Does social technology change the As-Is versus To-Be debate?

In a previous post I discussed how Business Process Management can, and should, be a social experience even without modern social technology. One reader sent me the following message:

 I think [you are] refering to ‘to-be’ processes. Someone still may have to describe today’s reality and sometimes just a good BA and a few knowledgable SME’s gets this job done far quicker, accurately and without too much ‘socialising’.

I don’t wish to add too much to the As-Is versus To-Be debate here except to say that every situation is different and will require an appropriate approach.

I do believe, however, that modern social technology is changing the way we approach this debate. With the new crop of BPM tools available the line between As-Is and To-Be becomes somewhat blurred. When capturing As-Is process, using a simple goal driven approach, the deficiencies in the process are often painfully clear to those present. A good Social BPM product should allow the facilitator to instantly capture those issues, and improvement suggestions, against the point in the process where they were raised. This means, to some extent, that you are simultaneously capturing As-Is and To-Be at the same time. Even if you are proposing a radically new process you can capture potential issues and essential steps during the As-Is capture.

A team of knowledgeable Subject Matter Experts (SME) could undoubtedly capture today’s reality quicker without the interference of end users. But is this the best way? Firstly you are excluding the very people that have firsthand experience of the execution of the process. There are often issues experienced during the everyday execution but there is no forum in which to express these. And if these do exist they are disconnected from the context of the process.

Worker engagement is key to the adoption of any new or improved process. Clearly you cannot invite every worker to a workshop, although I have seen attempts to do this! But you can invite some key influencers and of course the platform should allow everyone to comment on the As-Is as well as being able to see the other comments captured during the workshop.

I would argue that the long term benefits of worker engagement in understanding and improving the process is worth more than a quick capture that ends up on an intranet and never looked at.


7 thoughts on “Does social technology change the As-Is versus To-Be debate?

  1. I fully agree that worker and line manager engagement in a robust discussion of the end-to-end process (goal or outcomes focused as you commented) is essential to actually realizing the potential value from process improvement. Many process performance problems are “execution” defects or “policy/goal conflicts” (not “design” defects) and can be surfaced and addressed quickly in these forums.
    As well, engagement of senior management in a macro-level strategic scan of the end-to-end process, looking “top down” and “outcome back” can really challenge the value/adequacy of current approaches to large blocks of work in a “total business” context.
    These two engagements taken together provide an excellent bottoms-up and top-down perspective on the process.

  2. I agree every situation is different. In particular, I see as crucial also the adoption of social practices within the as-is execution. In this case the socialization is involved more in the selection of the workers and in their involvement. This may lead to better performance even while not changing the as-is.

  3. @Bob thanks for the comment, I love this “These two engagements taken together provide an excellent bottoms-up and top-down perspective on the process.” There’s often an argument between those that view the approach purely as top-down and the proponents of bottom-up. In reality, like everything in life, it’s about balance and finding a common ground between the two.

    @Marco, it’s where social augments process, better performance through execution time collaboration! 🙂


  4. When I don’t know where I am now (As-Is) how do I get to where I want to be (To-Be)? How do we train end-users for the differences between As-Is & To-Be? How is the process improvement measured if I don’t have a measure today of how \my As-Is process runs? The To-Be becomes the As-Is after the release of the process so it is only an issue when a process is first modeled.

    • Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for commenting. When I wrote this I worked for a BPM vendor and, despite the obvious benefits, it was often a hard sell to take the time to do the As-Is discovery. I find that as an independent contractor customers seem to be more open to the idea. Perhaps it’s that I describe it differently now. In the absence of existing As-Is documentation I now describe this as a requirements gathering phase. The objective is not to ‘create’ a starting point but to determine the degree of change required. If I am being paid to facilitate this change I want to be pretty confident I understand what’s involved as much for my own reputation as for the success of the project.


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