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Taking the Biscuit

Blog: Adam Deane - Business Process and Workflow

Around the world everyone celebrates the 1st of May on… the 1st of May.
In England we celebrate it on the 5th of May and call it “Early May bank holiday”

Now, apart from the obvious rational that we Brits like to be different – there is a real story behind it.
It all began in 1978, in a late session at the Bank of England.
Everyone was buzzing around this new workflow system they just built.

“BPM” they called it.. Wonderful!, Fantastic! Automation at its finest! Such a proud moment in history! Cheers!

Taking the Biscuit

The first workflow was built.
It was called the biscuit process, named after Sir James Biscuit, the head of IT at the bank of England.
It was a simple acquisition process, but an important one.

It may seem like a simple process – a process for purchasing luxury cupcakes for the executive boardroom meetings, but everyone understood its importance, as no official meeting in the Bank of England can start without the traditional ceremony of tea and cupcakes.

This tradition, which has been in practice for more than 500 years, was started off in 1491 by Henry VIII, King of England who had quite a fancy for the cupcakes.
The financial importance was not to be dismissed either… You see, the bank of England spends £1.3 million pounds on cupcakes a year, to drink with their tea.

It was the end of April and everyone was looking forward to a break from all the hard work. May 1st will be a well deserved holiday, said the Sir Biscuit.

The first sign of trouble began just before 11 o’clock. The department tea lady, hurried into the room.
“It’s not working, Gov” she said with tears in her eyes. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.
It was at times like this that Sir Biscuit showed his gentry.
Tell me the problem, he said as he offered her his silk handkerchief.

“I ordered the cupcakes like you showed me how, on that thing you called a computer, gov… but it didn’t work”.
“I pressed “enter”, but the process didn’t move to the next step”

Mmm said Sir Biscuit. Leave it with me. You know these workflow systems might be a bit slow to react at the beginning.

The bank’s board meeting was scheduled to start in 5 minutes. An important meeting. This is when the Bank of England approves the country’s financial report to be delivered to her majesty the queen by the prime minister.

The bank’s head, Lord Figgypudding was pacing up and down the room.
Disaster, he muttered. Disaster… We have had this tradition of tea and cupcakes for over 500 years. We cannot break with tradition.
“Don’t worry” Sir Biscuit reassured him. The workflow is ‘too big to fail’

Maybe.. said Lord , but no one goes home until it works. We will postpone the meeting by three hours, that should give you enough time to fix the process.

At 1 o’clock, the Prime Minister called.
Lord Figgypudding fumbled.. “We are having a slight glitch with the system.. nothing to worry about.. could we postpone our meeting till tomorrow?”

Like all good IT managers, Sir Biscuit reassured Lord Figgypudding that this new system of workflow processes called BPM would not fail. These BPM systems are the cutting edge of technology! Nothing ever goes wrong with them, he promised.

A day later, and Lord Figgypudding had to postpone again. “A slight glitch with the system”… “really nothing to worry about”… could we postpone again until tomorrow?

4 days later, her majesty requested the Prime Minister to come to the palace to explain the delay in the financial report.

Who should I take with me, to explain this mess!!?, asked the Prime Minister.
“Take Sir Biscuit”, replied Lord Figgypudding in frustration. Let him explain this mess…

Not a lot is known about the meeting. It is understood that the queen appointed Sir Biscuit to be British Head of workflows… in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A place, the queen told him, that his workflows would surely come to better use…

The 1st of May is traditionally celebrated in England on the the 5th of May (today) on which the Bank of England formally provides a glowing report on England’s financial state.
The report is delivered to the Prime Minister in a ceremony known as “Taking the Biscuit”

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