Is Unstructured BPM/ACM Just too Hard?

  • July 13, 2010
  • Scott

Chris Adams, VP of Product and Technology at Ultimus:

Despite all of the recent recognition of processes being dynamic in the Business Process Management (BPM) / Adaptive Case Management (ACM) spaces, the majority of processes in business have ALWAYS been unstructured.  […]

Thinking back to the inception of automated processes, the reason why workflow technology came first, arguably, is that it is “low hanging fruit”.  Like with any large project across the enterprise, the concept of starting small and growing from initial successes is a well understood strategy to achieve large scale success.

Chris depicts workflow as the lowest hanging fruit, structured processes as the middle fruit, and unstructured as the highest fruit to attain.

From reading his post, it sounds as if he’s saying that unstructured is harder, technically, to implement than workflow or structured processes.  However, unstructured is actually easier, technically speaking.  Businesses have been performing their unstructured processes for years – using email, for example.  Or Lotus Notes applications.  Or SharePoint.  We can argue whether any  of these were good solutions – but my point is just that even the ways in which these products fall short are not hard technical issues to resolve (if only the folks who write email software and the like actually cared about processes as a target).

Unstructured processes are “not low hanging fruit” due to organizational barriers, not technical barriers.  Processes that cross organizational boundaries run into resistance.  There will be users who worry that software will over-constrain their free-wheeling unstructured process – like the Borg assimilation routine. No one wants to feel like a Borg automaton.  But there are times when process *should* cross organizational boundaries – whether structured or unstructured.

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