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August 04, 2015

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Process Analysis

4 mins read

Imagine you are a business analyst and you’ve been brought onto a project to conduct a business process analysis. Unfortunately, you aren’t quite sure what business process analysis is and you definitely don’t know how to get started. So what do you do? Good news is that you follow this blog and we’re here to help!

What is Business Process Analysis?

First things first, what is business process analysis? If you ask someone for their definition of business process analysis, the most common answer you’ll probably receive is something related to process maps. While process maps are a useful tool and output, business process analysis is not limited to just process maps. According to the Business Analyst Body Of Knowledge® (BABOK®), process analysis assesses a process for efficiency, effectiveness, and identification of opportunities for change in order to improve or achieve organizational goals.  In other words, the ultimate goal of business process analysis is to break down a process into digestible chunks and try to find ways to make it better.

Now that you know what business process analysis is, let’s work through the high-level steps to complete your analysis.

Step One: Determine the process to analyze.

In order to conduct your analysis, it is important to determine which process to analyze. You may have been given specific direction on what process to analyze, but what if you haven’t? One way to determine which process to analyze is to interview key stakeholders individually or as a group to understand what pain points they may have. Another method is to use a tool such as an Ishikawa, or fishbone, diagram to outline the potential root causes of a problem. Once you’ve outlined the possible sources, you can then focus your process analysis efforts on the root cause that has the greatest impact on the problem or has the most opportunity for improvement.

Ensuring that you have identified the correct process to analyze is a critical part of conducting the analysis and will save you from wasting time.

Step Two: Analyze the process.

Once you’ve narrowed down the scope of what you’re analyzing, the real work begins as now it’s time to analyze the process. There are many techniques and tools that can be used to conduct your analysis.

One tool that is used in Lean/Six Sigma is a SIPOC analysis. SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers and can be used to understand the relevant components of a process improvement project. It can be useful to define complex projects that aren’t scoped well. Another tool is the value stream map, which can be used to understand how materials and information flow through the value stream to produce a good or service to a customer. A value stream map can be beneficial in identifying any bottlenecks and improvement areas. Another tool that many are familiar with is a process map, or a cross-functional flow chart. Also known as a swim lane diagram, it builds upon a basic flow chart and serves as a visual representation between departments and stakeholders.

With so many techniques, how do you decide which method or technique to use? It’s really up to the individual or project team to determine which technique can help them to achieve their goals.

Step Three: Use it.

Now that you’ve conducted your analysis, document any information uncovered by the analysis and use it. Some outputs of business process analysis include: as-is model, to-be model, roles and responsibility matrix, organization impact, system impact and requirements documents. The objective of the process analysis and desired benefits should dictate what the appropriate outputs should be. There are many uses and benefits that can be realized from business process analysis such as training or knowledge transfer, increased control and consistency, and alignment of operations with business strategy.

Documentation such as as-is or to-be maps can be helpful but don’t let the valuable information collected through your efforts go to waste by allowing them to just sit and collect dust. Remember that your process analysis is only as good as what you do with the information obtained from the process analysis.

While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to business process analysis, hopefully you now have a good understanding of the basic concepts and know the three basic steps needed to be successful.

Author: Kelly Hobbs, an Excellian since 2013, has a soft spot for process analysis. When she’s not drawing process maps for fun, she can be found on twitter @KellyAHobbs.



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