December 18, 2008, 2:50 PM — Human processes are business processes that generate a business outcome that is heavily dependent on interactions between people. These are also called â€œtacit interactionsâ€ by economists, which is an attempt to differentiate between routine transactions and interactions that rely heavily on judgment and context. These â€œtacit interactionsâ€ are the most prevalent kind of business processes in which knowledge workers take part.
Most of the work involved in executing these human processes is with the communication, coordination and management aspects of the process. Currently, most human processes in business are executed using standard productivity tools (e.g. Microsoft Office), email (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) and meetings.
Human processes have a number of defining characteristics:
1. Unstructured â€“ there is a standard framework for the process and how to achieve the intended result, but each case is handled separately and requires human understanding (for both decisions and flow) as part of the process. There is not enough standardization between instances of the process that allows for a formal, complete and rigorous description of the process end-to-end.
2. Dynamic â€“ the flow of the process changes on a case by case basis, based on available information and human decisions. A flow can also change while the process is being executed based on new information, or a changing environment.
3. Interdependent â€“ the activities of the humans in the process are interdependent and cannot be done completely in parallel.
4. Extended â€“ require more than a single interaction between humans to be completed.
5. Borderless â€“ Human processes can involve anyone that is relevant â€“ be it within or outside the group/team/project or even organizational borders.
What is Human Process Management (HPM)?
Human process management is an attempt to bring order, tracking and management to human processes in organizations. Managing human processes allows for codification and optimization of these processes (e.g. KPIs, best practices), lowers email overload, and ensures follow up to completion of the process.
Most human processes are executed using standard office technology (e.g. email, documents) but are not managed by the technology, but rather through standard management techniques â€“ e.g. process descriptions, benchmarks, measurements, follow-up, and reminders â€“ with no, or minimal, system support. Key requirements in managing human processes are to provide a best practice for the process that is flexible and can be easily modified by the people executing the process, the ability to know the status of the process at anytime and the ability to retrieve historical information about process execution and outcomes.
What is a Human Process Management System (HPMS)?
A Human Process Management System is a tool to bring order, tracking and management to unstructured, dynamic, interdependent and extended processes that are currently executed via email and meetings. It must support the way people actually do their work, use their problem solving abilities and make decisions that drive the process forward. It must be easy to use both for the user â€œdefiningâ€ the process, and by the users executing the process. An HPMS should support a wide variety of different types of human process use cases (e.g. case management, audits). Since there are so many different human processes, and since human process workflow is inherently unstructured and ad-hoc, the fundamental requirements of an HPMS are:
- Allow the definition of a flexible process framework that can leverage known best practices and existing procedures without IT support.
- Enable users to leverage best practices for the process (templates and flows), but which can also be easily modified as needed while being executed. Users must be able to leverage their existing knowledge and skills used to execute existing human processes, and should require a minimum of training (or even better allow users to leverage existing â€œtacit interactionâ€ paradigm to allow them to â€œlearn while doingâ€). The process should be at least minimally accessible to anyone involved, even if they do not use an HPMS.
- Keep a complete record of the information context associated with the execution of the human processes being managed â€“ in essence the entire relevant context associated with process execution, becoming the â€œsystem of recordâ€ for the human processes in the organization.
What are the benefits of using a Human Process Management System (HPMS)?
There are a number of benefits in using a HPMS for human process management; some are qualitative, while others are quantitative:
1. An HPMS lowers the elapsed time per process by up to 80 percent. In this calculation you need to take into account the savings involved with completing processes in 20 percent of the time â€“ this may allow for higher throughput, less staffing, higher customer satisfaction â€“ all which are quantifiable on a process by process basis.
2. An HPMS drastically lowers the number of uncompleted (or lost) processes. This type of ROI from can be quantified based on the cost of non-compliance (fines), customer satisfaction costs. An adjunct to this is that when processes are marked as complete, they actually are and there is no need to revisit them later.
3. An HPMS is a natural extension to your existing systems for structured management (e.g. BPM, CRM) for handling exceptions, since even for structured processes most employee time is not spent executing process, but handling exceptions to process.
4. The HPMS becomes the system of record for the organizations human processes and best practices, ensuring compliance with regulations and best practices, while addressing the on-going need for operational excellence. This is an intangible ROI.
5. The final component in the ROI of an HPMS is the time saved in handling human processes that are currently handled using regular email.
a. For a knowledge worker, 55 percent of their emails are related to an ongoing human process which equates to around 15 open processes per day, each which includes on average 6 participants, 4 steps and takes about 4 days until resolution.
b. Assuming that an average knowledge worker spends 2 hours a day on email, about one hour is spent on managing the human processes being executed through email. An HPMS can save about 15 percent to 20 percent of the time needed to actually work on those processes (or about 15 minutes a day per worker).
The result is that for a company or department with 50 knowledge workers, using an HPMS can generate a direct time savings of around $150K per year. For departments that are more dependent on human processes (e.g. audit departments, risk departments, fraud handling) the savings can reach 1 hour per user per day, saving a department of 50 over $600K per year.
How Does a HPMS Relate to Existing Process Management Tools (e.g. BPM, CRM, SFA)?
HPM systems are complementary to BPM (Business Process Model), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SFA (SalesForce Automation) and other out of the box or bespoke process management tools. The primary reason is that HPMS focuses on unstructured, ad-hoc human to human interactions, while the other tools focus on structured process â€“ many times human to system based processes.
HPM systems also are very useful as extensions to existing process management tools. Structured process tools have either an explicit model of the process to be managed or an implicit model. For example, BPMN (Business Process Markup Notation) can be used to create an explicit model of a process for BPM systems, and out of the box CRM systems have an implicit model of how customer relations are managed. In any case, whether explicit or implicit, process models cannot take into account unforeseen circumstances or every possible process execution path â€“ so exceptions have to be handled by hand.