The Tube Map: Process Made Easy

Hat tip to Adam Deane for another entertaining post today on the London Tube map and BPM process maps. It’s a helpful analogy, and deserves to be taken a stage further.

The Tube map that we know and love is a simplified representation that works for us as passengers or end users.

London Underground itself has all sorts of ‘map’ representations of its network – rail engineering maps, electrical engineering maps, signalling maps and geographical maps. There is even a temperature map. Each map is different because it serves a different purpose.

But the Tube map and all of LU’s internal maps relate to the one operational reality. They are multiple integrated views of one reality.

In the corporate world, end users need simplified representations of process. They need process to be as simple as the Tube map.

Behind the scenes, and especially in IT, there may be all sorts of process maps in different formats to meet the needs of enterprise architects, Lean and Six Sigma teams, system testing teams, risk and compliance teams.

What matters is that, wherever they may be, all these process maps are multiple integrated views of one operational reality.

It’s the integration that’s crucial. It’s a sign of where the future lies. It has to be the foundation of sustainable operational excellence.

The reality of business process is that most organizations have very incomplete and multiple views, that are not integrated and in a variety of formats. They are also often out of date. And they are especially hazy when it comes to the extended enterprise, to activities that are outsourced.

Which would be like London Underground expecting its engineering and signalling teams to work with unrelated maps, in different formats, and with quite a lot of the stations and lines missing.

Even worse, the process equivalent of the Tube map often looks like gobbledegook. Small wonder that end users ignore it in favor of asking a mate if they can help.

The future is not just Tube map thinking. It’s about higher levels of personalization as well – so that I get process as I need it, in the form and language that I need it, on the device that I need it, and wrapped around all that I need to do my job well.

In the same way that the Tube map is increasingly personalized and interactive: stepfree maps for wheeelchair users, maps for riverboat users and cycle hirers, multilingual maps for visitors, Zone 1 maps for central London passengers – even a Tube map optimized for the iPad.


© Text Michael Gammage 2010

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