Event, Decision (Rule), Process – The Anatomy of Event Driven processing

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A lot has been written over the years about the way processes work within organisations. However, when one really looks under the covers what we find is that every process is driven by an event. Once the event occurs, decisions are taken by an “Identity”, that can be an actual person or an automated device that has knowledge about the way the business reacts to this particular type of event. This “decision” is a rule. Once the rule has analysed the data surrounding the event, it makes a decision about which process should be started.

Let me illustrate this thinking. I am currently responsible for the administration of grass hockey elite squads in my county and this moment in time is one of the busiest, as parents respond to the invitations to join the county training squads and pay their children’s fees. My event is the arrival of post each day. First decision on hearing the post come through the door, is do I collect now or a bit later? Once I collect, I hit the next event of “sorting the post”. I have basically a decision on what sort of post has arrived:

  1. If it is hand written or has the words “Director of Coaching” or “JDC”, then the letter is of immediate interest and goes into the right pile on my desk;
  2. If it is a business letter such as bank or credit card company communication, then it goes onto a pile on top of my printer;
  3. If it is addressed to another member of my family, it goes into a pile on the left side of my desk, which, at the end of sorting, I take out to the kitchen for distribution;
  4. If it is a magazine then it goes into another pile to be taken into the lounge for reading later.

So I have now applied my sorting “rule”, which results in 4 different processes being kicked off; all of which can occur simultaneously, or near enough! Let’s follow the post that is affected by decision 1 above. My next event is to open the letters and skim read the contents. Now comes the next set of decisions (rules):

  1. If the letter is concerned with the Summer Camps I am running it goes into a pile on the left side of my desk;
  2. If the letter is concerned with registration for the County JDC, then I check to see if a cheque is attached or not:
    1. If there is a cheque it goes into a pile on the right of my desk;
    2. If there is no cheque, then I write “No Money received and the date” on the form and put it on a pile on top of my printer.

For those letters about Summer Camps, I now start the process of registering the form. This process involves opening the right spreadsheet at the right tab, checking if the player involved is registered on the County database or not, entering all the necessary details of the form and finally banking the cheque.

For those letters about the County JDC that have a cheque, I now start the process of completing the registration of the player on the database and, for the double entry book keeping, updating the entry on the fee registration tab of a spreadsheet. The form is then filed in the completed box file store. For those County JDC letter with no cheques, I check to see if there has been a request to pay electronically and if so mark the form ‘electronic payment’ for latter checking with my bank records. If there is no information, then I email the primary address and ask how payment will be made.

What you can see is a pattern of Event followed by Decision (Rule) followed by Process and so on until you reach the final event-the end of the process!

My events, decisions and process are analogous to those that many organisations deal with every day in terms of customer orders, complaints, claims.

But what if, when the event occurs, all that you know is what the final outcome has to be and nothing about how you get from the starting event to the end event-what people refer to a “dynamic case management?”. Well, if you look at BPM tools that support this capability, they are actual driven by the same pattern of event – decision – process; the difference is that the decision is more complex and will, in all probability, involve collaborative working with more experienced colleagues and other parties involved.

What I am seeing therefore is that the future of management of process in an organisation is no longer about just the workflow that connects all the current components that have been identified from the application portfolio, but also the identification of the events that trigger each major process and the rules that control what happens. However in today’s mobile world there is one other piece to the jigsaw that has to be taken into consideration and that is the “identity” that triggers the event and those that are involved. This is all about the location and the device used to trigger the device or that will be used to receive information to make decisions.