Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interesting connection between UX and adaptive case management for unstructured process

Ease of use is not enough sometimes when we need to make sweeping changes towards optimized productivity. Joy of use can help people adopt new ways of doing things perhaps even before they recognize the gains in productivity they will realize later. Simplifying business models is key to how we build user experiences that are infinitely more joyful to use, as there is only so much we can do to hide complex or cumbersome processes in an experience. Break it down, focus on what's really important and look at each of the stages of a process, and most importantly watch how people do what they do in order to learn clues for improvement and human behaviors that are engrained that may be useful.

Amplify’d from
As enterprises become more successful in managing their structured, routine processes through BPM tools and methodologies, the need to also manage unstructured, ad-hoc knowledge worker processes is even more apparent.
Adaptive case management (ACM), also known as dynamic case management, is getting a lot of interest lately, especially from the business process management (BPM) community. BPM vendors were the first to identify this need, since they are on the frontlines assisting companies with managing existing business processes. As enterprises become more successful in managing their structured, routine processes through BPM tools and methodologies, the need to also manage unstructured, ad-hoc knowledge worker processes is even more apparent.

ACM tools are emerging as complements to BPM and as a human-centric combination of process and collaboration. These solutions address the issue of how to structure knowledge worker processes just enough to make them manageable, but not so much as to strangle them - thereby increasing productivity. The issue of knowledge worker productivity is not a new concept. Peter Drucker recognized it at least 10 years ago , and it is still an unsolved issue today (Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers, McKinsey Quarterly 2010). Routine, structured processes are becoming automated; enhancing knowledge worker productivity is the next frontier in business productivity and is a crucial stepping stone to economic growth.
ACM is still an emerging discipline, but it is currently the best bet for process-aware tools to enhance knowledge worker productivity. Over time, these capabilities may be rolled into BPM suites, ECM suites or even e-mail. To alleviate the obstacles to knowledge worker productivity, the coming generations of ACM tools will need to focus on three areas:

  1. User Experience -- For knowledge workers to adopt ACM, these tools must reflect the way people work today. E-mail and Microsoft Office are the tools knowledge workers use most often, and ACM needs to be just as simple and intuitive. ACM tools must adopt a motto of radical simplicity for user experience design. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. If ACM is to supplant e-mail and documents (or augment them) and be a key driver of knowledge worker productivity, it will need to go beyond ease-of-use to joy-of-use.
  2. Simplified Models -- Standard modeling language and techniques are just too structured and complex for knowledge worker processes. For most knowledge work, there is a greater emphasis on process visibility and monitoring, rather than upfront modeling and a rigid predefined structure. The participants themselves decide on the flow and the structure based on their experience, skills and the specifics of the process and its data. Models as we know them in BPM won't exist in ACM, which will replace models with guidelines, guardrails and best practices. These provide valuable information for knowledge workers as they work through a process. Here, too, radical simplicity must be employed. Checklists and process visibility will take the place of BPM (or other more complex modeling techniques) for ACM.
  3. Process Analysis and Mining -- The use of an ACM creates a system of record, linking knowledge worker processes with the documents and other artifacts used in those processes. That system of record is a goldmine of knowledge regarding the way an organization actually works, providing companies with insight (which is currently missing) about how knowledge work gets done. ACM needs to analyze and mine that data to create and manage best practices for knowledge work, enabling the knowledge workers themselves to make their work more efficient.

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