Bill Brantley – LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/billbrantley/en
Bill Brantley is a Doctor in Public Policy and Management with an MBA in Project Management. He teaches project management communication at the University of Maryland and project management in human resources at George Mason University. He is also the Branch Chief of the Human Resources Information Systems unit for the Rural Development agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
John: First, thank you very much, Bill for taking the time to do this interview.
Bill: You’re welcome.
John: Before we get started can you tell me a little about yourself and your professional occupation?
Bill: I’m a long-time practitioner-scholar specializing in IT policy; data science; strategic management; change management; policy analysis; training and development; and project management. I have led several professional and volunteer organizations with my most recent position as the Knowledge Management Lead for the PMI Government Project Management Community of Practice. I am also a skilled application developer with a specialty in open-source software and databases.
John: You have just published a book chapter. Can you tell a little about why you wrote the book chapter and why it is important?
Bill: I was approached by the Workforce Management Coalition (https://www.wfmc.org/) to be a judge for their 2014 Adaptive Case Management Global Excellence Awards. In reviewing the entries for the awards, I was struck by how many of the organizations were using adaptive case management (ACM) to improve their known business processes. I had just recently read about process mining and wondered if ACM could be improved by using process mining techniques to discover and improve hidden processes. I suggested this as the topic for a book chapter
John: What exactly is ACM?
Bill: You can find some great extended definitions of adaptive case management (ACM) at https://adaptivecasemanagement.org/AboutACM.html. But I like to summarize ACM as the natural way knowledge workers work when dealing with an issue or problem (“ the case”). Each case is different, and the knowledge worker chooses the best processes, templates, and other work methods to handle that particular case.
For example, when I was a paralegal in a public defender’s office, I would help attorneys with many individual cases. Each case was the same in that a crime had been alleged and the defendant would proceed through a well-defined process (“judicial process”).What was different was the particular aspects of the case from which the attorney would choose different legal processes and techniques to handle that particular case. As the attorney handled similar cases, he or she would evolve a library of legal templates, procedures, and other methods to help in dealing with the cases more effectively.
John: When I think of Adaptive Case Management I mostly think of unstructured processes performed by knowledge workers. For example how doctors operate or how project managers perform planning. Usually it is hard to document those processes because the performing (in details) differs from case to case. Do you find that the usage of the processes, templates and other methods are usually recorded in IT systems making it possible to apply process mining?
Bill: Yes, there are IT systems that can support ACM. For example, I have seen Microsoft’s SharePoint application being used for ACM. I used an open source application, Open Atrium (https://openatrium.com/#!/), to build an IT system to support ACM. All that is needed is central repository to store the templates, social networking tools to facilitate communication between the knowledge workers, and a task management system to handle the processes. There are some great examples of ACM IT applications in the book that has my process mining chapter.
John: Your chapter is titled "Using Process Mining to Improve Adaptive Case Management Processes". How do you see process mining play a role in improving adaptive case management processes?
Bill: In three ways. First, process mining can help discover hidden processes that the ACM practitioner doesn’t realize are in his or her particular use of ACM. The practitioner can better refine his or her entire particular ACM method, by discovering and improving these hidden processes.
Second, process mining can be used to make sure that refined processes supporting an ACM method are in conformance with how the practitioner refined those processes. Third, and I admit I am still working on this; process mining can help in directing the evolution of the practitioner’s particular version of ACM.
John: What do you mean when talking about hidden processes? Is it processes documented and used by some of the knowledge workers, but being unknown to other knowledge workers?
Bill: That is one way that processes can be hidden. Ideally, knowledge workers should share processes so that other knowledge workers can benefit from the accumulated process knowledge. But, a knowledge worker may not feel a process is ready to be revealed or that the process is idiosyncratic to how that knowledge worker manages cases.
Also, having worked in IT for a while, I realize how difficult it can be to have developers formally document their processes. This is also true for other areas that I have worked in such as human resources or performing legal investigations. That is why a process that isn’t documented might as well be hidden, in my opinion.
John: How do you see the usage of process mining evolve in the future?
Bill: In project management. Specifically, how to perform better planning, monitoring, and managing risk in a project. I am working on a paper now to be presented at the University of Maryland’s Project Management Symposium (https://pm.umd.edu/page.php?id=887) that will have some aspects of process mining under the topic of using data science to improve project management.
John: That sounds interesting. To get the best results in analysing planning, monitoring, and managing risks in projects we need data recorded for those unstructured processes. Do you see that as an obstacle? What challenges do you see is approaching this?
Bill: Yes, I do see obtaining data about the project processes and risks to be a formidable obstacle. I am currently examining common project management planning tools such as the work-breakdown structure, risk-breakdown structures, and the risk register. I think a primary source of information will be from reformatting earned value analysis documents as event logs.
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