“There is no such thing as an IT strategy. You have an ’I’ strategy and ‘T’ response” – Anon.
The age-old problem of the business ‘not asking for what they need’ and the ‘IT department not providing what they were asked for’ is as real today as it has always been and for a Business Process Improvement (BPI) initiative to be completely successful it is vital to bridge this gap. A contributor to this problem is the absence of a common vocabulary between the IT department and the business. We provide such a common vocabulary.
The two primary building blocks of the Information Process are the Quality and Physical attributes of information.
To illustrate, consider a child with a cold. The child’s symptoms are a headache, fever, runny nose and eyes. A parent cannot fix any of these symptoms but can address the cause of the distress, namely the lack of shoes and no coat in the middle of winter. It is exactly the same with the information attributes. The Quality attributes are the symptoms and the Physical attributes are the causes.
- Business managers deal with and respond to symptoms of poor information Quality. These may include late, or inaccessible, or incomplete information.
- IT managers deal with the Physical causes of the flow of information – the way the information is collected, stored, processed or distributed.
By providing better causes of the flow of information (Physical attributes), the symptoms of poor information (Quality attributes) go away.
And by using a common vocabulary, business managers and IT managers can link symptoms to causes and at last understand each other.
Here’s an example. A company initiates a project to address the problem of the weekly sales figures being reported late. Typically, the Business Analyst will look at the Transactional Process to determine what process steps can be removed or improved. An alternative approach is to accept that the Transactional Process is robust and requires no change and that the BPI benefits will come from improving the flow of information.
The investigation may reveal that the salesperson only submits handwritten sales orders once a week. This means that the information is late, inaccessible and possibly incomplete (all Quality attribute ‘symptoms’). It is easy to imagine these symptoms ‘going away’ if the Information Process collected this information better in the first place. So the salesperson gets a handheld device that automatically uploads daily orders into the company systems, ie, a dramatic improvement in the Physical attribute ‘causes’.
Here’s a graphical summary of the Information Process improvement;
Illustration of Improving the Information Process by identifying and addressing Causes