Building Strategic Process Architecture

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Now a days companies are developing Process Architecture (PA) under the overall umbrella of organization’s Enterprise Architecture initiative. PA is an important architectural element for any organization which has to be done with proper planning and followed by strong methodologies. But before doing that what do we actually mean by the PA, what is its definition and how does it actually helps organizations in their decision making, be it strategic or tactical.

There are many definitions for PA and each of them different perspective addressed:

1. The architecture of the business processes of an enterprise is defined as the type of processes it contains and the relationships among them . [Barrow 2007]

2. Process architecture is the picture that says what process types there are in the organization and what there dynamic relationships are: a network of instance at work, all operating at the same time, some activating others and some interacting [Ould 2005]

3. Process architecture is a methodology for identifying and aligning and organization’s key business processes against business requirements and to determine how to organize and implement formal process management [performance Design lab 2011]

4. Process architecture is a schematic that shows the ways in which the business processes of an enterprise are grouped ad inter-lined [Frolov, et al.2009]

5. Process architecture is the structural design of the general process systems and applies fields such as computers (software, hardware, networks etc.) business processes (enterprise architecture, policy and procedures, logistics, project management and any other process system of varying degrees of complexity [Dawis, et al, 2001]

 

The above definitions though proposed by different thought leaders but each of them is targeting mix of business areas. Although none is wrong but it doesn’t show unique form which can be used as baseline definition for PA. For me PA , it has to have all the aspects of process design to make PA genuinely a value added architectural block for EA. So this is how I see it

” PA is an architecture building block consisting of (people, process, information and technology) PPIT in an integrative arrangement, defined through strategic and tactical relationships between  PPIT

Having said that PA has its AS-IS and TO-BE state, both are to be developed from organizations strategic and tactical direction’s perspective. There has to be two main objectives of the PA development for organizations:

a)      To satisfy customers demands

b)      To achieve more efficient processing

A sound and consistent strategic PA has following attributes which must be inline and should be defined in structural manner

1. Business Events: All the business events which are occurring for current state or which may occur in anticipated future, should be defined, classified and described

2. Inputs: All inputs which will trigger or facilitate the execution of a process, must be defined and categorized according to the strategic importance in a business domain

3. Outputs: All outputs which are delivered as a result of process execution should be defined and mapped to target audience, be it internal or external

4. Process Interactions: all interactions which occur between processes must be defined and categorized in terms of strategic or tactic process interdependencies

5. Roles: all roles human/system should be defined and described based on their work involvement and strategic actions in executing a process.

 

There are three strategic elements related to the process architecture implementation:

  1. The modelling focus
  2. Target time for modelling the architecture
  3. The way of mapping

When modelling the processes in order to define and implement a PA, an organization must determine the modelling focus. This may be the model of how the processes be (TO-BE), how they currently are (AS-IS) or both.

It is fundamental to map the current state of a process, to later apply the necessary techniques to create an improved future state vision of the process. To develop this future state applying lean thinking, non-value added tasks need to be identified and eliminated. Besides the modelling focus, it is also necessary to define the manner of mapping the process on a workflow level.

The second factor related to strategic PA is the definition of a target time for the process architecture major release. It is important to establish this target time at the beginning of the initiative.

The last factor to take into consideration in development of PA is that organization’s must make a decision about important operational element, which is the mapping approach. Three main approaches are generally accepted:

1. Top-Down: start mapping the high level processes and then define the sub processes

2. Bottom-Up: Start mapping activities and sub-processes that people do in the different areas and then group sub-processes to define high-level processes

3. Merged approach: Both Top-Down and Bottom-Up approached are used.

The selection of the above approaches is based on how complex an organization’s operation is. If the operation is distributed between different geographical locations then it’s better to have bottom-up approach and then consolidate the similar processes to high level processes. However top-down approach is mostly best when an organization operates at one location and is relatively less complicated.

The levelling of processes in a PA is important as well, organization must decide to what level of process decomposition they need to ensure that the value of PA is visible for different stakeholders. Having too many layers of process levels makes it highly detailed but then makes the end user loose interest. A strategic PA should not drift away from its main value and that is high visibility of organization’s processing power to stakeholders who have strategic decision power in the organization.

Another important factor related to the strategic PA is the definition of the governance for its implementation. It is necessary to defined who will be involved in managing the PA, for instance, a team, one dedicated person , process owners, the quality department or someone else.

In the governance perspective, application of lean thinking is required in PA. After defining the PA, companies must review it periodically to identify activities that do not add value, which can be considered waste. This can lead to the creation of new or improved version of architecture, ensuring the processes within the architecture are made strategically leaner.

Finally the following main key success factors and weaknesses for a PA implementation are crucial:

Key Success Factors:

• Periodic Review, update and improve the PA
• General involvement and strong team effort
• Alignment with in the organizations established structure

Key Weaknesses:

• Poor guidance, understanding and leverage from the owners
• Not enough or inappropriate performance indicators
• Failure to set an adequate schedule and meet the deadline

 

Conclusion:

Given its important and potential,  a PA has not only been studied and developed in academic research, but also by the industry and diverse organizations. As a result of these researches, diverse frameworks or methodologies have been proposed and made available commercially entitled either as PA or more commonly in a holistic approach: Enterprise Architecture. Although of high and strategic important, PA is only piece in complex and large body that is an Enterprise.  But without strategic planning and focused thrust, this piece is of no value to the organization or for an Enterprise Architecture as a whole.

Author: Ahsan Rauf

Strategic and solutions-focused Enterprise Architect with a strong history of successfully aligning technology strategy with business needs to support organizational growth and improve business agility. Have hands on experience with business transformation programs in Telecom, Internet Services, Supply chain and logistics, public warehousing, core and retail banking and government services. Skilled at balancing resources in complex technology environments and maintaining cross-disciplinary relationships; diligent and resourceful in uncovering solutions that create immediate impact and sustainable improvements. Effectively communicates technically complex ideas to non-technical audiences. Hands-on leadership experience complemented by strong academic background including Master`s Degree in Management Consultancy

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