The Eight Focus Areas of Enterprise Information Management: Process Management – Part 2
By David Marco
The purpose of this eight part series on Enterprise Information Management (EIM) is to help Global 2000 companies and large government entities understand the EIM field and to provide them with the ability to have successful and sustainable EIM programs. In this series I will be conducting detailed walkthroughs of each of the eight Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Focus Areas.
- Data Management
- Process Management
- Data Architecture
- Data Quality
- IT Portfolio Management
- Master Data Management
- Information Management
- Information Security
This month I will be discussing the Process Management Focus Area. Of the eight Focus Areas, Process Management is the most neglected throughout our industry even though it is a necessity for many companies’ objectives. For example, why do we look to remove redundant data? Typically it is to simplify, limit and optimize our processes. These very same companies that are looking to remove their redundant data do not always realize that they are doing Process Management.
Figure 1: EIM Focus Areas
Process Management Definitions
Before we can discuss Process Management it is important to understand its three most basic concepts: Process, Application/System and People Process.
Process: A process receives data, executes one or more tasks with that information and then outputs data to another process, database or person.
Figure 2: Process
A process takes in data, typically from another process, database, file and/or person and performs a set of interrelated tasks on that data. It then takes the output of those tasks and sends it to another process, database, file, and/or person. While this may sound abstract this is exactly what a program does. Suppose you have written a program (programs are always part of a process) that calculates the Past Due amounts of a customer. This program would be triggered from another program (which is part of a different process) or from a business user who needs this information. The Past Due program would receive data from the triggering entity. This would include Customer Name, Customer Number, Current Date and other inputs. It would then utilize this data to make targeted reads from databases and files (there are some old systems out there that use files). The Past Due program would then take this information, format it and send it to the business user or process that needs it.
Application/System: Is an arbitrarily defined grouping of processes.
Several years ago I was working at a Fortune 50 corporation. At this company they had some people who really liked getting into the deep details of their data and in defining some of the more difficult IT topics. During one of our meetings they had as their objective to define what a system is. At the onset of the meeting I told them what the current answer to this question is but they wanted to hash it out themselves. They spent many hours going around and around on the topic. In the end they realized that my simple, yet accurate definition is exactly what a system is. Some wanted to define a system by mentioning names of systems in the company. This argument was easily voided when I asked which systems that system interacted with, at what point do each of those systems begin, where each system ends and what is the criteria for when a system reaches its final end point and is that criteria used consistently throughout the enterprise. Once you go through this exercise yourself you will conclude that a system is just an arbitrarily defined grouping of processes.
People Process: One or more activities executed by one or more people that either concludes the process or outputs data to another process, database or person.
Many times IT professionals neglect the fact that their systems and processes interact with people. For example, a process may identify customer orders that are purchasing a new and limited quantity product. Many times a purchasing manager will want to review these orders and decide which should be released to the warehouse for order fulfillment and shipping.
Function: The Process Management Focus Area looks to holistically manage the Information Technology (IT) and people processes that exist within the organization in order to streamline, optimize, historically track, ensure quality and prevent redundancy of the IT processes at an enterprise level.
This definition may seem quite short; however, it has tremendous implications. Initially it talks about managing processes “holistically”, meaning that when we build processes we will ensure that each process is thought about and built from a global perspective. For example, suppose we needed to build a process that converts Canadian dollars to United States dollars. This is a process that would probably be needed in more than just the current system that an analyst may be working on. The current system may only convert Canadian dollar values with two decimal points of accuracy. However, we have another system that needs to do this same task but it needs to have a very fine grain of computational accuracy so they require ten decimal points of accuracy. When building our Canadian to American conversion process it would be much more cost effective to build in the greater number of decimal points as now this one process can serve two different systems’ needs. The reusability of this process holds many benefits. First, and most obvious, we have removed redundancy in our processes by having one process and not two. In reality, most companies do this type of conversion across dozens of systems so reusability would be quite high. Second, when we need to change the manner in which we convert Canadian dollars to United States dollars we only have to change it in one spot and not hunt around to find all of the places that this process exists. Therefore, the maintainability of this process is much easier and less costly over time.
Although many technologies focus on the IT processes, the people processes are just as important. Process Management also looks to understand and capture the people processes within the organization and how they interact with the IT processes. This combination of IT and people process gives an EIM program a much richer view of how the enterprise functions.
Process (people & technical) Management Target Areas
The study of Process Management looks to answer many questions within an organization, including:
- What processes exist within the enterprise?
- What do the processes do?
- How are the processes used?
- What data is utilized by the process?
- Which processes are used in which applications?
- What is the process workflow (process dependencies)?
- What are the performance levels of the processes?
Many of these questions may seem very rudimentary. Unfortunately, there are very few corporations that could answer any of them on an enterprise level. For example, many companies have looked to implement Service Oriented Architectures (SOA); however, these same companies fail to realize that when embarking on an SOA effort that you are truly doing process management. Indeed the vast majority of SOA vendors just ASSUME that this process has been completed within a company. Over a year ago a multi-billion dollar government supplier was having a vendor day. This is where they bring in 20 vendors that would come in and tell them what they provide. This government supplier received over 300 requests from vendors to present. Of these requests EWSolutions was one of the firms which they selected. During the course of this day each vendor was provided 20 minutes to explain who they are and what they do. In looking at the list of vendors that they choose, essentially they picked 19 vendors, mostly software, whose core business is SOA. We were literally the only vendor that doesn’t focus on SOA that was invited to present. I flew out that morning to this event and had the opportunity to hear 3 vendors’ presentations. Each presentation was focused heavily on SOA; however, I noticed an interesting and subtle theme. As each vendor spoke of the magic of SOAs they would each state “well, once you’ve defined your centralized processes and you have a catalog of your data then we do… (insert specific vendor’s pitch)”. When it was our turn to talk I began by saying that we are not an SOA company per se but you know all that stuff you need to do before you can implement SOA? We do all that stuff. I share this story as it is baffling to me that corporations miss this fundamental step of process management on almost all of their SOA projects.
What Processes Exist Within The Enterprise?
There are very few companies that have even a remote idea as to the number of processes that they have in their organization. For a global 2000 company this answer can be in the hundreds of thousands.
This is a vital question to answer as one of the traditional goals of process management is to integrate redundant processes. If you don’t know how many you have to begin with it will be difficult to measure and subsequently quantify your return on investment for your process management effort.
What Function Does The Process Perform?
Once you have identified your processes it will become important to understand what each one does. The capturing of this meta data will be vital to achieve the majority of the more advanced Process Management tasks.
The capturing of a process’s function can be as simple as a textual, free-form description; however, these are very limiting as they will not help you in automating retrieval of process information and organization. A better method is to have this meta data stored in a meta model (for a detailed, attribute level walkthrough of this physical data model see
“Universal Meta Data Models”, David Marco & Michael Jennings, Chapter 7: Universal Meta Model for Business Rules, Business Meta Data and Data Stewardship).
Who Uses The Process?
This ties into the people-portion of the equation. Capturing who uses a process is valuable as this allows you to easily identify business users that could help you change the process as business requirements change over time. Also these data stewards can be your test group when changes are implemented.
What Data Is Utilized By The Process?
In order to manage your processes correctly you have to capture which data is used by each process. Once again this is a very basic question that must be answered.
What Inputs Does The Process Get From Which People?
The people process portion of a process needs to be well documented, organized and understood. Capturing how the people interact with a process is fundamental to understanding the process and how it pertains to the enterprise.
Which Processes Are Used In Which Applications?
Tying processes to applications helps a company to understand exactly what each of their applications is composed of. As we previously discussed much of this is arbitrary.
What Is The Process Workflow (process dependencies)?
This question involves the process dependencies that exist within the workflow. For example, Process A must successfully complete its function before Processes B and C are executed.
What Are The Performance Levels Of The Processes?
This is one of the least tracked but most important questions that Process Management addresses. It looks to identify how long it takes a process to run, what percentage of the time does the process fail, how much data is being run through the process and how often is the process ran.
It is interesting watching companies spend millions of dollars trying to build SOA architectures. They will purchase hardware, highly expensive software and pay millions in consulting fees; however, they will miss the most basic of tasks. If you are building an SOA architecture and you cannot answer these questions then you have no idea as to the true performance of your system. In addition, you will have no basis for its current or ongoing performance and your ability to manage it over time will be an impossible task. SOA architectures are not static applications that you build and then walk away from and watch it work. On the contrary, they take impeccable care and feeding to manage and sustain over time.
Next month, I will continue to walk through the eight EIM Focus Areas.
About the Author
Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise information management, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on meta data management. He is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”. Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40” and is the chairman of the Enterprise Information Management Institute (www.EIMInstitute.org). He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture, data governance and managed meta data environment technologies (www.EWSolutions.com). He may be reached directly via email at DMarco@EWSolutions.com