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.