The standard, textbook division of processes is to divide them into main (primary) processes, supporting processes, and management processes. This division is a good illustration of the significance that the particular process groups have in business. It enables us to create a clear, transparent, and well-organized process map. It also allows us to define the relations between the processes themselves, as well as the relations between processes and the teams performing them. However, this division does not enable us to chose the manners of describing processes, or the methodologies of implementing or automating processes within an organization. Should we wish to do so, we would need to resort to a taxonomy dealing with the method of process implementation.
1. Static (structured) processes
Static (structured) processes are those processes which are unchangeable in form, as well as those processes which change over a long period of time. In effect, it is possible to improve such processes with the use of standard BPCI mechanisms based on the Deming’s wheel (PDAC) method, as well as with the help of the management and their knowledge. Because the structure of such processes is known beforehand, such processes can be described in the form of a complete algorithm. In principle, the performance of static processes which do not require decision-making can be delegated to industrial robots or computers.
- Scope of implementation:
◦ identification, rationalization, improvement of processes,
◦ identification, standardization, improvement of decision-making processes (business decision management ‒ BDM),
◦ communication (publication) of process models throughout the organization,
◦ automation of process workflow in workflow, DM, or BPMS systems,
◦ automation of data gathering and analysis via executive systems and BAM/BI applications,
◦ exposure and unification of organizational knowledge, usually on a one-time basis in the process identification phase,
◦ transparency and accessibility of published and up-to-date process maps and models,
◦ initiation and execution of process improvement (BPCI)
◦ full control over real-time and ex-post process execution (instant identification of deviations and errors arising in the course of process execution),
- Risks and hazards:
◦ misalignment with the changing market conditions, being incapable of personalizing processes,
◦ performing a process in the standard manner, which does not conform to the conditions of executions (succeeding to perform the standard process, but generating losses in its course),
◦ creating a culture of unaccountability
Unfortunately, only about 20% of processes can be described as above in real-life organizations. Most often these are the organizations’ normal internal processes, which are not client-facing, as well as processes which must be standardized due to legal constraints (i.e. accounting processes, tax processes, some HR processes, etc.).
2. Dynamic (unstructured, ad-hoc, …) processes
In the remaining 80% cases, processes contain actions or entire subprocesses which are hard to conceptualize within an algorithm. Processes, the course of which is dependent on individual conditions of execution, or which contain such a large amount of variables that it’s impossible to model them. Such processes require us to factor in at the modeling phase the possibility of process performers making individual decisions that we are not able to foresee beforehand. In effect, they require us to take into account the knowledge of process performers in the course of modeling and improving processes.
- The scope of implementation is the same as for static processes, but also includes:
◦ quick identification of processes factoring in dynamic actions (ad-hoc in BPMN 2.0),
◦ automation of process workflow in dynamic BPMS and ACMS systems,
◦ implementation of an automated business process discovery (ABPD) mechanism or a process mining in support of knowledge acquisition,
◦ implementation of quick-learning mechanisms in the organization with the use of social BPM, CoP, etc.,
- Benefits are the same as for static processes, but also include:
◦ ongoing verification and creation of new knowledge in actual business conditions (and not some detached research & development facilities),
◦ initiation and execution of the constant improvement of processes (BPCI) with the use of the entire intellectual capital of the organization,
◦ rapid, broad use of new knowledge with the aim of raising the effectiveness of performed processes,
◦ actual empowerment of process performers, creation of a culture of accountability,
- Risks and hazards:
◦ the risk of the failure of the process executors’ limited experiments (although some knowledge is also gained in return),
◦ the risk of chaos as the result of too many uncontrolled experiments (which can be mitigated by the strict control and oversight of privilege levels).
3. Risks associated with the static modeling of dynamic business processes
When the identification and implementation of processes that are dynamic in nature is attempted as if they were static, projects usually take longer (larger costs, larger risks, …) and the effectiveness of the organization does not rise, but falls instead. Whenever processes are connected with the Client or the market environment, it is even more crucial to establish whether dividing the process into individual “indivisible” actions, which the process executor then performs, will not lead to higher losses due to the over-complication and over-specification of processes. Perhaps it would be better to leave the description general enough as it is? The main risks connected with modeling dynamic processes as complete algorithms are:
a. Losing the transparent and flexible character of processes as the result of their over-specification
This results in the “creeping” over-complication of processes due to adding different special exceptions, “contingency plans,” and conditions which should be taken into account despite the fact that they only arise in special circumstances! I once worked on a settlement system for foreign credits. After having taken into account all of the possible conditions, I was faced with a “monster” that was not practical to work with. It even factored in the option of performing a contract in 2 countries at the same time, in 10 different places, and using 3 different currencies, only because one such contract was performed in the span of the last 25 years! However, in practice it turned out that even such a system did not take into account all the possible circumstances, as one situation arose which was not factored in the system at all.
b. Strengthening a culture of unaccountability
The strict imposition of an unchanging method of performing a process, which does not factor in changing circumstances, rids employees of their initiatives and takes away their accountability for the results of the processes. Not only that, it even encourages them to accept a situation which causes loss, but which follows the statute/procedures/processes! After all, if the process/procedure owner is responsible for the outcome, the employees think it wise to stay close to the procedure/process, even when they think that such action is senseless.
c. Introducing automated processes in an organization as if it were a computer
There is a risk associated with particular organizational units and their managers to see changes NOT AS A CHANCE, but as a threat to their privileges and competence ranges. The lack of information, understanding, and acceptance for change, may lead to individuals viewing change as a threat and meeting such a threat with a strong backlash.