A Handy Guide to Business Process Analysis
Business process analysis provides organizations with the insights you need to improve business agility, efficiency, and transparency.
When companies use business process analysis it’s possible to identify improvement opportunities through visually bringing flows of work to life.
In this blog, we’ll cover:
- What is business process analysis
- Business process analysis approaches
What Is Business Process Analysis?
Business process analysis is an approach for helping organizations examine internal processes and identify improvement opportunities. It helps to understand the process flows through describing the steps, participating parties and information exchanged.
As the number of processes grows, we’re seeing growth in business process analysis as the tool to help organizations understand their processes before implementing improvements. Rather than taking a scattergun ‘hit and hope’ approach, it is helping organizations accurately identify the right places to expend effort, and ultimately delivering improvements in the areas that matter.
Business process analysis is a subset of business process management that helps process analysts ensure that processes align with business objectives.
At a business and operational level, business process analysis will help to identify issues such as:
- Causes of delay or bottlenecks
- Waste in processes
- Manual data entry time and errors
- Root causes of operational problems
Business Process Analysis Approaches
Start business process analysis by understanding your context and drivers. In this, it’s essential to set the terms for your work by answering questions such as:
- What are the priority business goals and which processes need to or are expected to support these goals?
- Which processes are important to the customer experience e.g., which ones make or break their experience and contribute to loyalty or dissatisfaction?
- Which processes support partner and 3rd party interactions?
- What is the current state of your processes e.g., are they helping or hindering the achievement of your goals?
Now that you have an appreciation for the broader context that your processes operate in, let’s start analyzing the processes through 5 steps:
1. Identify a business process to start with
Select a process that you can start with. In an organization with 100s or 1000s of processes, this can appear like a daunting task. However, with your pre-work this should become easier. For example, you may have already identified the areas of the business with the most need and can now focus on these.
This can either be supported with a scoring matrix based on dimensions such as impact and complexity, or you can select a mid-level process to get you started e.g., one that is important, but not crucial to the business. This gives you a chance to kick-off and refine your approach before tackling the more complex problem areas, where your margin for error may be less. Also, selecting a simpler process, most likely will enable you to get up and running quicker.
Depending on your business model, example processes or business areas could include:
- Sales orders and invoicing
- Compliance and auditing
- Customer support and management
- Onboarding new hires
- Procurement and vendor management
- Invoice and expense approvals
- Appointment schedules and travel requests
2. Collect business analysis process data
Process data resides inside and outside the organization. For example, in applications and systems, in the heads of your customers, employees and partners and on paper, amongst other data sources.
At this stage you should seek to identify and gather all the data points available. This is less about having perfect data and more about having data that contributes to the story of the process flow – once the data is captured, you can look at data quality and breadth.
Tools and techniques for capturing data (in no particular order) include:
- Process mining
- Documentation review
- Manual tracking
It is true that anyone can conduct any of the above, however with the right support or tools this can become a more effective exercise. For example, a trained interviewer will be able to ask the right questions and probe at the right moments. While, the right process mining tool will capture data from one or more systems and create useful links between relevant data points.
3. Build a map of the (as-is) process
Business process mapping allows organizations to visualize and understand business processes from start to finish. When creating a business process diagram, follow the logical path of the process and use all the data sources to build up a picture across all the stages of the process. This may mean using a process mining tool to get you started and then overlaying this with manually captured data.
By creating a process map, you can start to identify the actual flow and edge cases. For example, on multiple occasions when running this exercise, we’ve seen expected edge cases show up as the main process flow – contrary to the team’s belief or even their original intentions. Deep diving into the process, it is possible to see where the issues are e.g., bottlenecks, under or over utilization of resources, data entry or compliance errors, etc.
4. Analyze and Identify improvement opportunities
With a clear view of the process, opportunities for improvement should start to surface in obvious and less obvious places. Outside of glaring issues that must be addressed, you should spend some time drilling into the process to understand how it operates and the options for improvement. For example, a complex process with multiple layers may seem fine at first sight, but the real issues may be a layer or two down. Also, remember the drivers, mentioned at the beginning, that led you to analyze this process – solving these should be the core focus of your work.
5. Create the to-be process
One or multiple points of issue should now be in your possession. The trick here is to start modeling and simulating different scenarios based on directly tackling the issue and looking at it in different ways. For example, where a bottleneck occurs, the obvious solution would be to add more resources to that point. However, would that just push the problem to another point in the process flow? Should you instead be rethinking that or other parts of the process to, for example, split parts of the process because 5% of the traffic is causing 95% of the bottleneck? You get the picture! It’s worth looking at problem areas from different perspectives to find the optimum solution.
The key to this is the ability to build out and test different scenarios that show the impact of any potential changes before completely remodeling and rolling out a new process only to find the expected benefit is not realized because fixing one problem just created another new one.
Although step 5 has started to get into the world of implementation i.e., beyond the analysis phase, the two are closely aligned – there is no point in analyzing a process if you have no intentions of addressing the issues you identify.
Thinking ahead, the modes and approaches developed when analyzing one process should be used (and adapted) to look at multiple processes in the business area or organization. Back to your initial context setting and analysis, you probably identified multiple processes. Now is the time to revisit these and continue the good work you have started.
The Bottom Line
Using business process analysis can provide you with the oversight needed to solve process deficiencies, improve transparency, and identify cost-saving opportunities.
Fine-tuning your business processes is a continuous task that’s changing as your business evolves. To ensure that processes align with business goals, consider using a process mapping and modeling provider like BusinessOptix to gain a detailed, data-driven understanding of how your organization currently works.
Contact us today to learn more.