When Does A Tool Become A Platform?

What’s the difference between a process tool and a process platform?  And does it matter? I think so, and here’s why.

Let’s define a ‘process tool’ broadly, as a means of describing work, of ensuring it is undertaken efficiently and effectively, and of enabling improvement and change.

Many organizations have quite a list of process tools they use: procedural documents in Word or pdf formats; flowcharts in Powerpoint, Excel or Visio; fishbone diagrams and Value Streams created by a Lean Sigma team; detailed BPMN process diagrams, and business requirements capture tools, for IT purposes; and capability diagrams in enterprise architecture applications. And, to add to that Tower of Babel feeling, the process tools adopted will often vary by functional silo and by business unit. In short, if the purpose of process is to enable effective collaboration, it’s a mess.

Vendors these days tend to describe their offerings as ‘process platforms’, capable of providing a platform for effective collaboration and continuous improvement across the enterprise. It’s clearly the future. But what makes a platform?

For me, there are two essential capabilities for any sustainable process excellence platform: Continue reading