ACM is under BPM umbrella

This a copy of my reply to a ebizQ‘s  discussion titled Is ACM a new paradigm or a BPM feature?

Last year it has been much discussion about the true meaning of BPM acronyms. Something that reminds me of the cons of information retrieval unsupervised learning or clustering methods when a certain concept eg like Star is associated with astronomy, marine animals or celebrities.

The ACM is a paradigm not a system’s feature. Information technologies are just one resource, such as capital or people that have to be aligned with business strategy. I believe that system vendors do not like this approach because it somehow undermines their sales efforts.

Managers are responsible for identifying the type of work people perform and provide the tools for achieving results. Imagine that you are responsible for investment decisions such as roads, railways and airports. The aim is to take a decision on the size, location and when it should be in operation to serve its intended purpose.

This is an example of the most chaotic and unstructured process I know. There is a high responsibility (if the choice is poorly made, there may be no return on investment or not serve the purpose). This case is a typical one where it is not worth mapping the process. Until the decision is made it will be created thousands of studies, technical drawings, opinions, all mixed with no apparent logical sequence. In this situation managers have to realize they need to create conditions for the information gathering, sharing, ideas, making decisions etc.

A system that supports ACM is a good idea, a wiki, a forum for exchanging ideas with the community, gather information through facebook or twitter equally (even negative feedback like the case with the runway construction at Heathrow Airport). The networked knowledge worker requires hardware that allows to access information outside the office and managers need to identify these needs. Surely there is a deadline for that decision is made. After construction, investment will be evaluated if the return was in line with initial estimates (city rail investments that took place in Spain are a good example, doomed by real estate bubble).

Now reflect for a moment:

In the above example work is nor performed? Is this is a process? The fact that the activities are not structured does not mean that they are uncoordinated. Maybe Process definition as we know it needs to be updated, because it has to include the possibility activities performed can be structured or unstructured.

There is no management? Of course there is! Control mechanisms are seeking to know that we will complete work on time, which the interim results that were achieved?

There is no control? There is. Estimated ROI was achieved?

Results were reached? Stakeholders are pleased?

Is there improvement taking place? What did we learned from the experience?

Wait a moment… All of these aren’t the foundation of Business Process Management?


11 thoughts on “ACM is under BPM umbrella

  1. You could argue that any form of process no matter how structured, or not, are a form of BPM, even workflow. The problem you have here is that workflow is now seen as highly structured flows of work, often automated, and as such we ended up with the BPM paradigm itself. Why? Simply because workFlow implementations were more restrictive than BPM implementations. We see the same now with ACM and APG, they are not as restrictive as BPM implementations, so they should be seen as their own paradigm just like BPM is seen as something different to workflow.

    Do we accept BPM = workFlow…No…Therefore we should not accept that ACM = BPM, nor APG = BPM. Implementations define a methodology, there is no getting away from that, no matter how much we argue about definitions. If I speak to many analysts and business decisions makers, they will pretty much all expect to see BPM as designing processes in a tool, that then maps to enforcing that map on users…This means (rightly or wrongly) that BPM = BPMS.

    ACM and APG are different ways of approaching the same problem, but they are for sure not BPMS. So with this in mind, they have to be seen as a paradigm in their own rights, otherwise life becomes too confusing for analysts, let alone for business.

    To make things short, BPM = BPMS. BPMS is not = ACM and BPMS is not = APG….Therefore APG and ACM are not BPM…We need to keep things as simple as possble for all involved in these types of technologies, the easiest way of doing that is associating a particular way of doing things (implementation) with its own name…BPM is BPM, APG is APG and ACM is ACM, the fact they all takle the same problem (as workFlow also attempts to do) has nothing to do with anything…

    • Andrew:

      So pity that decision makers confuse that BPMS = BPM and BPM = Worlflow. How many processes are executed on a non automated way without any tech resource.

      Too bad that people are fooled, but when they take conscience who bought a piece of technology with lack of support how to structure a process, how it is optimized and managed, not only the software vendor who will suffer but the entire BPM ecosystem that will suffer the impact.

      Then people will back to the basics, but it may happen that the BPMS will be viewed like some ERP and CRM whose implementations went wrong, because miracles were promised without any alignment with business needs.

  2. If you define BPM to be about customer outcomes then most certainly ACM is also BPM. But it uses a different paradigm, because processes aren’t analyzed and predefined but they evolve through technology empowered users. ACM requires technology much as Social, while BPM doesn’t.

    APG simply copies the ACM concept and uses a new acronym. There simply is no substantial difference to what I have desceribed over the last two years.

  3. Isn’t that so right focusing on outcomes instead of outputs? Outcomes is what customer wants. Output is what a company can deliver. Equalizing the output to the outcome means that you are delivering value that customer wants.

  4. Just a clarification: Output is not outcome. Output cannot guarantee outcome. Output is a tangible element. Outcome is purely customer perception, linked to the expectation creted by the value proposition.

  5. First of all, I agree: BPM != BPMS. Processes can be executed even without IT and many of them are. However, I also agree that IT (BPMS) is THE tool to support the execution of processes. But simply saying that BPM and BPMS are identical is too simple from my point of view.

    Secondly, are we saying that ACM makes BPM obsolete?

    I agree that there is the need for ACM where processes are not predictable because they are never executed the same way and thus they are defined ad hoc based on the knowledge of the experts (the people involved in the process).

    However, aren’t there processes that are highly repetitive? Of course there are (i.e. in production environments). For those, I believe, BPM makes a lot of sense since the costs for analyzing, documenting, and optimizing the processes, due to the number of exact same executions, are lower than the benefit of having a clear understanding of the workflow that is simply ‘there’ and is supported by IT exactly that way, without having to think about it.

    I know that this is a quite Tayloristic view. But in certain areas that’s simply how it works.

    There is another aspect associated with that: regulatory compliance. I work in a company that develops and manufactures medical devices. We simply need to predefine our processes (at least to a certain extent), because it’s required by the regulations. We used the BPMN to model our processes, but we allowed certain flexibility (i.e. in the product development phase) when it comes to the execution of those processes. The process models serve as a kind of template that contains the best practices we have discovered so far.

    To summarize it: I think that BPM as well as ACM have their right to exist and eventually both will converge. Processes may be adaptive where needed and rigid if that is required. The important thing is that continuous improvement of the processes is possible without bureaucracy, short-term, ideally by the involved people. This is what future IT systems need to fulfill. Whether they are called BPMS or not, I don’t care.

  6. Pingback: The Decorator – enabling Structured and Unstructured processes « End to End BPM

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