I came to think of a dialogue from Alice in Wonderland where Alice asks which way she should go . She does not know where she's going and the answer is ,that if she doesn't know where she's going , it doesn't matter which way she goes.
I have seen the quote sometimes associated with discussions about process improvements.
The thesis is that it makes no sense to improve a process , if we do not know the process we are currently having. For example , a company might realise that a given process is obviously not effective and sensible.
This could for example be the sales process , where you can see on various KPIs and metrics that we apparently are not effective; and perhaps some of the people involved even give examples of instances in the process where they see are discrepancies .
It is so tempting to adopt a new process. The problem is that if we do not have any idea what the current process looks like, it is impossible to improve it - at least impossible to know whether it is a real improvement or not.
It corresponds somewhat to say that the way we drive to work is not the most optimal way, and simply decide on a new way to drive to work. If the way chosen to drive to work are often varies, and it is not known for sure how long time it takes - how can we know that the new way to work is a better choice ? It's the same with process improvements.
In order to improve a process one needs to know the current process, in order to build on it and improve it where it is inappropriate. Unknown current processes can not be improved.
There may be adopted a different / new process , but an improvement of the existing process , it is not - it's just another process - which may not be better than the current process.
Typical start of process improvement work
That's why process improvement work typically starts with determining what the current process is. This is called the As-Is process. The road to an As-Is process in sufficient quality to make process improvement, can vary a lot in terms of time used. The more complex and the more ways to carry out the current process , the longer it will take to get the process outlined.
Typically, designing As-Is processes involves facilitating a series of workshops . These workshops are facilitated often by interviews, followed by questions to key process steps, on what happens in the process. What happens prior to a process step , what happens after a process step , does it always works like this etc.
The traditional approach to outlining the As-Is process is illustrated below:
The output of the As-Is process is first a lot of notes and draft drawings, which are drawn into a modelling tool on a computer, using correct notation and drawing styles (step 3 in the illustration above). It could look like this:
There are disadvantages associated with the traditional approach
Firstly, it can be a slow process. The business analysts who establish the As-Is diagrams, in a proper structure, will need to know the process in detail. This is done, as mentioned before, by facilitating a series of workshops. And it takes time before the process is fully understood and fully detailed .
Besides being a slow and time consuming approach, it also puts work load on the operating organization of the company. You will have to engage on key employees for workshops, follow-up questions and verification.
With process mining it is different
With process mining is no longer necessary to prepare As-Is process maps before you can begin optimising the process or begin analysing how the process performs. The trick is that process mining can generate the As-Is process map automatically from the data that already exists in your IT systems.
The vast majority of processes is now supported by IT.
Think for example of a sales process. When creating an Order, it is registered in IT systems. It is registered in IT systems when the customer is billed. It is registered in IT systems when payment is received. It is registered in IT systems when the goods are shipped. All these process steps are already stored in IT systems.
When the data is pulled out of IT systems, process mining tools can automatically draw the As-Is process diagrams without involving the business key employees .
Illustratively, process mining approach to outlining the As-Is process looks like this:
Process Mining is one of the most innovative new elements of Business Process Management. For a detailed description of Process Mining in Danish see Den Danske Blog om Process Mining or see the English site www.processmining.org