Business Process Management: An Improved Guidance Creation Process
by Roger T. Burlton
Knowledge and Rules
One way of describing a business process is to say that inputs are processed into
outputs of value according to guides using enablers when stakeholders trigger activity
-- that is, inappropriate, insufficient, or non-existent guidance and ill-prepared
or ineffective enabling mechanisms will lead to poor business performance due to
process breakdown. Clearly, knowledge is critical, and it is reflected in the
process' guides and enablers' content and their design.
The measures associated with rules can be viewed in the same manner as knowledge
as a guide to a process outcome -- that is, in terms of process quality or the cost
of non-conformance. In this way, the cost of an inappropriate rule is the total
downstream cost of not having the right rule available. This includes extra
cost or time, lost business due to customer dissatisfaction, extra work to repair
or correct, etc. The cost of taking too long to change a rule is the cost of
lost opportunity that would have been realized if the rule were to be changed immediately
rather than after a lag.
In any case, the cost or value of a rule (as with all knowledge) is through its
impact on the total set of processes where it is used. This argues strongly
for rule independence and the establishment of cross-reference mechanisms and a culture
of fast change -- sharing new rules responsively -- and helping maintain the utility
of the business processes.
A Process for Keeping Knowledge Current
What's needed is an ongoing process (one that does not exist in many organizations)
to take the learnings from everyday experience with today's processes and rules and
produces renewed ones so that improved performance is made possible the next time
If there is no specific knowledge management process to take these lessons learned
and evaluate them and change the capabilities on a regular basis, either performance
of the process will stagnate with no improvement or will degrade due to the process
becoming out-of-touch with a changing set of stakeholder expectations.
What is needed is a formal process of improving the capability, including updating
the rules and the enablers within which they are embodied or embedded. This
Improved Guidance Creation Process will require resources and a commitment
in a process-managed environment. With new rules published and communicated
regularly and with enablers renewed regularly, improved performance will be delivered,
staff will continuously learn, and the organization will adapt and thrive.
While in operational mode, the key activities in the Improved Guidance Creation
- Analyze lessons learned regarding capabilities -- especially processes, knowledge,
and rules from process execution and stakeholder feedback.
- Understand current business drivers and strategic intent.
- Identify stakeholders and their expectations.
- Re-examine processes' performance gaps.
- Analyze processes using root cause analysis to examine rules and other capabilities.
- Update process design, including guides and enablers.
- Determine renewed rules for renewed processes, and gain approval for changes.
- Identify enablers for knowledge and rule distribution and access (embedded or
- Build or renew enablers.
- Communicate new capability.
- Implement new capability.
These activities work for ongoing business process operation. For larger
changes with a more significant impact, a more formal overall approach is required
that starts with strategy and delivers a more formal program of integrated change
based on holistic process analysis.
Independent but Aligned
In closing, nothing stands alone: not strategy, not data, not process, not
technology, not knowledge and not rules. To ensure adaptability and ease of
change, all of these should be independent of one another but aligned with the business
direction and stakeholders' needs. Clearly all aspects must work in concert
and each must be tuned to support the objectives of the business overall. The
job of business processes is to provide that link.
|standard citation for this article:
|Roger T. Burlton, "Business Process Management: An Improved Guidance Creation
Process," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 6, No. 9 (Sep. 2005), URL: http://www.BRCommunity.com/a2005/b248.html