First-hand experience shows how process modeling can help

Carlos A Soto, GCN Reviews Editor

If you've ever worked with process and business modeling software, chances are you've felt like a character in a Dilbert cartoon.

At first sight, this software looks like a couple of shapes connected to other shapes by lines and arrows, with seemingly random words in each shape.

I had this awkward feeling about modeling software until I started to model the GCN Lab and our reviews process.

The purpose of modeling software is to answer questions. What if our inventory computer crashes? What if Sara from accounting leaves? What if we get new software or orders, or the parts we need to complete this project don't arrive in time?
These questions that keep hundreds of managers awake at night can be answered through the implementation of modeling software. How?

Let me give you an example. Shortly after finishing my modeling experiment, I started to use modeling software when testing and writing stories. It happened that my next review was going to be about a new piece of software I'd never used before.

As I began to organize, map and outline the process of reviewing the software, I noticed an irregularity when I matched the portfolio management project for this software against our GCN enterprise model. The new software was incompatible with our network.

At that time, the GCN Lab had been operating on a Windows NT 4.0 network, and the software I was supposed to start reviewing only worked in networks running Windows 2000 or newer versions.

Knowing this saved time and effort by giving us a holistic view of the project and consequently showed us that it would be more efficient to upgrade our networks before conducting the review.

I've seldom encountered software incompatible with NT 4.0, and the nature of the software had led me to believe I wouldn't need the network to test it. So I would have overlooked this requirement if I hadn't been using process modeling software.

We're not only using modeling software to increase efficiency in testing but also in our shipping, benchmark and storage procedures. Now I can create a portfolio of a product review and match it to see how it affects our shipping, storing and reviewing procedures.

Even before we start a review, we can now tell when the product is to arrive, how long we will have it, what benchmarks need to be installed and initiated, how long the testing will last, where the product is in our storage facility and the day it has to be shipped back.

Without even taking a product out of the box I can see what will happen if it breaks and whether it's compatible with our network or I need to establish a dedicated computer system to interface with the product separately from our main network.

The more complicated your work gets, the more modeling software can help.

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