Can BPM encode knowledge?

There are BPM proponents who say that using structured process should be seen as experience encoded into process flowcharts during analysis. I disagree, because a procedure that may have worked in the past is not goal oriented. Experience is actionable knowledge gained by an individual and is not something one can copy. Applying experience happens by people at each singular activity towards the goal. The legal requirement to document a process refers to the actual instance/enactment, but does not mean all processes have to be the same and follow the same outdated, encoded knowledge.

Can we be sure? Yes. The higher you go in the management hierarchy, the less predefined processes you will find, need and be able to work with. Otherwise, why would one need management and executives? What if executives themselves could layout a capability map, create a set of goals, list the data entities that they want information on, link it to the content that describes their strategy, pass the requests to the assigned process owners, who then assign activities to the experts and everyone can watch it happening in real-time and make changes as it happens. Now that is a sensible goal for technology and it has been mine for over ten years.

Only businesses who managed to use technology as an innovation enabler are shooting past those that control IT and/or processes by using governance, centers of excellence and best practices. Each day a business does not innovate it falls behind because the economy is a six lane highway and the speed limits are going up each year. If you stop to execute lengthy innovation processes to figure out whether you need to go straight or exit, you will get run over. Missing the right exit will cost you time and money. Businesses take thousands of those decisions each day and the more of these are automated, the less does a business consider direction in relationship to outside conditions. Evolutionary change can’t be encoded into idea -> invention -> innovation processes. Innovation happens every minute between our ears.

I propose that the only way to improve both understanding and decision making is to offer a real-time perspective on what is currently happening. You watch and steer NOW, because the past can’t be undone, no matter how well you might capture it statistically. The future can’t be enforced or predicted regardless of how well the outdated statistics fit under the bell curve. It all comes down to using experience in the light of current knowledge.

While Enterprise 2.0 proposes to empower people in real-time by copying social networking benefits from the Internet, it is very questionable that this might actually work. One cannot force people to share knowledge and experience is even harder to share. Corporate politics also stop people from sharing knowledge willingly regardless whether they can or not. ACM gathers the knowledge from people’s ACTIONS, so knowledge sharing is no longer dependent on the willingness of the owner.

ACM is in difference a navigation system for the economy highway with real-time traffic information. The important element is a change in the DESIGN paradigm that is missed by ‘social’ proponents. It is neither simply socializing during the BPM design phase, nor is it adding social communication/collaboration to a pre-designed process. The social aspect is what we defined in ACM as ‘moving the process creation into the execution.’

“Adaptive process technology exposes structured (business data) and unstructured (content) information to the business actors of structured (business) and unstructured (social) organizations to interactively create, modify and securely execute – with knowledge gathered during execution – structured (process) and unstructured (case) work in a transparent and auditable manner.”

The key of ADAPTIVE is that the actor may get some suggested activity, but he can take another decision (given the authority) and his acting is recorded and he may even be prompted to explain his decision. The gathered knowledge is reusable in the template and available to other actors, but it will never be turned into hardcoded knowledge that replaces human intuition.

CEOs will need to become as  technology savvy as their CIOs and understand the immense power of change potential that IT can create if it is not held back by bureaucracy. Change and innovation is pulled forward by the gravity of the fitness landscape of your organization and it is created by people enabled and empowered by technology.

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About Max J. Pucher

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of ISIS Papyrus Software, a medium size software company specializing in communications and process management. I wrote several books and hold a number of patents. My quest is to bring common sense to IT, mostly by focusing in human quality issues rather than cost saving, outsourcing and automation. I am also Chief Architect at VIPorbit software which provides mobile relationship management.
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