Photo of Alec Sharp author of Workflow Modeling

Featured Author – Alec Sharp

In the 11th episode of our #12Years12Authors series of interviews with data management authors and pioneers, I grabbed some time with my long time friend and conference colleague, process mapping and data facilitation guru Alec Sharp of Clariteq Consulting in Vancouver Canada. Alec is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of “facilitation for data stuff ” (my term) and works with organisations on process design, process mapping, and data design to help them understand what they do, how they do it, and what they need to know about to do those things.

So, he does data modeling, process and workflow modeling, and generally helping organisations understand their data and workflows better so they can deliver sustainable results and improvements.

I have had the honour and privilege of learning a heck of a lot from Alec over the years and it was a fantastic pleasure to interview him, even if he was ‘flexible’ in his interpretation of the “pick one book” criteria and I had to spend a chunk of time playing with the editing on this one.

The Interview

Alec took time out of a busy teaching schedule to chat with me about Workflow Modeling – 2nd Edition He walked through the heritage and lineage of the book, starting with its first edition (which I own a copy of) and then to the second edition (which I also bought and devoured many moons ago). Having started my data management career going on the standard process mapping and workflow modeling courses that my employer had procured, I was very glad when a copy of the 1st edition of this book landed on my desk. That feeling was only doubled when the 2nd edition came out (a re-engineered and retooled version of the first and definitely worth spending the money on!).

My takeaways from the interview…

Listening back to the interview as I edited it, I found that (unsurprisingly) Alec said some pretty profound things arising from his journey as a process consultant, author, and teacher of things data and process. He was the data guy, then he was the process guy. Now his clients see him as the “Change Guy”.

This is an important point. Once we start taking our heads out of the detail of data and process and start applying some structured approaches to the analysis, documentation, and design of the data organisation, we find that we trigger and enable profound changes in organisations.

He also references another of our mutual friends, Graham Witt (data modeler extraordinaire) who describes a data model as “a narrative supported by a graphic”. Again, this is an incredibly insightful idea. I’d extend that to include process flows as another form of “narrative supported by a graphic”. Which is what Alec’s book is all about understanding with some fantastic battle-tested best practices shared for the reader.

Nailing a common process problem…

Alec also comments that organisations often struggle to identify what their processes are. This is something we encounter not just in data governance or data quality engagements but in the context of Article 30 Registers of Processing Activities under GDPR. So many organisations have mapped these as systems or documents but not actual “things that are done that data is used for”. (Our training courses on Registers of Processing Activities include a whole section on “What is a process” for exactly this reason).

And, sadly, the review I wrote for Alec’s book seems to have fallen down the Amazon memory hole. I’ll have to see if I can dig it out…

Alec’s Influences

Alec rattles through a lot of books and authors that have influenced his thinking (he definitely broke the “One Book” rule). He cites influences ranging from Hammer and Champy (Re-engineering the Corporation), Simsion and Witt (Data Modelling Essentials), Treacy and Wiersma (The Discipline of Market Leaders) and many more.

But the book he has selected as the one that has influenced his thinking most is one of my all time favourites: In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. This book looked at the core habits and disciplines of excellent companies and found that things like customer centricity and person-centricity were fundamental. This is something that Tom Peters has carried forward in his more recent works and you can find useful insights into Tom Peter’s insights over at (helpfully enough) TomPeters.com

Competition Time

If you would like to be entered into a draw to win some of the books referenced by Alec in this video and in the rest of the videos we’re running this month, please provide your email address and an answer to the simple question in the form below. The terms and conditions for the competition can be found here:

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Books Referenced in this Video

Related Castlebridge Content

Previous Interviews in this Series

Daragh O Brien

Daragh O Brien

Daragh is the founder and Managing Director of Castlebridge. He brings over twenty years of experience in data strategy and regulatory operations to the table for clients. He lectures in the School of Law in UCD and in the Law Society of Ireland on Data Protection and Data Governance. He is a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society and holds CIPP/E and CIPM certifications from the IAPP and other data management qualifications.