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Kiran Garimella's BPM Blog

Kiran Garimella

Slaughter all the tall ones

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At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Tatars of the East were a ferocious people. They were very effective at raiding and plundering. Their most remarkable aspect was their speed of execution. They copied Caesar’s ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ mantra, but conveniently omitted the ‘vidi.’ Not for them the survey of their opponents or any attempt at understanding them. Instead, they came as a flood and departed, seemingly in one breath, leaving behind total destruction. They nipped at the edges of Genghis Khan’s empire so persistently that he was determined to either exterminate them or discipline them. Fortunately for both parties and unfortunately for his enemies, he managed to discipline them by the simple expedient of killing any Tatar who was taller than the axle of one of his desert carts (James Michener, Poland).

Every time I talk to both IT and business users, listening to their description of the mess of applications, I am reminded of the Tatars. Like each set of functional applications may be very effective, much like a small band of Tatars. But best of breed solutions do not make up a coherent enterprise architecture, just as the Tatars never won any major wars or leave any lasting legacy behind them. It took a Genghis Khan to control them, and orchestrate them into his campaigns. Before you start wondering if you should pull the plug on applications that don’t conform to the axle wheel of your architecture stack, consider how to achieve the same positive outcome—discipline—without resorting to catastrophic measures.

Firstly, realize that discipline need not be boring or bureaucratic. Secondly, discipline need not add overhead; in fact, properly cultivated, discipline can increase speed of execution. Thirdly, discipline can become part of corporate culture, a habit, a way of doing business. It means picking an investment strategy and sticking to it, without second-guessing it or letting your emotions upset it. It means growing your company in a responsible way (i.e., paying attention to risk). It means complying with the highest standards of business ethics. It means methodically ticking off the pre-flight checklist before takeoff without relying on memory, even though you have done it a thousand times before.

To institutionalize discipline, a governance process is essential. This is the umbrella process that ensures all other project methodologies, ways of doing business, operational mechanisms, etc. comply with best practices, ethical guidelines, and regulation. In the context of process management and its cousin, SOA, governance implies, among other things, the following:
• Processes & services are documented correctly and completely
• Documentation is maintained and kept current
• Projects reuse processes and services
• Implementations take into account the full end-to-end process, and not just the sub-process that is in scope for the project
• There are policies for submitting processes and services into the repository, and that these policies are followed
• Processes that are executing are monitored against key performance indicators, and that proper alerts and notifications are in place

This is not an exhaustive treatment of governance, of course. But the key is that companies cannot avoid the consequences of non-governance. They will end up paying the piper sometime. But companies do have option of making governance part of their corporate culture. To do so, top executives must be ready to lead the change in mindset. At some point, they must be prepared to pay for solutions that are comprehensive and address the various aspects of governance.

If you spot a copy of the Management Secrets of Genghis Khan floating about your CEO’s office, quietly substitute it with the Power of Process.

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