The "As-is" vs 'the "To-Be"

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I am a big proponent of 'As-is' modeling. Unfortunately I appear to be in something of a minority.

When I work with clients I am constantly reminding them to document what they are currently doing before they move onto their future state. Quite often the reply I get is "If we're going to move to our future state we shouldn't waste time documenting the old way of doing things" I can certainly see the logic in this statement. However it does ignore one of the fundamental issues which cause problems on projects and that is "Change". Let me explain:

In 'Alice In Wonderland' Lewis Carrol wrote 'If you don't know were you are going any road will get you there'. I think this is the polite thinking behind a lot of process project leaders. They don't know where they are going and therefore they try to manufacture a way of getting to this destination not even knowing where they are going from.

In real life if you are using a satnav to navigate to a destination it always has to know where you are starting from in order to determine the best way to the destination. Granted, it can produce a number of different routes to get there, but they are all predicated on the fact that you know where you are starting from. No navigation system in the world can work effectively without knowing a starting and ending location.

Let's go back to our early map reading days before the satellite navigation systems became ubiquitous. We used to start with a road map, or an Ordnance Survey map, and plot our route to our destination But we always started on the page which showed us where we were at the beginning of the journey. There was no other way of doing this. It happens in the world of aviation, marine navigation, and orienteering. There is no way of navigating to an unknown destination without knowing where you are starting from.

So why do projects try and do this when implementing processes?

Not creating an as-is situation is tantamount to starting your journey to a new destination without knowing where you are now. It is like opening your road atlas at the destination age and hoping to navigate their without checking the page that has your origin location. It just won't happen.

However there is a flip side to this argument. There is an old joke which goes something like this "A guy was lost in the countryside and he stopped to ask one of the locals. He said 'How do I get to the castle'. The local shook his head and said 'If I was going to the castle I wouldn't start from here'" In other words 'This is the wrong starting point to get to where you need to be'. In the process world there are also 'bad' or 'wrong' starting points. Heavily outdated manual processes that no longer reflect current working practices and which are due to be replaced by automated systems, are an example of this.

But even so, documenting what actually happens (as opposed to what should happen) is usually a good place to start

Can anyone think of a reason why an 'as-is' process would not be documented?

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