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Business System Analysis September 3, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business Solutions, Efficiency Process.
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Business Systems

My belief is that if every company focused on building a system (a business system not a software system) to do their business they would be vastly more effective.  A system allows for things to move along in a very uniform pattern.  This makes things easy to deal with and conform to a set of standards.  It makes it very easy on employees and also makes it easy to train someone new coming in the door. 

It takes a significant amount of time and effort though to define your business system or process.  It follows a simple set of steps but they can definitely take time:

Step 1: What are the current process steps and Why?

This sounds like a simple task but in many cases it is not as simple as it seems.  In many cases there are multiple people who do the task and not a lot of process documentation to outline how it’s done.  Also, many times no one will really know why a certain task is done the way it is.  Many times this is due to the fact that it has been passed down from one employee to another and the reason may not have been passed.

**NOTE: In this step, the answer “Because that is the way it has always been done” should not be acceptable.  You should strive to have a true answer to Why or realize that the step may need to be looked at.

This is a very important step.  It is very important that the proper amount of time is taken to truly understand the current process.  Only if this step is done properly can the rest of the steps come out correctly.

Step 2: Is there a better way to do the task and does it need to be done at all?

This step can be difficult and needs to be handled gently.  You definitely don’t want to make this an interrogation of the employee.  This should be a very open, honest brainstorming session.  This is where the process refinement comes into play.  The people involved in this discussion should really consider better ways to do the task and also consider if there are ways to not do the task at all.  This is where you can get rid of the non-essential tasks and bureaucratic red-tape if possible.

This is also where there should be discussions of how to automate certain tasks.  In many cases, if there are specific steps that have to occur each time and they are pretty reproducable a software solution may be able to help simplify the the process.  This is something that you should discuss with a solution architect to figure out if automation processes will be applicable and feasible for your process.

Step 3: Revise process

The process should now be written in a draft format and reviewed by the members of the process team to verify that they will work.  During this process you may find that you will go through Step 1 and Step 2 multiple times to further refine the process.  This is fine because your end goal is the definition of an efficient process. 

At the end of this task, you should be very comfortable with how the process works, why each step occurs, and where the improvements will happen.  This will allow you to move on to the next step.

Step 4: Document the process

It is just like they say in the legal field, a oral agreement is as good as the paper it’s written on.  This information needs to be documented.  Each step in the process should be outlined as to who, what, why, where, and how.  Everything about the task that is known should be documented.  This will make it easy in the future when you need to train someone else or when you have to go back and look at why a process works a certain way.

During this step do not tie tasks to a specific person tie it to a specific role.  Over time people change roles so the documentation will lose some value.  If you outline the role that should do it the documentation will transition much easier from person to person.

Conclusion

This process is by no means simple and it will be time consuming but it can produce lasting benefits.  Many processes are defined and then never looked at again even though circumstances and resources change.  Many companies will add new customers, products, and resources yet they don’t consider looking at their process to see if it can and should be changed to support the new requirements.

Even though this task may seem daunting, it is something that will pay off in many ways once completed.  It gives you an outline of what you do and why you do it.  This information will help everyone understand the process and do it as efficiently as possible.  It shows you where you can improve and allows you to remove aspects no longer needed.  The bottom line is that it can and will effect your bottom line.

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