How to Align IT to a Business Process and Vice Versa

Michael Vizard
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IT is a great business tool when people actually understand the business process that needs to be automated. But the problem in far too many organizations is that nobody is exactly sure what the business process is. They know what's supposed to happen, but they don't know exactly in order what's supposed to happen when.

And, of course, even if they know what is happening, it's probably not really what they want to have happening.

To help address all these "business alignment" issues, Oracle has updated a process documentation tool called Tutor that helps an organization construct a business process. The nice thing about it is that people can use a visual tool such as Microsoft Visio to construct a basic business process, which can then automatically export that process into Tutor. The process documentation tool will then construct something that Oracle application software can understand, which ultimately yields an implementation of Oracle software that resembles something the business actually wants to do.


According to Dave Shaffer, Oracle vice president of product management, the latest version of Tutor adds a new portal that gives IT organizations a handy place to store all the business processes. That way, instead of starting over every time somebody wants to adjust a business process, the IT organization doesn't have to start over.

Somewhere in every company there is a set of paper documents that purports to show how critical business processes are supposed to work. The problem is that this "business process bible" was created years ago, so all the processes in it are by definition out of date. Business processes are supposed to be living, breathing things that adjust to changing conditions over time. That can't really happen if all the business processes are locked up in an artifact that nobody ever looks at anymore.

There are, of course, new tools out there that will automatically discover existing business processes. But as most folks in IT will tell you, using IT to make something that is broken go faster is not the ideal use of an IT investment. So maybe the very best thing any company can do before they invest in their next major IT project is to sit down with a fresh piece of "digital paper" to define what business process they actually want to have happen, and then secondarily assume that whatever it is they are doing is going to change every 30 days or so. And while they're at it, they should assume that the business process is going to have a lot of exceptions because a process at the end of the day is a set of rules, which all have exceptions.

The good news is that once you take that approach, two interesting things will happen. First, you'll discover what the best business processes actually are for the company, and secondarily, a certain amount of agility will naturally creep into the systems that support those processes. That may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many people struggle with basic "business alignment issues" when it comes to enterprise IT.

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