There are probably a hundred analytical techniques for improving a business process, but four are required and swim lane analysis is one of them.  (For more information on the other three see my blog, “We Finished Modeling Our Processes? Next is Optimization–WRONG “)

After creating the charter, and selecting the sponsor, process owner, project lead, facilitator and team members, one of the first things the BPM team does is model the current state process using a swim lane model, also called a cross functional deployment model. This is a process diagram showing the steps and decisions/gateways in the process by role.   This task in itself can be eye-opening and motivating. (See other i4Process blogs,
Isn’t There a Simpler Way to Model a Process?” and “Which Process Improvement/BPM Diagramming Notation Should We Use?” Parts 1 and 2 for more information.)  While diagramming the current state employees see the whole process, note how their part impacts another part of the process, identify current problems, and suggest improvements.  They also learn the basics of diagramming a process and how to use the notations and communicate the flow, steps, and decisions with them.

Should we use flow charts, swim lanes, value stream mapping, proprietary software notation, or BPMN? Yes, there a number of notations you could use, and you want to pick the right one for your organization.

The first question to ask is what is the purpose of the process diagramming notation? Since there are several purposes for process diagramming at different stages of a BPM/ process improvement project, you may switch to one type of notation or another at different times.

If you don’t get off to the right start with a BPM Project, there are all kinds of consequences such as

  • Needing to change process owners mid stream
  • Wasting time focusing on the wrong goals
  • Not involving the right resources
  • Missing critical information and making poor decisions
  • “Buying” the technology solution

This blog continues from December 10th blog – discussing 5 techniques which help the BA provide important value in Business Process Management (BPM).

Identify and Conduct Operational and Technical Analysis

So often when the company creates and documents the As Is Swim lane model, it concurrently brainstorms some improvement, and then moves to implement those improvements. Here’s what I have found. If you move right from the current state process diagram to the solutions you get small improvements; or you document the current process, suggest where automation will improve the process and use technology to automate the current poor process The BA has to help the organization do the needed analysis, such as looking at defects and finding where they make the biggest impact; or using a notched time line to find out where the long wait times are and developing a streamlined process which minimizes wait time. Four techniques I use to get a deeper understanding during analysis are:

Business Analysts provide a critical role in organizations. In fact, without this role, Business Owners and Developers must work together in a software project, which can be frustrating to both sides. Indeed, Business Owners may not get what they want and Developers may spend time building functionality that was not needed. OUCH! Why is that? Because the Business Owners and Developers have not learned to communicate to their mutual benefit. Enter the Business Analyst whose role is to define the needs and recommend solutions that deliver value to the stakeholders (e.g., Business Owners, users, customers, etc.) 

Who should drive BPM initiatives?  Gartner reports that in North America, IT leads 42% of the BPM efforts, and the Business leads 58% of the efforts. And these efforts range widely in scope from mapping individual processes, to improving end-to-end processes, but only a few organizations having a process based management structure.  The reason organizations tend to remain at the initial stages of BPM is because employees focus on their own jobs, managers have priorities in their own departments, and C-suite executives are incented by initiatives in their own divisions or business units. In order to move to a more enterprise approach employees, managers and C-suite executives need to think outside their area, identify how the organization serves the customer and then commit to creating results cross functionally for the organization.  My premise is that this wider thinking starts with the business and IT working together as leaders and as teams, driving initiatives together from the top and team level.