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Business Process Management (BPM) and Knowledge Management (KM) are two management techniques which can support each other:

  • KM in support of BPM: In order to run a business process efficiently, it is important to understand what knowledge is necessary and how it can be made available in the right process steps.
  • BPM in support of KM: Understanding the process of creation, distribution, sharing or knowledge is very important to improve KM.

Most of the scientific and journalistic articles focus on how KM can support BPM, so in this blog I will pay attention to how BPM can support KM.

Let’s take an example which all readers of this blog will find easy to understand. Let’s look at the process of consulting a customer.

It starts with the customer asking for some advice. The consultant gives advice, the customer receives the advice and eventually the customer will make use of the advice. This is the fundamental process in a consulting firm. If let’s say the management of the consulting company would like to improve this business process so they need to model and understand it first.

I am going to show how it can be modeled with two simple and free tools. My goal is not to give a detailed comparison of the tools, just to underline how quickly and free of charge BPM techniques and tools can be applied in order to manage knowledge processes.

  • BPMN 1.0 Microsoft Visio 2003 stencil.
    Version 1.1 of the “Frapu-BPMN_Template.vss” stencil can be imported into Visio. This stencil adds the BPMN notations to the Shapes list in Visio. It is freely available from Workflow Research (2003). This tool has the benefit that it allows us to model in the BPMN standard, but it is of course not an integrated and scalable enterprise solution.
  • Aris Express.
    This is, as IDS Scheer states, the world’s first free BPM software. See the announcement about it. The Aris toolset is a leader enterprise BPM solution, it has numerous advantages over Visio, but this Express version (for now) doesn’t support BPMN.

My simple business process in Visio:

image

 

In Aris Express:
 
image

In this business process, giving advice is a subprocess, which can be expanded as a knowledge process. In the knowledge process the consultant him/herself communicates with other consultants. If the given consultant does not have enough knowledge, she/he will search for information (Step1), ask other consultants (Step2), and other consultants will help (Step3). These steps will be repeated until a certain time limit (usually set by the customer) is reached and then she/he will compile the answer from all the various information collected (Step4), and eventually give the answer (Step5).

In Visio:

image
 

In Aris Express:

 
image

What is the business value in all this?

 

  • Explicit process models help the various participants work together on improvements. In the above case it is useful to discuss when to ask other consultants and when to search for information on your own.
  • All the improvements can produce best practices. E.g. best information sources can be identified and maintained in a way that everybody who needs it can access it.
  • Explicit process models support knowledge transfer. E.g. when new consultants join the organization, they can see the best practices.
  • The models are basis for designing the IT enabling. Who needs a portal or mobile interface, what composite application can help in the process, who needs what BI report, how KM in the portal can be used, etc.

When applying BPM to KM it should be taken into consideration that not everything can be automated, a lot happens in the mind of the people. Further, motivational aspects are crucial. BPM is focused on “who”, “what”, “when”, “how”, but “why” is paramount in KM.

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2 Comments

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  1. Prasad Nutalapati
    Hello Tamas:
    You mentioned many articles mention how KM can be
    supported by BPM.
    Will you please give a gist or mention briefly
    various such articles and what each one says ?
    This will help put things in a better perspective, I hope.

    -Prasad Nutalapati

    (0) 
    1. Tamas Szirtes
      Hi Prasad,

      I didn’t want to add too much scientific references to the article, because I was afraid to scare away most of the audience on SDN, who come here for practical info, not theories.

      Nevertheless, I am happy to share some of the most specific references. Please note that these are specific, if you are interested in wider info about KM or BPM or BPM or… then I can help you further. For now I skipped the classics.

      Choi, I., Jung, J. and Song, M. (2004): A framework for the integration of knowledge management and business process management, Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.399–408.

      Papavassiliou G. & Mentzas G. & Abecker A (2002): Integrating knowledge modeling in business process management. ECIS June 6–8, Gdańsk, Poland

      Allweyer, Th. (1998). Modellbasiertes Wissensmanagement. In: Information Management, 1, 37-45

      Davenport, Th. & S.L. Jarvenpaa & M.C. Beers (1996). Improving Knowledge Work Processes, Sloan Management Review, 37(4), Summer.

      Karagiannis, D. & R. Telesko (2000). The EU-Project PROMOTE: A Process-Oriented Approach for Knowledge Management. In Reimer, U. (ed.) PAKM 2000, Third Int. Conf. on Practical Aspects of Knowledge Management

      Warnecke, G. & A. Gissler & G. Stammwitz (1998). Referenzmodell Wissensmanagement – Ein Ansatz zur modellbasierten Gestaltung wissensorientierter Prozesse. In: Information Management, No. 1, 24-29

      Kucza, T (2001): Knowledge Management Process Model. Espoo 2001. Technical Research Centre of Finland, VTT Publications 455. 101 p. + app. 3 p.

      Berztiss, A & SYSLAB (2000): Knowledge and workflow systems, Proceedings of the 11th International Workshop on Database and Expert Systems Applications, Greenwich,
      London, UK, pp.1102–1106.

      Lai, J. & Fan, Y. (2002): Workflow and knowledge management: approaching an integration, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Engineering and Deployment of Cooperative Information Systems (EDCIS 2002), Beijing, China, pp.17–20.

      Abecker, A. et al (2000): Information supply for business process: coupling workflow with document analysis and information retrieval, Knowledge Based Systems, Vol. 13, No. 5, pp.271–284.

      Pls let me know if it helps, I am glad to provide you with further “pointers”.

      Regards,
      Tamas

      (0) 

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