By Peter Muya
Two concepts were heavily used during last year’s presidential election petition, namely ‘process’ and ‘event’. I would like to delve deeper on their meaning and application in the context of running an enterprise. Someone said that when something looks so obvious, it may not be obvious at it looks. Therefore I am of the opinion that we have a lot to learn by unpacking these terms.
An event is an occurrence of significance. Generally, an event has characteristics such as when, where, organized by who or why it exists. We have events like birth, death, weddings and graduation. However, events are not perpetual. They are bound by the parameters above. Additionally, events do not occur in a vacuum. You could define an event but without supporting infrastructure, the event is simply wishful thinking or a dream.
Processes on the other hand are to a large extent the life blood of an event. Without processes, an event is dead. Events can trigger multiple processes that are interrelated to meet their objectives or aspirations. However, the statement above is somewhat a misnomer. A process by itself is latent. It is a label. It’s like the transmission and ignition system of a car that is parked. Supposing you used the car yesterday to go to place X and you want to use it today to go to place Y. The event “visit place Y” would trigger the need for use of certain processes within the car to facilitate motion to location X.
Why do I say it’s a misnomer? The process is generic. Transmission system has a start and end that continues in a loop until the driver does something to stop it. However, those processes fulfill wider purposes for which the event was created. In other words, the driver is using an instance of a process to serve the event. The instance of the process is not quite the process but it is bound by the defined process. Therefore an event triggers an instance of a process to fulfill its objectives.
Therefore, I would re-state that an outcome is determined by an event which is bound by an instance of a process. The process is bound by a set of business rules wrapped around declarative procedural statements for which people and machines use to create the instance. Therefore to solve a mathematical sum, you need an event say “Math paper 1 for Exam E on 26th Sep 2017” and then instantiate the process of solving that sum using business rules created by Pythagoras for instance. Depending on how you instantiate the process, it may or may not or may partially violate the rules set by the formula.
Therefore, the evaluator would examine the extent to which your event instantiated a process to achieve or solve a problem. Most of the time, there is a percentage margin of error in an instance of a process especially where humans are involved. Note, an instance of a process that has no traceable event could be considered a phantom or rogue. For example, when you discover you have some lump growing in your body that is cancerous, that is a case of a phantom process. No one can really pinpoint an event that instantiated abnormal growth in your cells.
The point is, an event is as important as a process and both are dependent on each other. There can be no outcome (good or bad) without an instance of a process that is triggered by an event. Good outcome depends on clearly defined events, consistent instances of processes that are bound by business rules which are fairly stable in definition. This would then set a culture that is strictly guided by certainty even where exceptions occur. Exceptions should be handled within an instance of a process rather than the process.
The best way to make fundamental changes to business rules or processes is by examining different instances of those processes that have been triggered by different events. If there is a pattern that creates a business case for revision, then it should be done in a coherent and holistic manner. Otherwise, kneejerk reaction to an instance that produced an undesired outcome would continually upset the maturity of the process that is being defended.
About the Author
Peter Muya, is an award enterprise transformation practitioner, possessing 17years experience conducting mid and large-scale transformation projects in the telecommunications, financial services and public sector industries. He is the co-founder and a managing partner of PTI Consulting, a pan-African consulting practice providing ICT related business advisory services