There are some tips in the field of BPM that you don’t want to find out by trial and error. If you have done a business process improvement initiative, you already know that the first step is to model the process. In order to model the process, you must uncover what the process is, and this step is called process discovery. How to you discover the process? You ask the people who work there, of course.
The naive approach will be to identify the process participants, set up an appointment to sit with them and as “what do you normally do for your part of this process?” Seems like a pretty good approach on the surface, but there is a hidden pitfall. To the extent that the person knows what they do, this will yeild the “sunny day” scenario. When you complete this exercise you have a process that represent what happens if everything goes right.
The “sunny day” process diagram is fairly clean and straightforward, and most people agree it is correct, but when you put it into use something very surprising happens. You find that what people actually do is very different. Those differences are called “exceptions” to the rule, and therefor don’t fall into the category of things that people “normally” do. At this point you try to retrofit the exceptions into the process, which can take longer now that it is happening late in the development cycle. Many organizations actually spend a majority of time and effort handling such exceptions and so their consideration in the process is very important. These are not failures, but simply cases that do not fit the normal rules.
There is a better way. I attended a talk by Dr. Michael zur Muehlen today at an impressive “BPM Day” at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. He says that the right question to start with for process discover is one like: “tell me about the most difficult case that you handled”. He says it is then easier to combine a number of these into a common a “rainy day” scenario process that includes the important exceptions from the beginning. Not obvious, but it sounds like good advice to me. Leave it to a German to point out the benefit of a “rainy day” scenario.
BPM Day was a seminar to cover tips and techniques in Business Process Modelling presented by:
- Michael zur Muehlen, the Director for the Center of Excellence on Business Process Management at the Howe School of Technology Management. BPM Day highlights their new graduate program on Business Process Management and Service Innovation.
- Jan Recker from the Queensland University of Technology. Jan covered the BPMN modeling standard, and reflects the advanced work on process technology going on in Brisbane. In September 2007, QUT will be hosting the “Fifth International Conference on Business Process Management” which is likely to be an excellent forum for the latest in BPM.
- In association with the New York chapter of the Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP). Look to these people to provide more excellent seminars and discussion forums in the New York area in the future.