Penguins, Guillemots and Swimlanes

istock_000020691496small - editIn 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).

Related Posts

15 Mar 2013   Future BPM: The Enterprise Platform

11 Dec 2012    Process Management and Google Maps

Process Management And Google Maps

Would you rely on Google Maps if you knew it was incomplete, in different formats, languages and UIs – and that much of it was out-of-date? I don’t think so.

But ask the same question in an enterprise context and the answer would often be ‘Yes’.  An extraordinary number of businesses rely upon enterprise process maps that are incomplete, in different formats, languages and UIs – and seriously out-of-date.

Google of course saw the potential in location-based services in a mobile world and continues to invest heavily. But as Google’s Mr Maps, Brian McClendon, noted in an interview at the weekend, everything depends upon having a solid map base:

“You need to have the basic structure of the world so you can place the relevant information on top of it. If you don’t have an accurate map, everything else is inaccurate”.

So Google provides MapMaker and other tools so that its users can get engaged: in providing feedback, even in real-time editing and extension of its coverage. That user engagement helps to drive high levels of accuracy in Google maps.

Imagine an enterprise process map by Google Maps: a visualization of how the peaks of the operating model link to the valleys of everyday operational reality. With this basic structure of the business accurately mapped, it becomes possible to do much more:

  • orchestrate business transformation
  • underpin Lean Sigma and continuous improvement
  • connect risk and compliance management with business reality
  • ensure IT alignment and enable business-led systems implementations
  • support front-line people doing real work.

But to do this, an enterprise process map too has to be accurate. It is the base map of the enterprise – the foundation upon which everything else is built. So it has to be properly developed and managed. It has to be comprehensive and integrated, and within a robust governance framework. Critically, it has to be in the language of the business because engagement is the key to its sustainability.

Adopt the language of IT – swimlanes, BPMN symbols – and it’s a fatal obstacle to engagement with process stakeholders and users. Engagement requires the language of the business – which is why the adoption of Universal Process Notation (UPN) by virtually every Nimbus client may seem arcane but actually it’s very significant.

There’s another significant parallel here: the importance of personalization. Users don’t want Google Maps as a replacement atlas to browse on their smartphones. They want Google Maps to present them with content that is about their preferences, their location and their time of day.

It’s exactly the same with enterprise process maps.  Users want to be presented with content that is about their role, their KPIs and in their language – that helps them to do their job.  But how many organizations simply create an enterprise atlas and then post it on the corporate intranet?

Related Posts

10 Dec 2012    Sustainable Improvement And Packing The Dishwasher

17 Dec 2010    The Tube Map: Process Made Easy 

© Text Michael Gammage 2012