BPM = Email and Spreadsheets?

Scott Francis
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Jacob Ukelson has another couple of thought-provoking posts on Choosing a Process Management Tool, and then evaluating Email + Spreadsheets against those criteria. The proposed criteria:
1. Ease of to use for all the constituents involved in the proces implementation and execution – developers, business analysts, process owners and process participants. 2. Existing product usage patterns and successful deployments – not just in general, but with the same type of processes. 3. Process implementation speed and agility. 4. Cost – not just the software, but the overall project and maintenance cost. 5. Tool reliability, ubiquity and acceptance. 6. No vendor lock-in. 7. Multiple language support. 8. Participant control – an environment that can be configured into an actual, useful production interface without coding. 9. Ability to implement true end-to-end processes (this is my translation for – powerful, eay to use integration capabilities).
He concludes his evaluation of email + spreadsheets thus:
So given that list – why would anyone NOT use email and spreadsheets?
(For the most part, email+spreadsheets scored well, except with respect to #9) Well, I read the first list, and it sounded like a good list to me.  A few of these could be tossed out and you’d still have a good list (for example, if your firm is single-language, or if vendor-lock-in isn’t a big concern to your organization). But once you measure an actual solution against the list, I think we can see a few things are missing:
  1. A way to capture information for organizational learning (a massive archive of emails and spreadsheets doesn’t quite cut it).
  2. A way to analyze the information gathered – for both process designers and participants (if they aren’t one and the same).
  3. An audit trail to satisfy regulatory, fiduciary, or other obligations.
  4. Repeatability.  Even executing my own personal process I may not remember what I did last time and execute it differently (and not necessarily better).
  5. (I’m sure someone else could improve on my off-hand list here)
Moreover, Jacob gives email a “check” for multi-lingual support.  But email just allows you to type whatever language you want (most tools allow that much).  It doesn’t help two people who speak different languages communicate.  If you are initiating the process and need to include people who don’t speak your language… does email help with that?  Or spreadsheets?  Not in my experience.  But I think we can say that email at least doesn’t *create* any additional burdens on multi-lingual support (and Excel, at least, is multi-lingual) – the application prompts etc. will be in the native language. But, its hard to argue that email (and spreadsheets) are not tools to be leveraged.  In fact, in most BPM projects I’ve seen, they are.  But they’re complimented with what the industry calls a BPMS, that better addresses the four points I listed above (although I’m sure someone could come up with other points, maybe even better points).

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