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Does a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises?

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From this blog by Connie Moore, does a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises? 

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  • Forgive me in saying that "a standardized process for local needs and regulations while creating a consistent process that can be delivered as a shared service." is not a single version of the truth.

    In answer to the direct question: no it does not simply because nobody can agree on what the truth looks like, it's a matter of perspective from which angle of the process you are looking in from.

    80's gurus will bang on about "Outside-In" (there's one version of the truth)
    The exec will see a strategic shaped perspective (there's the second)
    The man on the shop floor will also have an opinion (there's three now)
    And so on.....

    To paraphrase A Few Good Men, I'm afraid people "can't handle the truth" when it's put in front of them.

  • Rarely does a single version of the truth exist for business processes in any organization. Should it? Now that's a different question.

    For simple, repeatable processes, a single version of the process truth should exist, otherwise we are most likely working ineffectively. But where we need to adapt to changing requirements, different data and unexpected situations the only business process truth is the 'one-step' process: respond, understand, collaborate and eventually resolve in one big whirlpool of activity.

    My view is that completely repeatable, single-truth processes, should probably be automated to the greatest extent possible, rather than relying on human processing power. Then they become systematic, and we stop questioning their correctness and just make sure they work. This allows us to concentrate on the parts where people are adding value, rather than being a possible point of failure.

    In short, if a process has a single, unquestionable version, BPM'ers should stop worrying about it and leave it to software engineers to automate. For lengthy organization-wide processes, sure we should strive for repeatability and documentation of the process truth, but not get upset that we never achieve it.

  • Initially, I find that there are many different versions of the business process. In order to get to a single version, I believe that you will be creating a new process through compromise...

  • Yes. This is one of the fundamentals of a good supporting Adaptive Software Technology where people create all source information - the one version of the truth! People should enter new information only once on the UI and that information becomes available for next steps whatever. Phil is right you can then achieve high levels of automation - as ever the trouble starts dealing with legacy multi versions of the truth! But after a while this will be eliminated and old systems safely retired.

  • The answer is simply no. There should be at an atomic level and at a very high level a single truth of the strategic business process but once you rise up from atomic level or move down from the strategic level there are so many needs and value propositions that the business processes vary, plus business is changing everyday so single source of truth, if there is one, inherently changes by next week. It is another topic entirely whether a business can keep it all straight to have one point of truth for any process or its relative pieces. Businesses differentiate in their LOBs by having variations in the process but should be using the same atomic underpinnings where applicable. How about credit card companies and the different cards a customer may hold, ie. platinum, gold etc. The atomic level of handling a dispute (fin transaction) should be the same and there is a single truth but once you rise up from the atomic there are variations on how the customer is handled so the process may be composed as platinum 'process' while regular customers may be handled differently though the process on the surface seems the same, ie. platinum gets transaction suspended for 45 days while a regular customer gets a 30 day window. Is the source of truth about disputes lie with platinum LOB or regular LOB ? add onto that the fact that similar businesses are not necessarily organized the same way so more complexity and dilution of the 'single' source of truth' exists. Many examples can be brought to the table. I would really be interested in the question of whether this is good or bad and what might be the costs of not having a single source of truth.

  • PS Of course at the moment such an ideal world does not exist in most enterprises but it can......for both information and the deployed process.

  • I don't know who said it first, but I will say it now: "truth is in the eye of the beholder"! Everybody involved with the process _thinks_ they know how it works and where the issues are, but putting independent eyes upon it almost always ends up painting a somewhat different picture.

    Because they are more contained, the simpler, more repeatable processes Phil highlighted above leave less room for interpretation than the broader, more exception driven ones do, and it is likely that greater opportunity exists to develop consensus about what the truth should be.

    But the broader the reach of the process, the more diffuse the truth becomes, and the more important it is to commit the time and energy required to at least achieve what Stephen Colbert would call the essential "truthiness" of the thing. Without that minimum stake in the ground, it's really hard to derive any sort of value from any kind of BPM initiative.

  • Of course there is... It's the process being conducted that leads to a happy customer. Every now and then it may occur that it all falls into place as intended and the value of the process and its output are spot-on! However, I fully agree with Steve, everybody seems to have their own interpretation of the process truth. I guess its the deviation allowed to the outcome that determines if we can call it a mutual truth. In most, if not all, organizations this still seems to be an illusion.

  • Connie is almost correct: as we discover over and over and over again, if you put three process actors in a room you will hear four interpretations of how that process works. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a "truth"; what it means is that the truth, whatever else it may be, is non-deterministic and therefore not really useful.

    Here's a typical conversation we might have with a client:

    Me: So, when is the regulatory review step required?
    Client: Well, that depends.
    Me: On what?
    Client: We just sort of know when it has to be included.
    Me: Um, OK, but I kinda hafta put a deterministic rule in place so that the process knows when to route the document to regulatory for approval.
    Client: [stares at me blankly]

    The truth is out there, but it's, well... inconvenient.

  • Agree with Niels, because I think the question is not stated well.

    There is one truth, because that is the process that is executed to deliver product, services or solved a problem.

    That is just what happened. And what happened is true (although some might redeemer it differently ;-)

    So I think the question must be 'is there on vision on the processes in an organization'? And then it's probably no.

  • Interesting discussion, as far as for process management, process effectiveness (doing the right things) and process efficiency (doing things right) should be evaluated.

    Doing the right things means how to create business value, as value also has multi-dimensional perspectives such as: quality value, functioning value, monetary value and perceptive value, so if there's any "single version" of truth in process, it's about overall business benefit from process.

    As tactical level, doing things right --usually means business automation to improve process efficiency. thanks

  • In addition, as usually BPM and EA go hand in hand, from conceptual, logical to tactical level, process may be seen or perceived differently, my pleasure to share some thoughts to combine this discussion as well as some earlier EA brainstorming, http://futureofcio.blogspot.com/2012/11/bpm-ea-hill-view-can-you-see-single.html

    Still, process is not for its own sake, processes underpin business capabilities, and capabilities underpin business strategy, that's the goal for the truth of processes. thanks.

  • Definitely yes, the reason is-- A single BPMs could be sufficient if executed things in streamline. Many BPMS are there in this marketplace and loads of providers available. We are also serving to the outer world with our Agile Point BPMS. Thanks a lot for the post and reading the comment.

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