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Earlier this month we had the privilege of participating in a webinar by TIBCO regarding it’s views on how to manage processes in a high innovation context of demanding customers.
Its BPM tool – TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM –  can help customers and enterprises come together to use and provide services to fulfill their expectations, it has been cited by Forrester as a Strong Performer regarding Dynamic Case Management and the evolution of both ActiveMatrix BPM and also TIBCO’s experts have been tremendous in the past years, reacting to the new realities and enterprises’ needs.
Forrester Dynamic Case Management 2016
 
TIBCO BPM’s Senior Technical Leader Manuel Rodriguez walked us through a highly up to date and relevant presentation about the evolution of BPM tools and best practices. But perhaps more importantly, the duality between structured and unstructured processes and its evolution in recent years was also discussed. Today’s enterprises and customers needs are turning further and further to a more complex and unstructured approach in modelling the services provided and customer experience is getting more and more personal.
Let’s take a look then at the main types of processes in a BPM ecosystem. The need for a new type of process is not new. Back in 2011 BPTrends.com, contributor and BPM technology expert, already outlined [1] the needs and strengths of both types of approaches.
 
A structured process is a traditional approach to modelling a business process. It defines the characteristics; the actors and the outcomes in a given point in time and space, making it easier to handle, reason about and communicate. This does not mean it cannot evolve, of course; there can be several versions of a process at any given time.
BPM Structured Process

A classic example is the insurance taking process. A customer initially fills forms with personal information that then has to be digitized and validated, either automatically and cross checked by a worker or validated manually and then fulfilling the request. This process is not expected (in the near future at least) to have many changes.

On the other hand, an unstructured or dynamic process is somewhat of an antithetical approach; not modelling the whole process beforehand; leaving room for highly skilled workers and customers to take part on the customer’s journey through the enterprises services. In itself, there is no single representation of a Case Management process [2], only the right orchestration of the following:

  1. Flexible and event aware business processes
  2. Actions and states providing the leverage for case management
  3. Visual context and dashboards
  4. Ad hoc activities

Case Management Example
An up to date example of this paradigm is a turistic experience geared towards a “Do it yourself” customer. You plan your own trip according to your tastes and needs and in fact the process driver then shifts from being the enterprise and its workers to the customer, meaning that each process will absorb its user’s preferences and quirks that makes us all different. This creates many variations that would be costly or impossible to model beforehand in a static fashion.
The main takeaways between these two styles of processes are the following:

AspectStructuredUnstructured
ContextLimited in scope; More static but still evolvingUnbound; Digital; Constantly shifting and rearranging
ActorsLess skilled; less business awareHighly skilled; much more business aware
Main GoalsOptimization and modelling of existing processes; Business Data introspectionAgility; Digital businesses; Discovering new business trends and opportunities
FocusThe process modelling and optimization; Enterprise stakeholdersCustomer centric; customer journey; Complex, long and harder to model processes; The age of digitalization
StrengthsEasier to model and comprehend, especially with third party apps; Easier to reason and communicate internally; Greater introspectionMore agile especially on digital businesses; Customer centered, better suited for more customer facing processes; Better tolerant to deviations and new variations of the process enabling detection of new leads and new business models; More accountability by the stakeholders; Ideal for Business Process Discovery
ThreatsLess agile; Harder to react to change; Less tolerant to exceptions; Stakeholder accountability shifts somewhat to the BPM tool (the process “mediator”); Harder to implement Business Process DiscoveryMore complex to visualize; Fragmented high level business process; Seeing the big picture gets harder due to fragmentation; Less prone to strict documentation; Harder to structure due to development costs

In retrospect, the structured approach is not going away for good anytime soon. It is still a valid and credible tool to support your business! The key factor is embracing change and deciding when you should opt for a more unstructured approach, but never without loosing sight of the “old fashion way” of modelling and building processes. Most importantly, and TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM does this very well, you can mix and match structured and dynamic approaches! You can start with a dynamic approach and build that on top of structured subprocesses or the other way around, since a structured process can have unstructured steps as well.
TIBCO Structured and UnstructuredThe important point is to choose the right approach for the whole process and not loose sight of other ways and their benefits and weaknesses. With dynamic processes, a new role of Case Manager is starting to become more important. Their focus is to make sure that the case and it’s journey are as painless and satisfying as they can be, for the interest of both customer and enterprise. Pain points in the enterprise’s business can be alleviated by bringing these skilled workers to the right phase and turn a headache to a more pleaseant experience for everyone.
Finally it should be mentioned that TIBCO has provided a demo in the webinar that truly showcases this tool versatility. Not only it supports the structured modelling with low code, auto generating forms (but still customizable), reconfigurable apps and business process pattern support, but also dynamic modelling and adaptive case management [3]. The webinar is available (in Spanish) here.
Related Links:

  1. Structured and Unstructured arquitecture
  2. Automation Business Process Management
  3. TIBCO and dynamic case management

 

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BPM Consultant at Polarising