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ARIS User Day 08

Today I joined the customer experience session by Rob Davis at ARIS User Day. Rob is a well known and renowned expert in process modelling. At British Telecom (BT), he’s been working as a principal consultant for process architecture, design and modelling for many years now.During this time, he has gained lots of experience in the sage of ARIS by building up a common process management approach at BT, one of the world’s leading telecom providers.

<!--more-->He started his presentation with a simple but easy-to-understand definition by Michael Hammer of what a process is. “If it doesn’t make three people angry, it isn’t a process.” And that’s exactly the point to figure out if it comes to the definition of company processes. If there is something not worth talking or discussing about, it’s absolutely not worth doing it in business.

How BT did it
But let’s start at the beginning. Rob explained that modelling a process makes sense e.g. if there are complex task structures, if you have to ensure consistent product quality, or if you need to reduce waste and ensure efficiency. This also leads to the objective of a faster time-to-market, particularly for new products, and it makes it easier to achieve conformity with standards and regulations which will lead to higher competitiveness in the market. For BT, fighting in a very competitive market environment, the logical consequence was to think about a business process modelling initiative to improve their business performance. More than 8 years ago, there were numbers of people involved in “processes”, mostly as process writers. This means that they wrote tons of documents describing BT's core processes without using common standards and methods in a variety of tools (such as MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel…). In a word: it was not really reusable and not at all easy to understand. In a first step, BT established ARIS in a single pilot project and set up ARIS Modelling Techniques Teams. The first results from these initial projects were convincing and ARIS became the de-facto standard for process modelling within the whole group. I found it really impressive that all major BT business units are using ARIS on a single ARIS server containing more than 1000 process models which are in parallel published via the WWW for BT employees in the technical departments.

That’s the overall story but more interesting for me were the detailed improvements they achieved in the course of time.

  • >200 pages of written documentation which were too complex and never read have been eliminated and replaced by easy-to-understand ARIS models.
  • In the Internet product unit, productivity has doubled (!!). That was possible due to the fact that almost all processes of new products are similar. Once they are now modelled, they can easily be reused for upcoming products.
  • Rapid decrease of time-to-market through discouraged variability in process models and encouraged reuse of existing process information.
  • And at least a reduction in errors through modelling tool support with rigorous method was reached. This point also leads to a better process quality because ARIS forces the modeller not only to model the “happy path” but also the “fail path” if a decision is negative and some loops have to be followed (which have never been documented before).

Things to keep in mind
Beside all the positive effects of process modelling senior managers don’t like too many details and would like to see a whole end-to-end process on one regular sheet of paper. On the other hand side, they expect, for example, a quick time-to-market or best quality in services from their technical departments. At this point, as Rob said, you have to convince your management that these goals can only be reached if a company knows its own business processes documented in a professional tool and analyzed by professional people. Furthermore, process modelling takes time and money and must focus on real benefits. Anyway, you can only be successful if you involve your internal and external customers. Always take into account what readers of your process models would expect to see. Rob put it in one clear phrase: Don’t model the universe!

Finally, he pointed out that making process modelling make a difference in business is still a big hallenge which has to be mastered by professionals with support of professional tools!