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Adding decision management to your BPM initiative


Syndicated from ebizQ

Last week I wrote a piece on the risks of pursuing BPM without decisioning. As promised, here are some thoughts on how to get started.

  1. Identify your decisions
    Step one is to find and name and manage the decisions that matter to your processes. Finding decisions is not always that easy, though it gets easier as you practice. For a BPM initiative, try these specific ways to find decisions:

    • Hidden decisions, transactional decisions, customer decisions
      Hidden decisions are those points in the process where you make a decision without realizing it. Where you treat every transaction, every customer the same but not because that’s really what you think it the right thing to do. These are the hardest but often the most interesting to find. Transactional and customer decisions are those activities in the process where transaction or customer information is used to change data or handle routing – price this order, cross-sell this customer etc.
    • Decisions buried in complex processes
      Any time you have a really complex process, especially one with gateways leading to gateways then you should review it and hunt for decisions buried within it. Harder than the explicit identification of activities while modeling a process, this kind of archeology can be challenging.
    • Decisions that are the difference between two processes
      A surprising number of organizations have far fewer processes than they think they have. They think they have multiple processes when they really have a single process with decisioning embedded. Thus a government agency I spoke to found it did not have 30 processes but one process with a single, complex decision about permit approval. They had thought they had one process for each permit when externalizing the decision left them with a single process. Look for similar, related processes and see if they are really different once you externalize the decision.
  2. Adopt decisioning technology
    Having started to document and manage the decisions within your processes you need to adopt some technology to manage them in your automated processes. Most BPMS don’t have sufficient decisioning capability (Pega does, Savvion and Intalio are building it today and the rest rely on partners as far as I can see).

    • Adopt business rules approach and technology
      The best way to manage the logic in decisions today is to use a business rules management system or BRMS.
    • Investigate data mining and predictive analytics
      Many decisions rely on data or, more precisely, on analytic insight derived from data. Some tools to develop this kind of insight will be useful.
    • Think about adaptive control
      Experimentation, simulation, impact analysis and other elements of what is known as adaptive control will need to be part of your plan. This approaches/tools allow you to manage the fact that what is a good decision today will not always be a good decision and to evolve and change decisions over time.
  3. Think about Decisions and Processes
    A successful BPM initiative needs both decisions and processes to be managed.
  • Learn, understand and teach the difference
    Don’t let the awareness of decisions and decisioning be siloed – make sure the whole BPM team is educated.
  • Think about their independent lifecycles
    Understand the update and deployment timeframes for each decision and each process. How often do they change, why and at whose authority? Separation of concerns (process separate from decision but linked) enables a separation of these lifecycles which can increase agility and reduce the cost of change.
  • Manage them both equally
    Treat them as equals, manage them both, include them both in your methodology, project plans etc.

The most important aspect of applying decision management to your BPM initiative is to begin – begin to focus on decisions not just processes and to treat these two elements of your business as peers.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Colin Campbell September 22, 2009, 1:15 am

    Thanks for an insightful article. “Manage them both equally” – I agree; maybe you could add “and at the same time”.