Creating processes for business analysts

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Definition

Processes help organizations create clear and repeatable sets of activities with defined and expected outcomes. Most people, if not all, have come across a process whether in their personal lives — routine tasks, retail checkouts, car purchases, or at work — enterprise activities, closing and resolving issues.

Process creation, process modeling, or business process help describe a sequential workflow across tasks and activities within a group or company.

  • For instance, a computer program starts with input data collection, data processing based on a set of logic or conditions, and finally returns an output.
  • An operational process that starts by defining expectations — requisite knowledge and information, followed by activities/tasks, and finally an operational outcome from said activity.

These can be created with varying degrees of information. For managers and executives, a high-level business process is generally enough to provide a good understanding and overview of requirements for the process, involved stakeholders, process interactions, and finally the outcome. The impact either for the customer ( service, product ) or the company ( P & L, KPI ) must be defined to get stakeholder support for your solution.

At a lower level, usually, for operational or technical teams, the process is described in more granular and deeper levels that display most, if not all, activities and steps, the workflow also allows alternate paths for exceptions and decisions to be made. At this level, analysts can create better event simulations and iterations of tasks. For example, the operational staff uses this workflow for repeatable and intuitive execution of the procedure.

A process may include the following:

  • Inputs to the process, along with their trigger — a set of activities that initiate tasks.
  • For each activity, define the outcome.
  • Along with workflow, decision points, and alternate paths with links.
  • Clear outcome and result of the process.
  • At times, it is also useful to add a time frame for the activities to manage stakeholder expectations.
Sample Hiring Process Flowchart
Customer Credit Purchase Workflow

Your role as a business analyst allows you to define the current state and improve the process to its future state, leveraging the process to clearly define metrics and outcomes. In addition, there are common benefits and uses of (good) process flows:

  • A descriptive way of showing the solution.
  • Demystify what happens, along with the outcome.
  • Establish a good basis for communication.
  • Allows for decomposition, investigation, and analysis of a process.

Essential Advice

Stakeholder management. If you are tasked to map a business process, you are likely to encounter cases where you have resistant stakeholders comfortable with the manual and traditional process. Empathizing with these stakeholders and understanding their concerns is key, these will allow you to engage in meaningful conversations with them.

A cost-benefit analysis will also help quantify the benefit this will clearly show the estimated value added by the solution. A value stream map may also be useful in identifying value-added and non-value-added steps. You can also consider a spaghetti diagram to walk your stakeholders through the process — who is responsible, and what benefit is derived.

Activity Diagram

Tools to use are diverse — you could use MS Office tools such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, as well as Visio, to create professional workflow diagrams. In creating mock-up designs Balsamiq is helpful.

Requirements gathering. To create a good business process, you have to employ different methods to understand the business requirements — data mining, brainstorming, surveys, mind mapping, and others. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. After a better overall picture is defined, an analyst can create and design the process more effectively.

Iterate and follow up. Be patient, Rome wasn’t conquered in a day. You are likely not going to get it perfect the first time, especially if this is the first attempt within your team to map the solution. Create the first version draft, gather feedback from relevant stakeholders, and improve the process map.

Reference

A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide)

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