Centralised Process Repositories – Benefits and Challenges
Would it not be great to have portal on the company intranet where one could go to see how all work in the company is performed. A single source that would show details for all work, of the sequential steps, tasks, activities to be done, how they are done, who does them, and what they use to get them done. It should be easy to understand, yet detailed enough to provide a clear understanding of all the activities required to complete the tasks in a process.
How would a company benefit from this? HR could use it to do detailed job evaluation and definition, whereas Training would use it for building accurate and relevant training material. In both cases referral to the same source of truth as to how work is carried out, would ensure that jobs specs are aligned to the actual work being performed, and training covers the full scope of work that the role in training will be performing. Then Risk could use the information to easily identify and assess risks in the process and review the associated controls, and Internal Audit would have easy access to details of how work should be performed, enabling efficient verification thereof. IT on the other hand would be able to quickly assess the impact of any changes they are planning, on different processes or areas of the business, and the Performance Improvement function would use the portal information to readily assess process effectiveness and efficiencies without first having to elicit the process information.
So how does one get to this? Business Process documentation within an online Process Repository is the way to deliver it. Business Process documentation is the discipline of eliciting and documenting business processes, ie the work people do, as opposed to automated system processes.
What are some of the key requirements? These include acquiring a process repository / documentation tool that can display process information across the intranet. The tool should be user friendly and the structure of the processes architected so that it is easy to understand the different processes in the company and to navigate to the process information required. It should also have security to control who can view and change process information. A documentation standard is a critical requirement, this so that all processes are documented to the same level of detail, and in the same ‘language’ or notation, so that anyone looking at the documented processes can immediately understand them without needing to refer back to the person who documented them.
Who should do this? Although process documentation is not technically difficult and can be done by a variety of staff across the organisation, documenting for a central repository should ideally be assigned to a dedicated team of process mappers. These are staff who typically do process documentation as their chosen line of work, are happy to sit with line workers to elicit the processes, and are good at getting the right information and recording it accurately at correct level of detail, to the defined company standard. Highly qualified process engineers are usually not suited to this fairly repetitive work, being more suited to the Performance Improvement (process reengineering) function mentioned above. Process mappers are not necessarily highly qualified, but have learned the skill through experience and enjoy the work.
If its’ so compelling why are so few companies doing it? Many companies have tried but for various reasons have lost the drive to carry it through, this often because of poor results due to not going about it the right way, cost overruns due to poor tool selection, poor planning and execution, or re-assignment of budget to other shorter term urgencies. Other companies that have not tried are often ignorant of the benefits, or are sceptical of the benefits given the expected costs of first establishing and then maintaining the process information. For those companies that have successful central process repositories in place, the benefits are there, including improved business agility, improved control, better understanding of and reduced risks, improved ability to analyse and improve their businesses, and quicker integration of new staff. .
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