From hiring new employees to handling purchase orders, approving expenses, responding to complaints, and producing an end product, your business is a complex web of processes, large and small, that not only define what you do but how well you do it.
And like anything else, these processes can deteriorate over time.
They become outdated or flabby. Key elements that are second nature to someone who has done a job for years and years can get lost when a new employee takes over. The processes you’re using may even institutionalize inefficiencies that cost you time, money and customer satisfaction.
With a business process analysis you can uncover and correct all of these conditions.
It’s more that just a good idea. It’s essential. A process review can take your company from “as is” to “to be” — from the way things are to the way they should be.
What is a business process analysis
A business process analysis takes a systematic look at the way you do things. It will uncover — and eliminate — bottlenecks, redundancies and inefficiencies. In the analysis, digital tools and automation will help to unravel and map your processes, which are often complex procedures.
Business process analysis is different from business analysis
Don’t confuse business process analysis with business analysis. They both fall under the umbrella of business process management, but they are not the same.
Business process analysis focuses on your organization’s processes — the way you do things. A business analysis is a broader look at your company or some major part of it. Having said that, you can find the process analysis and modeling tools you need in many of the popular business process management suites.
When should you begin a business process analysis — and where
Organizations often begin a process analysis when they notice something is wrong — which is certainly a good time to start. Having a problem not only dictates when to start your analysis, it tells you where to start.
If there’s a backlog in accounts payable, then how you handle bills will be the first process you analyze.
Problems aside, a process review can be valuable when you’re introducing a new system or if you think your organization is not making the most of new or existing technology. The processes that are most critical to the success of your organization are good places to begin.
Benefits of running a business process analysis
The benefits of doing a business process analysis go beyond efficiency and effectiveness. Other lasting benefits include:
- Improved workflow and a better understanding of the process
- Clear documentation
- Well-defined procedures and policies
- Hard data on how the process is performing
- Complete instructions for training employees
- Improved systems for adopting new technology
Business process analysis techniques
Business Process Analysis employs several standard and common techniques, including:
- Gap Analysis: What information is missing about the process?
- Value-added Analysis: Do all the steps in the process contribute to the goals of the process and the organization?Root Cause Analysis: What’s really causing the problem.
- Observation: Watch the process in action. Follow it from end to end.
- Employee insight: Talk to the people who do the work and others in your organization for ideas of what works and how to make things better.
Six steps of a business process analysis
- Identify the process. What area do you want to look at — hiring new employees, handling invoices, complying with regulations, etc.? Decide what process you’ll analyze and determine a clear starting point and ending point for the process.
- Collect data. Gather as much information about the process as you can. Observe it in action. Talk to the people involved. Collect any documents that guide their actions or that they use directly. See what tools they use.
- Map the process. Create a diagram or workflow document that lets you visualize the process. Business process mapping and other automated processes will help here and in other steps along the way.
- Analyze the process. With a clear view of how the process is working now, you’re set up to analyze it. What tasks take the most time? Can they be streamlined? Do people have the right tools and resources? Can any steps be eliminated? What problems do your employees see?
- Develop a “to be” plan. You’ve dissected the process as it is. You’re ready to make the system what you want it to be.
- Implement and evaluate. Install the modifications and new process, making sure your employees know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and have the training they need to make it work. You’re not quite done. Now you need to see if the new process achieves your goals. Using the benchmarks developed as you defined the process, check to see if you’ve improved it. Do bottlenecks still exist? Is the process faster or smoother? Do the people doing work see a change for the better?
Even now, don’t just walk away from the project.
Reviewing your business processes should be an ongoing effort. And once you’ve begun, it should be easier each time. You’ll have a system for analyzing your processes and you’ll know the software and automation programs that work best for your business.