BPM Blog

New partnership with Adobe

DynAPPix is pleased to announce that it has now joined Adobe as an Adobe Sign partner.  We can now apply our significant process automation experience to your business processes that require digital signatures.  We are also applying our significant integration experience to Sign by creating new integrations for HPRM/CE, iManage and others to allow those systems to send documents for signature and receive them back for further processing or storage into the records management system.

K2Five – Empty Smartobject errors

We’ve been seeing this on and off with our K2 Five processes at the moment.  For a while it baffled us as to what was causing it and it seemed to be pretty random and retrying the step resolves the error.

After a bit of digging we found that it was related to a race condition generally in our development environments where we were responding to workflow tasks so quickly the server hadn’t had time to finish setting up the task in the background.  This is not a normal situation and in a production environment the user isn’t sitting there waiting to immediately jump on a new task and action it.  If we gave the server a normal production type experience that a normal user would give it, the problem didn’t occur.

Hopefully this is just one of those weird development situation.  We’re keeping an eye on our prod environments to see if it happens there.

Mind the BPM (Process Model) Gap

So you have spent a lot of time and effort in developing your ideal “TO-BE” process model and now you are ready to start automating. WAIT! You are not ready just yet.

The Gap
The conceptual process model is NOT the final model that can be executed by your Business Process Management System; there is a gap in the information provided by this model and the executable process model that is required to run the business process.

These process models have two different audiences:

  • Conceptual model – produced by business and process analysts for communication and analysis purposes.
  • Executable model – developed by software developers and solution architects into a precise specification to be read by a BPMS.

Over the last few weeks I have been participating in QUT’s first “Fundamentals of BPM” MOOC https://moocs.qut.edu.au/learn/fundamentals-of-bpm-october-2015 which introduces the fundamentals of business process management (BPM) by working through each phase of the BPM lifecycle. Review my last post Automation and the BPM Lifecycle if you need a refresher before proceeding.

During the implementation phase of this lifecycle the conceptual “TO-BE” process model, which was developed during the redesign phase, is now transformed into an executable process model.

This executable process model contains information about:

  • Handling exceptions both technical and process.
  • Data types for data objects such as the format of invoices and purchase orders.
  • Process and task variables.
  • Human resources and their relationship in the organisation.
  • How to connect to external systems such as ERP and records management.

Last weeks course module introduced a “5-step approach” to bridge the gap between the conceptual process model and the executable process model.

The five steps are to use the conceptual process model and:

  1. Identify automation boundaries
    • Determine what steps can be automated and what steps would not lead to an increase in efficiency if automated.
  2. Review manual tasks
    • Establish how these tasks will link to the automated tasks.
  3. Complete the process model
    • Add additional required data elements and tasks related to execution such as exception handling.
  4. Adjust task granularity
    • Maximise efficiency gains through automated task coordination by:
      • Breaking up tasks that are too abstract into more atomic tasks.
      • Aggregating tasks that have been specified in too much detail.
  1. Specify execution properties
    • Data types for specified data objects
    • Data mappings between process variables and task variables

I have previously worked in a project where time was only scheduled for the business analyst to develop the conceptual process model. The particular analyst did not have experience of the specific BPMS being used was asked to develop a model that could be implemented in the BPMS without change. This led to two issues:

  • The conceptual process model was developed as a mix of a conceptual and executable model with assumptions of how the BPMS handled certain situations, which masked the actual tasks in the process.
  • The project plan did not allow any time for the developer to capture the information required to transform the conceptual model into something that could be executed by the BPMS.

A little study of the BPM Lifecycle can be used to great benefit when planning to automate your favourite business process and I can thoroughly recommend the QUT Fundamentals of BPM MOOC https://www.qut.edu.au/study/short-courses-and-professional-development/short-courses/fundamentals-of-bpm

Automation and the BPM Lifecycle

Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline that involves a number of specialties including subject matter experts, process analysts and the developers who automate processes using Business Process Management System technologies.

I am involved in BPM projects from the perspective of the automation of manual paper-based processes. There is much pressure in the planning of these projects to ignore the “AS-IS” process and go straight to the automating of the “TO-BE” process in order to start realising the business benefits as soon as possible.

As attractive as this might sound skipping the foundation steps in the Business Process Management Lifecycle means that you will be potentially automating a flawed process. Vital information will be missing required to automate the process and after the implementation to report on the performance and identify opportunities for further improvement.

Over the last few weeks I have been participating in QUT’s first “Fundamentals of BPM” MOOC https://moocs.qut.edu.au/learn/fundamentals-of-bpm-october-2015 which introduces the fundamentals of business process management (BPM) by working through each phase of the BPM lifecycle.

For those not familiar with the acronym MOOC it is a Massive Open Online Course and it’s FREE! There are thousands of courses to choose from delivered from educational institutions around the world, check out http://mooc-list.com to see what’s available.

The QUT Fundamentals of BPM course started in October and runs for 7 weeks and requires between 2-4 hours of study per week and involves video tutorials, activities, quizzes and an optional project. The next course starts in February 2016 and I would highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in business process improvement no matter what your BPM discipline speciality or level of experience might be.

The module in the first week introduces the six phases of the lifecycle:

  1. Process Identification
  2. Process Discovery
  3. Process Analysis
  4. Process Redesign
  5. Process Implementation
  6. Process Monitoring

As you can see the lifecycle is a continuous journey and not just a point in time project that concludes with the automation of the process. Each phase of the cycle has a number of tasks and outputs that are key to the successful improvement of the selected business process.

Process Identification

  • TASKS: Identifying the organisation’s “AS-IS” business processes and prioritising their management.
  • OUTPUTS: Process Architecture, Prioritised Process Portfolio.

Process Discovery

  • TASKS: Documenting knowledge from the staff of the organisation in the form of an “AS-IS” conceptual process model that can be used in all phases of the BPM lifecycle.
  • OUTPUTS: AS-IS conceptual process model.

Process Analysis

  • TASKS: Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the “AS-IS” process as a basis for the redesign of the “TO-BE” process.
  • OUTPUTS: Issue register, list of steps that add value, sources of waste, causes of issues, performance metrics, and simulation models.

Process Redesign

  • TASKS: Addressing issues and causes of waste in the “AS-IS” process in order to improve the process by replanning and organising tasks.
  • OUTPUTS: “TO-BE” conceptual process model.

Process Implementation

  • TASKS: Implementation of “TO-BE” conceptual process model that may involve automation of the business process.
  • OUTPUTS: “TO-BE” executable process model, adoption of a new technology solutions such as a BPMS.

Process Monitoring

  • TASKS: Monitoring and management of the implemented “TO-BE” business processes to demonstrate that process KPIs have been met and to identify issues for resolution.
  • OUTPUTS: Process dashboards, alerts, reports, process analytics using BPMS database logs and process models.

By looking at the tasks and outputs of the BPM Lifecycle you can see that the Process Redesign phase, where the “TO-BE” conceptual process model is developed, cannot begin without first completing the preceding phases as the necessary artefacts would be missing.

Further along the lifecycle after the Process Implementation phase has been completed and the automated process goes live is the Process Monitoring phase. If the necessary information had not been previously identified this phase could not begin as the required process dashboards, reports and analytics would not be available as they could not have been developed during implementation.

It may be tempting to skip straight to the automation fun but the enjoyment will be short-lived as soon as the process goes live.

If this has sparked your interest to learn more about Business Process Management keep an eye out for the next QUT Fundamentals of BPM MOOC at https://www.qut.edu.au/study/short-courses-and-professional-development/short-courses/fundamentals-of-bpm

BPA – 5 Tips for Easing the Adoption of Your Automated Business Process

Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanisation. Federico Garcia Lorca (1898 – 1936)

I recently worked in the IT department for an organisation that underwent a period of rapid growth and whose paper based manual processes could not cope with the rate of expansion.

To solve the problem we implemented a BPA (business process automation) platform using K2 blackpearl and smartforms as an addition to our SharePoint 2010 Intranet. We then started automating the processes that were causing the organisation the most pain.

Before unleashing a newly automated process on your company’s staff consider these points to ensure they can get the help they need in completing the process and that your development team do not end up responding to business process as well as technical issues.

1. Invest time with the process owner on administering their automated process.

Although we had developed online training packages for business process owners and administrators, individual coaching was needed to ensure that the process administration team were comfortable in the use of the tools and reports to effectively manage the automated version of their process.

2. Ensure those completing the process have a way of asking for help.

The company had a helpdesk system for reporting issues with IT systems only. Non-IT Business units that offered services did not have access to a centralised system for managing requests for their service. This caused staff that had a problem in completing the process to log a call with the IT Helpdesk which could not be passed to the business unit for resolution and so ended up being allocated to the development team who automated the process.

3. Make sure staff know whom to contact for help with the process and there is an easy way to do it.

Factor time in the project to assist the process owner with development of process specific training materials.In our implementation each process owner was responsible for authoring updated training materials for their automated process. It quickly became apparent that although they may be subject matter experts for their process some process owners were a little vague about some of the automation details. This led to more IT Helpdesk calls being allocated to the development team. (See point 2).

4. Run some lunch and learn sessions on working with tasks.

K2 blackpearl provides great functionality for completing workflow tasks, such as out-of-office, redirection, delegation, responding via email (SmartActions) and using worklist items. However there are some nuances that can cause some frustration and pointing some of these out ahead of time will help when the first few automated processes go live.

5. Publish a page on your Intranet so staff can find links to all your automated processes.

Have a discussion with your Intranet team about hosting a page where links to the automated processes can be published. We setup a SharePoint list with a title, description, a classification and the URL of the K2 smartform. These details were then displayed in a webpart on the Intranet homepage. A little advanced planning will save a lot of “Where is the link to the new leave form?” questions.

I hope that these tips prove useful in preparing for the launch of your newly automated business process. I am interested in hearing any lessons that you may have learned through your implementation experiences so please feel free to share.