Define the Process

  1. Define the current process. Once you understand what the business is looking for, the next step is to create a flowchart showing the current process.  A good, clean process flow diagram helps you understand where information flows, where decisions are made, who makes the decisions, who does what.  It helps you visualize where they are gaps or redundancies.   It helps you see where improvements can be made.
  2. Define the new process.  This is where all of the questions that business analyst has been asking pays off.  This is where the business analyst puts what they have learned about the business into practice.  You have identified and plugged in the gaps.  You have eliminated the redundancies.  You have identified all of the changes that need to take place.  A good business analyst will think outside the box and will try to look for additional improvements that the business may not have thought of.

So how to you define the process?  I have found two ways to be very effective.  Flowcharts and Step by Step Bullet Points.

Step by Step Bullet Points

When I’m trying to define the process, I usually start with bullet points.  Why?  Because it helps me understand each of the steps that are being followed.  Quite often, especially when you are a contractor, you come into a project without a real understand of the process or what the user/group is ultimately doing.

I want to walk thru the process and understand the tasks involved so I not only get to see each of the steps that are being followed, I can start to ask or develop questions.  Every task has a purpose and I believe that it is important to understand theWho, What, Where, When, and Why for each task.  For example, I can start developing questions like Why do you do that?  What do you do with the information?  What formulas do you use?  What level of access is needed?

Tip #1:  Don’t ask too many questions at this point.  You want to understand the entire process, if you ask too many questions at this point you may not be able to get thru the entire process.  You also don’t want to overwhelm the person talking you thru the process.  Sometimes the most important questions don’t come up until you’ve digested the information.

Tip #2:  I’ve already mentioned that I like to ask Why, multiple times so I can get to the root of the problem and/or understand the process.  The second question I like to ask is “how long does it take?”  You don’t always know this and it isn’t always appropriate but if the goal of the project is to find efficiencies, then it is an important question to ask.

Flow Charts

After I get the step by step bullet points, I use Visio to start creating my process flows.  The process flows give me visual representation and help me figure out where there may be gaps or inefficiencies.  Typically, I start with drawing out the process from the notes I’ve gathered while going thru the step by step process.

There are two styles of flowcharts I use: standard and swimlane.  The first is a standard flowchart.  This is usually the flowchart I start off with.  It’s simply putting each step in order.  If the process gets complicated, or mulitple groups are involved, I will use the swimlane style.  The swimlane allows you to break the process up and visually see where there are potential hold ups.

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