Automating a bad process doesn’t make it better

I ran across an article the other day that gave the excellent advice of evaluating processes before moving them into the cloud. According to the author:

That process assessment should at minimum answer the following questions.

  • Do we know how effective this process is?
  • Do we know its costs and benefits?
  • Do we know how well it is supported and enforced?
  • Do we know that this process is kept current with changing needs and conditions?

The same advice applies to any development effort, whether cloud-based or not. Considering the expense involved in either new development or major updates, it makes little sense to neglect the opportunity to evaluate the underlying business processes. Otherwise, you risk wasting time and money implementing a system that fails to meet the users needs from the outset. Even if some measure of process flexibility is built in, the expense of the wasted effort will almost certainly dwarf what could have been spent on analysis.

Too often, a new application becomes the clone of an older one with just a technology facelift. Frequently the reason given is that it will avoid re-training of existing users. While this is a valid concern, both in terms of optimizing user adoption and avoiding service disruption during the cutover, it must be balanced against training of new users going forward. Depending on employee turnover rates, a more intuitive system that is easier to bring new employees up to speed on may be a better choice. Additionally, current users may not find the transition as difficult as anticipated. As people adjust to dealing with clunky systems, the complaints may die out, but this is not the same thing as satisfaction. The experienced user base may well appreciate the innovations as much as newcomers. Storyboarding and prototyping up front, working with those users, can help greatly in determining if this is the case.

Periodic re-evaluation is critical to any process if it is to remain relevant. Those that hang on past any point of utility either become a hindrance or worse, a custom of policy ignored. Socrates felt that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Dealing with a process that has remained unexamined for long may have you wishing for the hemlock as well.

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3 thoughts on “Automating a bad process doesn’t make it better

  1. Pingback: It’s a system, not a family member « Form Follows Function

  2. Pingback: It’s a system, not a family member – UDig Blog - UDig - Technology Staffing

  3. Pingback: What do you do when you find yourself in quicksand? « Form Follows Function

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