Want To Transform Your Business Processes? Get To A Single Version Of The Process

Most of us understand the criticality of creating and maintaining a single version of the truth for business data. We “get” the problem instinctively because so often, as individual consumers, we are the victims of disjointed, inaccurate, siloed information. To operate effectively, businesses must have trusted data that provides a 360-degree view of the customer and a comprehensive, accurate view of product information. This need has driven many companies to invest in master data management (MDM) and has even fueled the acquisition of MDM software by BPMS vendors who have a vision for how process and data technologies can work together.

As my colleagues have noted in other research reports, a single version of the truth for data helps companies:

  1. Deliver a consistent and reliable experience across multiple communication channels — such as voice, email, chat, and social channels.
  2. Optimize customer-facing processes such as contact management, customer segmentation, and campaign management using trusted customer, transaction, and third-party data.
  3. Deliver product information management for merchandising.
  4. Maintain an official system of record for employees. 

But here’s an interesting question — does a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises? And if found lacking, is it an important, unaddressed need? What does it mean if an enterprise ignores the lack of a single version of the truth for a business process?

The answer is unequivocal — far too many companies have multiple versions of the same process and no single version of the truth for the ideal process.  Sometimes it’s the by-product of many acquisitions that catapult the company into new global markets or new lines of business; sometimes it’s the predictable end result from years of siloed thinking created by a highly decentralized organizational structure. Insurance companies often tell us they have 15 to 20+ different ways to process an insurance claim or underwrite a policy. Yet in reality, there are very few unique ways to process an insurance claim efficiently and effectively while providing a good customer experience. Increasingly, these companies and those in other industry sectors now realize they pay a very high cost for duplicated processes that are expensive and hard to scale across a global operation. It’s hard to cash in on being global if you can’t move work from one location to another in a 24x7 operation — because the processes clash.

Standardizing a core process across a global operation, yet localizing it for national regulations and customs is a tough challenge. But business process transformation teams increasingly zero in on duplicated processes. BPM suites can help by providing the ability to configure a standardized process for local needs and regulations while creating a consistent process that can be delivered as a shared service.  What do you get from doing this? 1) A more globally leveraged workforce; 2) lower cost of operations and maintenance; 3) more consistent support for regulatory compliance; 4) a more consistent customer experience; and 5) a more focused way to deliver consistent business outcomes.

So, whenever you hear someone talk about the need for a single version of the truth, ask this question too: “Do you have a single version of the process?” 


Different views on the same truth or even different truths?

I like the question "does a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises" and also think that this is not the case. First of all, there may be many views on the same reality as many real-life process mining projects show (www.processmining.org). Often an 80/20 rule applies to the paths in a process. Moreover, different organizations or different departments within the same company may use variants of the same process. In the CoSeLog project which involves 10 Dutch municipalities we can see a nice example of this; they all execute the same processes differently (http://www.win.tue.nl/coselog/wiki/start). Here we advocate the use of configurable process models to enable the sharing of common processes among different Dutch municipalities in a controlled manner. The same approach can be applied within larger organizations (e.g. the offices of Herz).

"Normalization" of Business Technology Assets


Good post. I have seen this many times in my role as a middleware software sales person, especially where business process-oriented software is concerned. No matter how compelling the technology, the fact that there's typically no one executive who "owns" a process from beginning to end is often a serious impediment to progress. And this is true even when you have a champion for one corner of the process.

The literature on this problem is the literature of corporate governance. And among the bold attempts to address the issue are the efforts of the enterprise architecture "crowd". Last year I heard John Zachman (of the "Framework") give an excellent and even passionate speech on the problem -- and he interestingly applied the concept of normalization (i.e. from the world of mathematics and database design) to the corporation. He really was discussing the same problem as, and proposing a solution for, the one that is under discussion here. (My write-up of the Zachman presentation, on my decisionmodels.org blog, can be found here: http://bit.ly/TsnbMs.) (Whether EAs can actually make a difference is an separate and unanswered question. Without any stake in the game other than professional smarts, the world of EA seems perpetually "in search of respect".)

It's also interesting that you also raise the question of MDM along side the question of business process. I agree that you cannot separate questions of data from questions of process -- and indeed there are good arguments that data is the foundation from which one must start (the arguments of the anti-relational database crowd notwithstanding).

Great Post on BPMS

This post is transformative for the entrepreneurs. It would be great if all business processes are executed in a streamline and organized way. Synchronisation is a must to complete any execution. Agile Point tried to resolve these cases and provided a proven solution with maximum client satisfaction. Thanks a lot