People using modeling tools for business process modeling usually want to “collaborate”. But what do they exactly mean? Probably more than a simple nice and well-integrated chat zone! In this post, we use the “Coordination Theory” (1) to present the six levels of interaction commonly involved when we model business processes.
Business process management requires collaborative technologies and tools to help process designers, analysts and IT people to work between them. Nothing really new, that is a fact. But it seems that this need is increasing, with new contexts as cross organizational and distributed environments.
In the context of process – or software – modeling, awareness is anything that will help “reduce uncertainty and enable spontaneous coordination”. Browser-hosted modeling solutions have a serious adavantage for keeping all stakeholders up-to-date instantly. The real-time collaboration mode is illustrated by many Google Drive-style editors, which enable users to see and edit models simultaneously. Even if one is working from Paris and others collaborators are working from the US west coast. The workspace can also explicitly inform on who are the other members of the group, their activities, roles and other information such as responsibilities, etc.
When group members do not work at the same time or when teams are distributed, effective collaborative working sessions require communication channels. Synchronous or asynchronous chats are commonly integrated in modeling platforms with complementary features like group management and notifications. Beside diagramming, modeling tools can provide the support for sharing documents such as reports, specifications or images within the communication channels.
Coordination is about project management. Supporting coordination implies to provide a “modeling workshop” where a Process Leader can exchange with his team about goals, tasks and schedules. The coordination is made easy through dashboards with all project and model versions, groups, collaborators and their permissions, project dependencies, metrics, etc. Jira-like tools perfectly enables coordination and the simple idea to connect a modeling platform with a good project management tool is not so bad. Project management and DMS are supported in some BPM suites.
4. “Group decision-making”
Compare and comment two versions, highlight changes, animate and visualize processes, explore alternatives… Is there a better way to associate stakeholders and make a decision? The ability to evaluate different working copies of an artefact is key to achieve decision making.
Obviously, IT and business teams need to collaborate on processes. The perfect tool is the one that satisfies experts, analysts, architects and developers according to the respective phase they are involved in: process design, validation, simulation, execution, monitoring, reporting, etc. Collaboration in a team will not appear simply thanks to a perfect set of great dedicated features, there is also something cultural that must be taken in consideration to build an “efficient and comfortable shared workplace”. Some speak of ergonomics and design, it is not a detail.
(1) Malone and Crowston, quoted by J. Mendling, J. Recker and J. Wolf in Collaborations features in current BPM Tools, 2012