Episode V: This Is Not The Context You Are Looking For

Not long ago, I shared a post explaining what BPM is in five words: process, people, context, actions, and outcomes. I promised follow-ups on each of the areas, and this is the first of the series.

I am a self-admitted process-oholic, and have a tendency to go on about how great chocolate and wine are from time to time (OK, a lot).  I have another passion… Star Wars. In honor of the much-anticipated release of the first Star Wars sequel, we will be exploring “context” and its similarities to the galactic empire.

This Is Not the Context You Are Looking For

As I stated previously, “The full business context must be available to make the new complexity of the digital business consumable. So, what is the ‘full business context?’ There are many types of context, and each situation will require a mixture of them.”


Context can mean a lot of things. Apparently, even something about mushrooms.

Situational Context

The set of circumstances and facts that surround a process is classic context. This is your data, and digital businesses create a lot of data… and that, in turn, is a whole lot of context!

So what is the context you are looking for? To make finding the “full business context” easier, I have broken down business context into several categories for consideration.

Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Context

I think about this category of context a bit like the galactic empire… not that it is evil and oppressive or anything, but more in terms of its command structure.

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Strategic direction (strategic context) for a business is decided at top levels and is set or reset infrequently. This determines the “what” and goals behind a business. Once a strategic context for a business has been set, it is handed down the chain for operational context to be added. The next levels of management take the “what” and add the “how” to it. How is the business going to achieve the strategic context? Next comes tactical context, which happens at the levels in the organization where the work actually takes place.

Why is this context category important? Because the relevant context changes based on the audience. Ensure you are presenting the right level of context for each persona interacting with your processes.

Gartner has done some very good research in this area recently. I highly suggest checking out their two part series, Make Business Operations More Agile With Intelligent Business Processes That Reshape Themselves as They Run and Eight Dimensions of Process IQ Determine How Smart Your Process Needs to Be.

Social, Organizational, and Resource Context

Strategic, operational, and tactical context mirrors the galactic empire’s command structure, but isn’t how work actually gets done around the death star. Social, organizational, and resource context are how that actually gets done.

Who in your organization possesses the skills, positions, attributes, and privileges necessary to complete the work or incident at hand? You don’t send a run of the mill storm trooper into a space battle; you send the tie fighter pilot who has the appropriate skills.


TIBCO ActiveMatrix® BPM provides an organization model to manage your resources independently from your processes, and to provide your processes with social, organizational, and resource context. The organization model provides many more structures and relationships that do not exist within a business’ reporting hierarchy (Corporate LDAP).

Physical Context

Star Wars was written and produced well before we had any idea of the disruptive technologies that would be coming in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. I couldn’t come up with a good metaphor for physical context.

Physical Context is where the Internet of Things and its many devices, sensors, and data have started invading the digital business and its processes. Intelligent operations will need to be employed to provide the right physical context. Too much data or context is just as bad as not enough. To find the right events and recognize event patterns hiding in plain sight, event processing technologies like TIBCO BusinessEvents® and TIBCO StreamBase® can be used to signal your processes to provide only the relevant physical context from IoT devices.

Visual Context

All of this new context and data becomes very complex, and visual context is needed to make it consumable. Much like architectural plans…


Visual Context can be supplied in a few ways. BI/Analytics dashboards and mashups, reporting, streaming analytics, or contextual actions.


Are You Sure This Is the Context You Are Looking For?


Process, people, and context come together for decisions, which determine the right course of action. Intelligent technologies automatically take some of these actions, and some rely on human insight. The new challenge is to surface the right actions being presented out of the universe of potential possibilities the digital business brings.

This is the first follow-up blog to “What is BPM?” in 5 words. Stay tuned as I explore the next four areas (process, people, actions, and outcomes) over the coming months. You can learn more about how TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM supports your process, people, context, and actions for better business outcomes here.