Social Processes, Pt. 2 - show me the money The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature, but plunges him ever more deeply into them. - Saint-Exup éry, Wind, Sand, and Stars , 1939 (Wikiquote)
This is a real, genuine, business process, taken from the life insurance division of a large insurance company, and driven by a large BPMS software system. In the “Do some work” step, the system hands off to human beings, who coordinate with each other on an ad hoc basis. This so-called “one-step process” is the norm for the life insurance business in this company. Within the one step, many tasks are performed, but there is no attempt to model them.
This is a real, genuine, business process from the property & casualty division of the same company. This is a claims process. Of a dozen such, this is the simplest.
The typical path through this process takes three steps. Everything else is exception handling.
There is a good bit of automation involved. Each of the decision points (the diamonds) is implemented in software, as is allocation to roles.
Is this it? Is this combination of approaches the best we can do?
Imagine a case worker in a typical insurance company’s call centre: a case has arisen - maybe it’s a claim, maybe new business - and something about it deviates from the norm. It is an exception. The worker’s software has categorised the case by tagging it - it tagged liberally, so the odds are high that the tags are relevant. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
The worker can use this to find, almost at a glance, who the “experts” in his organisation for this sort of case are: they are the people who cluster most densely around a given tag.
People cluster around tags because they document their work (this is easy and relatively painless for them) and tag it liberally. This documentation includes not just “I worked on this today for 10 minutes”, but also “This one was odd, because...” and so on. This data forms a sort of a mega-FAQ, which the case worker (having found the relevant bit, above) can now reference
If that doesn’t provide enough information to solve the exception, the software can also tell him, again at a glance, if one of the “experts” is available . Then, all from the same software, the worker can choose the most appropriate means of collaborating with that expert (IM, telephone, discussion forum, etc.), and try to get direct help. Presence awareness / management Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
The expert, in turn, is using the same (or similar) software, so it’s relatively painless for her to engage in these sort of communications - the software helps her manage information overload, and allows communication availability without becoming a distraction or an annoyance. She can respond quickly, at the optimal time, and thus help avoid more costly rework downstream. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Let’s take a look at some of the details. The solution we need should support the full range of SLATES/FLATNESS functions, and combine BPM features with those of SNS Activity stream: combination of BPM task inbox and microblog, with tagging built in. Includes freeform “timekeeping” functions. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Context (tag) aware search Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Content creation tools (to add context, metadata, tags, comments, pictures, whatever) are a click away Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Correlated people, groups -- think LinkedIn, Facebook. Based on tags, context, etc. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Correlated content, people, groups -- think Amazon suggestions. Based on tags, context, etc. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
Mashups -- Google Maps, Flickr, countless other possibilities. Mashups -- Google Maps, Flickr, countless other possibilities. Edit Tag Network Feeds Print
This has the promise of being a real improvement in the way work gets done in enterprises today.
This kind of a solution is a new approach to the problem, using social networking software to enhance business processing.
The idea is to achieve a balance: neither one extreme (“you solve the problem, human, but you’re on your own to do it”), nor the other (“I’ve got this BPMS hammer, let’s see what I can hit with it”)
Now armed with information of significantly higher value (and greater accuracy) the case worker can resolve the exception with a much higher chance of doing it correctly, quickly, and with the least possible waste. Our processes can be simpler -- leaner -- since we no longer attempt to model all the exceptions, or work that involves tacit knowledge. And all that, in turn, results in lower coordination costs -- which is where we think there is significant money to be saved.
Attribution / References I am deeply indebted to the example provided by Lockheed-Martin’s world beating Unity platform ( http://community.e2conf.com/community/sessions/thursday/en44 ). Thanks to Sean Dahlen ( http://www.linkedin.com/in/smdahlen ) and his team for their work, and for graciously allowing me to stand on your shoulders. This presentation is part 2 of a series on the topic of social processes, and makes most sense when viewed together with part 1: http://www.slideshare.net/mastermark/social-processes/