Many times, you will hear or see something in the news or at work and draw conclusions based on that bit of information. In some cases, it may be all you need to formulate a decision, but are you sure you have the information in the right context?

    We all do this on a daily basis. For example, a co-worker at lunch might say, "Hey, Joe is in late again today. How come he gets away with it?" Immediately, images and conclusions form in your mind. I have done this before. When I hear about Joe, I think, "Yeah, he knows someone" or "If he can do it, so can I." However, the truth of the matter is we do not have the full context of the situation. If we knew the whole story, we would know that Joe's wife is extremely ill, and he has to make sure the family is taken care of before coming to work, like getting the kids ready and off to school. This, in turn, makes him about a half-hour late each morning, which by the way, is fully approved by management.

    When you deal with business process monitoring, you must be sure to get all of the facts before making a conclusion or decision. Information must be placed in the right context to fully understand what is happening and the impact your decision will have overall. If you see one person processing about 15% less than the rest of the organization, investigate the reason before drawing conclusions. In business process monitoring, there is a tendency to use the data as the source, but without context, does it really provide full meaning?

    This many times leads to ethical discussions on what information you gather and how it is to be used. In some organizations and countries, there may be challenges as to what you can monitor with strict guidelines on actions you can or cannot take as a result of what you find. Questions may arise surrounding the reason for your monitoring activities and presentment of a policy and process you will follow if discrepancies are encountered.

    In my view, organizations need to monitor the underlying processes in an effort to improve efficiency and lower costs, but there is also a responsibility that goes with it. Use the tools to identify potential areas of improvement, but take time to fully understand what you are witnessing in the reports. If there is a bottleneck, find out why. Spend time in the process to understand the reason behind the bottleneck or situation you have identified. Ask questions to uncover the root cause and solicit possible ways to eliminate it. Monitoring is essential in an environment that embraces continuous improvement as a standard practice, but monitoring without context can sometimes mislead.

    BOB LARRIVEE [] is director and industry analyst for AIIM, an international community that provides training, research and best practices to help organizations find, control and optimize their information. Follow him on Twitter @BobLarrivee. To learn more about training and educational opportunities on BPM, visit AIIM's Certificate Program where you will receive a special discount by entering the code DM9EBX when registering. Visit


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