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More on Human Process Management

August 27th, 2008 by Jacob Ukelson

I have been thinking some more about Human Process Management, especially how it differs from Business Process Management. Certainly one key difference is whether the process is structured or not - i.e. whether you can prescribe the execution of the process based on some model of the business.

It is clear that there are a number of mainstream business processes that lend themselves to such a model (e.g. ERP,CRM), but I claim that most processes in an organization are human2human (or people2people) processes and the tend to be ad-hoc and dynamic. It turns out that even structured processes have a large number of exceptions - that tend to be handled in relatively ad-hoc, case-by-case manner.

I was reading an old blog post by Pravin Indurkar where he looked at B2B EDI purchase order transactions at a small business and found that though there was one standard process -there were 65(!) different variations depending on the nature of the order. While it would be possible to model all the possible process paths - it certainly would be time consuming and expensive. My guess is as soon as you model the 65 different possibility there will be a 66th and 67th that are used to take into account variation and business conditions - so the way these are handled is usually through an unmanaged human exception process. These human processes are either exclusively human to human process (collaboration) or human processes that invoke various systems as part of the process (or what Barry Briggs calls human-down processes).

These types of Human Process are far too fluid and dynamic to be made part of an Enterprise BPM system - and tend to handled through email - yet another cause of email Information Overload…

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2 Responses to “More on Human Process Management”

  1. Israel Blechman Says:

    Hi Jacob,

    Long time since my last comment (even though I am a devoted reader).

    Your post reminded me an IBM demo I saw about a year ago illustrating a bank teller’s portal combining a business process (of opening a bank account) with a human interaction portlet accompanying to it. This way a teller can start a chat with peers and ask for their advice when reaching a BPM deadend instead of using e-mail.

    Do you consider it a decent bridge over the BPM and Humen Process gap?

    I would also like to hear your opinion about Luis Suarez’ “thinking out of the inbox” experiment: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/elsua/see-the-light-thinking-outside-the-inbox-the-video-26899


  2. Jacob Ukelson Says:

    Hi Israel,
    I think that using chat software is a useful bridge if you can solve the problem synchronously - it lets you solve the problem right away (almost as if the person was in the chair next to you). A lot of processes don’t lend themselves to that type of immediate resolution - so people resort to email. The other “problem” with that type of interaction is that from the business perspective - they have no way to log or relate those two separate interactions (CRM+IM) - so no real ’system of record” is created - unless the rep is amazingly good at documentation…

    I liked Luis’ video - but for me it points out the difficulties in getting the web 2.0 type tools used in the enterprise - most of his talk is about methodology and best practices - not technology. People will need to change the way they work for those technologies to replace email -and I just don’t see that happening. I think that over time Wikis and such will be another tool used, but email (with all its warts) is here to stay…

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