MANY READERS OF THIS BOOK WILL BE LOOKING INTO THE DISCIPLINE OF PROCESS IMPROVEMENT FOR the first time. But even if this area is new to them, most readers should be pretty much experts in more than one realm of information technology, perhaps programming, project management, or quality control; maybe architecture, design, or implementation; or, still yet, management, strategic planning, or performance analysis. Those kinds of backgrounds are invaluable when it comes to understanding the roles process improvement can play in organizational success. And they are essential for making the case for process improvement.
In fact, if you are what might be called the "typical" reader of this book, you may well understand more about the potential for process in your organization than most. The reason is simple. Process improvement is about improving the way the organization works. When it comes to that work, you're a pro.
Process is not (or should not be) about adopting new "things" blindly and then hoping that those things do whatever it is they're supposed to do. It should not be a series of new practices that represent what the "industry" says you should be doing. That is the antithesis of the process improvement philosophy. Process is about taking your approach to work and formalizing it into a program others can follow.
At its heart, process improvement is about four basic activities:
Those four steps are about as basic as you can get, but they bring me to an important point. Your expertise as a programmer, a manager, an analystthese are all keys to the success of your organization's process improvement efforts. Your knowledge, experience, and insight should be the crucial components that will form the foundation of your improvement program. Without those, the program has nothing to stand on. And in their absence, even the most recognized of programslike ISO 9001, CMMI, and Six Sigmaare just words on paper.
Those who do not seek to take advantage of what the organization already does well (its habits, knowledge, experience, and insight)those people who prefer to wipe the slate cleanare missing a critical element to process improvement success.
Given that, I can now take a first step toward making the case for process in any technology organization. And the first point toward that goal is that you are the process.