Self-updating process descriptions: illusion or reality?

February 3, 2020

Processes are regularly confused with process descriptions. One says, for example, that they no longer have processes because they work in an agile manner or they recently discarded (outdated) process descriptions. This is a strange reasoning, because whatever you do, you always carry out a process, whether you want to or not. But you may not have a description of it. There are multiple views on the same process:

  • The description of the process,
  • The way the process is currently carried out,
  • The way the process should have been carried out.
  • These three are often not alike. But that’s about to change!

Compare it to cooking from a cookbook:

  • The recipe is the description,
  • The preparation is the actual recipe,
  • You want to improve something, because it didn’t match your expectations.
But if the food was disappointing, was it because of the recipe? Was the description poor or did the stated quantities prove to be incorrect? In that case improve the recipe. Or did you only partially follow the recipe? Then it makes little sense to change the recipe. You would prefer to see that the recipe is correct, that it is easy to follow and that the result matches your expectations.

Compare this to business processes. How to ensure that these three images of the same process become one? What you would prefer is one view of the process, where its description matches both process execution and the desired process. This also creates clarity and transparency for all actors in the process. No (outdated) process descriptions that are solely on paper or digitally ‘eating dust’, but process descriptions that actually give an up-to-date picture and that can be adjusted immediately. Improving the process would immediately result in an adjusted process execution and fully comply with the new process description.

Another example: construction drawings of a house are only made once. But after that, nobody uses them anymore and they are filed. After a few renovations, those original floor plans are no longer up-to-date and therefore not a good source if you want to know exactly where, for example, electricity lines are laid out. New building plans are made because the old ones are no longer reliable or no longer available. Usually, you only make construction drawings once. How nice would it be that if you renovate your house, the floor plans will be automatically adjusted to the renovated situation?

This is also the case with process descriptions. Processes and systems are constantly being modified without the process description being adjusted. Process descriptions thus lose their relevance over time. But as a source for process transparency with assigned responsibilities and performance indicators there is often no alternative. Even workflow systems that guide users through the process often do not provide an overview of the entire process, unable to answer questions such as:

  • How does my work relate to the end to end process?
  • Which steps precede my work?
  • Which steps follow my work?
  • What are the requirements for my output?
Suppose if something in the process is changed and the process description is adjusted automatically? Then, the process description will always provide a transparent and up-to-date insight into the entire process. The process description therefore has much more relevance, because it always remains current.

This is now possible with Pro-Flow. Process improvements are entered real time in the BPM designer module of Pro-Flow and are immediately implemented in the actual process. Any changes in the process are fully testable with actual process data and ready for use quickly. Process design and implementation are reduced to only one action. Changes are stored centrally within the application to guarantee a continuously updated change history. Governance on the improved process is available immediately after implementation. An actual description of the process is just a push on a button, so updating separate process documentation has become obsolete. Finally, the desired process equals the actual process and fully matches its description.

Pro-Flow enables the implementation of a generic process model, consisting of modular building blocks that can be infinitely reused for the use of case-specific variants. Extensions are therefore not entirely new process designs, but only limited configurations of required building blocks. If necessary, adapting one generic building block can immediately adjust all specific variants of the use of the process. Roles can be assigned to process steps at both the generic and the variant level and associated rights can be assigned to them. This guarantees that the implementation of the process also takes place by the right people.

In addition to providing transparency to users about where they are in the process and what their dependencies look like, Pro-Flow also offers the option of seeing a BPMN2.0 view of the process. This is useful to ensure coherence and to prevent suboptimal changes from being implemented.

The same applies to the information that goes through a process and the products it delivers. It ensures that all required information is always complete, correct and timely available at every process step. It is also clear what exactly has been delivered, changed or removed, where and when. Very useful for assets that need to be managed or supported. But also usable for what is installed at customers, so that the situation on site is fully known in case of a problem. In addition, information overload for users is also prevented because users in the process do not receive more information than necessary.

A tool in itself is never the solution. It always starts with the process and the information that goes through it. The system must support the process. Often a system only supports part of the process, which means interfaces between multiple systems are needed. However, the system is often taken as the starting point instead of the process, which means that the process must conform to the system instead of the other way around.

With Pro-Flow it is the exact opposite. Pro-Flow can be configured to any process and provides endless possibilities for interfacing and integrating front and back end data systems. A precondition is that a modular construction drawing is made once as a starting point for variable configurations, after which each use case specific variant is possible.

Pro-Flow provides a “single source of truth”. Interfacing with other systems, used in the process at information and process level, via extensive API possibilities, will prevent more than one truth from arising. With this, Pro-Flow ensures control over the entire chain, at process, information and system level.

Want to know more about Pro-Flow? Contact us for a demo.

Bronno van der Schans is the owner of Procesdokter. He helps and advises organizations on how to improve their business processes and increase the value they deliver to their customers. Since 2019 he has been associated with Blue Logiq as a process architect.

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