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Archive for the ‘Business Process Analysis’ Category

Over the last several years, I have been the designated grocery shopper in the family.  I go to Trader Joe's for much of my shopping, but I will go to Fry's or Safeway for items that I either don't want to pay  the Trader Joe's premium or for items that they just don't have.

Although Fry's has the cheaper products,  Safeway is a bit more convenient and Safeway is the only place that sells the Quesidillas that my son loves.  He's sort of a picky eater, so I'd go out of my way to get these Quesidillas if I had to. 

Everytime I go to Safeway at around 9:00, they shut down their checkout lanes for approximately 5 minutes to do some backend system magic.  I'm not sure exactly what they are doing, but I do know that I'm already frustrated that I'm at the store at 9:00 at night after working all day, battling the traffic to get home for dinner, inhaling a quick dinner, helping with homework, putting down the kids, and finally realizing that I need to go out and get those damn quesidillas.  The five minute wait is not appreciated.

This is why I ONLY go to Safeway in the evening if I absolutely need to go.  One would think that Safeway would be able to find a way to keep the checkout lanes operational no matter the time of day.  Did they ever think about:
  • Doing their backend system magic at midnight?
  • Developing a technology that would allow them do their backend system magic while they were checking out customers? 

I'm guessing that I'm not the only customer that is frustrated by this inconvenenience.  I wonder how many other customers decide that Fry's or Trader Joe's may be a better choice than Safeway around 9:00?

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The wiki is a wonderful thing.   At its best, a wiki can facilitate rich description, innovative creations, and insightful analysis.  It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s democratic. 

So, why am I having such a hard time getting people to participate in a wiki environment?  The first time I used a wiki in a business analysis setting, I published the results of a workshop I conducted to our corporate wiki.  The workshop was adjourned with a spirited commitment to continue collaborating.  I had unanimous support for the project–everyone was in complete agreement that the process has problems, and we all (more or less) agreed what those problems were. 

So I posted an outline of the results of the workshop and asked the Subject Matter Experts to fill in the blanks.  I need their expertise to describe the points in greater detail.  No one responded.  I sent out several emails pestering the group to take a look at the document.  Some looked at it.  Others didn’t.  No one added a word to it.  Why?  I have some theories:

  1. I didn’t offer them motivation to participate.  I just asked nicely.  They didn’t know where I was going with this. 
  2. They had never used a wiki before, and they were unsure as to what the environment was all about.
  3. Those that did understand the wiki concept didn’t feel comfortable in the wiki enviroment.  Most people are comfortable with "Email Collaboration–" the kind of collaboration where you send a document out to 10 people and receive 7 or 8 or 9 emails back with comments.  People are comfortable with that, because they can respond privately without sharing their comments with the group.   The wiki isn’t so safe.

I have taken my first wiki experience and my newfound Theory of Wiki Reticence to heart, and I have tried again.  This time I have done some things a bit differently. 

  1. I have offered my co-collaborators more from the start.  Instead of just publishing an outline, I wrote a complete first draft of my analysis.
  2. I stayed away from the word "wiki."  Hopefully the people with wiki aversions won’t be turned off.
  3. I have peppered questions throughout the document. My hope is that the added direction will help the team focus and not feel overwhelmed.  (Some call this a Content Alert.)
  4. I have moved from the Confluence Wiki Platform to a SharePoint 2007 wiki platform.  Although I like using Confluence and it’s feature-rich platform, the beginning user gets overwhelmed.   It’s a new interface for most, and the average business user gets turned off when they have to learn yet another piece of software.  SharePoint 2007 wiki, on the other hand, is as vanilla as you can get.  It has one option–"edit."  Totally simple and there is almost no learning curve.

So far, I have seen a couple people getting their hands dirty on this new wiki, but I’d like to see more.  Some things I plan on doing this week to get more participation include:

  1. Doing a better sales job.  I need to make sure that everyone understands the benefit to participating.  In this case the point of the wiki is to understand the current process so we can present a cogent argument for change. 
  2. Send out kudos for those who have submitted their ideas to the wiki.  Hopefully, the positive reinforcement will help motivate others to  participate.

The website, WikiPatterns.com has been a great resource.  The site describes ways to increase adoption of wikis.  Does anyone have other ideas regarding ways to get more people involved in documenting  current processes using a wiki?

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Vintage: Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal; classic.*

Recently, I sat in on an employee interview for a business analyst position, and the interviewee referred to an old process as a "Vintage Process." I chuckled when he uttered the phrase, because there is such irony when you put the two words together.

Vintage cars, or jeans, or t-shirts, or jukeboxes evoke a sense of awe, because they just look cool.  It may be many years old, but a vintage item is always cool. I know nothing about cars.  Truth be told, my only interest in cars has to do with finding one that will safely carry my family and me to where we need to go.  But when I see a vintage car, I can’t help but to stare.

A process, on the other hand, should never be "vintage."  A process should always be fresh.  There are just to many forces pushing processes to change, including our customers’ expectations, new technologies, and our experiences.  Twenty years ago, your company may have had an innovative process that helped your company to become a world leader.  The process may even be described in textbooks and case studies as a "classic."  I bet that your company no longer uses that process in the same form.  If it does, your company is probably no longer a world leader.

Some key signals that your company has a "vintage" process:
   

  • "This is the way we’ve always done it, and it works well."
  • "This is what set us apart from the competition and helped us get
       to our IPO."
  • "Put Legacy System Name here has been around since we started and
       it’s very difficult to get any changes implemented."

These are just a few, but I’m sure you’ve all heard others.  Please post some of your vintage process experiences here…

*Dictionary definition of vintage on Answers.com. The American Heritage(r) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright (c) 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

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I’ve been listening to Seth Godin’s book Small is the New Big on the way to work for the last several mornings. The book is a compilation of some of his best blog posts, and there are some real gems! This morning I listened to a real short but totally useful post that can be applied when analyzing processes (or products or whatever). He says:

Figure what the always is. Then do something else.

In other words, identify your assumptions and suspend them. When analyzing processes, this is real important. It seems as though every interview, workshop, or discussion I have with a stakeholder includes mention of at least one thing that someone (or some system) always does. Sometimes these "always" items end up being vestiges of business rules or system limitation that no longer has relevance or value to the company. If they do not add value, get rid of them.
I’ve thought of a couple of ways to put this idea into action:

  1. In future workshops, I’m going to designate one part of the whiteboard (or flip-chart) as the "Always Space" . Anytime someone uses the word "always," I’m going to write it down in plain sight. I’ll dedicate some time toward the end of the workshop to revisit the "Always Space" to challenge participants to completely delete these "always" from the process. We may not always end up with feasible solutions from the exercise, but it will help participants to shift their perspective.
  2. When interviewing stakeholders, I’m going to keep my own "Always Space" in the margins of my notes. I’ll revisit them later on my own.

Thanks for the idea, Seth. I’m excited to give this a try…
If you want to read Seth’s original post it’s here.

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BPMN Poster

I found this great poster for BPMN via Go Flow. I’ve been looking for a resource to help me as a build my process models.  Now I don’t have to keep the BPMN Specification next to me as I model my processes.  Thanks!

bpm poster

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      There’s so much discussion in the blogosphere about WHAT BPM is. This conversation is so important–we need to be able to define the space before it can be communicated to our CEO’s, our business units, and our IT departments.
      BUT, it would be refreshing to find some discussion regarding HOW to analyze processes. I know there are plenty of training courses out there to help guide the way, but I would love to see some conversations focused on how people analyze processes to create something that is innovative and valuable for our companies and our customers. How are we supposed to define BPM if we do not have a shared understanding of how to do BPM?
      Bruce Silver has blogged on how to model processes, and his posts have been very helpful in understanding BPMN. His focus, however, does not seem to be about how to analyze processes either. Can someone point me to a blog or website that focuses on the tricks of the trade?
      (As I find links I’ll post them on the sidebar as "Process Analysis Tools")

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      I just created a web-based group on the CollectiveX platform called "BPM-Process Analyst Group."  My hope is that we can get some meaningful discussions started around the topics near and dear to process analysts.
      CollectiveX is good for creating a network and discussion groups.  I’ve already started two discussions:

      1. Training
      2. Tricks of the trade

      Please sign-up for the group by entering your email address on the bottom-right hand side of this page or by clicking on this link.  I’m looking forward to creating this network and seeing you there…

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