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Don’t blame the IT for faulty and expensive processes

Over the past few weeks we’ve had numerous client processes checked in our Process TestLab. And the results are … well, before we go into that here’s a quick reminder of what the Process TestLab actually does:

Test 1: Validation – Completeness

This is where we check if the process description is in itself complete (are all necessary steps/tasks included in the process design, likewise roles, IT-systems etc.)
What we actually do in this step is to implement the process on our test systems and see where they come up with warnings.

Test 2: Validation – Content and Objectives

Once the client has updated his process to get rid of the warnings from Test 1, we let various teams from the client experience the process by running it on our systems with distributed roles. The fun part of this is that this is done on the basis of workflow and BPM technology, so the routing of the process across distributed roles and systems is comparable to the final process solution the clients would like to implement…but as this is done ‘only’ on our system system, the client doesn’t need to risk implementing the process before checking if it truly does what it should.

Test 3: Simulation

All process designs are based on assumptions. Assumptions about workload, about ressource availability, system response times, influences of other processes and not forgetting customer behaviour (for those who regard this as an essential design input). What the Process TestLab does is to take these different classes of assumptions and build scenarios around them by varying the assumptions. Then we subject the process to these scenarios to determine how the process will behave and perform.

Test 4: Stresstest

This comes in two parts. The first stresstest is rather like an extreme simulation to determine the limits or breaking points of a process. Sounds like a lot of theory until you think back to the latest case of birdflue, volcanic eruption etc. It’s all about the question of how much stress your process and its resources can take before they seize to be functional any longer. The second stresstest has turned out to be a real eye-opener for some clients: While during the validation test we looked only at single processes instances to determine the quality of the process, this stresstest puts the clients team under stress by producing increasing workloads. Not only does this tell where the cut-off point lies, the point at which the process and the organisational structure cannot provide the required support but it also offers a preview of the conditions employees would face after implementation.

I hope you get the general idea and I wonder how you think your latest process project would fare, because if the results of the past weeks are anything to go by …

A) No single process checked in the Process TestLab was complete and could have been implemented.

B) 80% of all processes that reached Test 2 contained logical errors, errors of routing and other types which would have led to unwanted and even wrong IT implementations. (Remarkebly even processes which had been pre-checked by internal business analysts were no better)

Test 3 provided some new insights to clients who thought they knew it all … although, who could have guessed that it would take them four times as long to process workqueues than they thought.

What this comes down to is a possible explaination of why implementation projects of BPM-Systems and of new processes are rarely regarded as successful and mostly blamed on IT. Faulty process design will inevitably lead to faulty processes. And it’s no secret that repair work on processes and process systems is always more expensive after the fact than the avoidance effort one might have invested before implementation.

Hopefully, the results the Process TestLab is currently seeing will improve over time, but the ‘better safe than sorry’ motto is something all too many projects cherish their ignorance on.

So don’t rely on guesswork and the look-good factor of your process models. The Process TestLab can provide you with the facts for your decision making.

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