In a workshop with a Life Sciences organization looking for a process platform to transform its approach to knowledge management, and the inevitable question comes up: “We use swimlanes sometimes anyway – so what’s wrong with BPMN?”.
We gave, I think, a convincing response. Next time though I’m going to try drawing an analogy with wings.
Both penguins and guillemots have wings. But only guillemots fly. According to a recent study, it’s an example of an evolutionary trade-off. A wing can’t be efficient for both flying and swimming. Optimising wings for diving leads to unsustainably high energy costs for flight.
So penguins evolved wings that leave them waddling across land but can take them to depths of 1,800 feet in search of food; whereas guillemots fly but can dive only to 300 feet. Their wings serve different purposes.
It’s the same of course with the language of process.
Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a process language optimized for automation. It is high value from an IT perspective. With BPMN swimlanes, pools, complexity and precision, an organization can dive very deep.
Universal Process Notation (UPN) is optimized for operational excellence. It’s a process language designed to enable effective collaboration across the enterprise on innovation, transformation and continuous improvement. It’s UPN’s simplicity – from the user’s perspective – that enables an organization to fly.
The organization running this workshop wants to shift from a document-based to a process-based approach in search of agility and efficiency. They want a new way of working that will better support their front-line people, engage them in continuous improvement, enable stakeholders to automate and outsource where appropriate, and deliver a new customer experience. That is flying not diving.
Once they have identified automation opportunities, BPMN can come into play – for the IT team at least – in the design and implementation of systems that are scoped to support the end-to-end business processes (that are defined and maintained using UPN).
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