Activity Mapping, IDEF and the BMC

Completing the business model canvas requires you to identify  the key activities of the prospective new enterprise. In other words, these are the processes which, together, realise the goals of the business. Once the key activities or key processes have been described, it is then possible to derive key resources, key partners, and costs. There is a well established method of defining or describing processes and from there establishing key resources and key partners, and this is generally known as IDEF (more here). IDEF stands for Integration Definition for Function Modeling and is a particular approach to process or systems mapping based on a more general methodology called SADT or structured Analysis and (systems) design technique. IDEF is often used in information management system design or knowledge mangement systems, but has more general application in systems design, especiually manufacturing systems, and in business process re-engineering (BPR). I firmly believe that IDEF should be considered part of the BMC conceptual or learning tools set. I’ve set out the main elements in the diagram below, which is an instrument of learning.

idef new Essentially, this is an input-output diagram or system diagram. It can be used to ascertain the resources required to do each task and to what standard. First, according to this model, inputs are not a resource. For example, money is not a resource, although it is an input. An enterprise converts money into resources using resources. Information is a resource, as are people, tools and machines (capital equipment) and buildings or spaces. IDEF is a model of control or regulation. Information is usually considered to be what is required to control or direct a process toward its desirable output or result. However, it is the combination of people and tools, or people working with tools (real and conceptual) that control most processes ( i.e., with exception of automated processes). Another way of considering resources is that they give structure to the process, they contain or constrain the process or act to guide the process. It is through structure that control/regulation is achieved and maintained.

A process is a set or series of activities configured in series or parrallel or both or   a network of inter-related and interdependent acts or actions or tasks. For each activity-task box there is an input and an output. Joining them up by linking outputs with inputs in one big diagram is called activity or process mapping, or a flow diagram or chart. An input is turned into an output by the application of resources such as machines and people. Control of the process is done through information or knowledge about how to do the task, the standard or regulations within which it must be done, details of the output, e.g., what it should look like, how it should perform. The human resources should also have a knowledge of the raw material, the input. For example, to achieve the output specification raw material of the right qualities will be required.

When you are creating a business model you have to anticipate the informational or knowledge resources required in the same way as you anticipate having the right person (with appropriate knowledge and skill) with the right equipment to enable you to do whatever you desire to be done. The person(s) doing the tasks must have the control information or knowledge  ‘in their heads’ or be mindful that it exists, knowing that it should be referred to when needed. Of course, we are all blind to our own ignorance and that’s why we should be grateful when someone tells us of it (in fact, that’s one way in which we learn from others). Posters, notices, and such, all serve as a gentle reminder of what needs to be known, and can be used in addition to verbal reminders. These are part of the ‘space of operations’ just as much as furniture. Notice the importance Google Inc attaches to working space here.

The diagram below gives some indication of the questions you need to ask once you have key activities or processes in mind.

useofIDEF 2

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