Five Ways for the Business Analyst to Score in BPM

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Faculty Member, and President, i4 Process
Ms. Shelley Sweet is a Faculty Member of and President of I-4 Process (Ideas, Involvement, Implementation, Impact) in Palo Alto, California. Shelley works with companies that need to transform the way they do work and use information. She provides a unique method of modeling processes and analyzing data that accelerates operational improvements, and builds leaders and employees who sustain process excellence. She is the author of a new book, The BPI Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Guide to Make Your Business Process Improvement Projects Simple, Structured and Successful, which is available on Amazon.

Business Analysts provide a critical role in organizations.  In fact, without this role, Business Owners and Developers must work together on 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.)

According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) BA’s do the following 

  • Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring
  • Elicitation
  • Requirements Management and Communication
  • Enterprise Analysis
  • Requirements Analysis
  • Solution Assessment and Validation

Or more simply, business analysis includes

  • Planning strategically
  • Operating/Business Model Analysis
  • Process Definition and Design
  • IT/Technical Business Analysis

BA’s can provide important value in Business Process Management (BPM). Their success depends on the depth of their understanding about how to work with key stakeholders and how to use a consistent BPM methodology. Here are five areas where the Business Analyst can differentiate their work and get the results the Business Owner wants.  Each one also has specific actionable techniques that can get you started today.  

I. Specific Definitions of Business Requirements

Often the Business Owner has a problem and asks for a particular technology solution.  A Business Analyst can help the Business Owner determine what the underlying problem is, if that problem is important to his overall goals, and how the problem aligns with the company’s strategy.

There are two things the Business Analyst needs to accomplish in the initial conversations with the Business Owner: 

  1. Decide if  this is the right problem/process to work on now
  2. Identify what the Business Owner wants to achieve?

Business Owner’s make particular requests and suggest particular solutions for these requests, but the problem could be larger than the initial request.  The BA can help the Business Owner identify it this is the best process to be working on now by completing a Macro Map identifying all his processes.  Then the BA and Business Owner can determine which processes offer the biggest opportunities in the market, or which processes are underperforming significantly, and will impact his/her business goals the most. Another approach would be to develop a Business Architecture for the organization or the division and then prioritize processes within that. (This may be a larger task than the Business Owner wants to take on by herself so the Macro Map is a simpler substitute.)

Two BPM techniques I use at the beginning of a process improvement effort which help focus the project and get the Business Owner involved in the critical upfront work are:

1. Create a Macro Map of core processes and support processes:  the Macro Map helps to identify which are the best processes to work on now? (Email me at shelleysweet@i4process if you want a sample of a Macro Map.)

2. Charter:  The charter is critical at the beginning of any BPM project.  The BA builds it with the sponsor; it includes the sponsor’s improvement targets which focus the project.

As the BA, you have to use your judgment to see if the request is really a small improvement that automation or new functionality will easily resolve.  And, it is your role also to see the bigger picture of how improving a larger process (of which the request is one piece) will add more value to the organization.

II.  BPM Methodology

A consistent BPM Methodology makes process improvement more efficient and effective, builds process assets that are shareable and replicable, and trains leaders and employees in process improvement skills.  But most organizations don’t have a consistent BPM Methodology unless they are using a consulting firm and  ‘buy’ the methodology of that firm.  There is no standard BPM methodology yet.   Only the phases of a process improvement effort are pretty standard (although they may have different names). So the BA should provide a BPM Methodology stealing shamelessly from well-known consultancies and giving credit where credit is due.  My company, i4Process, uses a consistent BPM Methodology which includes these phases:

  • Process Discovery
  • Process Modeling
  • Process Analysis
  • Process Redesign
  • Continuous Improvement 

What’s helpful about the methodology is it tells you what techniques are required in each phase and which techniques are optional.  So the BA needs to know and use the required techniques and then know which of the optional techniques would also be helpful for the client situation.  The BA provides value by keeping to a consistent BPM methodology and tailoring it by adding some optional techniques.  If you use all the techniques you get analysis paralysis and diminishing return for the Business Owner. 

III.  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:

  • Gathering baseline and analytical data
  • Conducting the customer scorecard
  • Identifying I am Wasted pain points
  • Consolidating or standardizing process models

IV.  Facilitating Leadership Conversations and Team Work Sessions

I always encourage a company to use an internal facilitator to bring the BPM process improvement skills to management and the team.  The BA is in a strong role to do that, as long as s/he knows the BPM methodology and has strong group process skills.  Of course the organization can choose to use an external consultant, but it builds organization capability when the company trains internal facilitators and has them work with the management and team roles in a process improvement effort.   

At the start of the project the BA should sit down with the Executive Sponsor, Process Owner, and Project lead and develop the project charter.  The BA helps these three leaders understand their roles and responsibilities (which should be documented) and explains the specific observations, tasks, input and review meetings, that the roles complete at the start of the project and during improvement, implementation, and sustainment.  The BA can also facilitate work sessions with the project lead and business process improvement team.   Here the BA retains a neutral role, but brings a structure for modeling, analysis, and redesign which will be efficient and effective, engaging all the team members (representatives of the stakeholders and key subject matter experts), and move the team toward the process owner’s and sponsor’s specific improvement targets. 

The BA, as a facilitator, keeps the BPM methodology in the forefront, consults with the project lead about which analysis techniques will be useful, and engages the team to hear all points of view and helps the team gather customer and quantitative data.  The outcome is the team uses operational and technical analyses to create what’s necessary before building any solutions.  The BA is not just gathering requirements, building process models, or recommending technical solutions as an individual contributor; instead s/he is working with leadership and the team to understand the challenges and build larger solutions. 

V.  Find Solutions That Match the Real Goal

There are several ways the BA can help the Business Owner. 

  • If IT has a priority list of requests, the Business Owner’s request may not rise to the top.  So the BA can able help the Business Owner position his/her request differently to be more strategic and move it to a higher priority.
  • Or if the request is not strategic, the BA might be able to suggest quick wins for some immediate returns while waiting for an appropriate larger improvement effort.
  • By stipulating clear improvement targets with the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner, gathering baseline metrics, identifying the right team, and using a consistent BPM Methodology, the BA can help the team see the process end to end and clarify each person’s role and contribution to the outcome of the process.  This means a stronger solution will be identified and one that the team and sponsor are motivated to implement.  What more could you ask for?

The BA can step up to a larger role in Business Process Management and serve the organization in a collaborative and strategic way. S/he will have to learn a BPM Methodology, group process skills, and how to interact with executives about process. It is helpful if the BA develops the personal style to influence these key players while allowing them to have the final decision. This is an exciting role, demonstrating more professional credibility, and being part of larger deliverables.  But the BA is capable of it.  If you’re a BA start trying out some of these roles, I suggest working in tandem with another colleague on the project, or getting some additional coaching or training. 

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