Collaborate Around Processes

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Most of us see a business application (say an HR system) and email or any other collaborative application like Sharepoint as totally separate systems, although we use both to get our work done. One reason could be that the two applications are used at different times for different purposes- for example; a company might see email as essential but not invest in an HR application until they reach a certain size. 

Because of this separation, data about a process or a transaction within a process is captured in multiple places - email and the actual system of record. In many cases only the last update or final conclusion is recorded in the business application, while all other data, meetings, conversations around coming up with the conclusion or the data, including the process used ( who was involved, when where and how ) is lost in emails or in meeting minutes ( if you are lucky). Of course, you could attach all these emails and minutes to the main process record, but think of the duplication not only of data, but also of the time spent in doing so, pretty inefficient for busy professionals.

To get the right information, knowledge workers would need to know, whom to contact within a company for the right information, there may be more than one special input needed, so more parties added on to collaborate with, however the rich results of the outcome captured in are "lost " ( from an organizational standpoint ) in multiple inboxes. 


While BPM solutions work for a pre-defined processes, in today's fast changing business world, the existing process may not be the right fit or there may be exceptions to the process which would need to be handled.The next time, the same situation occurs, unless there has been no change in the personnel and they all have excellent memories (difficult to imagine ) , since the prior "process" used is not known or stored in an easily accessible format, the people involved would have to create their own "process" , leading to a waste of time and loss in productivity .What if we could actually collaborate around a business transaction and the rich data would not be lost? What if collaboration was front and center of any business? 

Going back to our HR example, most HR applications don't provide an easy way to update progress made by an employee during a week, nor capture what was discussed with the boss during regular one on one meetings. This data is normally stored either in email trails (to be dug out) or in word documents depending on where you work and how regimented the company is.

What if all this was captured as part of the HR transaction? 

Let's take another example. Lead generation. Should there not be an easier way to share a potential lead with others in the organization for input? Maybe someone has worked in that company or that person and has some specific insight which might help start a conversation. Would it not be great if the initial transaction about that lead were used to generate a conversation, all linked to the original lead transaction? 

There is a movement going on to go beyond emails - as everyone knows , managing the inbox takes more time than needed and you may miss a really important email if you aren't careful or super organized. A whole slew of collaboration platforms are there now to help people converse in private or public, a sort of water cooler for business both to improve productivity and keep everyone in the loop, within and beyond the company’s borders.Everyone can see what people are talking about and can join in. Notable among these are Slack, Wrike, Beatrix, Jive and a host of others.

There are also other companies coming up with what I ‘ll call BPM+Collaboration suites. Some of these like Intacct (www.Intacct.com) are integrating existing collaboration platforms ( Saleforce’s Chatter) into their applications( finance in this case) , others like Sigmify (www.Sigmify.com) provide a collaboration platform as a free add on to a menu of pre- configured processes. Yet others allow plug in’s to connect to a menu of other business applications, and provide the collaboration themselves, example Slack.

Many companies like Accenture and CISCO have talked about this intersection and what they would like to see in their white papers. 

Cisco's can be found at http://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/solutions/collateral/enterprise/benefit-unified-communications/c11-593971-00_creating_collab_bus_procWP.pdf
Accenture’s , at https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-outlook-how-collaboration-technologies-are-improving-process-workforce-busines

There are some interesting developments in this space, certainly be good to see what new sets of applications emerge going forward. As always, the goal is to boost productivity, keep everyone informed, and retrieve data anytime, anywhere intuitively.

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