17/06/2021 | Written by Nela Lazarevic
Interview with Francesco Falcolini, Business Analytics Consultant at Quin
BPMN standard represents a common language between business analysts, consultants, and IT professionals who handle process automation. What’s your experience with the use of the standard compared to other available methods and tools?
Francesco Falcolini: We’ve always used BPMN, even before adopting Cardanit. We find BPMN to be extremely useful, and we always propose it to our clients. The main advantage of BPMN is that it allows us to represent very complex processes in a compact, but hierarchical manner. We prefer it to other available standards because it’s more complete. BPMN allows us to model complex processes realistically, especially when complemented by the DMN standard, which allows us to represent decisions in a much more straightforward way. Finally, BPMN makes it easy to automate processes, taking into account the elements of the process from the operational point of view, including messages and connections between different roles.
Quin mainly works with Italian companies. How widely spread is the use of BPMN among your clients?
Francesco Falcolini: The BPMN standard is internationally widely spread, but I’d say that it is still underutilized in Italy. Individuals in charge of process management tend to be scared of the perceived complexity of the standard at first, which is why they resort to the use of basic flowcharts.
Working with simple flowcharts, you end up with enormous sheets that are either printed or shared on the companies’ intranet. Needless to say, these are difficult to utilize. Flowcharts are much more limited because they don’t allow for a precise and user-friendly representation of processes in the way that BPMN does.
BPMN might appear complex at first sight, but it’s actually quite easy to grasp even for individuals who don’t have a BPM background.
Tell us about your typical consultancy process.
Francesco Falcolini: Our job is to help companies improve their processes so that they can achieve their objectives - we handle technological aspects, processes and we also perform personnel training. Our approach looks much like the typical business process management cycle. First we design the ‘as-is’ process, then we analyze it and identify the areas of improvement specifically related to the company’s goals and business model. Finally, we handle the implementation and monitoring of the ‘to-be’ process. These cycles can last from several months to several years, depending on the client and on the problem at hand. And we usually work on multiple processes at the same time.
What role does Cardanit play in these cycles?
Francesco Falcolini: Cardanit is extremely useful in the phase of designing the ‘as-is’ and the ‘to-be’ processes. Our clients appreciate the co-creation aspect - our consultants can work hands-on with our clients on modeling their processes thanks to the Cardanit collaboration features. We used to work prevalently in person with our clients, but the pandemic has made us re-evaluate the advantages of remote work so we have also used Cardanit to model processes remotely. Today, we see remote work as an added value, because it allows us to work faster. Cardanit has been an important ally that accompanied us through this transformation.
What are some of the peculiarities of mapping processes for the IT sector compared to other industries in your experience? Have you been facing some recurrent challenges that are common for IT companies?
Francesco Falcolini: The IT sector operates in a context that continuously changes by default. Agile methodology was born to handle this continuous mutation, where it is difficult to plan and coordinate according to traditional organizational methods. In IT companies that work with external clients, there can be hundreds of projects each year. Having a system in place to handle these effectively becomes crucial.
But more often than not, the organizational transformation tends to be encapsulated within the individual projects. The processes are improved in silos, missing the opportunity to standardize and implement best practices at the level of the entire organization. In our experience, companies that handle the transformation effectively are those that have created an organizational structure for handling continuous process improvement in an enterprise-wide manner.
As partners of Cardanit, you applied Quin’s experience in the field to develop a set of templates that are tailor-made for IT companies, now freely available to all registered users of Cardanit. Why did you choose to model these specific templates? What makes them replicable and widely applicable within the IT sector?
Francesco Falcolini: IT companies have recurring issues with architecture management and project management from a strategic and tactical point of view. The BPMN and DMN templates we developed connect these two aspects and we’re sure that many IT companies will benefit from them. Together with the Cardanit Product Manager, we closely studied how to design these templates so that they are scalable and useful for companies of different sizes. The elements we provide within the templates can be used as they are by a smaller IT company. They can simply add their own descriptions to the steps we provided. For a large IT company, these steps will become sub-processes. Therefore, our templates are extremely scalable, and I’d even go as far as saying that they could be easily adapted for companies that operate in other industries.
In the white paper we co-created, available in Italian and in English, you described how Quin used Cardanit to improve processes of an IT company. Can you summarize the role Cardanit played in this project?
Francesco Falcolini: We based the ‘to-be’ process on the awareness that some of its aspects were in an underdeveloped state. The co-creation made possible by Cardanit was a crucial aspect that determined the success of the project. Our client appreciated very much the possibility to co-model the processes with our consultants. Also, we made good use of the automatic report available in Cardanit, publishing it on the client’s intranet as the official process manual. Last but not least, the availability of the DMN standard within Cardanit was crucial. It allowed us to model decisions concerning project approval. DMN made it easy to collect the necessary input and share it. We were able to produce an extremely clear and compact model thanks to DMN. Without the decision modeling notation, we’d have to recur to a much more complex model at the expense of readability.
How common is the discrepancy between the ‘to-be’ processes modeled on paper and their actual implementation in your experience? What are the steps companies can take to ensure actual implementation of improved business process models?
Francesco Falcolini: This is quite a recurring problem. There is a tangible risk that improved process models remain just a piece of paper while everyone in the company continues to operate as they were used to. To avoid this, we advise companies to:
- Assign responsibilities within the organization to handle and monitor continuous process improvement
- Tie the improved process to measurable data and KPIs, which will allow them to keep track of the progress.
Process mining is our go-to technique in this area, since it applies data analysis to ensure continuous process improvement. Without these steps in place, it is virtually impossible to implement and track process improvement effectively.