My name is Rackley Boren, I currently live in Atlanta, GA and work for Salient Process as a Solution Architect and Mentor. I actively work to help enhance Salient’s methodology and offerings, as well as deliver solutions using IBM BPM and mentoring for our clients.
Process, what it is and why it is important
Process is putting order to things with rules and guidelines about how the next actions will occur. Process is important because it enables higher level thinking. If participants follow a defined process they do not have to think about what comes next or what data is required to be collected for the next step to be successful. A clear example of process is a mortgage application. From collecting information from the applicant, through due diligence, and finally to closing there are steps that need to be completed by various parties. Figure 1 is a mortgage process based on my experience and assumptions for the steps the bank would take. (READ: GETTING FIRED FOR THE BEST POSSIBLE REASON)
Another example that might not be so clear is something that you could see as just interactions. Being from Atlanta, I have a favorite soft drink company that was started here, so I am slightly partial to their products and I have noticed a few things recently. The company has new dispensers (within the last few years) that allow consumers to select the exact flavors they want. The process is as follows in Figure 2.
There are two types of the dispenser, the original, which allows you to select a category, then a brand and finally a specific flavor. The newer machine has the same set of steps, but instead of quickly sliding in the selections, it now also adds in some “bubble” animation to then allow you to select. Looking at the overall process of interacting with the machine, we now have extra wait time built in for the individual selecting their beverage. We also add on additional time to the throughput of the machine, forcing customers waiting behind the individual to wait longer as well!
One of the key features for the beverage company is the data that they are able to collect on consumer preference. Given the consumer can choose a wild combination of flavors, they can help drive new products on the shelves and to the market. However, that kind of information is more relevant to the research of product preference as a whole then for the process of interacting with this beverage. Some measurements that I think would be interesting, from a process perspective, is how long it takes for a consumer to complete their beverage selection and how many inputs they have to give to get their soft drink.
What happens when there is no process?
While not always the case, chaos can reign. Emails fly from one person to another, phone calls are made, no record of communication is available to everyone, or documentation of what happened exists. You end up having to rely on someone’s knowledge about how to get work done and hopefully they aren’t the only one who knows it. What would happen if they are the only one who knows it well?? Can your company pass the bus test? If only one person knows how your business works and they were hit by a bus walking to lunch. What would happen? This is a bit of a morbid way to get you thinking, but it is something that I was told once and it always stuck with me. Another issue you run into without process is you end up with no way to clearly see where initiatives and investments are making an impact because we can’t measure it! If you can’t measure it you can’t truly improve it.
What are the benefits of a good process?
Good process gets the right information to the right people at the right time. This ensures that they are working on only what is important to get the job done and helps them avoid non value added steps. IBM BPM has three major tenets; Automation, Visibility, and Control. A good process will help with Visibility on its own, but adding in a Business Process Management System (BPMS) like IBM BPM will help provide Automation (delivery of tasks, assignment of tasks, retrieval of information, decisions, etc), Control (allowing the business to have configurable pieces of the process after deployment), as well as far greater Visibility.
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