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Using Management Techniques in Managing Processes April 28, 2011

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management.
Tags: , , , , ,

Plenty of debate has been floating around over the benefits of Business Process Management (BPM) and Adaptive Case Management (ACM). A simplistic and humourous take on both is well exemplified in Adam Deane’s ACM: Radical Man! and its equally competent comments.

But, let’s leave Otto and Bart to debate that on their own.

We’ve got a business to manage, profits to make and to do that we’ve got processes to run, run successfully.

It doesn’t matter to us if these processes run sequential, parallel, synchronous, asynchronous, blah, blah. Who cares as long as the processes are working and the bottom line is safe and growing!

So, how do we do that again ? Let’s improve our processes. (Duh!)

And how do we improve our processes? Let’s bring in a BPM system! Or.. is it an ACM system?

And we all become Otto and Bart again.

In essence, every organization tends to practice both BPM and ACM. However, the choice to adopting BPM or ACM for managing your processes relies quite strongly on the management techniques practiced by your management within the scope of their processes.

One look at the techniques below and we’ll realize why control works in some processes and flexibility works better for others. While the techniques reserve high credit for their existence to the attitude and approach of the manager, they may also be influenced by the demands of the function and the environment.

Autocratic Technique

This technique is seen in practice by those managers who like to have all the decision-making to themselves and want to have absolute control. While this technique may result in dissatisfied employees, it tends to work well for managing unskilled workers or quick  and crisis decision-making.

Obviously, sounds like a classic BPM case with a lavish use of the Gateway diagrams.

Paternalistic Technique

This technique brings nostalgia about one’s dad being caring yet not confident enough to let one wander out on one’s own. Every decision is made in the best interest of the employee and may involve consults them or a select few of them, but the decision-making is still kept with the manager. Too much of this can be stifling and slow down decision-making.

Obviously, a more classic case of ACM bringing with it plenty of collaboration with a dynamic behavior  before reaching a final decision-making stage.

Democratic Technique

A technique that brings in active employee participation and results in much delegation of authority allowing employees to take decisions and actions. Highly motivating technique, yet, comes with the inherent risk of chosen employees not being skilled enough to do it right.

Either BPM or ACM may be used in this technique. Being democratic in nature, this may have a dynamic behavior  needing ACM or if with defined authority levels, it’s better with BPM

Hybrid Technique

A hybrid technique brings out the realization and every employee is different and that a single technique cannot succeed always. A blend of all 3 techniques used at the right time with the right employee for the right objective is the better way forward. Although, a challenge when leading a large team, in the long this technique would come out a winner.

A superior management approach would let one realize that every process is different and neither BPM nor ACM on their own will not be successful all the time. Just as a hybrid technique depending on the employee helps manage employees better, a hybrid approach to BPM and ACM depending on the behavior of the process would be best advised.


1. @mayrapatricia - April 28, 2011

Hi Sanooj… I´ve read your post and I was reading a little about ACM…I´m not an expert but I wonder who said that BPM is not adaptative? I mean… as I know, Business Processes are designed (or must be) to support business strategy (am I right?), then If the strategy changes then processes change with it, right? and that is BPM, right? and that is adaptation, right?… so I think people need to make things more complicated that they really are just to explain themselves something that they notice around, and later we´re getting crazy with all of these approaches living together…anyway… at the end, and accepting these approaches as “different ways” I totally agree with you (if I understood your post), managers need to have the capability to determine when and where every approach fits adequately based on the process nature…

Thank you!

2. Bryant Duhon - April 28, 2011

Sanooj, that’s a great cartoon. My understanding of ACM is a bit limited as it’s not a focus for me just now. I’ve always thought that a good BPM system would be adaptable to change (even for those processes which are straight-forward and streamlined, changes to happen there too). What I like about your writing, and here too, is the point that needs to be repeatedly made that technology is rarely the problem. It’s application of that technology and that can come down to leadership — and leadership, to me, can mean impatience to DO SOMETHING rather than giving enough time to let people do something good.

3. BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane - April 30, 2011

[…] BPM and ACM – Sanooj Kutty A superior management approach would let one realize that every process is […]

4. Max J. Pucher - April 30, 2011

Most people understand the term ADAPTIVE as meaning DYNAMIC = allowing for ad-hoc tasks and changes to process during execution. That is not the case. ADAPTIVE has always been (since the research by Aalst, Reichert, Dadam in 1996) about how to learn from previous executions and update future processes either automatically or manually through enduser facilities. So much of it is about process mining.

Further there is this notion that ACM systems do not support normal structured processes. That may be true for some of them, but in my definition of ACM structured and social is included.

Quote from my blog: “Adaptive Process technology exposes structured (business data) and unstructured (content) information to the members of structured (business) and unstructured (social) organizations to securely execute – with knowledge interactively gathered previously – structured (process) and unstructured (case) work in a transparent and auditable manner.”

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