Integral Workflow – Working in a Business Architecture

What’s Integral?
To suggest that workflow and its analysis is integral is to suggest that work flows along a bunch of different lines in a bunch of different “spheres’ of human experience. That sounds kind of flaky to some people I’m sure so I will suggest that what makes it integral is that it unfolds – in this day and age – in a “business architecture”. We’ve all seen an architect’s drawings at some point. We know that a home – before it can be built – is designed to include walls and floors, plumbing, wiring, windows, and decorative attributes. Those drawings include measures, standards are met and they help contractors build budgets where materials and labor are concerned. Based on the drawing, one can estimate time, cost and quality. With a solid blueprint describing the outcome, everyone – including the painter – knows what to do and in what sequence. That’s integral.

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
A business architecture approach to workflow includes an inventory of people (actors), procedures, policies (business rules), systems and applications (software), data (and information) and the technology (hardware) that supports the work being done. A complete workflow includes elements of time, cost, efficiency, quality and features “triggers” or activating events that control when things are to happen to whom or what and how they happen. Workflow analysis also includes decisions, describes the importance of decisions and clealry reflects transitions and hand-offs.

More Integral
What can make workflow analysis and a business architecture even more integral? How about training implications? Legal considerations? standards and qualifications? Normalized language (so everybody knows what you’re talking about?) Taking culture into account will render your analysis more thorough. Consider the political forces driving behavior in your environment. How about economic drivers? What are the incentives for change? What are the consequences if you run into resistance? Do people understand how changes reflect values in your organization? Is your mission better served by the results of your analysis?

Taking the time to consider all of the interdependencies above will make your analysis more fruitful in the process. It’s also a call to include a wide variety of champions and subject matter experts. The most important aspect of successful workflow redesign is the buy-in you cultivate. Without agreement and committment, you’re as good as done before you begin.

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3 responses to “Integral Workflow – Working in a Business Architecture

  1. Hey, Patrick.

    Interesting post! In Six Sigma, a quality improvement project requires a champion. The champion gets commitment from the top brass, who provide funding and time for employees to pursue the project. The champion gets buy-in for the project. Without the champion, a project flounders if immediate improvements do not occur. 5S emphasizes the “sustain” part of process improvement, so once results are seen, the project continues. Does the champion keep working thereafter, or does the project become automatic?

    -Noah

  2. Hi Noah – you’re right about there being A Champion. In most organizations, there is a single true champion. Lately, I have been reflecting upon the work I have done in government and how important it is to stratify your sense of the organization so you can identify and engage champions in different spheres of that organization. In the case of a county government, there may a departmental champion, a budget champion, a technology champion, and a clinical champion (in my case, I was working with public health and IT departments).

    But it goes further than that. Who is the champion on the County Board of Commissioners? Who is the champion at the State level who will be there to provide political leverage when you need it. And, who is the informal champion among line-staff who can totally make or break your project. I am a bigger fan of the concept of “influencers” than a single champion. I have been in too many situations wherein a champion authorizes the work and ther budget and tells everyone to “go” only to find that more powerful influencers existed elsewhere.

    As for sustainability, you’re right on. In my experience, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. If it’s a key business process that mattered enough to apply workflow design and BPM, then it’s worthy of continuous measure. Long-term committment to performance management and a leadership approach that guides the organization based on a dashboard of metrics is what sets the truly innovative and successful organizations apart from the less than stellar. I think the champion(s) should be checking their dashboards and various (balanced scorecard) performance metrics on a regular and frequent basis.

    Thanks so much for your insightful comments, Noah.

    Patrick

  3. I have your site on my blogroll. Let me know if you switch to another.

    -Noah

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