Traditional business process scenarios have historically tended to be quite structured with each instance of a given scenario providing a predictable, consistent, ordered sequence of activities. But what about modeling out-of-the-ordinary events and activities – things that are ad hoc? If we introduce ad hoc characteristics to a business process then we are introducing capabilities for that process that have one-off characteristics; those characteristics might be different for each instance of that process. Consequently, this process becomes less structured, less predictable, and less ordered. By taking advantage of the benefits of business process management and IBM Business Process Manager solutions, you can bring order and stability to these business processes and improve the organization’s agility in order to stay adaptive and competitive.
Measuring how ad hoc something is
It's not really appropriate to say that a given scenario is ad hoc or not ad hoc. Rather, think of it as a spectrum. In the IBM Redpaper publication entitled, Empowering your Ad Hoc Business with IBM Business Process Manager, we discuss the "adhockness" of something using a set of ad hoc characteristics: predictability, manageability, visibility, flexibility, and sequencing.
By assessing a particular scenario against these ad hoc characteristics you can determine where, on the ad hoc spectrum, a certain scenario lies – that it exhibits differing degrees of the various ad hoc characteristics. This thought process leads to a spectrum with strictly ordered and structured processes at one end of the spectrum and entirely unordered, unpredictable, and dynamic ad hoc scenarios at the other end of the spectrum.
Applying the ad hoc spectrum
Take an airline scenario for example. How ad hoc are airline operations? Well, consider a flight from Chicago to Denver. Due to thunderstorms, the flight is delayed an hour. What effect does this have on different parts of the airline business? Well, there's the passengers. Some might now miss their connecting flights and need to be re-booked. There's also the affect on the aircraft. That same plane is used for a flight departing from Denver and that flight out might now be delayed. Lastly, there's an impact on the crew. The pilots and flight attendants might all have subsequent flights that will be impacted if they are late. It might also push them over regulatory requirements about how many hours they can work in a given day.
Let's look at this on the ad hoc spectrum.
Manageability and Flexibility are high. The airline is required to have specific management capabilities both for hours worked for the crew and catering to delayed passengers. The airline has to be flexible to regularly changing circumstances. Visibility and Sequencing are low. The sequence of events changes frequently based on the changing circumstances. With the ad hoc spectrum better understood, the airline can better address their business processes. For example, to address Flexibility, the airline might notify its customers when unpredictable events occur in a personalized and contextual way or they might offer a discount to customers based on their purchase history and frequent flier status.
Apply the ad hoc spectrum to your processes
The IBM Redpaper publication Empowering your Ad Hoc Business with IBM Business Process Manager is filled with examples of using the ad hoc spectrum to measure the degree of "adhockness" for a variety of industries, including healthcare, banking, leasing and corporate tax. Take a look at these examples and then see how the ad hoc spectrum can be used to map out-of-the-ordinary activities and events in your business process.
Martin Keen is an IBM Redbooks Project Leader. He works with technical experts to create books, guides, blogs, and videos. Follow @MartinRTP on Twitter. Do you have comments on this blog? Leave us comments below and we will respond as quickly as possible.