I hope you agree that processes are a vital component of any organization. But when it comes to an excellent working definition of what processes are and aren’t, we tend to disagree.
I’ve attended so many meetings where people shout, “this process” and “that process.” “We must optimize the HR process.” “Can we write work instructions for the customer relationship management process?” “We should automate the payment process.” “Can we remove waste from the settle claim process?”.
I also saw different ways to visualize processes. Some were written as lists in plain Word or Excel files. Others were drawn in something that looks like a BPMN diagram. And others were drawn as value-chain-like diagrams.
A few years ago – all this confused me – a lot. Such an important thing, taken so lightly.
I challenge you to ask a few people in your organization to tell you what a process is. I’m sure you will be baffled by the different meanings people tend to give.
It seemed that everybody had a different take on what a process is, how it should be labeled, and how we can present them. How can this be, I wondered? What is going on?
A process is a process, isn’t it?
Who cares about this? I hope you do because when processes are misused, our improvement projects are all at risk. It’s rather difficult to optimize, automate, model, measure something that isn’t a process, isn’t it?
Some people can create perfect process models with all the correct BPMN elements but struggle to see where their model fits in the bigger picture of the organization. Others are perfectly capable of defining their organizations' process landscapes but don’t know how to drill down to the details they need. Even others are calling things processes but are nowhere near defining real processes, causing struggles later on. I challenge you to draw BPMN diagrams or define the Hire-to-retire process's metrics or the customer relationship management process.
A process is not a trivial thing. A process is a particular thing with clear characteristics. So some things are a process, and others are not.
Isn’t there anything out there that can help us to get this right?
Of course, there is! Meet our
PROCESS SURVIVAL KIT
This three-part survival kit offers you all you need to know to become a real process expert.
First of all, we want to make sure there is no more discussion about what a process is and isn’t. If you apply this five-step sanity check, you’ll discover the five key characteristics of an end-to-end business process. Each thing you call a process should have precise and clear answers to each of the characteristics.
If you ever want to call yourself a true process master, this should be the mantra you chant every night before going to bed.
Once you get that definition right, you’ll be one step closer to correctly identify processes in your organization. But if you do it right, you easily discover hundreds of end-to-end processes. Soon you’ll need a better way to structure these processes. For that, we need to take a closer look at our process hierarchy.
This process hierarchy represents…well, the hierarchy of processes. The discovered end-to-end processes are the key component of the architecture. Although we call these end-to-end processes, this is not the end.
A company can only generate value (hence the value-chain) and realize products and services when these end-to-end processes interact. These related processes can be described and visualized by building a process hierarchy. The top of the hierarch shows what the organization does, and the bottom details how we do it.
Download the survival kit to know more about the different levels.
If everything goes to plan, it’s now time to draw BPMN diagrams. Wait…more than 100 processes equals 100 BPMN diagrams – that will take me like, let me think … 1 BPMN diagram 2 days of work …. 1 day for validation. And 1 day of rework. That’s about…400 days.
No stop there. Building BPMN diagrams is great, but it’s a huge effort as well. There must be a better way. Let’s bring in the third part of the survival kit, the process profile. The process profile shows eight of the process’s most important characteristics. Sometimes you don't have to model every single process in your organization; sometimes, filling in all the elements of this profile is enough to get an overview of your process.
Do you want to learn more about the process definition, the process hierarchy, and the process profile? In our new course, "Process Discovery" we give tons of examples, practical tips, and tricks, and we discuss a hands-on method to identify your process.
Go discover the course here.