Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Human Centric Processes: A Fresh Perspective

Anant Gupta, SOA Practice Director

With BPM gaining so much attention, any workflow product worth its salt provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to definition and execution of processes specifically when it comes to human centric processes, both structured and unstructured. This flexibility however comes at a cost, cost both in terms complexity and clarity of definition of processes and performance in runtime. Also, making changes to workflows always remains a challenge. Simple changes like making steps execute in parallel instead of sequentially are a nightmare to implement and are most often simply not taken up.

It does not really need to be that complex if we take a somewhat hybrid approach to structured and unstructured processes. There are certain steps that have to happen in a particular order and then there are others that can be done at any time if certain pre-requisites are met. We have to start thinking of processes as steps where each step has a set of pre-requisites. These pre-requisites could be related to the steps in the workflow or can be content / context related. Instead of workflows, human centric processes can be defined as a set of steps with pre-requisites. For eg, a step X can be executed only when Step A and Step D are completed, when the status of a document is accepted and if the flow was initiated by a gold client.

This approach should be extended with user experience simulation to come up with the typical paths the workflow will take and this should be visually depicted. This will provide both clarity in terms of the definition and flexibility to change the workflows in an extremely simplified fashion.

Call it pre-requisites or workflow rules, the idea is to provide extreme dynamicity to human centric processes, an area that has not been addressed by most of the so called dynamic BPM products which cater almost always to system centric processes.

Anant Gupta was recently named the SOA Practice Director at Prolifics after serving as a Senior Business Integration and J2EE architect Anant has with extensive experience in IBM's SOA software portfolio and specializes in delivering business integration and business process management solutions. He has worked for major clients in the banking, insurance, telecommunications and technology industries.