At dinner with Forrester analyst Clay Richardson he mentioned that process support should be less like mass transit trains and buses, and more like a Zipcar. Both approaches can be seen as a way to solve metropolitan transportation problems; both are more efficient in energey use; both save the consumer money over owning and maintaining (including parking) a private vehicle. This fits well with ideas I have been trying to communicate — and I always like “car analogies”.
If you think about it, most process discovery efforts focus on the mass transit idea. They collect together representatives of all of the stake holders and design a single process to fit all. This is done for the openly stated ideal that “everyone should do things the same way”. They debate the proper way that things should be done. Because there are so many different considerations, the resulting process is often far more complex than any single subgroup in the organization would need. Then, like a large public works project, a significant effort and time is put into automating this process. Then people accommodate into their work patterns in a way similar to a commuter coordinating their schedule to the bus schedule.
Instead of a large commitment to a single infrastructure, maybe an approach around mass personalization would be more efficient. There is no need to get a group of people together and decide the schedule and route because Zipcars give people the convenience to pick their own schedules and routes. Zipcars can be optimized in a way far better than private cars because their usage can be monitored, patterns detected as they emerge from the use. The company can then help make the members more mobile by deploying more where they are needed. This is “Agile Mass Transit“. It takes months or years to change a bus schedule, but Zipcars can moderate their deployment pattern on a daily basis.
Mass personalization of process makes sense in the same way. Instead of getting a lot of people to “discover” a single common process, perhaps a better idea is to deploy a process system that lets people direct their own processes. The key though is that instead of agreeing upon routes and schedules, each person is in control of their own routes and schedules, allowing them to find a local optimum way to work. People can exchange and share best practices. Even though there is mass personalization of process, they still can be monitored. Better yet, Automated Process Discovery (APD) ends up being a technique to find the process patterns that emerge from use. These patterns are egoless in that they don’t represent what someone thinks is being done, but is an accurate picture of the actual work. From this, many people will identify ways to improve the work, and consequently you can measure the improvement.
In today’s economy, we need lean approaches that deliver small results immediately, with the ability to continue optimizing over time. Most companies can not afford a large public works project. We need to stop thinking about process discovery in a mass transit mindset, and start thinking about lean, agile approaches to make organizations run better: Mass Personalization.