mrosemann's picture

"Best practices" has become an over-utilised label for a variety of so-called reference models. However, a closer look shows that most of these models document rather typical than highly innovative scenarios. It is time to re-consider the typical design of reference models and while compromising completeness to aim for truly "exciting practices".

<!--more-->It seems that right now we experience a second wave of interest in reference models. In particular, models such as SCOR, eTOM, ITIL or ACORD (insurance) have received significant attention and are a regular common reference (sic!) point within the related industries.

Reference process models have a number of much appreciated advantages. For example, they accelerate the modelling process by explicitly listing a set of relevant processes, they provide a common ground within mergers (e.g. SCOR as part of the HP/Compaq fusion) and these models are indeed a source of inspiration for organisations with poorly designed processes.

Nevertheless, most of these reference models have two severe shortcomings. They capture the typical processes of an industry without articulating truly innovative solutions. Consequently, the lightly used term best practice is misleading and better practices or even common practices would be a much more appropriate term. Second, due to their size they take a long time to develop.

In addition to these rather comprehensive reference models, a further type of much smaller reference models is required that captures highly contemporary reference models that help to disseminate emerging solutions. These could be processes enabled by innovative technologies (e.g. RFID-supported clinical pathways, Web 2.0-based customer interaction in the retail sector or GPS-enabled usage-based pricing in an insurance company). Moreover, these could be process models that deal with current legislative requirements (e.g. Basel II in the financial sector, latest security requirements at airports etc.). Such models would, unlike classical reference models, just capture very selective "pockets of excitement". Exciting practice models would have a short time to market, not aim for completeness and have a potentially high impact on organisations.

It is easy to image a marketplace that consolidates such smaller but very much exciting reference models in a similar way like service brokers (e.g. Strikeiron) provide access to (Web) services. This marketplace would bring sellers and buyers of these models together and could look in parts like eBay when in fact it would be a marketplace for ideas. In any case, it would open a very different way of thinking about and ultimately building reference models.