IT consultant John Hoebler has first-hand experience with one of the most common headaches related to untamed processes.

In working with clients, he routinely finds users who despise their companies' enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The reason? "ERP and other transactional systems tend to be rigid and run smoothly only when the business processes are homogenized," explains Hoebler, director of enterprise systems with MorganFranklin Corp., an IT consulting company. "When users tell me they hate the system, what I usually find are untamed, non-homogenized and generally out-of-control processes."

Those untamed processes could result from lack of rigor in defining the processes up front, or they could be due to rogue users, Hoebler says. But it's even more likely that they're a sign that the business has simply outgrown the process and the current system configuration. Fortunately, however, tools such as dynamic case management (DCM) can help bring such processes under control.

Defining untamed processes

Craig Le Clair, a Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst, uses the term "untamed processes" to describe the fringe functions and ad hoc adaptations that he sees in practically every organization, sandwiched between the well-defined and orderly processes embedded in key applications such as ERP.

Because untamed processes are typically critical to organizational success, they need to be brought under better control, Le Clair and other experts say. (For tips on avoiding and identifying such processes, see "Reining in rogue processes.")

As an example, Hoebler tells the story of a client company that grew threefold in just five years. For compliance reasons, the company needed to have monthly project costs regularly reviewed, approved and filed. When the company was smaller, Hoebler notes, project financial analysts and project managers were based in the same geographic location. The financial analysts would print out reports, review them with project managers, obtain approval signatures and file the reports. "It was easy to pull the file and verify that costs were approved when internal auditors or external regulators requested it," he says.


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