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What did you do at work last week? Or, more to the point, how did you go about doing it? Did you fill your time with an assortment of disjointed collaborations and seemingly ad-hoc tasks, edging closer towards your goals? Or did you deftly move from one activity to the next, in a pre-planned sequence of steps so that, regardless of any set-backs you encountered, you could look back and say: “I saw through the process I started out on, and any delays were not for lack of sticking to the plan”.

 

If you were using a computer application to assist you in your endeavours, these two possibilities are but extreme examples of alternative approaches for supporting the daily workload of what for most knowledge workers is neither one nor the other, but instead a blend of random external events, inspired choices made from the wisdom of experience, and mundane compliance with mandated protocols. This last feature, compliance with the policies and procedures of the enterprise you are working together with, is I believe the hallmark of business processes that are different from more social interactions. Nothing seems to happen in the business world that doesn’t have to be first costed, then approved by someone else, and finally have its progress examined against an agreed plan.

 

It is to lessen the burden of compliance that enterprise management systems are ideally suited. But they also have a more difficult role to play, and that is to help coordinate the interactions required by many business processes that exist before they even become business processes in the recognised sense of the word, unfettered as they are by predictability or any structure revealed through procedural modelling techniques.

 

Central to success of these “non-processes” are the knowledge workers, people who are able to drive a process through to a successful completion by interactions unique from one case to the next. Unique, but not wholly unknowable.

 

Please join me on the next SAP Mentor Monday on April 12th, when I will introduce the topic of “Case Management”, and draw together the threads of human-centric, non-procedural and enterprise-compliant processes to propose a way to attack the application design problem based on techniques tried out successfully for real industry requirements.

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