Identifying & Documenting Business Processes
Business processes are important. Staff train on them; they keep quality consistent. Your processes direct your resources and channel your people power, your work force. So you have to understand them. But how well do you have to understand them? The answer is different for every company.
Business Process Management (BPM) is a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s also a heavy lift. How much time and money do you want to spend analyzing, mapping and modeling processes? As business consultant Dale Albrecht says in Forbes, you don’t want to under- or overinvest in processes. But when it comes to clumsy or broken processes, there is some simple troubleshooting you can’t afford NOT to do:
Identify Painful Processes
Everybody has them. You may not even know what’s wrong. But you know it could be done better/faster/smarter. Name that problematic process. Is it a standard business function like “client onboarding,” or is it “that thing Bob does to populate that spreadsheet”? What are the parameters of the process – the start and end points? What are its outputs? How important are they to the operation? Once you determine a process needs to be saved and is worth saving, that’s where someone like me comes in.
Document the Process (aka Understand the As Is)
Business analysts identify all the resources needed to execute the process (inputs). We document the steps being taken, in what order and by whom. How do we do it? There are lots of different discovery methods – work groups, interviews, observation. You always hear how important it is to have “the right people at the table.” I absolutely agree with that, but for my money, one-on-one interactions consistently glean the most valuable insights.
Shadowing is one of my favorite fact-finding tactics. Sitting right there, alongside an employee at their workstation, allows you to really dig into the whats and whys of the process. Outputs that seem mystifying when you’re viewing them after the fact all start to make sense. “Why is this random piece of information always in this unrelated field?” Oh! Because Bob needs that data, but there’s no place to put it, and he doesn’t have the authority to change the name of the field. If the person I’m shadowing doesn’t know the “why,” I track down someone who does.
The final documentation can be presented in any format that makes sense to you. A process diagram built in Microsoft Visio provides helpful visuals for getting your hands around exactly who is doing what when.
Design a Better Way (aka Envision the To Be):
Throughout every step of the process documentation journey, I’m looking for ways it can be done smarter. Can we cut steps, reduce manual inputs, save time, streamline? I even capture the physical resources currently used outside the digital platform (e.g. Post-it notes and document flags) to find ways the new, improved system can provide their utility.
There is a wealth of automation tools to choose from when optimizing a process today. Everything from a Microsoft Flow to robotic process automation. And given that the majority of process redesigns are aimed at improving the customer experience, chatbots are a great option for providing immediate, personalized attention. Gartner just bestowed a name upon this exercise of selecting, combining and coordinating automation offerings. They’re calling it hyperautomation, and they’ve named it one of 2020’s top ten strategic technology trends.
A glut of possible tech solutions can seem overwhelming, but process documentation imposes order on the reengineering. My job is to help you understand your problematic process as it currently exists and provide a comprehensive alternative. You can put the old and new process diagrams side by side and see the efficiencies to be gained.
Painful processes can be fixed. There are lots of ways to work smarter. The road to improvement starts with simply identifying the problem. Then, bring it to us!
Justin Dubreuil has been solving business problems since he was 13. His mom managed a medical office where he helped the good doctor build his IT network and install workstations in each exam room. “I’ve always had an innate sense for what a business needs, and if it isn’t obvious, I’m driven to figure it out.” That’s probably why his older brother was successful in persuading Justin to switch his major from environmental science (park ranger career track) to business management.
As a business analyst, Justin has painstakingly documented and optimized countless processes across several industries. His affinity for working with health care providers continues. In the national push for electronic health record adoption, he helped a thousand different Maryland providers achieve “meaningful use.”
When he’s not reengineering business processes, Justin unwinds by rising to any and every cooking challenge presented. He’s known statewide for his ribs, smoked pork and pit beef, coming in top ten in the Maryland State BBQ Bash this year. On the weekends, he gets to fulfill his park ranger dream, enjoying the great outdoors with his wife of 10 years, their 8-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, two black labs and trusty old English bulldog.