Our motto has always been: start with the process. Business process analysis and the insight you uncover from it should be the driving force behind any investment in systems within your business. Without knowing the destination and how will you know if you get there?. You need a clear picture of where you are heading in order to a) select the right piece of software for the job and b) implement it in the way you need to drive your processes. This is particularly important when it comes to ERP, which sits across the whole business in many cases, and touches a vast range of business processes.
That being said, how do you approach a business process analysis/review? What are the steps you need to take in order to conduct a thorough one, and get the answers you need to embark on your next software implementation or simply to make your processes more efficient? How do you ensure you get the output and detail you need to make the decisions which will push your business forward?
Here is a brief – but hopefully useful – overview of what a good business analysis process should look like.
Step 1: What is it?
What is the process/are the processes you want or need to review here? Is there a problem you need to get to the root of? Is there a process which is key to the wider project you want to embark on> or example if you are implementing an ERP system, you will probably want to look at the Order to Shipment process – i.e. from the customer placing it to it leaving your doors. You might also want to examine the month-end process and how reporting is handled in this way. If you are experiecing a specific problem, you might want to use an Ishikawa, or fishbone diagram, to try and get to the root of the problem, which might then help you understand which process you need to examine. This post guides you through creating a fishbone diagram using a simple sports analogy. This approach can not only help you identify which processes might be causing a blockage, but it might also help you find a specific problem more quickly and see if fixing it could improve the process overall.
Step 2: Who and what is involved?
Once you have selected the process/processes which need to be reviewed, it is time to collect as much information as you can about that process, and map it out from start to finish. Which business functions or individuals does the process flow through? Which systems are involved? What data is passed through? Is there any automation in place? A key part of this part of the analysis is to get out into the wider business and speak to the people involved – you might know exactly how the process is supposed to flow, but is that what is actually happening? We have often found that speaking to the individuals involved will uncover some surprising insights around how other business functions see and approach their role in a particular process. Sometimes it can simply be a case of they were unaware of a field they had to fill in on a particular system – an issue which is quickly and easily resolved and can shave minutes, hours or even days off the amount of time it takes to complete the process.
Step 3: the analysis
There are so many ways to approach this part, and each business and management style may lend itself better to a different one. As a business gets bigger, processes get more complex and touch more departments within the business. This takes the requirements of analysis from drawing out a few flow charts and manually spotting the mistakes to requiring dedicated process mapping software to do all the heavy lifting and run various models and simulations for you, such as XSOL. Getting this part right is the difference between seeing real, significant improvement and maybe working out a few kinks. For that reason, it might be a good idea to bring in an external consultant or business with expertise and knowledge in this area to do the key analysis for you in order to really transform your processes.
Step 4: Use what you have learned
Believe it or not, this is a trap many businesses can – and often – fall into. They have analysed a process, they say to themselves “great, now we know exactly how that works, let’s keep an eye on it.” While documentation is important, and you absolutely should document your core business processes, do not just let these documents gather dust. Acting on what you discovered is the only way to drive real change and see a real impact on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the business. These steps could include; making sure a particular business function is trained up and informed on the process (as mentioned above), automating parts of the process, or mapping it to your ERP usage. Are there parts of the process that are being completed manually, which the ERP system could help you automate? Whatever the outcome, this part of the analysis needs actionable outcomes and a person or team to own and be accountable for it to make sure it is seen through.
We can help
As we mentioned above, business process analysis can be a complex and time-consuming task, and it can be easy to miss the opportunities for fine-tuning that will help you see real differences in your business. Clear Business Outcome have decades of experience helping businesses of all sizes get into the detail on their business processes, weed out inefficiencies and achieve real business outcomes. If you would like to discuss reviewing your business process, get in touch.