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The Garage-Sale principle and process-centricity

Ignoring the Whole is like a caller saying "Excuse me, but is this nine, four, three, seven, eight, five, four?" and a math professor responding "No, yes, no, yes, yes, no, no."

People and teams often do not see the Whole. And the result is not hilarious like the professor's response. When enterprises and software vendors do not see the Whole, the result is technology silos and poor business-IT alignment.

In The Back of the Napkin: Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures, author Dan Roam introduces The Garage-Sale Principle. "How do we even know what we've got? Regardless of how well organized all the stuff in our garage may be, laying everything out on tables in the light of day yields a completely new perspective on it all. The same is true of data: When it is packed away in individual files and records, it's impossible to look at the big picture -- but getting everything out in the open makes otherwise invisible connections visible ... great ideas emerged as people really looked at everything for the first time."

Business process centric software development uses this principle. Rather than merely "capture" the requirements for the software to be developed, process-centric approach makes you look at what I call "the process landscape." This landscape comprises not only touchpoint processes and applications, but those business processes sitting in user interfaces! In short, process-centricity brings it all out in the open -- a crucial step missed in software projects.

Check out the business process centric approach here.


  1. Any research has been done on what makes people not follow a process-centric approach?

    One observation I made in software projects: team is driven by tasks assigned to them and there is pressure to complete it on time. There is not much incentive to see the big picture or to do a process optimization before starting an application development.

    Also organizations are traditionally function oriented and do not have end-to-end process visibility. For example if a project manager make a resource request, there is hardly any visibility on the status of that request.

    What could be the several barriers for taking a process-centric approach? In fact all the Quality frameworks I know promote a process view. Even with so many quality initiatives around, why is that it is not taking roots. Does it mean that the key people in the organizations are not yet aware of the power of process centric approach? Or is it because, the traditional way of rewarding short-term gains and individual accomplishments acting as a barrier?

  2. Thomas, thanks for sharing some reasons why business process orientation is inadequate or missing in software projects. Could you also point us to some of the Quality frameworks that you say promote a business process view?


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