By Sophie Dulhunty at December 09 2018 07:07:31
In the last few years a lot has been written about Business Process Management, and about technologies supporting it such as BPMS, SOAP and Web Services. Most of these theories, tools and techniques refer to processes of a highly structured nature. Typically, BPM theorists and practitioners have focused on highly structured processes, like back-office processes of industrial or administrative nature. These processes are highly standardized and repeatable, produce a consistent output and are likely to be automated in part or end-to-end (STP).
All process instances are executed in a very similar way and it is easy to draw a flowchart detailing the sequence in which tasks are executed. It is also possible to formalize the business rules that guide decisions, normally based on the evaluation of some process variables. But recently other kinds of processes have caught the attention of process management specialists. They are known as knowledge processes, or knowledge-based processes. Knowledge processes can be defined as "high added value processes in which the achievement of goals is highly dependent on the skills, knowledge and experience of the people carrying them out". Some examples could be management, R&D, or new product development processes.
Knowledge workers carry out these processes by taking into account multiple inputs (generally a wide set of unstructured data and information) to perform difficult tasks and make complex decisions among multiple possible ways of doing the work, each one implying different levels of risk and possible benefits. They are dependent on individuals and it is not possible to automate them. One example of a knowledge process is "Marketing a new product". The same steps are followed each time a new product is launched (benchmarking competitors, deciding pricing strategy, planning promotion, etc...), but it is the experience, knowledge and intuition of the people that drive the process to success.
Many scientists remain doubtful that true AI can ever be developed. The operation of the human mind is still little understood, and computer design may remain essentially incapable of analogously duplicating those unknown, complex processes. Various routes are being used in the effort to reach the goal of true AI. One approach is to apply the concept of parallel processing-interlinked and concurrent computer operations. Another is to create networks of experimental computer chips, called silicon neurons, that mimic data-processing functions of brain cells. Using analog technology, the transistors in these chips emulate nerve-cell membranes in order to operate at the speed of neurons.
It is extremely important to continuously improve knowledge processes, by creating an environment through which they can evolve. This can only be achieved through coordination of diverse disciplines such as knowledge management, change management, expectations management, etc... It is crucial to establish an adequate process context (the combination of technologies, procedures, people, etc... that support the processes). The process context must incorporate feedback mechanisms, change evaluation procedures, process improvement methods and techniques and must be flexible, in order to be able to incorporate enhancements in an agile but controlled way.
Process definitions are high level descriptions instead of rigid workflows : Processes can only be defined up to a certain level of detail, and it is difficult to provide low level work instructions or to automate decisions. Because they cannot be formalised in detail, process simulation is rarely possible. Decisions are highly subjective and too complex to be expressed in a formal language, as they are taken based on intuition and not on rigid business rules.