White Rabbit: Where shall I begin, please, your Majesty?
King: Begin at the beginning. . and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
This advice given by Lewis Carroll in 1865 clearly was not meant for corporate planners. Planning has no start, middle or end and you cannot stop at any point – planning must be continuous.
From a practical perspective, Business Process Management should begin with a knowledgebase of pretty much everything you are likely to need to discover processes, map these processes, improve your processes and then, proceed to use your mapped, improved processes as best practices to guide the processing of instances. Start with a 30,000 foot view and then dive down to the details.
Examples of what you are likely find in an inventory of objects for process mapping include industry knowledge, evolving legislation, information on competitors, corporate strategy/policy and procedure, a portfolio of current products and products that may be on the drawing board, and, of course, an inventory of existing processes.
However tedious it may seem, there are important benefits to be gained from carving up objects into short, highly focused mini-objects.
A search for occurrences of a keyword in an industry standard in a free-form Kbase will highlight clauses in an organization’s policy and procedure, responding to questions such as “… where in our policy and procedure do we address a clause in a particular standard?”. And, with no added effort, the reverse search “. . . where in a standard does is say we have to follow a particular clause in our policy and procedure?”
Given a Kbase of processes and information needed to improve these and to develop new processes, it becomes relatively easy to prioritize initiatives at the Kbase. From here, projects can be planned, launched and managed, always with a return to the KBase to update status and re-prioritize initiatives.
Of course, there are Kbases, and then there are Kbases – if your objects are in a graphic environment you can use a “Russian Doll” approach to organizing these and you can go a long way toward accommodating thousands, even tens of thousands of objects on one screen. As anyone who has moved from a traditional computer monitor to a large monitor has discovered, the bad news is you will eventually run out of real estate but you can always go to a rotating/zoomable sphere and continue on.
I suppose the next step is to transition to a command center where you sit inside of a holograph and get at your data. They seem to be able to do this kind of thing on TV, so the wait may not be too long.
I suspect the travel business has stopped worrying about tele-transporter technology which dates back to the mid-1960’s, so who knows?
Development of processes is best done by functional units with the help of a facilitator if need be. This is easier said than done unless you have access to a mapping environment where processes can be mapped as quickly as stakeholders say “ . . . and then we do this”. The facts are some very large corporations lock themselves in time by using whiteboards and post-its and seem none the worse off. All this does is tell us that there is a separation between efficiency and effectiveness.
Beyond process mapping, the herd starts to thin out.
Few organizations where staff is mostly made up of knowledge workers reach a stage of maturity where best practices are encouraged, yet where ad hoc “processes of one step each” can be engaged at any time to the point where a series of ad hoc interventions can substitute for best practices.
In any case, the key point regarding process discovery, mapping, improvement and run-time use is that when you think you are at the end it’s really just a new beginning.