A picture (of a process) is worth a thousand words #bpm

In today’s news, Luminate, a Mountain View, California-based company received $18M in funding from top investors including Google Ventures to expand their technology to tag pictures with information and functionality that can be accessed by a simple mouse over. Why does this matter? Because people respond to pictures better than text. There are millions of pictures in our online world that could be a source of information or inspiration, and Luminate can change them into powerful gateway for commerce. A picture is a perfect gateway to hearts and minds.

Power in pictures

Some say they prefer text, but studies show that people even think in pictures.  We immediately recognizes a sports team logo, a country’s flag, the McDonalds M, and the Mona Lisa. They are simple visual images that convey meaning, an experience, and passion. Many businesses ‘brand’ an important project with its own logo to help team members and stakeholders recognize the effort that brings value. Images convey meaning quickly. They are efficient.

Simplicity

UPS is the largest package delivery company (and likely soon to be the largest logistics company) on the planet and has access to some of the greatest process experts in the World. At 104 years old, they’ve had opportunity to bureaucratize process and create greater complexity than we can imagine. But they haven’t. They use a very simple notation to capture, improve and communicate business process to the masses. Their highly complex operation is only understood when expressed in simple visuals. No swim lanes, no BPMN…it is efficient.

Complexity

Not to pick on BPMN, but complex notation is just the opposite of simple when in the hands of the non-expert. It confuses and hides meaning behind its complexity.  So why does it persist as a way for experts to communicate to end-users? Because experts are often in a hero role, and as someone commented on my recent post about heroics versus mastery, “Heroes generally tend to keep their skills to themselves.” Masters, on the other hand, share their knowledge (think:  Master Po of the Kung Fu television series in the early 70’s). If we want to build mastery in our organizations, we make communications clear and in a language readily understood by all like UPS does.

Picture-enabled search

Pictures also help us to quickly find what we’re looking for. Typing and reading text as a way of finding key information is quickly becoming old school, and for good reason. Images as a way to go directly to the information necessary to get work done is arguably the greatest time saver and thus the greatest return on investment available to industry.

Visual technology

The possibilities for combining technologies are endless…imagine being able to scan a QR Code, pull up a picture, gain access to information and be able to then perform a series of activities based on the simple visual cues that result. The proliferation of connected devices means that business process can be communicated and consumed in ways that don’t require keyboards, monitors and cables. It is simply the next step in information access that has moved from the cave wall, to green screens, to iPads.

How visual are your processes? Are you ready for the future?

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Categories: Workplace Reality

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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4 Comments on “A picture (of a process) is worth a thousand words #bpm”

  1. Bob Forloines
    July 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I agree. Pictures and especially pictures that express relationships are so readily comprehended and remembered…and fast! And, they level the playing field so that all viewers can (and will make the effort to) grasp the story. It would be such a breakthrough if we could harness the leading edge thinking on communications and social engagement for business process descriptions/ designs.

  2. April 27, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    Great article, any examples of how UPS represent their complex flows in a simple way? I find when large processes are mapped, representation naturally becomes complex

    • April 27, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      Souvik, from UPS’ Linda McCain, the manager responsible for UPS’ method of mapping complex flows in a simple way:

      HI Souvik,
      I will try to summarize this but to also lend some level of detail to simply answer your question. The way we represent complex processes simply is to use hierarchical structure, much like a paper outline, and the APQC Process Classification Framework to “build out” the processes of the entire organization.
      Departmentally, we have the Process Center of Excellence, my team, focused on the documentation and analysis of high and mid-level strategic, enterprise (end-to-end) processes. Our next area of responsibility, we train other UPSers across our entire organization, who I would informally refer to as functional process analysts, to detail and focus on mid to task level processes. We have also set up and oversee, a centralized process map library that everyone can place their process maps into in order to piece together the picture of the entire enterprise.
      By having numerous people capturing numerous perspectives of all of UPS, together we are able to simply display and understand the enterprise from a strategic to task level depending on the needs of the audience. You only get the complexity of the process by drilling down into the strategic categories (that paper outline I referred to earlier) completely on need by accessing the process map library and pulling out that detail document (AKA: process map).

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  1. A picture (of a process) is worth a thousand words #bpm (via BPM For Real) « Ovations Group Blog - July 28, 2011

    […] In today's news, Luminate, a Mountain View, California-based company received $18M in funding from top investors including Google Ventures to expand their technology to tag pictures with information and functionality that can be accessed by a simple mouse over. Why does this matter? Because people respond to pictures better than text. There are millions of pictures in our online world that could be a source of information or inspiration, and Lumi … Read More […]

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