Someone once said – ‘If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’
I saw a presentation by the founders of ‘Visicalc’ [the forerunner to Excel] at the ComputerHistoryMuseum. They never dreamed that anyone would use their software for anything but numbers.
For all of us Excel users, look at all the different ways you are using Excel. This is the best example I can think of as the only tool in your toolbox.
Early on, companies that want to manage [improve] their processes will go to their toolbox and pull out something like Excel, Word or Visio and will find a way to make this tool ‘fit’ their needs.
There are some pluses.
Even though you are attempting to use the wrong tool to manage your processes, you will learn a lot. Your first attempt at managing your processes will be flawed. So, you will begin your own improvement activities.
There are some minuses.
Your selected tool – Excel, Word or Visio – will not be able to automate activities. However, using these tools will highlight activities that could or should be automated.
These tools are passive. If someone does not interact with the tool, you will not have visibility into what is happening within a process.
BPM tools provide control and visibility.
Building on the knowledge you have gained by trying to use your ‘hammer’ to manage processes will help you when implementing business process management [BPM] software. You should have the knowledge to put together a good requirements document.
Control – BPM software has a workflow component that allows you to impart business rules. This allows you to control your process.
Visibility – Since this software is built on a relational database, you are able to generate queries that show you what is going on with your process. At any time, you can see who is working on what and how it is progressing.
I don’t have a problem with someone starting out using a hammer, but the next tool in their toolbox needs to be the right tool for the right job.