Monday, March 30, 2009

Process vs. Neglect

What’s the opposite of the word “process”? Neglect. That’s right – “neglect”.

That is how defines, as the antonym, for the word “process” when used as a verb. When I saw this, I was completely blown away by how simply and elegantly the opposite of the word provides a perfect summarization of the consequences of poor process implementation.

Therefore, it can be neatly summarized, “if you are implementing poor processes in your business, you are neglecting your business”.

Let us consider more closely how the implementation of structured processes benefit an organization and remove “neglect”.

We may begin our contemplation by deliberating on the performance of a task in an organization with proper processes in place vs. the performance of a task in an organization without proper processes in place. A good example for a process to consider that most readers would be familiar with would be the Change Management process. Therefore, let us consider the task of making a change in the two types of organizations described above. The steps involved in a typical change management process would be along the lines of the following list:

  • Submission and recording of the proposed change

  • Initial acceptance or rejection of the change based on completeness of the submission

  • Classification of the change (categorization and prioritization)

  • Detailed analysis of the proposed change for final approval and implementation plan

  • Implementation of the change

  • Evaluation of the implemented change and closure

The figure below illustrates the creation of an organization matrix that represents the change management steps. (Click on the picture for a larger version)

The crosses represent the interaction between a step and a stakeholder or team of the indicated department or function (as ITIL defines it) indicating where someone performs an activity required for the successful completion of the task. This figure shows the implementation of a change when a 6 step change management process is followed. It may be observed that there is a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of the teams and stakeholders concerned. Furthermore, a certain degree of repeatability is guaranteed with this setup. If a project manager leaves and someone else takes his place, the same steps will be followed with similar results.

Now let us consider the change in an organization where processes are poorly implemented as shown in the figure below:

The outstanding points here are that there are fewer steps and lesser involvement of functions and stakeholders to the point of absurdity. To describe the situation in more detail, after a change is recorded, design implements it as per their convenience and there is some QA involved after which the change is released without a formal release step. While this shorter process might superficially seem like it requires less work and is more efficient, the pitfalls are numerous and dangerous. The major drawbacks are:

  • A high likelihood of introduction of defects or undesirable side effects to the system due to lack of communication and analysis of the change

  • Further risk of issues that may crop up over time due to lack of post implementation evaluation and closure

  • Risk of problems to associated interdependent systems due to inadequate analysis of the change

  • Lack of documentation and historical archiving that could make related changes in the future easier and more efficient to implement

  • Extremely vulnerable to chaos, inefficiency and defects if multiple changes are being made simultaneously

  • Quality and timeliness of the task is dependent on the project manager and/or other stakeholders. If there is a staff fallout, there can be very severe consequences.

The drawbacks outlined above are specific to the poor implementation of the change management process. In a similar fashion, poor implementation (or lack) of other processes leads to related problems and defects within those process areas. These, then, ultimately result in large amounts of rework required to be performed which lead to cost and scheduling overruns. Furthermore, defects being delivered to customers will cause a tarnishing of the organizations image and lead to reduced sales. All of this will then hurt the bottom line: revenue and profits.

It is, therefore, clear that a conscientious and detailed implementation of industry standard processes by an organization leads to reduced problems, enhanced quality, improved sales and increased revenue and profits. Poor implementation of processes is simply inexcusable neglect.


  1. Vivek,
    Great article. It's very informative. Do you have any such info on the topic "Release Management" that you can share with us?

  2. Hi Rani,

    Thank you for your kind words.
    Perhaps I will cover Release Management in detail in the future.
    For now the steps to perform a Release would be:

    1) Creation of a Release Policy
    2) Planning of the Release
    3) Develop the Software
    4) Build and Configure the Release
    5) Beta testing
    6) Release Acceptance
    7) Roll-out Planning
    8) Communications Preparation & Training
    9) Distribution and installation

    Hope that helps,