Thursday, July 23, 2009

Process documentation for communication and collaboration

Yesterday Contextware announced the award of a new contract from the U.S. Army. The award is for software to help with capturing and codifying manufacturing process knowledge and information. That’s a great new client for us and also serves as a nice lead-in to an important point about process documentation.

There are a lot of software technologies classified as business process management, or process documentation tools. So why Contextware for the Army instead of a more classic (precisely defined) BPM or process documentation software?

The honest answer is that the Army uses plenty of process tools, but in this use-case, the answer lies in a specific Army requirement for this procurement: “the system will also facilitate communication and collaboration to conduct prototype and manufacturing process development efforts.”

The origin of documenting business processes traces back to the need to develop data models, data bases and automation of business rules…resulting in the creation of a common language to document processes. And based on these needs an entire industry of business process management software was developed.

Contextware’s focus is on the non-automated aspects of the business. And early on we determined that process documentation served a useful role, not just as a means to enforce business rules, but more importantly as a means to capture information about the enterprise and the way it does business. And then to serve as a means for communicating it and connecting to content relevant to those processes.

This is why the U.S. Army is working with us…because its challenges related to process have much more to do with understanding, accumulation of knowledge, learning and collaboration then they have to do with automation of specific activities or tasks.