December 29, 2013

Does Your Company/Division/Team Have Defined Business and Technology Processes, or Does Stuff Just Happen?

by Richard L Kuper

What is process? Process is a collection of steps and tasks to follow to reach a desired goal.

For example, if the goal is to uncover issues with new web-based services before they are rolled out, a defined process might include steps and tasks such as:
  • Does entering the URL in the search bar of all supported browsers and selecting next or go present the website and present it properly?
  • What happens if an unsupported browser is used?
  • Is the information on the website clear and easy to understand?
  • Do all the links on the website work?
  • Is all valid data that is entered accepted and properly processed?
  • Is all invalid data that is entered flagged, and are the presented messages about the invalid entries clear and correct?
There are, of course, many more steps and tasks that would be included in the process of testing a website. This is just a tiny sampling. But without a defined process, the risk is much higher that a malfunctioning or unusable web-based product will be released. That, of course, would not be a good thing.

But process is not just needed for testing. It is necessary in almost every aspect of business and technology.

Here’s another example:

A client asks for a new feature. What process does the company follow? If this is a major client, does the company immediately jump and do everything they can to implement this requested feature, or do they have a process in place for reviewing and evaluating all new enhancement requests, no matter the source of the request? Hopefully there is a process in place, it is a good process, and it is followed. Perhaps the process would include:
  • Elicit more details about the request (as needed).
  • Evaluate the enhancement request against planned enhancements.
  • Determine if the request impacts (positively or negatively) other parts of the product or scheduled enhancements.
  • Prioritize the request.
  • … and so on.
If no process exists other than to jump and add the feature without fully understanding the request or its impact, negative results are highly likely.

One more example:

A client reports an issue with a product. Is there a help desk with a process in place to first see if similar issues have been reported in the past, and to instantly see the recommended steps to resolving the issue -- or is each issue report treated as if this was the first time the issue was reported? If the latter, then lots of redundant work is likely occurring, along with taking resources away from other tasks to work on solving an issue that has previously been solved.

The above are just a few examples of why process is important.

So, does your company/division/team have defined business and technology processes, or does stuff just happen? If stuff just happens, maybe it’s time to look at defining and implementing process.


Richard Kuper is a senior business and technology writer, editor, and analyst. He is also the President and CEO of NY SPIN, New York’s Software and Systems Process Improvement Network.