, it is essential to the efficient and effective operation in the services industry.


Many times the initial response is to roll their eyes and view this as some technology for the next decade, not this one. Techniques like Business Rules Management Systems (BRMS) and Business Process Management Suites (BPMS) are not perfect but they are useful.


With new multi-core devices coming out every month, the parallel processing capabilities are within the grasps of anyone.


It makes me wonder what will it take to push organizational leadership over the edge and begin to seriously look at these concerns.


Is it when their competitors publish their results? If that's the case, the opportunity costs will be very high.


Is it when their ERP system releases these capabilities as part of their product? I don't know about the ERP deployments you may work with, but few users want to be running on the new system the day/month and likely year it comes out.


What do you think it will take for these techniques to enter the mainstream?


As we move to adopt workflow techniques like Windows Workflow Foundation (here is a great set of articles about it) and other techniques, we'll need to turn our business analysis into consultants in order to make the shift. That in itself can be a tough hurtle for many IT delivery teams.

Anonymous | ‎10-13-2006 06:23 AM

The key to keeping people out of a process is often automating decisions within the process as it is making decisions that people are used for. Not only is business rules a great way to do this as you note, it also provides a platform for injecting analytic insight into the process. Many more decisions can be automated if one takes a decision management approach to focus on operational decisions and then combine business rules (for policies, regulations, rules of thumb) with predictive analytics (to operationalize insight from your data). Decisions that involve risk or opportunity cannot be automate effectively with just rules, you need analytics to model consequences and probabilities too.

There's lots more on this on my blog. Check out my business rules FAQ as well as various posts on using rules and process management together like this one or this one or this one

Anonymous | ‎10-15-2006 02:28 PM

Business is incredibly simple to model, as is accounting, and it is equally simple to outline a workflow or process in space or sequence. The real difficulty is to set all those things in both space and TIME. Sure an ERP package or a PLM package is ripe with date data points. But they are merely road signs to the people that have to interpret the realistic amd overly pessimistic timing them. Where is the software that embrasses the chaos of events. So far simple simiulations, totally disconnected with any enterprise package are all I've seen. Start with a transactional scheduling engine, (and please no disconnected data sets, webservices etc. that is a major leap backwards, when was the last time you were offline?) handling a small resource set and the other pieces will fall into place. It's trivial to place the process in space, it's monumental to place it in time. Throughput and making money depend on it, no one does it, no one!

Anonymous | ‎10-16-2006 09:42 AM

I think the point of 'turning business analysis into consultants' is a well made point.

Business Rules as a technology has not truly entered mainstream as it is seen primarily as a 'empower the business user' tool - which is really just a feature-not its value.

The value directly impacts the key performance indicators of an enterprise. - for avoided costs (and role in testing)

An example where the enterprise mistakenly saw 'IT maintenance' as the value:

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