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Editor's Note: In this Q & A, Peter Schooff speaks with Kathy A. Long, who offers tips on process discovery, "invisible" processes and BPM trends for this year and beyond. Long is founder and president of Innovative Process Consulting, which helps organizations in various industries improve business performance by improving business processes.

PS: On your website, one of the white papers is about using "KISS," for "Keep It Simple, Stupid," for process discovery. Can you elaborate on that?

KL: Sure thing. At most organizations that I've worked with over the last 18 to 20 years, I walk in and I look at their process models and there are these huge maps of just wallpaper. They covered not inches, but feet of space in these organization, where they [fill] volumes of notebooks that no one ever looks at. It's just unbelievable. And no one uses them because they're so much detail to them.

Most of that detail has happened because we had very detail-oriented people documenting processes from the bottom up, from that very detailed level. So the concept of the KISS approach is to start top down, to model the "who, what, where, when, how and why" at a high level, and--for current processes especially--to not take our detail any lower than what we call the activity level. Everything below that [level] will probably change significantly as we redesign process, so that work that we do there is usually just throw-away work. It doesn't even really add a lot to our analysis.

SoI caution people not to take everything down to the lower level because we just don't get the return on the investment. The ROI for those models is almost always negative. When we redesign a process, the same thing will be true and then we get into even more problems with maintainability. They're not maintainable. [The underlying idea is] keeping it as simple as possible and yet having all of the relevant information that we need. There are lots of things to consider, but that's a summary of the KISS approach.

PS: Also on your website, you talk about "invisible processes." What are those?

KL: That's a really good question. Companies that were first interested in this were manufacturing companies because when something went wrong with their products, it was very easy to see. Not only could you see it visibly, but the customer could see it visibly and, immediately, what we call a defect was easy to identify.


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