It seems like Agile techniques are permeating many aspects of business. We frequently hear about Agile development, Agile manufacturing, Agile marketing, and more. When applied to Business Process Management (BPM), Agile is yielding some interesting results.
Traditional BPM focused on rules, process flow, and dealing with any exceptions that occurred. Over time, BPM has grown more complex to include routing, distribution, wait states, business patterns, dynamic processes, and more. All of this is done with the intent of creating a process model to automate today’s more complex processes.
On the other hand, the Agile Manifesto focuses on individuals and their interactions over processes and tools. Agile prefers to find processes that work well instead of being well documented. “Agile prefers the human element to the business element. And, Agile allows for change instead of taking the planned path,” says Jeff Shuey with BPM Leader.
This is where Agile and BPM can coexist. Agile focuses on the human aspects of processes, while BPM traditionally focuses more on the process instead of the people. “BPM systems are morphing to allow for ad-hoc routing and exception handling. Some of these capabilities are the result of customer demands for a more flexible BPMS and others are from advances in computer processing, such as the increase in access and use of machine learning,” says Shuey.
The level of success of Agile + BPM is dependent on what kind of process you are designing. Combining Agile to traditional process automation can have mixed outcomes. Agile does not replace the need for business requirements gathering altogether. With classic process management and automation, if process design decisions are not made strategically in the beginning, it can seriously impact what is even possible several iterations down the line. It’s critical to have a firm grasp of your end goal at the start of your BPM project to ensure success.
With newer styles of BPM, like contextual processes and case management, Agile + BPM produces better results. For example, TIBCO’s ActiveMatrix® BPM provides the users the ability to compose the best process on-the-fly for the situation at hand. This capability requires the processes to become much more granular and independent of each other. These small, declarative processes are well suited for a quick, iterative style of Agile design.
You don’t have to create the entire solution during your first iteration. You can start with a simple case or process with a few operations, analyze it, and then add additional operations over time. This methodology gives you an opportunity to learn more about how knowledge workers are processing and interacting with the case. You can then use your findings to determine the optimal paths that can be used in the next iteration.
Agile is a powerful addition to contextual processes and BPM. It gives process designers the ability to be just as flexible as the processes they are creating, while still creating processes that help ensure an organization’s success.