How to Determine the Depth of Process Identification?


The Process Relevance Criterion.


Issues around process identification

The first practical problem which arises in the course of process identification rests in evaluating the adequate depth of process description. Too much attention to detail is time inefficient and results in rising costs. Too much depth can also make process description so complicated that the main value of process maps and models – graphical simplicity – will disappear entirely under a layer of inessential details.

The excessive depth of predefined process models used in the course of process management implementation will, at best, result in employee automatism and their lack of creative thinking in regard to their work and analysis. After all, evaluation of performance indicators of elementary processes and activities also has its “optimal” rational threshold, below which the cost of attaining knowledge on processes might become disproportionately greater than the effects of the processes itself. Moreover, analysis of elemental activities indicators could turn out to have no practical value whatsoever. On the other hand, however, too little attention to detail might result in a shortage of regulations, bringing about organizational and executive chaos.


Definition of the Process Relevance Criterion

In consequence, it is essential to arrive at the optimal level of detail with regard to process definitions which shape and organize activities, as well as the optimal level of detailed indicators of activities and elemental processes. In order to arrive at the adequate threshold of significance, below which going into further detail becomes pointless, I will make use of a definition analogous to one found in accounting. In accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (SAS 220, 1995): “Information is material if its omission or misstatement could influence the economic decision of users taken on the basis of the financial statements.”

Let me rephrase this definition, so that it corresponds with the Process Relevance Criterion:

“Supplementing a process with a specific activity or an elementary process is material if their omission or misstatement could influence the end goal of the process in a significant fashion.”

Please bear in mind that the above‒mentioned definition does not cover the potential effect on process “execution”, but rather, it mentions “attaining the end goal” of the process. Such goals should be understood in a broader sense than just simple financial goals, i.e., goals should be regarded as multidimensional, like in the Balanced Scorecard method.

If a more detailed process description could include such additional information that the average, rational and competent process operator would alter the execution of the process to such an extent that its function or end result would become significantly different, than such additional information should be introduced into the process.


Adopt the perspective of a process operator

In effect, the level of detail is strongly dependent on the professional level of process operators, their level of experience, knowledge, and creative skills. It should be stressed that when evaluating the level of process depth, process leaders should first and foremost adopt the perspective of a process operator as the client value creator and only then consider their own management and supervision needs. In practical terms, the level of depth is indirectly dependent on the structure and the organizational culture of the enterprise. Virtual and goal‒oriented companies do not require the same depth of process description as hierarchical companies centered on tasks or product‒based companies hiring low‒qualified production workers with a high turnover rate.

In the classic model of business process management, launching the prepared process framework is understood as the beginning of process management under the supervision of a process leader or a forum of process leaders. However, in the case of dynamic process management, launching the process framework is also the start of ongoing process specification and adaptation, which, for all intents and purposes, will be the work of all process operators, who will be asked to introduce their own modifications and enhancements into the processes.


In other words, if the enterprise is to function properly following the implementation of dynamic business process management, than instead of modeling all activities in advance, we should guarantee the ongoing access to information on the work at hand.



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By Marek Szelagowski @ dynamic BPM | February 4, 2013

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