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Diamonds Aren't Forever...

When people look at Enate’s process models, I hear one question more than any other – “Why are there are so few diamonds?!”

People are used to seeing business process diagrams littered with diamonds - which indicate a decision point in the process. Over the years I’ve seen far too many diagrams that look like a drunken spider has walked all over the page – decision points are everywhere, and they create a web of different routes for a process to take.

diamonds diagram

As a communications tool they’re at best semi-effective (because there’s so much complexity built in), and at worst something that just lives in a drawer because nobody can understand it!

At Enate, we analysed why people allocate decision points in a process in the first place, and whether there was a way to create a simpler, more understandable business process diagram, with no drunken spiders in sight. Here are five common problems we found:

  1. Businesses are trying to force two processes into one model. A good example of this is invoice processing – models typically have a big diamond asking, ‘have we got a purchase order or not?’. The path almost completely splits at that point because you do so many things differently with a purchase order vs without. It’s better to have more diagrams that are simple, over one that includes so much complexity.
  2. We’re making too much of the fact that multiple people can do the same task. The problem with putting a decision point in any time that a task could be handled by different workers, is that it immediately looks like you’re doing something different. Actually, the task is the same, so you’re not even getting correct information from your model.
  3. Diamonds are being used to describe variance, not real decisions. If you’ve got an HR process which you have to carry out differently in Belgium vs France, say, then diamonds are appearing all over the map to split off into the ‘Belgian route’ and then to come back together where the two processes become common again. Again, there’s a clear need to simply have separate diagrams when there is a point of significant variance within just one model.
  4. People are using diamonds to ask irrelevant questions. Too many marketing teams are flagging ‘decision points’ where they just want to ask questions about the process. ‘Did we do something wrong?’, ‘What do we have to go back to?’, ‘What do we skip to next?’. It’s completely obfuscating individual understanding of the ‘happy path’, which of course is what should we be trying to do.
  5. Flexible processes are creating masses of decisions. When case managers make a decision in certain processes, there might be ten or eleven different things they can do. So, you might get ten or eleven different diamonds appearing on your diagram – the drunken spiders are now on steroids and you’re left with no clue as to what is really happening.

At Enate, we thought very carefully about every one of these issues and worked out ways to eliminate them or communicate them more effectively. The end result is that when you’re using Enate, you see beautifully clean and simple happy paths, like this:

Flow 1Look good? If you want to learn more, come and book a demo with one of our team.

David Carron, Product Owner, Enate.

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