Business Process Management beyond Boundaries? – A Multiple Case Study Exploration of Obstacles to Collaborative BPM
Presented at HICSS2011 this research paper by Niehaves and Henser takes a close look at the importance of business process collaboration external to the firm, and the obstacles which must be overcome for this to be successful. Through a qualitative analysis of three different organisations they seek to answer their research question of “What are potential obstacles that may restrain organizations from expanding their BPM from an endocollaborative to an omnicollaborative state?”.
To further define the term “collaboration” the authors introduce three theoretical degrees of BPM centric collaboration:
- Non-collaborative BPM characterised by individual uncoordinated attempts at business process activities.
- Endocollaborative BPM – BPM activities undertaken wholly within a department or organisation.
- Omnicollaborative BPM involving stakeholders both internal and external to the organisation.
The authors have used these definitions as a base in their investigation into the obstacles to communication between internal and external process stakeholders. Interestingly they also acknowledge the impact of ISO9001 certification upon an organisation’s BPM initiative (refer Benner, M. J. “Dynamic or Static Capabilities? Process Management Practices and Response to Technological Change.” Journal of Production Innovation Management (26:4), pp. 473-486.)
The case study data collection involved a triangulation of interviews, observations and documented evidence to answer the above research question. Based on this evidence the paper proposes nine blockers to omnicollaborative BPM:
- Resource requirements
- Knowledge safeguarding
- Benefit expectations
- Knowledge about process
- Knowledge about Partners
- External impressions
- Firm-Internal acceptance
- Decision Power Control
- Decision promptness
A fascinating article by Peter Fingar which discusses the strategy of USAF pilot John R. Boyd and his approach to the concept of agility. Boyd’s concept of always being on the offensive in combat led him to the development of an effective decision cycle called the OODA Loop created from four interrelated and overlapping steps –
1. Observation – select the “right data” and avoid information overload
2. Orientation or otherwise “situational awareness”
3. Decision – avoid analysis paralysis
4. Act – execute the decision and repeat the above
The goal of the above cycle is to “create situations where one can make good decisions more quickly than the competition” where the organisation that “goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because the competition is caught responding to situations that have already changed”.
Peter then presents an emerging practice of using Cloud based delivery models (IaaS/PaaS/SaaS) to execute business innovation, the most interesting to me being BPMaaS or Business Process Management as a Service. He purports that this approach could support multi-company BPM to engage in truly end-to-end business processes. With this may come the social advantages of collaboration and potentially innovative practices based upon crowd-sourced insight of the process community.
Could this theory of organisational agility be the key to process innovation and consequently organisational transformation?
Bruno et al., (2011) discuss the concept of agile BPM supported by four features of social software: weak ties, social production, egalitarianism and mutual service provision. Further the Authors identify that the main requirements for implementing agile BPM are the organisational & semantic integration and responsiveness of business process modelling, execution & management activities. In effect this study will go part way to addressing one of the recognised short comings of traditional BPM, the “Model-Reality divide” -> the divide between abstract process models and the actual executed process. This issue is further evidenced in other literature (Erol et al., 2010; Magalhãe Magdaleno, Cappelli, Araujo Baião, Maria Santoro, & Araujo, 2008; Schmidt & Nurcan, 2009; Silva et al., 2010).
* Weak ties: spontaneous creation of contacts between non-predetermined individuals.
* Social production: creation of artefacts by combining the inputs from independent contributors without a predetermined way of working.
* Egalitarianism: the role of process contributor and consumer are merged and a culture of trust is established.
* Mutual service provision: by combining mutual services a new service is created.
Two distinct categories of “process” are presented, firstly those that are highly structured, well defined, repeatable and potentially automated. Secondly, and more applicably, those processes that are typically more knowledge intensive, collaborative, creative and loosely structured may benefit most from the application of social technology. The Authors offer a characteristic of agile BPM as “capable to react quickly to external and internal events” with a motivator to “implement the vision of an agile enterprise that is capable to rapidly adapt to changing business challenges and opportunities”. An adoption of agile BPM will require a paradigmatic change to the traditional BPM lifecycle.
As asserted, the prerequisites for an agile BPM lifecycle are organisational integration (inclusion of all stakeholders into the requirements elicitation phase); semantic integration (a common understanding of terms and context); and responsiveness to internal and external events. Further, the Authors offer a statement in support of this new agile approach, “A common flaw of BPM lifecycles is that there is only a top down but not a bottom-up flow of information in real-time” resulting in the non integration of available information.
* Organisational integration: Enable the use of stakeholder perspectives & languages to allow participants to acquire & contribute knowledge and requirements to processes.
* Semantic integration: The amalgamation of differing stakeholder goals, values, languages and motivations.
* Responsiveness: supported by the concept of weak ties as established organisational hierarchies are bypassed.
In conclusion, some approaches to enabling BPM with social software through fostering participation; sharing knowledge; fostering collaboration; empowering process stakeholders; reconciliation of terminology; and extending BPM notations are presented. This comprehensive research article presents a combined view of earlier research and provides a view of current understanding and points to possible future directions for social BPM.
Bruno, G., Dengler, F., Jennings, B., Khalaf, R., Nurcan, S., Prilla, M., et al. (2011). Key challenges for enabling agile BPM with social software. Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution: Research and Practice, 23(4), 297-326.
Erol, S., Granitzer, M., Happ, S., Jantunen, S., Jennings, B., Johannesson, P., et al. (2010). Combining BPM and social software: contradiction or chance? Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution: Research and Practice, 22(6-7), 449-476.
Magalhãe Magdaleno, A., Cappelli, C., Araujo Baião, F., Maria Santoro, F., & Araujo, R. (2008). Towards Collaboration Maturity in Business Processes: An Exploratory Study in Oil Production Processes. Information Systems Management, 25(4), 302 – 318.
Schmidt, R., & Nurcan, S. (2009). BPM and Social Software. In D. Ardagna, M. Mecella & J. Yang (Eds.), Business Process Management Workshops (Vol. 17, pp. 649-658): Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Silva, A. R., Meziani, R., Magalhães, R., Martinho, D., Aguiar, A., & Flores, N. (2010). AGILIPO: Embedding Social Software Features into Business Process Tools. In S. Rinderle-Ma, S. Sadiq & F. Leymann (Eds.), Business Process Management Workshops (Vol. 43, pp. 219-230): Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
This conference paper from 2009 offers the concept of process-orientated mashups (in contrast to data oriented) designed to support lightweight, agile & time critical business (or personal) processes. Li (2009) proposes the importance of agility & flexibility with the design of collaborative business processes to adapt “to the situational needs of the business”. The Author asserts that the integration of web services and human interaction in an SOA environment can be used to build a process-oriented mashup, allowing a User to automate activities leading to the execution of that process via a workflow system.
A rudimentary example of an “information gathering” process is given where a User accesses data from three different social, online sources – an RSS feed; a blog; and a recommendation list on a social networking site. The Author asserts this process of gathering information (data) from different locations could be represented in a workflow (YAWL?) and in effect link social technology to existing business process management (BPMS) systems i.e. a process- mashup.
The paper also offers a view of current (2009) web based resources, technologies & tools & examples of some “social software providers” (Amazon, Google, eBay etc) who provide their web services for mashup purposes. Importantly, these services support participation, provide a rich user experience, are scalable and can harness the benefits of collective intelligence.
An interesting concept briefly raised is the use of a recommendation approach in a online community based environment for Users to rank different process parts of similar models. This approach of social process design & verification will ideally deliver best practice and repeatability with process models. Given the rapidly growing web resources landscape, the challenge now is to discover & utilise these services to provide agile, process-centric mashups.
Li, X. (2009). When Social Software Meets Business Process Management.
Rainer Schmidt and Selmin Nurcan have co-authored a nice paper that succinctly explains some key social software principles and their application to BPM. Their view is that social software and business processes can have a unique relationship where processes may apply social technologies to enhance process stakeholder interaction and/or support process design and implementation. Both of these extensions to traditional BPM address some existing stakeholder engagement and process model adoption issues.
Four enabling factors of social technology are presented in support of the emerging “social” BPM approach with reference to various sociology and marketing texts. These principles as debated at various workshops and BPM conferences have been defined as:
1. Weak Ties – “spontaneously created connections between non-predetermined individuals”. Leading to improved organisational agility due to enhanced knowledge exchange within and outside established network boundaries.
2. Egalitarianism – Crowd sourcing knowledge from all process stakeholders (internal & external) with all contributors having an equal say in the discussion.
3. Social Production – A rapid process improvement cycle driven by an open user-access policy established to support continuous knowledge aggregation & reuse.
4. Service-Dominant Logic – Adoption of a service-oriented approach to marketing where the process Customer is a co-creator of value.
They go further to draw the alignment between social software and business processes i.e. process may use social software to improve stakeholder interaction and/or processes may be the object of social software. This means that the traditional practice of BPM (modelling, requirements analysis etc) utilises social technology to address for example the model-reality divide between process model design and implementation. In their view, the key benefits of social BPM will be the continuous fusioning of process knowledge; process improvement agility; identification of hidden knowledge contributors and the broadening this knowledge base.
Rainer and Selmin raise some valid points on the benefits of social BPM not least of which is how this approach can address the model-reality divide….but just how successful is this in practice and can these benefits be measured?
I’ve come across an interesting McKinsey article on the rise of the networked enterprise where web technologies are being deployed to improve corporate performance. The survey offers several interesting findings that support an organisations adoption of this technology for productivity improvement.
According to McKinsey, the networked enterprises which proactively collaborate with both internal & external stakeholders report significant performance improvements and operational efficiencies. Some of the findings assert that the take up of Enterprise 2.0 technologies continues to grow with up to 40% of companies surveyed maintaining some form of social networks. Of these organisations, almost half believe that most of their Employees are actively engaged with the technology. This number can only continue to rise in the future as the demarcation between personal and professional use of these applications continues to blur. What’s encouraging is that more organisations have indicated that planned expenditure on Enterprise 2.0 technologies will be higher than in prior years.
Some of the measurable benefits listed in the report are more tangible than others but all indicate a degree of improvement over previous years:
• Speed of access to knowledge and subject matter experts
• Reduction in communication, operational & travel costs
• Increased innovation, customer satisfaction and revenue
Overall these metrics present the view that Enterprise 2.0 technologies are both taking hold within organisations and are now offering real benefits year on year. For this trend to continue, emerging technologies and consequently new ways of doing business must continue to be adopted.
A key finding from this Survey is that integration with organisational day-to-day activities is critical to the successful uptake/implementation and benefits realisation of Enterprise 2.0. Those organisations using social technologies internally benefit from improved process agility, knowledge sharing and collaboration across the business. Obviously organisations that embrace their entire internal and external networks benefit from a high degree of collaboration and stronger relationships amongst staff, customers & partners through improved information flows.
To measure any improvements in reported performance metrics, McKinsey have presented three core indicators and their findings –
1. Market share gains – correlation with networked organisations
2. Higher operating margins – aligns with more granular decision making and organisational agility
3. Market leadership – supported by the internal use of Enterprise 2.0
From these metrics, McKinsey make the observation that as fully networked organisations (internally & externally connected) apply the lessons learnt from prior stakeholder interactions to future relationships, their competitive advantage will improve. This study supports what we have been saying for some time now; incorporate collaborative applications, drive their usage, attack organisational silos and embrace external stakeholders. Will be interesting to see next year’s statistics…
This whitepaper by Nicholas Evans (UNISYS) succinctly describes the current state of the organisational social technology landscape. As identified by Nicholas we are on the cusp of an information revolution where connections between geographically dispersed individuals will become a valuable corporate asset. This dynamic shift in the application of collaborative technologies must be recognised & incorporated into corporate strategies now to harness the full benefits of this movement.
I agree with his statement that “Along with cloud computing and next generation mobile computing, social computing is perhaps one of the top three most disruptive technologies making its way into the enterprise.” This is a movement that cannot be ignored, but must be effectively managed to guide both internal & external organisational collaboration in a direction that adds benefit and minimises any associated risk. Nicholas discusses two drivers to adoption namely the generational effect of younger staff merging the use of social technology in both their personal & professional lives for benefits obvious to the modern knowledge worker. Secondly, organisations are recognising the productivity & relationship benefits of establishing strong connections between employees, customers and Vendors, an emerging trend now understood by CIO’s and other enterprise architecture decision makers.
A four phase technology adoption/adaption lifecycle is presented. i.e. how an organisation may adopt/adapt an emerging technology to suit the changing needs of the enterprise so that ultimately it is embedded and ubiquitous. The four components of this cycle are summarised as:
1. Off-the-shelf solutions – the use of Facebook & Twitter like applications without modification to establish a social network presence.
2. Enterprise Class platforms – the deployment of maturing organisationally focused social computing platforms created for knowledge management and innovation practices
3. Integration with existing Enterprise applications and processes – it may be possible to enhance existing legacy applications with collaborative tools to reduce decision cycle times and improve exception handling protocols.
4. Pervasive and embedded capabilities – the incorporation of social technologies as a standard feature of mainstream enterprise wide applications.
Nicholas provides a nice summary of the benefits of social technology as enabling “users to build new bridges across human collaboration, to integrate structured and
unstructured information, and to optimize business processes and transactions”.
A brave new world is upon us…though some questions remain –
* What is current best practice application of enterprise wide social computing for process improvement?
* How can this technology be deployed/governed/measured?
* What are the software vendors offering in this space at the moment?
* What are the blockers to adoption & risk factors? How can these be addressed?
* Any defined approaches to retention & reuse of collaborative knowledge?
Sounds like a good PhD research project!