Swimming track method

    There is such a thing in the world called “business programming”. I haven't told you about her yet. And not sure that you will be interested.

    Business programming is the programming of a business as a system. Here you program something? Service there, site, mobile application, corporate system. She worked, did not touch anyone, and you - once, and changed something, and it became better, faster, more convenient. Well, or ... Anything can happen.

    Similarly, you can change the business, the principles are the same. Only there are differences in the details. For example, there are people who don’t want to do a damn thing. And they don't even want to listen to you. And in general, they do not want anything but pay, a series about cops and a brewer.

    In short, the article is experimental. Like it - I'll write more. I have a whole textbook on business programming. Do not like it - to hell with him, survive. So, drove.

    The ability to analyze and optimize processes is one of the key for a business programmer. And it so successfully coincided that working with processes is the simplest, most understandable and easily reproducible part of the entire business programming methodology.

    Probably because the internal processes of the enterprise, in essence, are very similar to the processes occurring in engineering systems, including in application solutions, such as 1C configurations. Everywhere there is a start, finish, actions, performers, conditions, transitions and returns. In software, of course, performers are not people, but a wider set of objects — documents, modules, servers, various programs, nodes of a distributed system, etc.

    The similarity of the principles of operation of processes generates an important conclusion - the methods of optimization are in many respects identical, as well as the requirements for the processes. For example, both human and software process must go fast. The person does not want to wait for the execution of the application to the next unit for more than a day, and the chief accountant does not want to wait for the calculation of the cost price for more than 15 minutes.

    The publication you are reading is an excerpt from a business programming textbook. It is most likely different from my previous publications, since not entertaining, motivating or provoking. This is only a statement of a concrete, understandable, simple and easily applicable method.

    Swimming track method

    The swimming track method is a good tool for analyzing processes. This is the analytical method, since he does not say what needs to be changed in the process, but allows you to quickly and easily see potential sources of problems.

    Mostly applicable to cross-functional processes - those involving two or more functional units, or teams - in general, where the process goes through some boundaries.

    Consider an example. Suppose we have a certain process - purchases under the order. The sales manager received a request from the client, the purchasing manager had to find suppliers, find out prices and terms, coordinate them with our seller, get an invoice for payment, give it to the finance department, agree with them and the supplier on payment terms, place an order to the supplier, and wait until completion - payment and, in fact, the arrival of the necessary goods.

    Suppose the customer, i.e. sales manager, indicated the problems of the process, in the philistine language. The key problem is the speed problem - it’s too long to wait for the execution of the purchase order. When the process is completed, and the order is created for the supplier, there are no particular problems - suppliers are reliable, they rarely fail. But the stages of coordination, the movement of the application within the company are worthless.

    Draw a simplified diagram of this process in the form of a table.

    What can I say, looking at this process? What problems are visible - real or potential? It seems that the process is quite standard, in one form or another is found on most enterprises. Where is the speed lost?

    And one more question: how to see the potential problems of the process, not knowing the contents of the column “Action” - having information only about the performers? Conduct a sort of rapid analysis, on the fly, without immersing yourself in the details of the actions performed.

    This is where the swimming lanes method comes in handy. The name is taken by analogy with the paths in swimming pools, separated by wave absorbers - bright colored ropes, stretched to the entire length of the pool.

    In our method, tracks are different functional units. In general, it can even be different people within the same team or service.

    Let's draw the same process according to the swimming track method, leaving only the numbers of actions and performers. In our case there are three performers, the same number will be the tracks. The process goes from top to bottom, the action number is in the column of its performer.

    While clarity has not been added. It is visible only that most of all actions are carried out by the purchasing manager. Can you see potential problems in the process, where does it lose its speed, is it stuck, or is it completely lost? No, something is missing.

    Let's try to add arrows - directions of transition between actions. We denote by the solid line the main transitions, the dotted line - the auxiliary ones, in case of process failures and returns to previous actions (for example, if the seller is not satisfied with the prices offered by the supplier).

    With arrows, the process looks somewhat less readable, but in general it can be understood if you move your finger along the arrows from digit to digit. Now, looking at this picture, you can understand where the bottlenecks are? No, as long as they are not visible.

    Let us return to the analogy with swimming lanes in the pools. If you are an adult, serious and adequate person, you came to the pool to swim in plenty, to practice fifty meters of brace, who is able to distract you from this process and lose your temper? You have chosen a path that has the least amount of people, or no one at all, and are ready to have fun.

    But you are not the only one, and some clever man also dives into your path. Behind him is another one, then another and another. And now it becomes absolutely impossible to swim - you have to restrict your movements in order not to touch other people's wet hands and sides.

    You have to change the track. It seems to be okay - swam under a surge suppressor, perhaps more than once (if the free track is not adjacent to yours), and again enjoy the process. But the situation is repeated again - people have come running, and they are disturbing you again. The situation is aggravated by the influx of children who are not going to hang around all the time on the same track - they will play, fool around, dive, cross several tracks across the argument, etc.

    During the swimming session, you will have to change the track several times, sailing under a wave absorber.

    In the case of processes, a change of track is the transition of a flow of actions across borders. As a border, we have chosen functional units. In the pool you need a couple of seconds to change the track, but in the conditions of the internal processes of the enterprise, it can take hours, days, sometimes weeks to overcome.

    Let's look at the final picture of the process - the same as last time, just mark the moments of transition from one track to another with crosses.

    Total, 5 crosses on the main actions, 4 - on the auxiliary, total (maximum) - 9. Nine times the process is forced to overcome the boundaries of functional units.

    Every border crossing is a loss. Theoretically, this is a potential loss, since There are carefully tuned processes in life that flow without stammering on borders. But in practice, changing the track is always a loss in speed.

    The physical transition process will not be considered a limitation - now, in most cases, this process is automated. Applications, invoices, fees, etc. transmitted electronically, i.e. instantly.

    But the transfer of information is only the beginning of waiting at the border. Each track, i.e. division or performer, live their lives, according to their rules, regulations and internal processes. Almost everywhere the concept of queuing appears.

    The purchasing manager does not rush to evaluate each application immediately upon receipt. He has these applications - two dozen per day. Accordingly, applications are lined up for processing. If an employee is inclined to optimize his work, he will group applications - for example, he will choose the same positions for an order from several applications, and will make a request to the supplier.

    The financier, in the same way, does not work with each application individually, especially at the payment stage. Money is transferred to suppliers according to the registry, and usually once or twice a day. Accordingly, in the queue to pay the bill will stay at least one day. With a complex procedure of coordination and budgeting - for example, if applications for payment need to be submitted in a week - the process can be very seriously stuck at the border.

    Even without looking at specific positions and features of their work, there is always a delay in responding to information - at least, because a person does not see it immediately, at the time of the transfer. Few people are sitting at the computer and immediately read all incoming mail. Some people almost do not sit at the computer - the same seller can leave to meet with the client, and not take Action # 5 for 24 hours (analysis of the profitability of the transaction).

    As it was said at the beginning, the method does not answer the question “how to change the process?”, But it shows the potential problem areas very clearly. As you can see now, the method is also very simple to use.

    After a little practice, you can count the number of transition points in a few seconds, without drawing anything - just by looking at the description of the process, in whatever form it is performed.

    Some formats, or notation descriptions of processes, are especially vivid, and literally ask that someone find the tracks and transitions between them. For example, qualifications.

    The method of swimming lanes can be applied, for example, at an interview - if you come to a new company for yourself and apply for a position or activity related to processes. Just ask to show you a description of the problem processes (if the employer did not do this himself), or draw a marker on the board.

    Then, in a mysterious voice, say: “A good process, only I see here at least 12 potentially dangerous points” and show these points. Here you can briefly talk about the method, its purpose and basic principles. The answer to the question “How can you optimize this process?” Will be enough “There are several options, but you need a deeper dive into the details”

    Although, of course, you can immediately give more accurate recommendations - methods of border control, which we will discuss later.

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