ISIS Papyrus Software

Posts Tagged ‘knowledge work’

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.

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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.

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.

Flaws of Flowcharting in High-Skill Processes

In general on November 5, 2010 at 9:31 am

Traditional BPM still tries to describe human activity in a simplified Tayloristic way: as a sequence of isolated actions or tasks. But human activity is far from being sequential and so are the activities in a modern service and customer driven business environment. Human activity is a complex pattern of interaction and decision-making and as such resembles the tasks of highly skilled workers, often referred to as knowledge workers.

What these kinds of workers need to support their daily tasks is not a prescriptive sequential order to follow on an if/then basis. They rather need transparency so as to know why they need to do what plus transparent real-time access to information and the related business context to subsequently use their skills to accomplish business goals.

If we imagine to use two-dimensional flowcharts in the automation of only such an apparently trivial human activity as road traffic that would be quite ridiculous as they just cannot cope. Why should they be able to cope with the even more unstructured complexity of human interaction, business communication, data, information, and content in the context of business processes? That’s where a holistic approach like Papyrus Adaptive Case Management (ACM) comes into play. Instead of fastening business users into the straightjacket of predefined process flows it puts them into the driving seat of their processes within the traffic rules laid out by the business and allows them to intervene as required to safely reach their destination in the form of business goals.

Tech Update and New Blog for ACM

In benefits, general on October 22, 2010 at 8:22 am

As Adaptive Case Management has only fairly recently been discussed by a wider public there are still many questions, uncertainties, controversies and doubts about its meaning and its purpose. Yet ACM shows its importance as ACM is claimed by many while there is actually no basis for it. This makes the discussion even more confusing.

A recently released tech update by ISIS Papyrus and a new blog now shed light on the various aspects of ACM and provide insightful and authoritative information about the topic, explaining how it serves to empower knowledge workers in order to fulfill strategic business goals.

Other aspects illustrate the practical implementation of ACM with the consolidated approach of the Papyrus Adaptive Process Platform. It provides a comprehensive, flexible and scalable solution for the consolidated management of inbound and outbound communications and enables seamless functional cooperation of otherwise distinct products such as ECM, BPM or CRM. It allows organizations to define, measure and manage process, content and data in complex service environments with a single shared customer view and customized GUIs for ultimate transparency.

New Book On Adaptive Case Management

In markets on April 15, 2010 at 7:38 am

Under the title “Mastering the Unpredictable” a recently published book deals with the aspects of how IT can support knowledge work, or unstructured processes, in typical modern workplace settings. For this purpose the book describes how case management is to be seen apart from conventional notions of business process management.

Max J. Pucher, Chief Architect of ISIS Papyrus, has contributed to this landmark publication with a chapter called “The Elements of Adaptive Case Management”. At the center of his considerations lies the fact that many current implementations of process and case management solutions are at odds with modern management concepts. While that applies to all workers, it is especially relevant for highly skilled knowledge workers. Motivation is achieved by empowering people to be valuable team members rather than through command-and-control-oriented process implementations. Adaptive case management sits at the center of gravity for process, content, and customer relationship management and therefore plays a key role for effective execution toward business goals.

While ACM is about bringing the benefits of adaptability to existing knowledge workers, Mr Pucher proposes to expand that into “Adaptive Process” that combined with an empowerment management paradigm turns more production workers into knowledge workers rather than just automating the production workers’ work. Adaptive process technology exposes structured (business data) and unstructured (content) information to the members of structured (business) and unstructured (social) organizations to securely execute—and continuously adapt with knowledge interactively gathered during execution—structured (process) and unstructured (case) work in a transparent and auditable manner.

More about this interesting topic can be heard at the 2010 ISIS Papyrus Open House and User Conference in Vienna, Southlake, TX, and Kingsclere, UK, where Max J. Pucher will talk about “Adaptive Process and Empowerment” in his keynote address.