No, ‘Process’ is Not a Dirty Word – Just Not the Right Word
Jim Sinur recently wrote a short, readable and deeply thoughtful opinion piece on www.BRCommunity.com entitled “Is Process a Dirty Word?”. See http://www.brcommunity.com/b812.php.
Jim’s basic point is this, “… people frown on the word process these days … [based on] the outdated view that process implies a rigid and inflexible approach to work actions that support a static business model.” I think Jim is right about that … and wrong too.
Where Jim is Right. The main point Jim makes is right. Compared to traditional, static process models, processes are becoming highly dynamic. They can “not only can act, they can sense and decide new courses of action, leveraging a combination of pattern recognition and decision features based on events, cases, process instances, and data (big data or not; cloud based or not).”
At the extreme, they essentially cease to exist as models “carved in stone”. Jim puts it this way: “In the future the process model will more represent the audit trail of what the process did and the decisions it made.” (Of course I think one can legitimately question whether a process model exists at all if it manifests only as facts about what each execution/performance of the process has actually done, but let’s let that go.)
Where Jim is Wrong. Jim points out that “Processes are becoming more goal-seeking in their design and can change in near real time … processes will more commonly seek conflicting goals [and go about] balancing them.”
When processes become ‘goal-seeking’ or ‘goal-balancing’, they address the question of ‘why’ (strategy), no longer just ‘how’ (transform). The resulting solution is a system, not just a process. Process is merely one component of such a system. By the way, I’m using system in the general dictionary sense, not in any particular technical sense: a complex unity formed of many often diverse parts subject to a common plan or serving a common purpose.
Jim astutely points out that such processes can use “… pattern recognition [to analyze] the audit trails of past executions [and] identify what has worked best in the past under [the same] circumstances.” But surely audit trails (besides being data) are features of systems, not processes. And you’d always want to verify the results against business goals (which may conflict), and business policy (which may have changed).
Should we call such processes intelligent? I wouldn’t. They’re just highly flexible. It’s the system that becomes intelligent. So these days I think we should be talking talk about FlexProcess and IntelligentSystem.
By the way, can you do FlexProcesses and IntelligentSystems without business rules? Sure. Can you do them well? In your dreams.
 Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, 1a.
Tags: dynamic process, FlexProceses, goal-balancing, goal-seeking, intelligent processes, intelligent systems, process models, Sinur, system vs. process
Ronald G. Ross
Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.