Leveraging Process Modeling for Business Value

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Ken Orr, President and Founder, The Ken Orr Institute

Process modeling is a method of showing the processes of an organization in graphical form to simplify the work of understanding those processes. Ken Orr uses a number of different models to cut through the IT process maze and overcome the organizational bias the always runs against process reform. Working with the Kansas Department of Transportation, (KDOT) Orr was able to greatly improve and streamline their business processes.

Ken Orr is an internationally recognized expert on business process reengineering, technology transfer, software engineering, data warehousing, and knowledge management. He is the founder and Principal Researcher of The Ken Orr Institute, a business technology research organization.

Orr pushes business process design and enterprise architecture. Businesses need to understand where they are and where they are going, then leverage the business and technology to create agile organizations. As a theoretical framework, Orr uses Benson and Parker's Square Wheel, Porter's Business Value Chain model, Rummler and Brache's Enterprise Feedback Model, and Nolan's S-curves. All of these models help explain and graphically show how the business and technology sides of a business can better work together by simplifying the process lines that exist within all organizations. Orr used each of these technology models to show the Kansas Department of Transportation just what systems they had, where they needed to go, and how to get there.

Enterprise architectures in the real world include hundreds of major applications with thousands of databases. Over 250 technologies are used with more on the way and the old ones never quite disappear. Because of this, things will only become more complex.

Orr outlined a project done with the Kansas Department of Transportation. Phase 1 of the project encompassed capturing the enterprise architecture and creating a strategic IT plan. Phase 2 included integrating EA with all other components of business and IT management. Phase 3 saw the integration of EA with the enterprise business processes.

KDOT created a meta-data repository and a separate repository for tools. They also created an enterprise architecture collaboration site and an EA Web site. The EA documentation grew to over 220 13" by 19" pages.

Then KDOT developed a value chain that showed the stated goals and outputs, which are the products and services the organization produces. Highway departments in most states are responsible for all means of transportation within their states and have an increased role today because of Homeland Security.

The enterprise feedback model was created along with an enterprise application map showing the function of each application. Then a very complicated enterprise data model could be created, showing where everything was linked. This was simplified to an enterprise data map, which showed the main 25 applications that clustered around the main lines in the data model, but was much easier for everyone to comprehend.

Orr created an enterprise "Radar Chart," or what he called an "early warning system" that showed what all the incoming issues are along with the outgoing issues. Orr said that everyone pays attention to the incoming systems, but very little concern is given to existing applications that no longer perform the way they should. With this chart, the older legacy systems can be given a definite sunset, benefiting the whole organization. Orr mentioned that old systems have a habit of hanging around, and recounted an experience he had at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During a tour, he was shown the computer that maintained the Voyager spacecraft, now in very deep space beyond the orbit of Pluto. The computer was from Scientific Data Systems. Orr said he hadn't even seen one of those computers in 20 years. Then they took him to the window and pointed out a Rolls Royce in the parking lot. "It belongs to the guy that maintains that computer. He is the only guy in California with the knowledge and the parts." When asked how much he charged the answer was, "Whatever he wants."

There are many collaboration concerns. Collaboration is the key to "Liberation Technology," according to Orr. We are beyond the paperless office concept. KDOT has digitized the whole design department and already saved 60 tons of paper. We have also gone beyond document management and first generation workflow, according to Orr. Right now, IT has to provide technology everywhere to everyone, providing such things as instant messaging, voiceover IT, online scheduling, and document and content management.

One of the main problems with business process is that it is not intuitive, while most people think it is. That is, most people think they understand what their business is and how it works but they really don't. BP actually runs against organizational bias, but it is the key to business improvement, quality, and leveraging technology. If you get everything else right and mess up the processes, you still don't have anything, said Orr. He related that he has been serving on a panel that is reviewing the FBI and the 9/11 commission and how the FBI is improving things to share more data. The FBI system was originally created in 1995 and just upgraded. The upgrade doesn't work and nobody can say when it will. The problem is that the processes are fundamentally broken. Law enforcement processes are traditionally based on the need to create information that can be used in a court of law for an indictment, which is why it is so slow and why the information typically isn't shared. Meeting the threat of terrorism requires different processes.

While business people may understand their products and services and their competition, they often don't understand at a granular level how their organization gets its products developed, made, sold, and distributed. According to Orr, "We believe that the primary reason for this lack of understanding is that most managers (and non-managers) have a fundamentally flawed view of their organizations."

Managers have a strong tendency to only pay attention to their own vertical part of their organization. The more controls that are added to processes to insure they work only makes them worse. Orr said the trick is to find the mainline process and track that and then start getting rid of all the other stuff.

Things to watch out for in business process modeling include:

  • Automating the "as is" process
  • Nano-management
  • Chaos

Businesses are beginning to collaborate on industry process models because they have to. Competitors have to collaborate because they deal with the same users like cell phone customers. The new way is for process-driven architectures and more collaboration. It will be data-centric and not document-centric. And it will be flexible-- what Orr calls "Liberation Technology."


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