Structure in Threes: Process Notation

Spent past several days deep into research on various process documentation methods.  Specifically comparing IDEF0, Rummler-Brache and BPMN.  I’m still an IDEF0 fan due to its simplicity.  In about ten minutes you can describe a process to a business owner while other methods require a little more instruction and in some cases a significant about of understanding for the rules of construct usage and meaning.  BPMN while easier to understand than UML for line of business management still has a level of complexity that requires interpretation for most.  Thus when using BPMN its often best to do Collaboration and Choreography diagrams at higher levels when presenting to LOB Management.

BPMN however comes into is own when looking at documenting orchestration of processes with more detail.  The advantage of using BMPN at this level is it can be targeted toward translation to UML or automation in workflow systems.  The gap I see in most of these methods though is adequate mechanisms to express business rules clearly and concisely.  Typically one has to use an external method to document business rules which means having LOB management having to learn two methods to visualize the processes they use or are modifying for implementation or augmentation using information technology

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Structure in Threes: Tools Development

Organizational Design Tools Need Completion

Continuing to build out Enterprise Analysis and Design tools this morning along with a workflow to integrate the Modern IT Portfolio Management methodology.  After finishing the Org Design Tool, the next steps will be to finish off the Portfolio Management Tool and then document the workflow for possible automation.

Strategy Analysis

Modern IT Portfolio Management

Digital Nervous System Architecture

It looks like I’m going to build out the original concepts I developed when discussing what and how Active Directory should be with Hans.  I had presented to Hans an idea that Active Directory (SMS Server) could accomplish its mission through usage of federation and abstraction into logical units (see below late 1996 presentation).  Added to that were the concepts I had been working on as a side research project during my employment at IBM the 80’s.  This later became a white paper “The body enterprise” where I through the network could become an enterprise’s digital nervous system.  Unfortunately, Hans and I could not get the funding to pursue going any further than simple IT product management.  However, I continued -though through small pieces of other projects- to research how to build a management and control system.  With my Modern IT Portfolio Management R&D at a foreseeable conclusion I’ll be able to build the CIO Workbench I had envisioned years ago.

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The unfortunate aspect to this was both IBM and Microsoft had the opportunity to build this out a decade ago but failed to see the vision was achievable. I guess you can chalk it up to other missed opportunities that companies have for not reaching far enough in the future.  I remember hearing internal chatter by Microsoft management when I departed for DMR Consulting this was a dream decades away, though BillG must not have through so or his Ghostwriter wouldn’t have spent so much time interviewing me to included in his book.

Governance Framework: Mechanisms for Information Management and SharePoint

Much of the Governance Models I’ve seen as of late still focus heavily upon how to set permissions in SharePoint.  In previous blog post I stated I don’t believe this is governance but rather the enforcement end of governance.  It this posting I’ll address some of the aspects of establishing a governance.

 For me the initial question of governance boils down to what are your objectives for governing.  Sounds a bit of circular logic, hopefully I can clear that up.  There is a business reason for having SharePoint deployed unless it’s just a technical toy, a let’s see what it can do pilot or a use it because we have it for free.  These are variations of a solution looking for a problem.  My recommendation is to go get some coffee, put your feet up with several other and brainstorm what and why you want to use it, if not go to a technology briefing to see the technologies possibilities and then brainstorm.

 When I look at SharePoint I see features that could enable two key organizational capabilities:

  •  Information Management
  • Workflow

 Information Management is a broad topic and there are various aspects to it.  SharePoint is not and out of the box solution for such.  It has some new features in 2010 that are still, for lack of a better word, primitive.  However, so too are the organizational competencies that SharePoint would help to address.  Information Storage and Retrieval is only slightly better that desktop search as implemented in most companies that I’ve surveyed.  The rational for such is that companies are still trying to figure out how to organize their information.  While many companies have librarians, most of them are focused on hardcopy management or external searching not establishing information management policies and procedures.   Only recently have a seen job titles for taxonomists and information architects that are described in terms other than application UI/UX responsibilities.                  

 Workflows are another broad area, but most efforts I’ve been seeing are towards automating desktop procedures or routing documents for approvals.  It seems that all the value stream and process knowledge that corporations had built up in the past decade has been filed away or discarded mid-stream before benefits could be achieved.  We know seem to be on a path of bottom up vs. top down.  I believe either extreme is wrong.   Workflows or process automation and tracking has the possibility of integrating the silos that companies have had so much problem breaking down.  However, that takes effort to follow the value streams across the departmental boundaries.  Something I.T. organizations have been assumed to have the charter, but often end up structured as the departments working with resulting in becoming silo’d themselves.  Think about your I.T. organization most seem to be structured into Infrastructure and then application areas (finance, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, etc.)  This is a counterforce to breaking the silos corporate executives would want to have happen.  This is not however and I.T. problem so much as a corporate governance problem.

 Having set the content here are a few of the mechanisms I had implemented that over time have put some organizations on the path.

 First, Information Management governance is not about permissions as previously stated.  IM Governance and its implementation in SharePoint is about having an executive decision function that determines the policies and procedures on how information is to be managed.  Issues like what is a record, who is responsible for creating them –though most people create them without knowing.  How and where information should be storage throughout its lifecycle, cradle to grave.  Policies and procedures such as this eventually drive SharePoint permissions.  Some of these issues require both Human Resource and Legal department input to help develop as well as procedures/processes to ensure compliance.

 Next Workflow issues should be looked upon from a broader perspective.  How should smaller workflows and the information they carry be joined together.  I recently witnessed an organization that had several workflows automated, sounds great so far.  Upon inspection, much of the information was not only overlapping but feed the next departments process.  Sounds like a great candidate to link together right?  However, the structures that carry the information and the representations of that information were incompatible.  However, the results from one department’s work were get this manually rekeyed into another similar but different workflow.  Thus what could have been a streamlined process is human bridged multiple times resulting is all the issues with manual transcriptions.

 The governance mechanism I used is some other organizations was to have workflows (processes) diagramed and cataloged, along with the data, purpose and context of the information.  This became the role of the Business Architecture Group and the review board.  While it may seem like a bottleneck and it could become one.  The Business Architecture Group was a meta-data management function about corporate information as well as an advisory function for application development.  They did not have the authority to stop development from building applications, but they could advise as well as recommend to the CIO that applications be revised or changed based upon reviews.  This prevented Business Architecture from holding up development until they approved any plans.

 Through publishing the catalog and information library, having a policy that developers should check the catalog while designing applications this created a system where common information elements where continually developed and exploited. 

 These few mechanism have put some organizations ahead of their competitors in using information as a competitive edge.