PLM Process Management – How many Workflows do we Need?

In one of my previous posts, I already discussed PLM process management: Should PLM develop its own process tools?. In reality, I see that companies have many products that have process management and workflow capabilities. Some of them are part of IT platforms (Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere etc.), while others are part of PDM, PLM and ERP tools. With such a large number of capabilities, I noticed that companies often develop multiple solutions to manage these processes – and these solutions are tightly connected to existing products. From a particular standpoint, it will let customers maximum the reuse of product capabilities and organize a dedicated process management and workflow solution integrated with data managed by a particular system (PDM, ERP etc.). But, one of the biggest drawbacks of that kind of situation is that organizations have multiple silos of disconnected solutions, with multiple process/workflow management implementations.

So my question is how many ”workflows” do we need in an organization? More precisely, I’d like to think about how to organize separated and disconnected workflow and business processes management solutions. Following are the priorities needed to organize this solution:

1. Establish a single process modeling environment

2. Multiple process deployment

3. Immersive access to process /workflow execution in a built-in user environment

A single process modeling environment would user to organize and maintain a single picture of the organizational processes. My preference in this case is IT platforms. Organizations normally chooses one IT platform, so having an environment in which to model processes makes a lot of sense to me. Consolidation around popular notations such as BPMN can let you use 3rd party tools, in some cases, if they provide additional benefits in managing of single process model.

Multiple process deployment can resolve the procedure of integrating processes into many existing systems. This depends on the specific system deployed by the company, and can be done in different ways – but the goal here is to keep the process connected to specific solution as much as possible (i.e. product data management and/or any vertical solution in the organization). This will allow existing systems to maintain the connection with data management using this system/sub-system. Access to this data is very important since most of process logic, in many cases, depends on this information.

Most of the processes require user involvement for control and data submission (i.e. document approval, ECO management etc.) Immersive access to process/workflow execution and control from the regular user daily environment is critical – because this is what guarantees the user’s acceptance. A process solution will be live only when customers will use it rather than bypass it.

So, where do you start? 1- Analyze what system can be used to keep overall control of processes in the organization; 2- Choose process modeling tools; 3- Analyze how to connect multiple workflow and process management solutions that already exist in the organization; 4- Give priority to solutions that have immersive integration in the user environment.

As usual, I’m open to discuss this and am interested to know what type of solutions you have and how you organize workflow and business processes within your organization.


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