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A Revolution in Process Modeling




Contributed by Brian Safron
Worldwide Program Director, Smarter Process, IBM

I was recently asked to do a video about cloud-based process modeling — and it got me thinking. Should I say that the cloud offers an incremental improvement over the old ways? I can’t say that, because it’s not what I believe.

The fact is that the cloud changes everything. It democratizes applications and introduces unheard of levels of flexibility and interconnectedness. I can’t call it an evolution. It’s a full-fledged revolution. Here’s how it has changed process modeling.

Every business has processes. Some are customer facing, others keep the back office running as efficiently as possible, and still others join the front office and back office into a unified whole.

Processes are by their nature repeated frequently. How many thousands of times a day does a bank process loans or an insurance company handle claims? How often do hospitals provide care or retailers move inventory? Understanding how those processes REALLY work (as opposed to how we HOPE they work) is the first step in being able to improve them.

Enter (drum roll)… the cloud. The cloud strips away many of the negatives that have become running jokes about the complexity of information technology. For example, who hasn’t heard it said that the IT department “threw an application over the wall” to the business. Or what about the famous ERP failures that cost three years and twenty million dollars, and ended up missing the boat completely – implementing processes that interviewers THOUGHT they heard during their interviews with subject matter experts, instead of implementing the real processes needed by the business.

With the cloud there is no “wall,” so there’s no more “throwing it over the wall.” Everybody sees the same version of the process, and all the subject matter experts (the people who REALLY know how the process works) can collaborate on a single, easy-to-understand and easy-to-access model that’s always up to date and contains all the details and documentation needed to fully understand the process.

I used the term “democratize” earlier. Here’s what I mean:

The cloud takes the power out of the hands of the few people who have access to – and know how to use – the tool, and puts that power in the hands of subject matter experts all over the business.

The key point is this:

Process modeling in the cloud allows the people who know the business inside and out to be “first-class citizens” in improving every aspect of how the business operates.

That’s not to say that every SaaS or cloud application is perfect; it has to be a good, well-designed cloud application. But good applications that are designed for the cloud can change the game completely. A prime example is IBM Blueworks Live.

So, coming back to the original question: Has the cloud created an incremental improvement in process modeling?

No way. This is a full-fledged revolution.

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