When crunched for time, be it on a project, or trying to get to your next meeting, or preparing a RFP that is due soon, the tendency is to find shortcuts or whole-cuts, anything that will help reach that deadline. The trade-off is, you may reach a deadline, but what was removed or simplified?
This applies equally to planning for a business process project. I have had the opportunity to review hundreds if not thousands of business process documents over my career and a couple of patterns have emerged. Pattern one is the “detail of the business process is equal to the time and resources available to create it” and pattern two is “there is typically a lot of detail missing”.
Pattern one. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. Within BPM projects, this can certainly be the case. If you allow 3 months to document the current state without really determining if this is an appropriate amount of time or not, you will get 3 months of work. It may be too high-level of detail or too detailed, dependent on the scope of the business modeling effort. The same holds true for the future state.
To mitigate this risk (note I did not say eliminate) determine the scope of high-level activities to be included within the scope of the BPM project. You can create a hierarchical model or a mind-map with the Project Sponsor and/ or selected subject matter experts (SMEs) to determine the initial set of activities and the activities necessary to determine the models outcome. Estimate the number of current state and future state workshops, analysis activities, and deliverable preparation time. This will provide you with a baseline to manage the BPM project from and will be more accurate than say “3 months should do it”.
Pattern two. The key intent and ultimate goal of BPM is to foster communication and establish optimal business processes. In reviewing a process model, there is a lot of pride in its development from the business modelers and the SMEs. So I try not get caught up in nomenclature and symbols, but look and listen to what the process team is describing to me, the terms they use and how invested they are in the process (especially the future state). The common theme, not necessarily applicable to every business model, is there are significant details missing, either activities that are not explicit in the model but implicitly communicated, information inputs and outputs that are verbally described but not in the model or even missing roles or systems. When I ask about the details, the “pattern” answer I receive is “that is too much detail to add to the model or we don’t have the time to add that detail.” So I am left wondering how accurate are the deliverables, be it business requirements, a procedure or a whatever the deliverable is going to be?
To mitigate this risk (note I did not say eliminate again) have a solid and independent person review the model for clarity and accuracy. No matter how many models a person may complete, there is always value in a new pair of eyes to review the output. Also allow for the time to complete this activity and update the models with the input.
Both of these points relate to planning your BPM project: 1) plan your BPM project by using a scoping model of the business activities, and 2) always plan for an independent person to review and critique the model. You may still be crunched for time, but at least you can better manage the trade-offs.
If you have any comments on this blog, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org