Episode 519: What is Automation of Business Process (Part 2)

Monday, January 23, 2017
In "What is Automation of Business Process (Part 1)", the previous article, I described about two aspects on automating Business Process, such as
  • [A] Automate the delivery of Issues information between Processes
  • [B] Automate processing in certain Step

In this article, I would like to organize the scope of application of "[A] automation of delivery".
* Regarding "[B] automation of processing", I will describe in the next article.

What kind of "delivery" can be automated

How to define a Flow

In order to smoothly deliver "Issue information" in daily work, (as a matter of course) "Flow of work" must be defined.

In the age where Issue information was managed by "paper" or "signboard", it was sufficient that "Business flow" has been described in natural languages (sentences) such as business manuals. However, to let the computers do delivery, "business flow" is needed to be defined in a "manner that computers can recognize".

In other words, it can be said "the Flows comprehensible by the computer" are the applicable range of "[A] automation of delivery".

[Order Reporting flow-email notification]

There are various methods for "defining business flows" (how to set up a business flow), such as
  • Definition almost equivalent to the programming code
  • Definition in interactive method (wizard format)

But today, it can be said that
  • Definition by Business flow diagram
is spreading widely.

In other words, it can be said that it is a practical way to respond to the needs of "periodically update and modification, and coverage complex business flows". In fact,, "definition by Business flow diagram" is often adopted in recent business systems (Workflow / BPM / ERP).

Patterns of Flow structure

So, to what extent do we need to deal with complicated business flows?

Even though it will be a completely different conclusion depending on company policy, of course, if you want to realize "thorough automation", it must be a business system that recognizes every "flow structure".

There are five types of basic "flow structure" patterns such as
  • linear sequence of Steps without branching (Sequence)
  • There is a point to divert to all of the multiple routes (Parallel Split)
  • There is a point waiting for diverted simultaneous parallel processing (Synchronization)
  • There is a branch point to select a single route (Exclusive Choice)
  • There is a point where the branched path is converged (Simple Merge)

In fact, in addition to these, it is said that 19 types of flows are assumed in categories such as simultaneous processing, loop processing, and exception detection. (Workflow pattern)

Certainly, when I define my day-to-day work, there are many cases where I want to define a "flow structure" such as
  • There is a point to divert to all necessary routes among multiple routes (Multi-Choice)
  • There is a point to wait for Multi-Choice (Structured Synchronizing Merge)
  • There is a return structure and a loop structure (Structured Loop)
  • There is an End point that does not affect work during diversion (Implicit Termination)
  • There is an End point to forcibly terminate work in diversion (Explicit Termination)
  • If the cancellation condition is satisfied, proceed to the next step (Cancel Task)

There is also a possibility that "automation of delivery" cannot be realized for cases that can not be defined by the "flow structure" in the above list. For example, the Cloud-based Workflow [Questetra BPM Suite] does not support " flow structure" such as "There is point to wait up to two of the three routes after dividing into three routes (Structured Partial Join / Canceling Partial Join)". (Although the flow structure in the above list is supported.)

Specific definition example

Regarding "How to draw business flow diagrams", global standardization is advancing.

In companies adopting the international standard notation BPMN, "Steps" in a Business Process are represented by "rounded corner rectangle", and a "person in charge" is expressed by a "Swimlane" where processes are arranged. (The international standard notation BPMN: Business Process Model and Notation)

For example, above Business flow diagram represents "a series of Steps" (Business Process), such as
  • [1] Sales department staff: Register
  • [1x] Sales department staff: Re-register contents of order which has been rejected
  • [2] Sales leader: Confirm the contents of order
  • [3] Sales department manager: Confirm the contents of order

And two Steps of
  • [1] Sales department staff: Register
  • [1x] Sales department staff: Re-register contents of order which has been rejected
are expressed as work steps to be processed by the same worker.

Also, though it is obvious in the diagram, it is defined two splitting points (Selection of single route), such as
  • After "Step[2], advance to either of "Step [1x]" or "Step [3]"
  • After "Step[3], advance to either of "Event [4]" or "All Steps End"
* In cases where there are two or more output flows from a Step, it is necessary to select "route to go", while the branching at the diamond gateway is set to automatically select the route according to the conditional expression .

In what kind of operation is a "delivery" done?

On the other hand, the operations in "Workflow system that understands the flow of work" is easy for ordinary worker to perform.

That is, if an Issue flows into "Step that you should deal with," you will be asked for "input", so you just have to enter "the result wanted at that Step" such as judgment or comment.

From the point of view of the workflow system user, it can be said that the works to which input is requested is "a list of tasks that must be handled by the user". For example, in the Cloud-based workflow [Questetra BPM Suite], it is called "My Task" in particular.

[Order Reporting flow-email notification: "1x. Rework" screen]

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