Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Process Modelling – A missed opportunity?

“Staff working on the project did not have experience of defining business processes or of translating metrics into monetary terms. It was difficult at first to think of the management of personnel files and employee records as a business process."

So reported one of the projects piloting our Impact Calculator back in 2010. I stumbled on this by chance just the other day whilst preparing for a workshop on the Impact Calculator but the reason for my interest actually relates to some thoughts I have been having recently about process mapping and in particular the tools and standards that records managers adopt when carrying out process mapping for their purposes and how these compare with the ‘industry standards’ employed by those for whom business mapping is core to what they do.

To this end I sent an email to the UK records management jiscmail list, acknowledging that:

 “functional analysis has long been considered an important aspect of the records management canon. We understand the importance of taking a ‘functional approach’ to record keeping and for having classification schemes, retention schedules and other RM controls determined by a function-based structure.

What I would be very interested to know, however, is what tools and/or standards do people tend to use when it comes to undertaking this analysis and capturing the outputs?”

To be fair I received a fairly limited response, but what I did receive struck me as interesting. In essence a pattern seemed to emerge where by the records manager reported that they use Powerpoint or Mindmap or something at what could be described as the ‘basic’ or ‘non-specialist’ end of the spectrum whist at the same time pointing out that ‘the organisation’ uses something else (usually something more specialised). Obviously it’s all very anecdotal and based on a small sample but I wonder whether it suggests some potentially missed opportunities?

What do I mean? Well, use of different tools and individualised (non standard) approaches to modelling may make it harder for the records manager to add their outputs to whatever models are being compiled throughout the rest of the organisation. If so, is there a risk that by not ‘talking the same language’ as our business analyst and IT colleagues that we are making it harder for ourselves to add RM controls and services to the enterprise’s architecture? Does a lack of adoption of accepted standards and tools also mean we are limiting our capacity as records managers to start sharing and joining up our process models between organisations working in the same sectors, limiting the opportunity for their reuse and for collaborative work? And finally, are the Mindmaps, Powerpoint slides and non-standard Visio notations really fit for our own purposes, or have we just grown accustomed to accepting the limitations of what we can achieve within these tools, rather than exploring the benefits that greater knowledge and use of more sophisticated tools could bring to our own daily work?

I’m not really sure where, if anywhere, any of this is leading or whether its not really an issue at all, but cant seem to shake the nagging feeling that there is some trick being missed by a lot of us at the moment.


Barbara Reed said...

Hi Steve
We've been playing with work process for a while. The Australian work has been consolidated into the international standards space as ISO TR26122. I'd be interested to know if its had much uptake in the UK. In my practice, we use it extensively as a mapping tool, linking to other business modelling techniques, and as a way to link all the records control tools to the work being done - classification, security, access, ownership, disposal etc. I agree that there could be much more done to codify output formats to make the work reusable, and of course, sustainable. But we're actively working with it down here. Following your thinking with interest.



Mel Gould said...

Hi Steve

I think that there's another more fundamental question - how does the Records Practitioner get all the other people in his organisation who are carrying out process mapping for their activities to add records management processes into their process maps?

I think having separate records process maps is sometimes too divorced from the main business processes, and getting those pProcess Owners to insist that their process includes records is an important first step.

By the way I always used a large white wall and a lot of yellow sticky labels, with help from my co-workers, then exposed the colourful wall to colleagues from other departments, then transcribed the results using Visio.

Keep up the good work!


Steve Bailey said...

Hi Mel,

It was that possible chasm between the work the Records practitioner may be doing in this area and that being done by 'the other people in his organisation' which led in part to my post.

I don't doubt there are other factors at work, not least the 'horses for courses' argument regarding use of different tools etc but can't help thinking that it would be much easier to align the record managers' work with the others if they are at least talking the same language - and by that i mean following the same standards for describing processes and using the same tools for capturing them. At least then i would hope that we stand a fighting chance of being able to add our perspective to the party. Whereas if we have to start every conversation with an explanation of what we have done and exploration of how our 'A' differs from their 'B' in interpretation we are always going to struggle.

Maybe the standard Barbara mentions has a role to play here. Its not one I've come across, but would be likewise keen to know if others in the UK are aware of it or have experience of using it.