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Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Using Technology as Innovation Driver

In general on December 6, 2011 at 2:16 am

While innovation is rightfully widely hailed as a key element of business success the widespread day-to-day practice in many organizations seems to confirm that there is no real commitment to innovative efforts other than paying lip service. Yet most good managers are aware of of this dilemma but the current bureaucratic business and IT environment is usually too rigid to allow them swift responses when opportunities arise. It is therefore essential that managers become technology savvy and understand the immense power of change potential that IT can create. To ensure that their businesses remain competitive they ultimately need to consider how they want to use IT to enable knowledge and innovation.

Only businesses that manage to use technology as an innovation enabler are shooting past those that control IT and/or processes by using excessive bureaucracy in terms of governance, centers of excellence and best practices. Each day a business does not innovate it falls behind because the economy is a six-lane highway and the speed limits are going up each year. If they stop to execute lengthy innovation processes to figure out whether you need to go straight or exit, they will get run over. Missing the right exit will cost time and money. Businesses take thousands of those decisions each day and the more of these are automated, the less does a business consider direction in relationship to outside conditions. Evolutionary change can’t be encoded into innovative processes. The long-term impact of suppressing tacit knowledge and change through optimization is dramatic.

The only way to enable the business to improve innovative processes and emerging practices through transparency, flexibility and adaptability of business operations is an embedded Business Architecture including strategy, capabilities, relationships, business entities, and processes. This in turn requires that the interaction is driven by users and not by some predefined process. All that is needed instead is collaborative information sharing and free-flow execution between many possible service and resolution tasks while management can intervene for guidance and advice. Instead of bureaucracy and methodology to tie them down technology must empower the actors and provide the means to achieve a specified goal and create true business value.

From Manufacturing to User Interaction Services

In general on November 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

Ever since Peter Drucker first described the concept of ‘knowledge work’ in 1954 it has become more evident that there is a huge shift in how work is organized today and in difference to only a few decades ago. The knowledge worker has become emblematic for a more skilled workforce than ever before. Yet, the self-managed work style and perceived productivity increase is still far from being achieved. This is partly due to a lack of understanding of the type of work performed, an unwillingness to cede control on all levels of management, and technology that fails to deliver what is required to support knowledge work.

Against the backdrop of ongoing ‘discontinuity’ (another term owed to Peter Drucker) the current situation in enterprise IT is characterized by various issues of which each substantially contributes to a situation that doesn’t appear to be particularly satisfactory for business operations and strategy on the one hand nor business users and customers on the other hand. The hope to come to grips and control the data and processes that were regarded as the most valuable assets by fragmenting the market for enterprise IT into silo applications for customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise content management (ECM), supply chain management (SCM), and countless others has grimly failed. These applications are by concept limited in consolidating data and processes into one centralized system and do not bring about the hoped-for efficient end-to-end processes. Moreover, these applications need substantial customization to come anywhere near being of any use for an organization with the effect that those hard-coded changes need additional maintenance effort and tie an organization down for years to come with rigid workflows and without the ability to adapt to changing environments and markets. Bring in BI to eliminate all intuition in decision-making and the disaster is perfect.

Therefore it is inevitable to consolidate ECM, CRM and BPM with business architecture and to provide the knowledge workers with a single, consolidated view of the customer. Moreover, empowering these knowledge workers to create exactly what they need to achieve the best possible process outcome for the customer is critical for business success and growth.

From Standardization to Value Perception

In general on October 19, 2011 at 7:24 am

Standardization and uniformity have long been hailed as hallmark in business operations and process management. But all standardization and uniformity gets to a point where every organization is doing basically the same and none has a competitive edge. Moreover, standardization is the counterpoint to innovation and agility and creates a risk-averse bureaucratic machinery where every disturbance of the routine is sought to be evaded at all cost. Decision-making and planning are by and large delegated to an anonymous system fed with all kinds of data of limited validity and doubtful relevance. The output doesn’t matter much if it doesn’t interfere with the dullness of general affairs. This situation is known as innovation gridlock, where an exceedingly complex system finds its justification in cumbersome maintenance and binding resources that are painfully missing elsewhere

However, good business decisions are always taken by experienced people who use intuition to combine relevant data in business context. These are the Leverage Points where people skill has a relevant effect on a customer outcome. What is therefore necessary is to identify technology that is apt for new requirements apart from standardization and uniformity, lends itself to the increasing speed of change and considers the fact that people and organizations working through human interactions and emergent processes cannot be modeled to factory floor concepts where lots of unskilled or semi-skilled workers are expected to do the same repetitive tasks over and over again.

With the help of a Business Architecture including strategy, capabilities, relationships, business entities, and processes such technology should enable the business to improve customer service quality through transparency, flexibility and adaptability of business operations. This in turn requires that the interaction is driven by users and not by some predefined process. The process must only provide guidance, collaborative information sharing and free-flow execution between many possible service and resolution tasks. This cannot be performed even by the most dynamic and ad-hoc BPM solutions but only by an adaptive process environment that empowers the actor to take any action and includes any resource (man or machine) to resolve a given problem in terms of providing value perceived by the customer.

Sequel to Groundbreaking ACM Book

In general on September 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

When almost a year ago “Mastering the Unpredictable” came out it was the first comprehensive work dealing with the foundations of Adaptive Case Management. To this day it is unrivaled and still the most authoritative source on the topic.

Now there is a sequel to this book presenting real-world applications of adaptive approaches to business process management, called “Taming the Unpredictable”. ISIS Papyrus Founder and Chief Architect Max J. Pucher features again as co-author and has contributed his insightful “Considerations for Implementing Adaptive Case Management”. In this highly informative article Mr. Pucher discusses the scientific findings that show the obsolescence of flowcharted business process models. At the same time he reveals how businesses can use technology to drive innovation and create effective customer outcomes.

Mr. Pucher emphasizes again his firm commitment for placing human aspects over simplified cost optimization in process management and strongly advocates empowerment and intrinsic motivation for the improvement of cost/quality ratios. These principles are also reflected in his practical achievements as Chief Architect and mastermind behind the innovative Papyrus Platform.  He designed the core technology with a business architecture repository, distributed object-oriented transaction engine, and embedded object-relational database. He holds several software patents in the area of artificial intelligence for the so-called user-trained agent, a machine learning component for auto-discovery of process knowledge.

From Production Work to Knowledge Work

In general, product on September 9, 2011 at 2:28 am

As repeatable production work is more and more on the decrease in advanced economies there is an increased focus on the needs of business users who perform emergent or unstructured knowledge work. This requires technological empowerment rather than a new management methodology. While the business strategy is a top-down definition targeting cost, process innovation that targets quality is most likely more effective bottom-up.

Technology has to support both targets. Most process management  solutions need a substantial amount of software implementation for data interfaces, user front-ends, rule engine integration, and back-end orchestration. But they don’t do much for the business user at all. In difference to conventional IT wisdom, the use of – out of principle well defined and thus rigid – process methodology to make better use of technology becomes a hindrance for innovation. Modularization and standardization create fragmentation and additional complexity of integration. The new concept of moving the process knowledge gathering in the life cycle from the template analysis phase into process execution is referred to as Adaptive Case Management or ACM. The ACM system collects ‘actionable knowledge’ based on process patterns created by business users. Actionable knowledge is not just data, information or descriptive text but knowing which action will lead from the current situation A to a desired situation B. As a first step the solution has to make the user aware of the current situation and what the desired outcome for the customer is. Transparency is also needed up the hierarchy to report process outcomes. Bidirectional transparency includes partners and customers into the virtual process organization for managed collaboration.

Regardless of how processes are implemented and ultimately executed, the team owning the process must be in charge of additions, improvements, and corrections. Business users are enabled by the technology to implement many small low-cost improvements that follow the business architecture and can be verified for benefits within days. Technology is not just relevant in terms of functional capability but more in terms of manageability and adaptability. We must not underestimate the relevance of content. Inbound and Outbound business content must be maintained by business users and transparently integrated into the ACM platform. Transparency mandates embedded security on the object and function level. Each access and function of any item has to be authorized. All objects, data and content have to be controlled. All actors have to be authenticated (ideally biometric) and authorized in role/policy models. All changes to templates and definitions must be audited. Adaptive Process combined with an empowerment management paradigm turns more production workers into knowledge workers. In reality it is quite difficult to use BPM for top-down analysis and simulation of business processes and linking key performance indicators to achieve a continuous improvement cycle. ‘Measure to Manage’ optimization is counterproductive to improvement and innovation. Only empowered actors can use their intuition and experience for sensible action. The dynamics of the economy require a self-organizing structure that is resilient to fast changes through its ability to adapt.

Study Confirms: Knowledge Workers Need More Adequate Support

In general, markets on March 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

Real-world business experience as well as research-backed evidence show that traditional IT concepts fail when it comes to improve the performance of knowledge workers. Yet it is this segment of high-value decision makers growing both in numbers and importance throughout mature market economies. One thing that’s puzzling is why organizations don’t invest in the proper infrastructure to provide them with appropriate software and tools while they seem to be perfectly clear about the importance of such an investment and the impact on strategic business objectives. This, at least, is one of the conclusions from a study conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of ISIS Papyrus among 150 process professionals.

Other findings from this study show the following issues prevailing in many organizations:

  • Substantial lack of coordination of data, content, workflow and rules between information systems
  • Rapidly changing business processes
  • Annual costs of process change are twice the cost of initial installation
  • Internal obstacles slow down process changes
  • IT support remains crucial for process changes
  • Overwhelming majority wants knowledge worker empowerment to create new processes

All these problems that cannot be solved by mere process automation and increased governance is a clear call to action for executives because there is a disconnect of process management and business objectives. To keep their companies competitive they have to understand what IT can do to support innovation and creativity and why flowcharted process maps will ultimately fail to do so.

An adaptive approach that defines outcomes rather then predefined process steps is a major step in this direction. It relies on top-down transparency as to business objectives and management targets and bottom-up transparency as to individual goals of the process owners as well as on a balance of value proposition and perceived value for the customer. A technology that enables such empowerment of knowledge workers must provide the necessary authority, means, and relevant information for effective execution. Flowcharts and half-hearted approaches that try to loosen the harness of rigidity just a little bit and leave no room for individual decision-making are definitely not enabling any creativity. On the contrary, it’s at the leverage points of processes where individual skills and experience determine a positive customer outcome and subsequently a business’ success and growth.

Enhancing Interaction, Collaboration, and Innovation

In general on January 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

For any organization with a high amount of knowledge workers in their workforce the improvement of their effectiveness is paramount. Their jobs are mostly characterized by interaction and collaboration—with other employees, customers, and suppliers—and complex decision making based on knowledge and experience and are regarded as high-value activities, which are of growing importance for mature developed economies to maintain an innovative and competitive edge.

Yet the understanding of knowledge work itself and how those engaged in such work perform their tasks is generally fairly poor. This is partly due to the diverse nature of these tasks as compared to production or clerical work. An individual’s knowledge is highly erratic and hazy and the reasoning for judgment is mostly made up ex post. Therefore most so-called knowledge management initiatives have rendered at best mixed results and their efficiency appears to decrease specifically with the number of business units, departments, functional roles, and application silos involved and generally with the size of an organization. Only lately the idea comes to fruition that the whole concept of knowledge management is elusive and that it all boils down to removing barriers of information that exist internally and externally across organizations, their customers, partners, and suppliers and consolidating real-time data, content, business context and rules, processes, and goals in transparent views with customizable GUIs to enhance the user experience and provide a single launchpad for knowledgeable staff to use their expertise to enhance interaction, collaboration and innovation and increase their productivity.

The vision behind Adaptive Case Management from ISIS Papyrus acknowledges the fact that the most effective and efficient way of using people’s talent and skills for productive business outcomes is essentially empowerment to use these assets to the fullest. Papyrus ACM supports knowledge workers uniquely to apply their abilities for case resolution and process execution to secure customer loyalty in complex situations that cannot be resolved by rigidly planned processes or mere delegation or rerouting of tasks. This includes the creation of processes, goals, and milestones by business users and the option to subsequently save them as templates for sharing the experience and knowledge across the enterprise.

Pragmatics of Business Management

In general on January 19, 2011 at 11:20 am

With the dynamic development of business environments and the emergence of new technologies many organizations feel a pressure to align both or face a competitive disadvantage. Or do they? While many technologies are sold under the premise to save cost and provide smooth sailing through the rough waters of economic turmoil they touch only lightly on the first of two fundamental questions of business management:

  1. Are we doing the right things?
  2. Are we doing things right?

These two questions cannot be separated and don’t revolve around the installation of a particular software or system with more or less of this or another flavor. These are pragmatic questions that determine the make or fail of the business, while the choice of ACM over BPM or the other way round is rather abstract in comparison and remains so until a technology can thoroughly answer both of these questions.

Doing the right things right starts essentially with transparency from the top down. Executives first need to make their strategy, directors their targets and managers (process owners) their goals transparent to those who execute. Such a consolidated view allows to look at the things the business is doing to discuss if they are being done right.

Information about how things are going makes only sense in real time. There is little benefit from hindsight about what went wrong and why. Real-time information again only makes sense when people with the proper know-how are empowered to prevent things from going wrong by taking action. Empowering the right people to do the right things right addresses all fundamental questions of business management.  However, empowerment is not about using Twitter, YouTube and iPhone apps but about authority, goals and means.

To know if the business is doing right things right for a certain outcome needs immediate feedback from the customer. Does that mean that the customer ought to be real-time connected to the customer-focused processes of your business? Yes, that is exactly what focused means.

At this point Adaptive Case Management from ISIS Papyrus comes into play. It is essentially empowerment technology that puts the customers and actors in the driver seat. No amount of social networking will improve flow-charted processes before, during, or after things went wrong. ACM allows the business to empower selectively and securely all the people that do things and those for whom things are being done. ACM is about communication and process as ONE! ACM leaves the automation of the low-value, highly repetitive administration tasks to BPM but it provides the platform for the high-value, unique and skill or knowledge intensive customer service processes. That is where customer loyalty and business value is being created and maintained. Moreover, ACM interconnects the management layers and enables continuous  innovation and optimization without ANY bureaucratic governance overhead. Reorganizing a business could become an exercise that executives and directors can perform by rearranging tactical targets from the information workplace on their iPad.

Is Social a Cure to All Enterprise Ills?

In general, key function on January 11, 2011 at 5:42 am

Despite years of investing significant time and effort in all kinds of fragmented enterprise applications many large organizations continue to face some fundamental challenges when it comes to human interaction and collaboration. Many business processes are still manual, resource-intensive operations that are typically resolved via numerous emails, faxes, and phone calls. As these operations involve basically human interaction of some sort they lend themselves to be tagged “social”, which currently seems to be a panacea for enterprise solutions that otherwise lag the capability of  closed-loop-communication.

The promise of social enterprise solutions is to help fill the gap that exists between manual and transactional business processes and to enable real-time response to customers or suppliers and to optimize business relationships with online collaboration.

However, so-called social add-ons to any form of enterprise application don’t automatically result in a “social workplace” but in the generation of a huge amount of additional data that is pretty much useless for the business and its relationships with customers and partners if that relationship cannot be built and fostered by any other means. Real-time response to customers and suppliers is not achieved by any social channel but rather by an underlying system that allows a consolidated approach to all business communication, its context and the related business processes. On the contrary, most of social media “data”, or rather, flurry, flows into functional silos, thus creating additional sub-silos and further eluding true collaboration and an effective closed-loop communication.

The underlying problem of social media interactions is that they lack business context and goals. Therefore the Papyrus Platform from ISIS Papyrus handles social interactions only as elements of a case to provide a consolidated view of all customer-related data and content. While at the same time doing away with artificially created fragmentation the Papyrus Platform offers a holistic approach to integrated business communication and collaborative capabilities and enables business users to create their own processes with leading edge machine-learning technology to fulfill strategic business goals within predefined business rules.

The Expert View on Processes

In general, solution on November 22, 2010 at 10:28 am

As BPM and its process planning and automation approach lent from optimizing the assembly line is apparently leading to a dead end in a changing business environment, attention shifts (again) to those unstructured, unpredictable processes that are characteristic for knowledge work.

But what is, in fact, knowledge work? Contrary to wide-spread belief knowledge work is not limited to professionals like lawyers, architects, physicians, engineers, and scientists. Interestingly enough that Wenger’s groundbreaking Communities of Practice which is now something like a textbook for collaborative, highly interactive, and knowledge-intensive settings chose insurance claims processing as backdrop for his research. Not exactly the high-brow activity that is commonly associated with knowledge work. Nevertheless it is an activity that requires certain skills that develop into specialist expertise over time. Looking at knowledge work from this angle it comes as no surprise that we are not talking of a small proportion of the workforce. There are estimates that knowledge workers in North America outnumber every other occupation by at least 4 to 1. This means knowledge workers are the backbone of the economy and what really surprises is that their work requirements have been neglected for so long or have only been addressed with outdated technology concepts.

Now what are the work requirements of these expert workers? To answer this question we must be well aware HOW they work and make decisions to accomplish specific goals. Apart from field studies by Wenger and others, we see certain traits common to all expert work. Gary Klein has identified those traits and describes them in terms of what an expert sees:

  • Patterns and relationships that others do not notice
  • Anomalies
  • The big picture
  • The way things work
  • Opportunities and improvisations
  • Differences that are too small for others to detect

Back in 1998 Wenger already observed that designers tried to tie down knowledge in forms, which is a quite common feature even today. Instead of providing insights and information such a design focuses on procedures and on hiding their meaning from users. From the above it is clear that neither forms nor formalized processes can support the key characteristics of knowledge work, whatever the specific field may be.

The technology concept and the vision behind the Papyrus Adaptive Case Management Platform do away with the patterns of prescription that business users are forced into in many service-oriented and customer-facing environments up to this day. Instead Papyrus ACM gives users full transparency to see WHY they need to do certain things to meet specific targets and provides them with the flexibility to adapt their processes during execution according to their own judgment. The ability to make decisions based on real-time access to data and communications is a prerequisite for the effective interaction with customers, which is what most knowledge workers engage in. Businesses in turn profit from this sort of empowerment because effective customer communication is the ultimate benchmark for business success and growth.