Friday, November 23, 2012

BPM & EA Hill View: Can you see a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises?

There might be “a single truth of the business process” at an atomic level and at a very high level,  but there are many different versions of the business processes in the middle. In order to get to a single version—

BPM walks through a tough journey from bottom up, while EA oversights enterprise from top down, and they meet at a hill, to view the enterprise scene, can they see a "single version of business process truth" tactically, logically and strategically?

Level: 1: Tactical View: When you look at a mountain, you see a static mountain

At this stage, you just see what you look at on the surface, you see the altitude, the shape, the color, only capture the physical characteristics of mountain, it’s inanimate.

  • In EA, it’s about realization or generalization, EA abstracts the fact and knowledge from business.        
  • In BPM: In short, there should be at an atomic level if a process has a single, unquestionable version of truth.
At tactical level, A BPM view is completely repeatable, single-truth processes should probably be automated to the greatest extent possible, rather than relying on human processing power, then they become systematic.

BPMers should stop worrying about it and leave it to software engineers to automate. For lengthy organization-wide processes, strive for repeatability and documentation of the process truth, but do not get upset that you may never achieve it; Because the processes are more contained, the simpler, more repeatable processes leave less room for interpretation than the broader, more exception driven ones do, though businesses differentiate in their LOBs by having variations in the process,  it  should be using the same atomic underpinnings where applicable.

Process Efficiency: At tactical level, doing things right --usually means business automation to improve process efficiency, stop questioning the process correctness and just make sure they work. This allows you to concentrate on the parts where people are adding value, rather than being a possible point of failure.

2. Level II: Role-Based View: When you look at a mountain, you see not a mountain

That said, you may concentrate on a few trees, the snow covered on it, or an eagle stops on the top, you do highlight something more interesting or beautiful, more matters for yourself, you desire to dig deeper, understand more.  

  • In EA, it’s about specialization (Implementation), or classification (portfolio management), EA provides business insight on project priority or technical integration. 
  • In BPM: At such logic level with role-based view, the answer is not about “Single Version of Truth” because nobody can agree on what the truth looks like, it's a matter of perspective from which angle of the process you are looking from.
If you put three process actors in a room,  you will hear four interpretations of how that process works. But that doesn't mean there isn't a "truth"; what it means is that the truth, whatever else it may be, is non-deterministic and therefore not really useful.

Therefore, the truth is in the eye of the beholder. Everybody involved with the process thinks they know how it works and where the issues are, but putting independent eyes upon it almost always ends up painting a somewhat different picture.

Once you rise up from atomic level or move down from the strategic level, at this middle level, there are so many needs and value propositions that the business processes vary, plus business is changing everyday so single source of truth, if there is one, inherently changes by next week. Rather than focusing on a ‘single version of the truth”, you need to set up a framework that allows for differing opinions about what process stands for, what it means, what’s important about it.

At logic level, it also means process effectiveness (doing the right things): how to create business value, as value also has multi-dimensional perspectives such as: quality value, utility value, monetary value and perceptive value, so if there's any "single version of truth” in process, it's about overall business benefit from process when integrating all related parties’ viewpoints.

3. Level: III: Blueprint View: When you See a Mountain, you Perceive a Live Mountain 

At the highest level, you see and perceive a mountain again, but it means, the mountain is alive now, you may not so much care about its physical look, you capture the spirit of mountain, regardless which season you are in, you can see its full colors, you can imagine what the top look like, you feel it and touch it holistically, you can even communicate with it, and harmonize human nature with mother nature., etc. It’s about wisdom, idealism, symbolism.  

  • In EA, it’s also about inclusion or holism. Most organizations that adopt outside-in thinking are in a strong position to share information and outcomes with customers and business partners to foster trust, gain foresights and spur ecosystem investment.
  • In BPM: At strategic level, “a single version of process truth” can be unified. But the broader the reach of the process, the more diffuse the truth becomes, and the more important it is to commit the time and energy required to at least achieve the essential "truthiness" & "wholeness" of the thing. Without that minimum stake in the ground, it's really hard to derive any sort of value from any kind of BPM initiative.
At such conceptual level, BPM and EA also mean the same things such as inclusion and holism, embrace “Outside-In” customers’ POVs, enforce communication, and capture insight and foresight of business.

Thus, there might be “a single truth of the business process” at an atomic level and at a very high level,  but there are many different versions of the business processes in the middle. In order to get to a single version—the strategic business goals, leverage is the key.


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