What is the illusion of transparency

Business software

Which managing director or manager would not want complete transparency about everything that happens in a company? According to the experts, transparency is also one of the many advantages that business process management can generate. This includes, for example, the documentation of the following information:

  • Overview and description of all processes that take place in a company;

  • the associated responsibilities and dependencies;

  • involved system and other operating and auxiliary resources;

  • Input and output of the processes;

  • Risks, weak points, disruptive factors, measured variables, key figures.

As a rule, this can be implemented quite well in theory as well as in practice:

  • Process architectures define standards and specifications for documentation and for BPM.

  • Process landscapes offer overviews with different views of defined levels of detail and structure.

  • BPM tools support documentation, process modeling, reporting and many other tasks and functions.

However, practice often fails on one essential point: this information only ensures transparency if it is complete and up-to-date. On closer inspection, unfortunately, you usually quickly discover that the processes and associated information are not, and that there is only - if at all - a conditional transparency. This lack of transparency in turn leads to limited flexibility and high costs.

Out of date information

At the beginning there is often great enthusiasm: When introducing business process management or corresponding tools, you begin carefully to record all processes, coordinate them and document them with all the necessary information. A work for eternity, one would sometimes assume. However, the zeal usually quickly subsides in day-to-day business. And there are some other factors that quickly make the documented processes "look old":

  • Responsibilities and competencies change, but are not recorded.

  • Projects change processes, but these changes are not documented or even not communicated at all.

  • Employees optimize their processes themselves and are constantly developing; all of this works more automatically and is not updated in the process descriptions.

  • It is the same with the use of (IT) tools and software. You can quickly build and use your own Excel list or even use new tools that nobody else knows about.

Undocumented processes

Another problem that usually arises quickly as soon as the BPM is to run in day-to-day business: processes are not documented at all. This can also have many different reasons:

  • Processes are usually only recorded and documented in the context of projects.

  • Projects and BPM day-to-day business run separately and do not work together. Processes that are developed or changed in projects do not even get into day-to-day business.

  • In day-to-day business, the use of the documentation for the user is neither available nor comprehensible. The result is that you resist the documentation.

  • Unnecessary formalism or complicated process modeling creates resistance among the employees who are supposed to document the processes.

A lack of transparency means a lack of flexibility

Outdated and undocumented processes or process information inevitably mean that the pursuit of transparency is an almost unsolvable mission. And can also lead to a rat tail of other problems. Because a lack of transparency also means that you are severely limited in your flexibility and ability to act. Something that you can hardly afford in today's competitive pressure and in times of constant new trends and challenges.

In addition, outdated and out-of-date process information can have direct financial consequences. Actions and actions that are based on the wrong basis may lead to:

  • Delayed or extended project times

  • Unnecessary rework

  • Error in the execution of the processes

Measures to improve

But all of this can be prevented. As already mentioned above, the structuring of the processes is a suitable measure to form the basic structure of the documentation. This also includes defining what is documented in which form. Open or not yet documented processes should definitely be recorded and planned for documentation. The well-known traffic light system can best be used here for visual representation.

  1. Requirements for BPM tools
    A BPM project should be planned with a clear focus on the benefits to be achieved; the tools required for implementation should then be selected. In turn, the following requirements arise for the selection of a suitable tool:

  2. Definition of a layer architecture for mapping variants.

  3. Dynamic case management for mapping processes, dependencies or ad hoc process management.

  4. Model-driven development of all artifacts - case, process, UI, or rules - for a better understanding of the future application by the business user.

  5. Support and integration of all channels such as mobile, web, social, POS or CRM.

  6. Collaboration support for close cooperation between business and IT.

In order to keep the processes up-to-date, it is advisable to set regular review dates for the individual processes. By then at the latest, the associated documents should be checked again thoroughly, including consideration of the interfaces and peripheral processes.

A method that is emerging but still rarely used is social BPM. There all users can comment on existing process descriptions and suggest improvements. If something is no longer up-to-date, you can usually find out very quickly this way.


The often prophesied transparency through Business Process Management is unfortunately often more appearance than reality. In reality, processes are often not documented at all or are out of date. Or are revised in projects without the relevant process owners even noticing. As a result, companies often give away valuable potential. And in the worst case, even cause additional costs. Because transparency about one's own processes and relationships in the company is one of the most important factors in order to remain flexible and capable of acting as a company. A few simple measures and methods may not give you complete transparency, but you can certainly get enough. (sh)