Seven Tips for a Successful Business Process Mapping and Analysis: Part 2

In my previous post, I shared the first four of my seven tips on how to effectively gather and document the information you need to perform a solid business process analysis. I’ve briefly summarized those below (feel free to check out Part 1 for more in-depth explanations), but the focus this time around is on tips 5 through 7 (below).

  1. Before you start, know where you’re headed. Understand the outcome or goal of the process you are mapping from the get-go.
  2. The beginning isn’t always a very good place to start. Consider starting at the end of a process when interviewing SMEs or process owners.
  3. Know why. Understand, from a business needs standpoint, why and when steps or activities occur in a business process.
  4. Stay the course. Focus on the primary business process at first before getting into exceptions or alternatives.
  5. Keep technology out of it.
    This can be one of the most challenging aspects of an interview with a SME or process owner. So many processes are intertwined with the supporting technologies, that oftentimes interviewees may not be able to disentangle them. It takes a patient and probing interviewer to repeatedly step back and ensure that it’s the process that is being documented, and not the steps to use a solution. You may have to do some abstraction on your own after an interview, but make sure you take the time to document the process and not the technical solution.
  6. Let it breathe.
    A business process diagram may not age well like a bottle of wine, but the analysis of a process can benefit from some time away. If your interview notes are solid, feel free to step back from your documentation for a day. Often I have found gaps in my knowledge or that that additional questions need to be asked, and these are clarified if I allow the massive amount of information I just received to percolate for a bit. Follow up with any outstanding questions to your SME or process owner after you’ve given it some thought.
  7. Communicate and validate.
    Whatever you do, don’t chuck your documentation over the wall and expect any sort of critical analysis from your expert. Though it may feel redundant and your interviewee may find it boring, the best way to get confirmation, clarifications, and feedback is to walk your SME or business process owner through their own process. In doing so, you both effectively communicate your understanding and allow the owner to really think through the process to ensure you have captured everything. If you shoot the artifact over to your interviewee in an email, you may get lucky, but more than likely you’ll get a rubber stamp. And if you’re wrong about anything later, it won’t matter that your owner “approved” it; you’ll be the one who is left cleaning up the mess.

Some of these may seem like common sense, but I find it valuable to think through what has made me successful in the past and keep these tools in the forefront of my mind for future engagements. Let me know your thoughts and if you have other tips or frameworks that have resulted in a successful business process analysis!

Rich Medina
Jim Polka
I’m a Principal Consultant. My expertise is in security-based information management and strategic deployment of ECM technologies.