Does Modeling Inhibit Innovation?

Scott Francis
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Does Modeling Inhibit Innovation? 

Phrased that way, it sounds silly. Of course it doesn’t.  We use models all the time to improve our understanding, or our ability to communicate about what the model represents. But it has been en vogue in BPM circles to treat modeling as if it is paving the cow path, rather than something that is agile and changeable.  Jim Casey’s take on it:

And does modeling a process inhibit innovation?  I couldn’t disagree more.  Done correctly, modeling a process is about quickly understanding something that was previously not collectively understood.  This collective understanding doesn’t inhibit new ideas – it does the opposite.  You may decide that it does not make sense to implement the process in a BPMS, but often you will discover ways to innovate by having the dialog.  The trick is to engage all stakeholders (not just a few process experts) in a timely and cost-effective way.  If it takes two months to model a process, you’re doing it wrong.

Maybe the reason modeling feels like paving the cow path for so many people in the industry is because the tools they use simply don’t support changing the model very easily.  Its easy to change the model while it is under discussion, but many tools have a hard time with changes once their are processes running on the models – live instances of those processes that will be affected by any changes made.  They simply do not all have the robust baked-in versioning that is required for making changes to process definitions for running software.

The other reason is that too many who comment on BPM in forums and blogs are focused on execution to the exclusion of modeling for discovery and innovation and consensus.  Both have their place, and even though my bias is toward implementation, I’m not blind to the value of a picture to describe the process!

Jim finishes:

Done wrong, BPM can be exactly what Max Puscher describes – a Tayloristic soul-sucking waste of everyone’s time.  But you could say that about a lot of software products!  After all, most software is about helping you to do your job better.  If you botch it up, it will make your job harder, not easier.  But done right – with broad participation, focusing on differentiating processes, and putting more power into the hands of people closest to the process – BPM can be a powerful tool for innovation.

Pretty much exactly how I feel about it.

 

 

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