PIPaL: JISC BCE at Loughborough

3.6 Process Mapping Exercise

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The approach to process mapping developed for the JISC project should prove highly valuable as we move forward to take a broader and deeper look at institutional practices. Even from the relatively small number of processes we studied, it was clear that things were often more complex than they needed to be. The diagram below demonstrates this general principle by showing some of the steps involved in the production and distribution of the University’s undergraduate prospectus.

In reality the process is far more complicated, and student recruitment more generally takes in the likes of student “ambassadors” visiting schools and prospective student visits to the University. In our primary context of Business and Community Engagement there are direct parallels with the benefits that accrue from “networking” events and groups such as the Innovation Networks[1] set up under the auspices of emda, the East Midlands Development Agency.

We also found a number of processes that appeared mercifully simple, until one considered the steps required to gather the information being used in the process.  A good example of this is the process followed by DARO when conducting an alumni telephone campaign:

This seems to be an almost trivial process, until one considers the effort required to maintain the contact information for each of the 150,000 registered Loughborough Alumni.  This issue of where to draw the line when mapping out a business process turned out to be a common theme across the programme of Relationship Management projects, and was neatly summarised in a blog posting[2] from Sharon Perry of the Relationship Management Support and Synthesis project.

Similarly, the process map below illustrates the difficulties of providing information to senior management where the data is held by different units in disjoint databases, with few opportunities to correlate.  In reality the recursion involved could be almost infinite as more individuals are consulted!

Another apparently simple process, the distribution of the University’s Annual Report, contains a deceptive element:

Without a coordinated approach to recording and maintaining contact details, it is almost inevitable that some people will receive multiple copies of such publications, and others will cease to receive them as they change address or move on to work for another organization.  A tacit assumption on most people’s part would be that informing “the University” a of change of   name or address would result in any and all references to that information being updated.  However, this is difficult to do without the common customer database discussed above.

Workflow is another requirement for successful Relationship Management:

This process map tries to capture the situation whereby a junior member of staff discusses advancement with a potential benefactor, and refers them upwards due to the magnitude of the gift involved.  In the past these “Major Gifts” have included the establishment of Chairs and even the funding for new University buildings, and such situations must be handled with great delicacy.   In a well implemented Relationship Management system workflow also applies in numerous (and more pedestrian) day-to-day scenarios.

Then there are also processes that defy characterization.  One such example is shown below – the process that the Enterprise Office follows when entering into a consultancy contract between an Academic and an outside company.

The reality of the situation is that no two consultancy engagements are created alike, and it would be easy to draw up a number of alternative permutations of the diagram above – particularly where intellectual property is a key factor.  This highlights a certain flawed assumption in the process mapping approach, in that there will inevitably be processes (and perhaps critical ones) that cannot be reduced to a simple flowchart.  This should not be regarded as a failure.


[1] http://www.eminnovation.org.uk/

[2] http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/accessibility/2009/12/15/modelling-how-do-you-know-when-to-stop/

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Written by Martin Hamilton

September 4, 2010 at 8:45 am

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