If you suspect that you've got "untamed" business processes, or if you want to avoid creating them, experts suggest following a few commonsense steps.
Start by getting business users to answer a few probing questions, advises John Hoebler, director of enterprise systems with MorganFranklin Corp., an IT consulting company.
For instance, in the case of a client with an ERP system that hadn’t adapted to changing business needs, Hoebler's team asked:
- How quickly did managers need to turn around requests?
- How would information be filed and stored?
- How could management review progress and identify issues?
- What was the best way to provide information to auditors and regulators now that the business had grown?
None of those questions was specifically about systems, Hoebler notes. Instead, they all focused on how the company could complete the same job in its new business environment.
Similarly, Michael Mah, managing partner at QSM Associates Inc., says he finds that with untamed processes, he needs to more carefully establish project sizes and "get intelligent about breaking them down" into manageable pieces.
"When you talk about use cases or features or configuration items or tables or reports—these things all have to be well-defined," he says. "Once you get them defined, you are in better shape; then, I think, you can get the process under control."
On the other hand, Mah notes, if you plan poorly, your untamed process "will be an ugly beast"--and you will be, figuratively, hanging onto the dragon's tail. In particular, he recommends obtaining strong commitment to a credible project estimation process from the start. "If you get that done well, a lot of good things fall into place," he says. And if you don't get that buy-in? "You will have a monster, a multi-headed hydra, to deal with."