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Who wants to be a millionaire, the World Cup, a bit of physics and process time

(Freely translated from the original german posting by Dr. Norbert Kaiser, co-founder of taraneon and – unfortunately – an engineer)

Engineer

Now we come to the $100.000 question:

The speed at which a football travels through the air in Johannesburg is – as compared to Berlin – and presuming an otherwise identical force of kicking it:
a) lower
b) identical
c) greater
d) I don’t know what a football is

Ok, so you might just have the feeling that answer d) is probably not what we’re looking for. And you’d be right to think that this question will never be asked on ‘Who wants to be…’ or a business process quiz show (now there’s an idea). But there is a connection, but more on that later. First let us find the right answer to the question.

By the way, the usual BPM approach would be to kick a ball in Berlin, buy a first class ticket to Johannesburg, kick another ball and then decide you couldn’t have cared less and start looking for someone to blame.

But here’s how we get to the real answer:

Johannesburg lies 1.800m above sea-level while Berlin rests at a lowly 100m. Using the standard barometric formula we can calculate that the atmospheric pressure is 19% lower in Johannesburg. Assuming identical outside temperatures the rules of the ideal gas law apply which means that air density is also 19% lower. This results in a horizontal speed of the football which increases by the cube root of the inverse density.

No doubt you will have done the calculations in your head by now and correctly come up with a 7% increase in speed in Johannesburg. Answer c) is the right answer, which not only goes to explain some of the appalling goalkeeping we’ve seen but might be just as surprising as some of the results we’ve seen in the Process TestLab recently.

The following chart makes for a nice example:

worktime

What the graph shows is the work time required by 100 instances of the same process. Now, this was a process of which the process owner had told us that it got the job done and worked just fine. When we put the process through the Process TestLab and came up with the result that work time more or less continuously varied by factor 5 to 7 and that the reason for that lay in some unfortunate combination of business rules which led to process instances being handed back repeatedly to the originating department for no reason.

Looking at his departments method to validate processes, it was easy to determine why they didn’t (and couldn’t have) spotted this earlier: Even a detailed validation run using just a single process instance cannot provide you with a realistic view of a days business – in particular not if the validation is based on a model rather than a process. Anyway, a few simple changes to the process have now helped him not only in improving on those 100 process instances, but in making the process more efficient 365 days a year – rather like getting the $100.000 football question right not only once but every day. Which is why we think the Process TestLab provides great long term value.

(Final note to our friends everywhere except the UK: It’s only a proper World Cup if Germany beat England on penalties, otherwise it’s just some guys kicking a fast ball around, though Arsenal are the best team in the world)

(Chart: taraneon, pictures (licenced for re-use): flickr, army.mil)

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One Comment

  1. Robert Lohne says:

    I’ll make the mandatory Monty Python reference.. what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.. (what do you mean, an african or european..) :D

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