Derek Miers on Roles

Scott Francis
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Anytime Derek publishes, it is worth reading.  This time, it is on the subject of “roles” – and how they are employed by BPM vendors and BPM solutions.  Unfortunately the answer is that each product and each solution just approaches the definition and use of Roles differently.  As Derek says, it probably reflects how they view organizations, as to how they enable one to leverage roles. Derek calls attention to a real problem for BPM (and those who adopt it):
The central issue I want to highlight is one that many folks just do not see coming in their BPMS and Dynamic Case Management implementations. Very often, there is only a loose concept of “role” within an organization. When the word “role” is used, it is usually equated to an existing job title (part of the organization structure), rather than responsibility (at least initially). It is further complicated by the fact that within a given job title, there are usually wide variations in the skills and expertise levels of those that work in that area. And while this is not a problem where people manually coordinate their work, when it comes to automating work routing (to the most appropriate person to deal with a given work item or case), there are often major complications. The problem with using the job title is that it is a poor approximation for the richness of the real situation found in many firms. Job titles alone do not help you deal with responsibility for action, versus accountability and control. […]
It is a problem because this disconnect around how to handle roles can act as a barrier to adoption, and a barrier to acceptance, of BPM solutions.  It also can lead to mis-set expectations for BPM solutions – requirements misunderstood and badly implemented. Many small organizations eschew job titles because they sound more limiting than enabling.  And that is potentially the problem for BPM solutions that rely on LDAP repositories that define titles and roles – they may artificially limit the range and scope of a person’s activities and influence on a process.