Process Analysis: The Downside of Participation - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
1/4/2008
12:43 PM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
Commentary
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Process Analysis: The Downside of Participation

I was recently asked to review a business process diagram that was intended to capture current state for a service disruption planning process. I quickly found out that the challenge was not so much assessing the diagram itself, but resetting expectations of users that seemed to be already sold on the diagram, despite its numerous deficiencies. This is a classic pitfall in business process analysis.

I was recently asked to review a business process diagram that was intended to capture current state for a service disruption planning process. I quickly found out that the challenge was not so much assessing the diagram itself, but resetting expectations of users that seemed to be already sold on the diagram, despite its numerous deficiencies. This is a classic pitfall in business process analysis (BPA).Here's how it happens: Joe Analyst works alongside business users to understand the business process and he tries to represent it in a process diagram using whatever tool is available. Joe is diligent and tries to work in partnership with the business users, walking them through various iterations of the business process model as it evolves, updating the diagram and capturing annotations based on their feedback. All seems fine, but the trap is already set. As a result of Joe's diligence, the users now feel a sense of ownership in the diagram. This is something we always strive for, but this sense of ownership has a flip side; any critique of the diagram is in danger of being perceived as a criticism of the business users. If Jill Designer suggests improvements, not only are users likely to oppose any changes to the process model, they may even begin to harbor a feeling of resentment towards Jill.

This is a tricky situation. Attempts to correct the process model can be misconstrued; yet allowing a flawed process model to go forward for fear of antagonizing users is doing them a serious disservice.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways this situation can be avoided. One of the easiest and most effective approaches is to seek clarification from business users on two or three of the most glaring deficiencies in the current process - working with the process diagram and penciling in changes as the users provide their feedback. The focus should not be on the changes made to the model - at this stage the model is nothing more than a form of documentation. Instead, it should be made clear that the objective of the clarification is to ensure that users are satisfied with our level of understanding. This approach opens the door to more clarification and eventually to reviewing (and revising) the entire process model to everyone's satisfaction.

Sensitivity to process participants is quite possibly the most critical success factor in business process analysis. Now, as regards the deficiencies in the process diagram I was asked to review, that's going to need a separate blog.I was recently asked to review a business process diagram that was intended to capture current state for a service disruption planning process. I quickly found out that the challenge was not so much assessing the diagram itself, but resetting expectations of users that seemed to be already sold on the diagram, despite its numerous deficiencies. This is a classic pitfall in business process analysis.

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