The ISIS Papyrus ACM Vision Statement

The subject of an enhanced form of case management is gaining momentum. So the effort of Keith Swenson and all contributors put into our book ‘Mastering the Unpredictable’ about Adaptive Case Management seems to be paying off.

Forrester Research has produced: ‘Dynamic Case Management- An old-idea catches fire.’ He does teleconferences with AIIM on ‘Support Your Information Workers by Understanding and Implementing Case Management’ or Forresters own TCs as well. Forrester lists ActionBase, Appian, Cordys, EMC, Global 360, IBM, Pallas Athena, Pegasystems, Singularity and … whoa … even CRM maven Sword Ciboodle as their entrants for the next DCM Wave. The likes of Fujitsu, HandySoft, Ideate, OpenText, and Oracle (!!!) will only make it into the ‘Ripple’. Us and Whitestein Technologies are also listed in that second group, but we are the only ones who actually provide GOAL-oriented processes! There are vendors with products that have to be integrated, others who are simple application tools, email-collaborators, but hardly anyone who does embedded content. But then OpenText is jumping now on the ACM bandwagon and promotes ECM as case management. Virtually every BPM vendor now wants a piece of this DCM market especially as the frustration about hyped-up benefits claims of BPM sets in. Read about Dr. Rashid Khan’s assessment of BPM Simulation and Optimization that is a perfect add-on to my own perspective on the problems with flowcharts.

Gartner Group has another, long-term view to offer that includes Social Media and how work will change in the next ten years. I covered it in this post about ‘The De-routinization of Work.’ Makes you wonder why anyone still bothers with BPM in the first place.

So BPM claims to be agile and now case management claims to be dynamic, goal-oriented, adaptive and more! How can a normal IT person figure out what to do? The best way is to actually do a proof of concept installation. The focus must be on how flexible a system is in terms of integration into your environment and how the business users can work with the solution to create proceses and case work with all resources (data, content, rules, tasks, GUI) themselves! That is the whole trick!

I need to point out that what Forrester defines as DYNAMIC case management is by far not yet ADAPTIVE. Forrester  defines dynamic case management to be semi-structured and collaborative, dynamic, human-centered, information-intensive processes undertaken around a given context, while being driven by events, requiring incremental and progressive responses. So what is different about ADAPTIVE Case Management? The key point is not just runtime dynamic changes, but Just-In-Time creation of the process and resources WITH embedded learning, which means that knowledge of a previous case can be autmatically used by people in a later case or process! As a further point Forrester does not use the term knowledge worker but rather (information-) I-worker, which is anyone who uses a computer at his job. I see ACM mostly for knowledge workers who apply their specific skill for case resolution or process execution. Craig also now points to the link between business architecture, strategic objectives and operational metrics that I have been talking about for some time.

Maybe the follwoing video will make the difference between dynamic and ADAPTIVE clearer:

I also propose that ACM has to deal not only with goals but with complex, captured content, dynamic embedded content, user definable business rules and is mostly event driven, but these are  Complex Business Events. I recently posted my view on how BPMN and rules relate to CBE.

Verify if BPM or case management product supports unpredictable  (semi-structured) processes with complex events in an ADAPTIVE manner by means of the following:

  • Does the system enable the definition or reuse of a business and process architecture to provide the base infrastructure for business driven process creation based on strategic objectives and operational metrics?
  • Does the modeling capability allow direct linkage of objectives, metrics to the process goals and business data in the process/case and therefore embedded verification of goal fulfillement?
  • Can properly authorized business users assemble the process/case from data objects, inbound and outbound business (with mapped data) content, user-defined rules, and GUI components (widgets?) without needing to be BPMN or flowchart experts and execute and modify at will?
  • Can unexpected events or data be handled by means of new tasks, rules, performers and goals being added to the existing process to handle them without causing disruptive exceptions ?
  • Can the signatures of unexpected events be auto-discovered and linked to the context patterns?
  • Does the CBE capability identify fuzzy patterns of similarity between events and suggests goals, tasks or actions to handle them?
  • Are business user decisions related to events fed back into the CBE pattern matching mechanism?
  • Can new performers be added into the case/process at any time and existing or newly defined tasks with associated resources be assigned to them in a social media like, but fully secure collaboration?
  • Can ‘expert’ case participants be selected manually from a skills profile or will the system recommend exeperts based on an automatic match between case and skill or due to past selection by other participants?
  • Can goals, milestones, SLA values and rules be embedded by the business user to verify compliance, efficiency and cost and take direct influence on the execution/routing/modification of the process?
  • Can the business user created processes, goals or milestones be saved at the end of the execution as new templates into the repository (with all resource templates)?
  • Can business users write rules in natural language (no technical syntax) with automatic verification of rule syntax and validity by data object and content mapping based on the business architecture?
  • Are all resources for content (capture and creation), process, rule and GUI are version controlled through a single dev/test/deploy/suspend mechanism? Does this ensure that the maintenance meta-processes for resource templates are decoupled from execution?

If you want to know how ACM can put your organization on the track to business innovation then contact us for a demonstration in which we will build the processes that are relevant to you as we demo.

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Papyrus ACM embeds goal-oriented BPM methdology

On the subject of Papyrus ACM versus BPM, there are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions and some intentional misinformation. When businesses ask about ACM, everyone wants to be ACM, but when I try to define what it actually is, no one wants to truly participate to not be suddenly left out in the feature checklist. A similar thing happens when we try to distinguish what ACM is in difference to other TLA’s and most commonly to BPM. No one wants to alienate the BPM crowd, analysts, consultants and IT architects alike. Everyone chickens out, and is to afraid to have an opinion. We are all buddies, it is all good and we sell it all because obviously customers need it all. ‘We convince others with our passion and ideas.’ Wishy-washy nonsense. You are not standing up for anything. I admire Adam Dean, because he had the guts to say: ‘This is what I think about ACM compared to BPM.’ Great! Stand up and fight! Let’s have a discussion, but let’s not get personal. People attack other people directly as a matter of last resort. They have no other arguments left. Just like in a political campaign. And there is a lot of politics in the ACM versus BPM debate as well.

Yes, I am passionate about my ideas too and my idea is that BPMS-flowcharting (note the ‘S’ for suite or software) is a flawed concept applied to anything more but the most simple, banal process needs. Why should I not say that? I would have to say: ‘While flowcharts are good we developed something else anyway.’ Absolutely not. Why not compare? Where would Apple be today without the hilarious adverts of two guys posing as Macs and Windows PCs? Where would Oracle be without its blunt, full-page adds with checklist comparisons to its competitors? Get a grip on life people, its competitive! All experts who blog are selling themselves too as experts in their fields. For scientists too its either publish or perish! Others post on LinkedIn to find a better job. Let’s stop this pretense and simply be openly and honestly competitive.

It is no secret that I am the Chief Architect and co-owner of a successful, established enterprise software business. There is full disclosure. I don’t sell what I have, but I develop what I propose to be the best solution for my prospective enterprise customers. Like Apple, I don’t develop according to market research. Customers always just ask for more features in a product, but they won’t ask for a new solution they can’t imagine. Nevertheless we are extremely customer-oriented, because there are no hard-coded applications that we deliver. All our out-of-the-box capability is modelled and can be configured and changed without programming!

We are in many ways like Apple, just that we aren’t in a mass market. Apple owns the complete stack of functionality and can control it. The ISIS Papyrus Platform owns the complete stack and can control it too. But then you are not OPEN and STANDARD I am told, but neither is Apple! You can buy BMWs and Superyachts as accessories to the proprietary iPod/iPhone plug! Openness must not be about providing open technology interfaces, but about opening solution functionality to the business users. We use SOA or anything else that will provide data. We can read or create any XML file, but so what? Standards must not be about some XML files that users could not care less about, but giving a standard user interaction to all business users for a consolidated customer experience in the organization. Give them the ability to create processes on the fly without going through a technical and management bureaucracy.

But we aren’t even talking about product features. The subject is a very principal question. Do you want to put your people and business into a flow-charted straightjacket or not? Yes, go for BPMS flowcharts. No? You need something that empowers the business user for goals and outcomes, but not just in theoretical Balanced Scorecards and Powerpoints and then monitor some disconnected KPIs. Real-world, real-time, real product! Maybe some BPMS can do that too? Great, show me!

As an example, here is a segment of a ‘Purchase to Pay’ end-to-end process created in just a few hours by a non-technical person using the ACM capabilites and goal-oriented processes. (To watch the video in high-resolution, don’t forget to press HD in the right upper corner and then switch to full-screen in the right lower corner.)

Let me close by saying that Papyrus ACM is certainly not anti-BPM, because my solution proposal clearly focuses on PROCESS OUTCOMES. We also have a BPMN compliant flowchart editor, but I am also clearly saying that one cannot guarantee outcomes in customer interaction with rigid processes. You can certainly put a lot of BPM governance bureaucracy in place to manage the analysis and design BEFORE execution and the monitoring and optimization AFTER execution, but what it really needs is that both are moved INTO execution. And that is the key difference between ACM and BPM, while ACM also follows the BPM principles. What I am personally opposed to is to try and map how your business works into low-level, step-by-step flowcharts. But if that’s what you  really want to do, you can do that with our Papyrus platform too and you have all the master data, content, event and rule handling included for free. You don’t like that? Well, enjoy your integration projects!

The final point to make is that we are just talking about silly acronyms. I wish we would not need to, but it is the market fragmentation by analysts that causes it. There is also the wish of some businesses to be given simplistic choices so they don’t have to understand what they are buying. I suggest to focus on real-world business needs and not the assumed scope of an acronym. There are thousands of BPM methodology messiahs who have a serious problem with how BPMS technology is used. I am no different. I just propose a technology solution to the problems and that’s where the conflict with other vendors comes in. So its really just a storm in a waterglass.

Master Data for Process, Content and Relationships

I want to elaborate here on the EA to MDM and BPM, CRM, ECM relationship as discussed in my related Real World post.

My 1997 system design used a business repository as the design-end of the application platform. Any change made to the data definitions in the repository will translate to changes in all parts of the applications for CRM, CRM, BPM and SOA interfaces as soon as they are tested and deployed. We actually execute the models! I proposed the combination of inbound and outbound document management ECM with BPM in 2001. We proposed the merging of CRM and BPM in 2005.

When we change a CLASS definition (which is not C++ or Java code, but a OO model description in the repository) because for example the data definition of an SOA interface changes, then this change will be effective through all applications that use that CLASS. Therefore the integration of silos by means of SOA and Eclipse/Java to map the SOA to internal programs creates the huge ‘investments’ that stop products from being OPEN. Linking best-of-breed software with SOA will not produce a best-of-breed system. Clearly integration – and why not by means of SOA – is an essential capability for any product. We joined OASIS to be able to influence the direction of CMIS, for example. We typically install and integrate with ECM, CRM and BPM products, but SOA integration does not yet give you a common user interface and end-to-end processes.

One argument against the consolidated solution that I propose is that ‘we have a substantial investment in XXX’. So what? I am told that businesses do not want to be dependent on a single vendor and prefer OPEN and STANDARD products, when there is no such thing. People have ‘invested’ substantial amounts of gas into their cars and still go out and buy a new one. Enterprises have invested substantial amounts in ECM and still go out and buy Sharepoint, despite all its incredible limitations. Now they ‘invest’ in Sharepoint custom coding … and there is nothing OPEN about Sharepoint at all. That is the reason why we are also offering Sharepoint integration and all processes/cases defined in Papyrus can be accessed through a Sharepoint WebParts GUI.

Businesses have bought ECM, CRM, BPM and ‘you name it’ and they are always ‘locked-in’ because none of these products are OPEN in the sense that you can replace them with another OPEN solution for a reasonable effort and retain all the capabilities. Especially those products with substantial investments, because that means a lot of customizations. OPEN does never happen. Not in my pragmatic ‘real world’.

While the market is slowly waking up to the possibilities, we started to develop a consolidated solution in 1997 and installed the first large healthcare application (3500 users!) on the Papyrus Platform in the US in 2001. My tries to convince US analysts at the time that merging ECM inbound and outbound content (which are the most essential process resources not mentioned by any of the above) with BPM and CRM processes was met with blank eyes. Until we added the BPMN process view in 2009 to our state/event/rule driven processes no one was willing to even consider us BPM. And having functionality across-market fragments is too difficult to grasp for analysts, so they still don’t know where to put us …

Attaching BPMN Flows to Goals in ACM

In fact the modeling power of the Papyrus Repository is so great that anything that any DoDAF specs can be modeled. If there is graphical representation, then a view/edit frontend can be added as we did for UML, RAD Role-Acitivity Diagrams and finally BPMN. Yes, BPMN was not encoded into Papyrus, but modeled (mostly using XPDL attributes) and is executed as such. Therefore it was easy to expand it with the artifacts that represent the resources, activities, capabilities and performers of for example the high-level concepts in  DoDAF proposed by Michael zur Mühlen. We also added Balanced Scorecard strategic objectives and operational targets and linked them to the process goals.  Our customers can use the adaptive process capability to manage business innnovation programs or IT projects. I know that the business planning side can be TOP-DOWN graphically modeled in for example ARIS and you need a huge project bureaucracy to get there because of it.

With Papyrus you can MODEL AND EXECUTE inside a fairly simple adaptive process framework. The main difference is that I see the transparency for strategy coming TOP-DOWN, the customer outcomes OUTSIDE-IN, management targets INSIDE-OUT, and how to execute from the BOTTOM-UP. That substantially reduces bureuacracy and makes the business REAL-TIME ADAPTIVE.

As Craig LeClair of Forrester said to me once: ‘Max, Papyrus can’t be everything.’ My answer was: ‘Yes it can, you just can’t imagine it.’

The User-Trained Agent has an EYE on Goals

This is Papyrus Platform specific information related to ‘Adaptive Process and Goal Orientation‘.

Rather than the approach chosen by Social-BPM or other collaborative process design tools, Papyrus pushes for ‘Design by Doing’ where the users are empowered to create processes interactively without analysis and then can execute or change as required. Therefore the Papyrus ACM (Adaptive Case Management) implementation is especially suited for the knowledge workers who produce the high-value, innovation workload of a business – without which it will not survive or at least fall behind against the competition.

ISIS Papyrus Platform and Adaptive Case Management utilizes adaptive technology to provide business user access to data and content in structured and unstructured processes. Authorizes user can at any point in time add data entities, content, rules, or participants and assign work tasks to them. The tasks can be standalone or linked by dependencies or rules to other tasks. Because of the object-oriented models stored in the object-relational database, all elements of an executed process are available and can be archived. The process can even be ‘restarted’ and resimulated while watching it play out as it was executed along a timeline scale. A Gantt chart is used to display the process as a PLAN with activities and GOALS. But at any point in time it is possible to turn to the BPMN chart display, that will show all tasks, even the ones that were added by the UTA on the fly. This is how flexible the direct model execution is to man and machine.

Papyrus ACM – BPMN View in user Inbox

Papyrus uses the patented User-Trained Agent that will recommend next steps to the business users based on choices made by previous user roles. These choices are however not made in terms of which steps were followed in which sequence, but which data patterns were the repeated pattern for a follow-on action. The process is termed Transductive Training. Even without the User-Trained Agent, the process engine will expose to the user all the possible next steps in terms of fulfilled prerequisites and — if so defined — will select the fastest or lowest-cost step leading to the same goal outcome. Actor roles can be assigned to act based on shortest work queue or round-robin.

All aspects and information of the execution runtime is exposed within the system and therefore it is very easy to define charts displays to show process execution monitoring, activity monitoring or performance indicators from the real business data in real-time. Users can enter business rules at runtime to create additional goals and monitor their effectiveness immediately. Using sample data, processes can be simulated in a safe TEST sandbox environment.

User presentation of the processes, goals and outcomes is through the Papyrus EYE Widgets user interface that presents all data entities in a user-definable manner. The presentation is either through the Papyrus EYE Desktop or the Payprus EYE GUI in Flash. Other graphics engines are also being developed as is presentation to Mobile platforms such as the WebArchive support for the iPhone. Because all data entities are modeled in the repository it is simple to create GUIs, rules, content and validate them for correctness.

ACM Dashboard in Papyrus Platform

A key difference to all other BPM and Case Management products (adaptive, agile or dynamic) is the state-of-the art embedded content management capability of the Papyrus Platform. The inbound and outbound content software functions can be instantiated on any node and mostly any number of times. A complex network of automated and intelligent agents can be set up to execute in any kind of complexity required. Peer-to-peer node communication powers the Papyrus enterprise service bus with its long list of messaging (i.e. SOA) adapters and database type-managers. All changes to the process, including its content is fully change and version managed with automatic deployment and roll-back to any number of users. Depending on the setup, processes that are already being executed can be selectively updated with new functionality. All process execution elements are archived and remain fully auditable. Any process can at any time be reinstantiated and continued should the process concept allow for that.

The technology of the Papyrus Platform is unique with its object-relational database and distributed execution engine in a peer-to-peer kernel developed in platform portable C++. It was designed in 1997 and became first available in 2001 in major installations with up to 5000 users. As a unique niche player, ISIS focuses on complex and exceptional projects and needs rather than a let’s-do-it-all mass market.

The Papyrus Platform is unique in the sense that it is an application modeling and model execution infrastructure that supports the creation of standalone business applications, integrated GUI front-ends for desktop and portal, as well as a powerful goal oriented business process environment.  It is most likely that a mix of all three types of user interaction will be the norm in the future.

Is Papyrus ECM, BPM, CRM, EAI or a Mashup?

In my post ‘Redefining BPM? Who wants that?’ I discussed the problem of market fragment definitions by analysts. To shorten my posts and to seperate opinion from product related discussions, I want to add the following here.

Till today, if a product does not offer a flowcharting tool it is clearly not considered BPM. The Papyrus Platform has offered the state/event driven and tool/material controlled processes mostly focused on content with Papyrus since 2001: That’s not BPM I was told. It was not yet Design-by-Doing (adaptive in Jim Sinurs (Gartner Group) diction) then, but processes could be dynamically changed at runtime. We added to that user-definable business rules in 2003, but no, that was not BPM either, but clearly it was Design-by-Doing. In 2007 we introduced the User-Trained Agent that would kick off activities based on a machine learning principle and that is Design-by-Doing ALL THE WAY. Nope, we were told by analysts and customers – no flowcharts means it is not BPM. So now we do have the BPMN designer as one option to define structured processes as well, are we now suddenly BPM? Nothing else has changed. Is that now good or bad? Should we not provide the designer so that we can be ACM? Maybe someone will now consider us ‘Pure-Play-BPM’ as well? Oh my god, the implications of that. Seriously, that whole game is utterly senseless.

Question: As soon as you empower the process owner and his team to execute any way they feel works and you get the most efficient execution, does anyone care if they use a flowchart or if it is called workflow, BPM or collaboration? Absolutely not. BPM is mostly bureauracy today and linked to inhumane Measure-to-Manage management paradigmes such as SixSigma and Balanced Score Card. If you focus on errors and numbers that’s what you get. No more. By what means would that improve outcomes for people – employees and customers? Well, it doesn’t.

So why is everyone trying to expand BPM now? They do not want to admit that possibly BPM is not the final wisdom that it was proposed to be for so long. Now, that there is a movement that they know in their guts will kill old-style BPM, they at least want to retain the name because then they won’t have to admit to have been wrong. I see history repeating itself. When we were first to introduce printer-independent, graphical design, dynamic document formatting in 1994, a customer got up really upset: “Why are you doing this? Forms worked fine and as soon as our competitors will pick this up, we will have to do it as well!” The same thing is happening now. I actually had someone ask me at the process.gov conference in Washington: “Why are you rocking the BPM boat? Once someone starts to do Adaptive Processes, we will have to follow along and all the money we spent on BPM will be wasted.” Sorry, guys – I told you so for a long time. Now the time has come.

I for my part don’t really care whether the solutions we offer with the Papyrus Platform are considered BPM, ACM, ECM, CRM, EAI or Mashups. And in fact, it should not matter to our customers either. Analysts do not make our life easier, but there are those highlights that make my day. While being stuck in Washington due to the ash cloud over Europe last week, I used the time to give a two hour LIVE-DEMO of our Papyrus Platform to Mike Gilpin and John Rymer of Forrester Research. If you look them up you will note that they cover APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT and not BPM. While they do not endorse products this way, I still want to share what they said: “Max, you told us for two years that you have implemented what Forrester calls ‘Dynamic Business Applications‘ and finally this demo has convinced us that what you do is unique and very powerful and matches with our concept.’

So what do I do now? Dump all the other TLAs and jump onto that bandwagon? I guess not. We simply will continue to spend our money to develop what our customers need and not on advertizing or bandwagons. I am pretty sure that our customers will appreciate it in the long run. Yup, I am that naive …

Mastering The Unpredictable

Recently I co-authored a book on ACM Adaptive Case Management.

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, I propose 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.

There is an obvious need for dynamic processes that BPMS vendors are already addressing. The reality of BPM shows that it is very difficult to top-down analyze and simulate business processes and link them to KPIs in 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 economy require a self-organizing structure that is resilient to fast changes through its ability to adapt.

Agility cannot be enforced by methodology, and it is not a product feature. It can only be achieved through the agile mindset of management who will put the right technology in place that empowers agile employees. Process maturity is not about how well processes control employees, but how much process control is given to employees to achieve goals and outcomes.

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.

You can find all about it here: ‘Mastering The Unpredictable’