Dynamic and Flexible Routing in Business Processes

by MK Strupe on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 @ 05:06 PM

So you've spent 2 months defining your business process.  You have spent numerous hours interviewing process participants, understanding what roles they play, and when tasks in the process are routed to them.  And now, you've found out that the more you try to define routing logic in your process the more chaotic it becomes.  As part of your discovery of the routing needs, you hear comments like:

  • "Yes, the expense report usually is sent to John to approve. But sometimes I send it to Mary to review first."
  • "I send my authorization reports to my supervisor most of the time. But if I am working on a special project for an outside division, then I want to get their sign-off first"
  • "IT Service requests normally are sent to Mike to handle. But there are times when he is busy with special projects, then I just send the task to Mike's team members"
Imagine trying to define all of these special scenarios in your business process.  Each of the cases above is defined as a specialized case of business process management called, "Unstructured Processes" (and being recently discussed in places like the Gartner 2009 BPM Summit).  In cases of unstructured processes, as opposed to defined processes where routing is the important part of the business process, the actual recording of who performed the work and when, is the most important detail.  We would all like to think that our day to day structures are sound, but many times, there are holes.  Despite the fact there are dynamic and unstructured aspects to our daily operations, what we actually do to get the job done still needs to be tracked and recorded.

Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite provides the best of both worlds:  a dynamic and unstructured process design and tracking capabilities as well as formal, default flow process routing.  Take for example the following portion of a business process:

 Workflow Automation Process Template

Here, IT service requests are usually sent to Mike where he'll either handle them himself or distribute them to his team. But, what if Mike is unavailable? In this case, rather than send new IT service requests to Mike, and have those requests sit in his inbox waiting for his review, the people filing the IT requests have configurable options to whom the new IT requests are to be assigned. Specifically, when the IT request is filed, the form will contain the below options:

Business Process Management IT Service Request

By providing dynamic and flexible routing options to your form users, you simplify the need to ensure every exception path in your business process is defined (in terms of steps, rules, and routing logic).  This cuts down on not only the complexity of the business process itself, but also the time you need to spend building the exception paths in the routing logic.  From the Ultimus BPM Server perspective, no matter who the task is assigned to the correct service representative will be marked as the task recipient.

Examples of other types of unstructured processes are easily conceivable.  In addition to the examples listed above, you can think of the unstructured processes in terms of a task list that is not structured.  Meaning, you build your process by placing all possible steps in your process map, but do not include any routing logic in the process itself.  For each task in the process, the form user has the capabilities to not only determine what the next task is to be performed, but also who is to perform it.  This type of process is highly unstructured, but has relevance in some user case situations in today's workflow environment.  No matter if your process is highly structured or highly unstructured, you can build your processes with Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite and be assured that all tasks, down the correct recipient value, will be tracked for reporting and auditing purposes.


Chris Adams
VP Product Marketing and Management

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This post was written by MK Strupe