Information Technology-should support Process-Improvement

Information Technology-should support Process Improvement

Having just explored process improvement methodologies and the potential for greater alignment with information technology, I would now like to explore this issue from the other side of the fence. The end point is the same, but the point to push here is that the information technology field could benefit from a much better alignment with the process improvement field.

The reason for reiterating this point, is that most of those folk whom I have met within process improvement (e.g. Lean Thinking) projects are more often from business than a technical background.
Equally, those who drive  information technology efforts are more often from a technical than a business background.
So my sense is that there is a degree of disconnect between these fields which is closely related to the differing background of those involved in these fields..

Having visited the healthcare world under pressure and the nature of complex and complicated systems, we have explored change amidst complexity and concluded that information and technology are both key elements required.

Clearly our world has been transformed by the information revolution of recent years. As I grew up alongside some of the early changes, I expected that that revolution I was experiencing at home might be also seen at work.

Yet no, unfortunately not, a gap has emerged between what I see happening all over the world of work and what has happened to healthcare. Simply put the complexity of the system has meant that health IT has not kept up with our rising expectations.

Of course the challenges of complex large IT projects are well known in many fields, suggesting there are common factors at work. As we have already discovered there are a blend of chaotic/complex/complicated and simple issues at play in any organisation.
We have also noted that complex change requires people, process, information and , technology.

Herein lies one of the issues at the kernel of this challenge…
Many/most large complex IT projects struggle at scale… largely down to a poor fit between the people, the process and the technology. In fact you can revisit most complex IT failure stories you like and the same theme of clash between process and IT will recur.. its a common pattern amidst the complexity.

Therefore I suggest to those from an IT background , that an awareness of the Cynefin framework and its categorisation of the chaotic/complex/complicated/simple elements will help.

In my experience significant numbers of those involved in Information Technology and related Software Engineering fields, fail to appreciate the nature of complex systems. This is not particular to those from IT or software engineering I should add.

Indeed many folk seem to see the world through complicated (as per Cynefin) eyes.

Standard software engineering methodologies include an early requirements analysis phase of any project which should include a look at the customers business processes, to inform the related information technology requirements of the project.

In common with our look at Lean Thinking this is most commonly done by looking at the current physical processes As Is and thinking through to future physical processes in a To Be state. While this approach can work well at a small scale, when attempting to scale up, then maintain or change such systems, they can quickly flounder amidst the complexity.

To tackle complex IT projects, both business analysts and software engineers alike, need to look at the logical processes that underpin the organisation.
Therefore the approach should involve both parties having a shared understanding of; Physical As Is
Logical As Is
Logical To Be
Physical To Be
processes and information technology requirements.

In this way it should be possible to engage Lean thinkers and Agile developers alike in a more common approach to process improvement and information technology development.

However the current process analysis methodologies may not be routinely used in this fashion, and the differences in approach taken by notations such as Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) and Unified Modelling Language (UML) highlight the less than mature nature of the link between these fields.

So having explored the challenges in linking process improvement methodologies with information systems science, let us focus on the means to develop solutions to bridge this gap .. therefore the role of a generic-business-process related service-oriented-architecture.

References:

http://www.pmhut.com/the-chaos-report-2009-on-it-project-failure

http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/why-software-fails

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