Consistent Business Rules
People often assume that if company goals do not change, their processes do not change either. Nothing is less true, seeing as the world the company functions in is always moving.
For example, let us take a look at saving. Yesterday, I had to delete an old savings account. I simply did it online – transfer the balance and delete the account – it was done within five minutes. A couple of years ago, one had to go to the bank itself, where an employee would give you the money in the account in cash. Physical bank? Employee? Cash? They have all disappeared from the process, but the goal and revenue model of the bank has almost stayed the same.
Changes need to be made under the prerequisite that the process is not damaged. Existing value cannot be threatened. If one would find their savings book today, it should still be possible to hand it in..
To estimate the impact (and unwanted effects) of changes, one needs to be able to request information about the process – some sort of company databank. Additionally, it should be possible to make these requests more often and exceedingly faster. Even a handwritten text document with good-looking process depictions is not good enough anymore. By the time one has written down the CAO-rules and created flowcharts, the new negotiations will be almost finished. A solution is needed.
The more knowledge behind a company process, the more difficult it is to change such a process. The information should always be available and be consistent. When you would go to a bank, asking why there are no savings books anymore, every Customer Service Employee should give the same answer. The company’s knowledge bank is a single truth: the ‘Single Source of Business Truth’.
The current mindset is all about value chains. Players in the market work together to offer a product or service, e.g. school transport is outsourced to a public transport company, which outsources it to a touring car company. Processes need to match throughout the entire chain. A dependency has formed of company processes that also needs to be followed by other companies.
If one were to be smart… you would build software that supports this flexibility. Yes, but how? First of all, the company knowledge needs to be entered by specialists en end users need to be able to access this knowledge. It all starts with a definition of concepts, as a communal conceptual framework is like a communal language. What does one understand as a ‘complaint’? What are its characteristics? What is the effect of one? How can a complaint serve the company goals? And, to what workflows does it belong?
Next to that, some business rules need to be executed automatically. So there is an engine – an interpreter – needed, that can interpret the rules and execute relevant actions, comparable with the absence assistant in Outlook. When you’re not there, an automated message can be sent with a previously determined text.
Algorithms (e.g. calculating the performance indicator ‘percentage of handled complaints’) and long workflows (e.g. following up on a complaint by second line specialists) need to be added in to complement the whole.
Do we change direction smoothly?
All concepts are known, we know what an online savings account is and how interest calculations and how authorization passes go. The Customer Service Employees can access all the information and the new product has been communicated with potential customers. There was a clear mention that savings books are still valid and how to transfer the money from the book to the digital account. In short, there was a smooth and attractive change of direction.
Things are changing. One of the first questions to arise is from the specialists, they wonder if the process is going how it was anticipated. To measure is to know. To create built-in processes that measure the development of change, process mining techniques could create a good insight into the real-time developments, find bottlenecks and find differences with the designed process.
Prepare for change
The main goal of business rules is to let all activities add value to the company goals. The two main causes for problems in a company are neglecting the consistent use of authorized definitions and concepts conform to the business model, and following the business rules. The management needs to work according to these rules. If the business rules are pinching, knowledge needs to be added to the knowledge bank and the business rules need to be changed. It is only seldom that company goals need to be changed due to trouble with the processes.
The best way to survive as a company is in a growing manner dependent on constructing the company knowledge. Technology comes and goes, but the knowledge will always keep its value.