Processes and Processes

This comes from a remark from my boss and friend (no, the two are not contradictory). Actually, boss wasnt even talking about this, but there was a thought which i sort of clinged to, and i am writing about now. The question is about processes and how social computing can play a role in process definition, documentation, and management.

As we know, processes are a very important part of any organization. Processes define how things are done and what is to be expected from the things one does. Over a period of time, we find that processes are quite easy to document using wikis. Why wikis instead of documents? Simply because processes change over a period of time, they evolve to take into consideration changing business scenarios. And the concept of the wiki as dynamic content goess well with this idea than the concept of a document. In fact, you would find a number of organizations implementing wikis as process repositories. They are easier to create, and more importantly, easier to manage. Fewer organizations, though, try to take it to the level where people can discuss these processes, maybe through some form of online tools like discussion forums, etc. Though these could be quite useful in gathering feedback about processes from people who are working by them on a regular basis.

This too isnt the main part of the question. The question i have here is what is the level of detail with which processes should be defined. Should they be defined minutely, or should they be defined rather broadly? Define them too minutely, and they tend to restrict people to an extent that they probably cant do anything without first looking at processes. Make them too broad and they tend to lose the value of guidance which otherwise organizations tend to associate with them. Another question that comes up is that if you define processes too minutely, by the time you actually complete the definition the processes have probably changed and need to be defined or documented all over again. In a scenario where business scenarios change on a very frequent basis, this may not be the right approach to follow. This is also because if your definitions are too minute then by the time feedback from the operational people can be incorporated into process changes, the business scenarios may have further changed, and so the people who are trying to get some semblance of sanity through processes are always trying to catch-up. Besides, is it worth it? Or is it better to define them somewhat broadly and create guidelines which can be used by people for handling specific aspects of business? Not being an expert on process, i am asking for your feedback on this. Please do leave a comment.

Coming now to how processes can be documented. More and more organizations that i interact with, i find that wikis are coming into their own as a tool for presenting processes to people. Number of reasons for this include that they can be easily created, and equally easily modified compared to other tools. What i would like to talk about here is how this can be taken further. How about if some collaborative tools like discussion forums etc. can be associated with these wikis? In this scenario, i am saying that wikis present these to people, and people can use other means to participate in discussions around these, and this feedback from different parts of the organizations can be used by managers to fine-tune processes on an ongoing basis. In this way, we are leveraging web 2.0 tools to incorporate feedback from across the organization into how the organization works in an ongoing way.


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