The correct approach is to evaluate the business processes before investing heavily in the IT systems that automate those processes. This task originated in the 1990s as business process reengineering, but is also known as functional process improvement, business process redesign and business process analysis.
Whatever the label, the philosophy is basically the same: the organization that deploys systems on a solid business process foundation is more likely to (1) solve the business problem it intended to address, and (2) obtain the greatest return on its technology investment.
Getting started with business process analysis means asking yourself some pointed questions. Whether you pursue this analysis on your own or working with a consultant, here are five important questions you should consider.
1. What is your “as is” environment?
The first step in business process analysis is understanding how you do business today. Take the time to map out the steps in your core business processes. The questioning around existing processes should uncover a few opportunities for improvement. Once you get a grip on your business processes, you’ll know what activities require streamlining and simplification.
2. Who are your process owners?
Many of your daily business processes cross over multiple departments within your organization. If you are going to make fundamental changes to those process, you’d better have everyone on board. While you are identifying business process owners, you may also uncover conflicts among departments with overlapping responsibilities and redundant business activities. At this point, you should also look into the employee groups that the redesigned business methods will eventually impact. That information will come in handy later when you roll out and automate the refined business processes and need to develop a training program.
3. What complicating factors should you take into account?
Business process analysis doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You need to pursue this revitalization with the future in mind. What’s on your planning horizon? Are you likely to embark on significant new product launches? Are you adopting a new business model (converting from direct sales to indirect channels, for example)? Will you acquire companies to complement your organic growth? The answers to those questions could very well influence the direction of your reengineering regimen.
4. Who is doing it better?
Can you learn from peers in your industry segment? You may be able to gain insight into how your business processes should work by assessing the methods of industry exemplars. Techniques such as benchmarking let you compare and contrast your practices with those of other organizations. Perusing case studies in the trade press or chatting up presenters at industry conferences provide opportunities for casual benchmarking. Working with a consulting firm that has customers in your industry or vertical market can also help benchmark your business methods.
5. What should your redesigned processes look like?
Your have already taken steps to understand your existing processes, identify opportunities for improvement and evaluate what other companies are doing. You next need to ask yourself what your retooled processes should look like. Business process analysis gives you a blank slate: you have the chance to model your business activities to maximize efficiency, boost productivity and make the best use of IT. You will probably have to make a few compromises along the way, however. The ideal business process for one department may conflict with the needs of another department with which it interacts. That’s why you need to get all the business process owners involved at an early stage.
Business Process Help
Lithyem can support your business process analysis efforts. Our team of business scientists can uncover inefficiencies and harness the power of technology, creating solutions that unleash the full potential of a growing company. What are your business process pain points? Are you considering a reengineering initiative? Leave your comments below.