By Cathy Dew
In today’s competitive environment, companies must continuously improve the way they do business to remain relevant and competitive. If they don’t, they risk higher costs, lower revenues, less engaged employees, and less satisfied customers.
This blog is intended to present core concepts around Business Process Analysis tools and how it can help you and your business. Over the coming weeks, we will take a deeper dive into specific topics with a focus on business process mapping templates that guide the analysis project, but for today let’s keep it at a higher level.
What is it?
Business Process Analysis (BPA) is a research discipline that enables organizational change by identifying business needs and determining solutions to those needs that deliver value to stakeholders. Sometimes solutions include a software component but it also may consist of a process improvement, an organizational change, or a strategic initiative. Business process analysis helps you understand how a process works and how it can be improved. It is an essential tool to drive how well a company is at meeting its objectives. Read more about business process analysis on Wikipedia.
Why does it matter?
For one thing, business process analysis steps help improve how you do business – how you deliver products and services – by identifying and articulating the need for process refinements and then facilitating that change. It is really the notion of process orientation, of concentrating and rethinking every life cycle activity to maximize value and eliminate unnecessary work. Often times, these are business processes internal to the company and the biggest improvements impact your staff directly which then extends to your customers. Here's what Gartner has to say about business process analysis tools.
A combination of factors drives most business process analysis projects, including:
- The need to increase efficiency – improving processes results in improved communication, less duplication of effort, cost, and time savings
- The need to evaluate business process as part of a larger development project – this may be required in preparation for the implementation of enterprise technology such as an ERP or CRM system
- The need to evaluate potential new business ventures, such as joint ventures, or other business offerings
There are a few key points to remember when approaching a business process analysis effort, including:
- Start by asking what, where, why, who, and how questions about each step in a job
- Use a tried and true methodology
- Simplify processes wherever possible
- Eliminate constraints or anything that frustrates participants
- Automate processes to make things easier, improve accuracy and save time
- Continue to monitor and evaluate processes into the future
Interviews and Observations
Interviews with stakeholders and business owners are a critical piece in the data gathering and analysis portion of a BPA project. Start interviewing those individuals who have the best understanding of the processes you are analyzing. These people are known as your subject matter experts (SMEs) and they will help identify sticking points in the process. Your goal is to make your interviewee feel comfortable, respected, and interesting. It is critical to capture specific terminology and acronyms or any other business process nomenclature along with definitions to be sure everyone is speaking the same language. Once interviews are completed, compile and consolidate all interview notes and begin analysis of the responses of each interviewee. See how the Interview Business Process Analysis Template lets you Engage and Learn.
A persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. It is one of the most valuable business process analysis tools for a variety of projects. Personas help you deliver functionality that will be most relevant and useful to your audience. They help focus development decisions by adding a layer of real-world consideration to the discussion. Usually three to five personas are enough to represent your audience segments. Even usability.gov understands the importance of personas. Take care that your personas are accurate representations of your audience for best results. Learn more about how Personas Keep Your Project On Track and User-centric.
Process flows provide an end-to-end view of an existing (as-is) or proposed (to-be) business process. Process flows are a method of modeling to get results and reach conclusions. They describe functions as well as the inputs, controls, outputs, and resources used for those functions. They also identify areas where improvements can be made. Check our our recent blog The Power of Pictures Makes Process Flow Diagrams One of Our Favorite Business ProcessAnalysis Tools.
Metrics and Trends
Since you are typically attempting to improve processes, you need to identify metrics so that you can measure that improvement. This can be as simple as measuring basic metrics for the process, for example, the number of steps involved, the number of people or even the total turnaround is takes to complete the task. The point is to find a measure that everyone agrees is a marker for evaluating the process improvement.
Documenting business requirements is an art and as is true with most things the level of quality in requirements documentation varies greatly. Experience with generating, digesting, and organizing observations, flows, the compilation of data gathered, into business requirements counts for a lot here. If your project involves software, which it probably does,
Staying relevant and continually improving the way you do business is a requirement of every successful company. Using business process analysis templates is a good way to ensure success for any company in any industry. In this series, we will be digging into specific phases of BPA and sharing best practices, client stories, and some of our favorite business process analysis templates, including custom-column Excel mapping files, interview questionnaires, persona models, input-process-output (IPO) matrixes, and satisfaction surveys. Stay tuned…
Learn More about Business Process Analysis Templates
Ready to learn more about Business Process Analysis templates? Here are some great blogs with FREE downloadable templates for you to get started.