No matter how hard individuals work, they cannot overcome a flawed process design, much less the burden of no design at all. Increasingly, organizations are realizing that the first step in almost any major project is to analyze and define their business processes, and then communicate those processes to those who need them. This activity is absolutely critical to all types of projects, especially those that affect one or more business processes.
A business process is a set of logically related business activities that combine to deliver something of value (e.g. products, goods, services, or information) to a customer. Business processes can be seen individually, as discrete steps in a business cycle, or collectively as the set of activities that create the value chain of an organization and associate that value chain with the requirements of the customer.
Most large organizations are structured into divisions and departments that are dedicated to performing specific functions and staffed with personnel who are expert at those functions. Business processes cut across these organizational divisions. Where different activities in a process require different skills, the process is likely to involve a number of people and departments. For example, consider the business process of selling products or services to a customer. Within a typical implementation of this process:
In this case, the work flows through several internal departments, each with their own process. However, from the customer’s point of view, a single process has taken place. A business process is made up of a hierarchy of activities.
Business Process Design is the method by which an organization understands and defines the business activities that enable it to function. Process design is concerned with designing a business’ processes to ensure that they are optimized, effective, meet customer requirements, and support and sustain organizational development and growth. A well-designed process will improve efficiency and deliver greater productivity, while allowing the process to evolve over time as business needs change.
Business Process Design is critical and needs to occur as an early phase of a project. The goal of the overall project is to implement business change, whether that change is primarily organizational (improve the business’ operating processes), technical (implement or integrate software systems), or a combination of the two. In a process improvement project, the focus of the business process design phase is to streamline the process: to understand and measure the requirements, and to eliminate the risk of losing value through inefficient or inappropriate activities. In a technology implementation project, the focus is on understanding the processes that are being automated, and ensuring that the appropriate technology is selected, configured and implemented to support them. In both cases, the process design activities can range from modest (e.g. tweak existing processes and look for some quick wins) to aggressive (e.g. identify major opportunities to increase value or drive down costs through radical process improvement or outsourcing). In all cases, the phase is critical to formally defining business activities and providing a clear map as to how processes are to be performed and how an information system is to automate specific activities.
The process of analyzing existing processes and defining new or improved ones takes place in facilitated group sessions, often called modeling workshops because one of their tangible outputs is a business process model. Team members typically include:
In general, modeling workshops are iterative in nature, and progress from building graphical diagrams of the processes (usually at the whiteboard) to developing detailed descriptions of those processes, and then passing through a cycle of review and improvement until the process designs are ready for publication and communication within the organization. Analyzing and designing processes. The aim of the analysis phase of a business process design project is to understand how the processes of a business function and interact; the aim of the design phase is to improve the way that those processes operate and interact.
The purpose of the analysis phase is to:
The results of the analysis phase are then fed into the design phase, whose purpose is to:
In some projects the workshop teams will spend most time analyzing existing processes, while in others they will spend most time designing improved ones, according to the nature and perspective of the project. However, a degree of analysis is still required as part of the design phase, if only to develop a consensus amongst the workshop team members about the key failure points in the current processes and which opportunities for improvement should be prioritized.
In many IT-driven projects, the purpose of the analysis phase is to understand the processes that are going to be automated. This ensures a good fit between the processes and the selected technology, and indicates how that technology should be configured. In this situation, little or no time might be allocated to improving the existing processes. However, some design work is almost always required to ensure the best use of technology. In all cases, it is important to dedicate some time to understanding the current processes, because the exercise helps to clarify the "language” used by the business to describe its processes, and provides the basis from which improvement can be evaluated. The output of a business process design project is a streamlined, comprehensive, easy-to-use model of the ways in which a business delivers output to its customers. One of the key purposes of process modeling is to provide a "process view” of the business. While organizations tend to think of themselves in terms of management structures and functional departments, outsiders, including customers and suppliers, see the organization in terms of the value it delivers to them – and it is the business processes that deliver this value. Once the organization sees itself in terms of business processes, it can improve the way it delivers value to customers, and hence the profitability and success of the company itself.
A business process, then, is a set of logically related business activities that combine to deliver something of value to a customer. An organization’s business processes are best described by means of a business process model. A business process is entirely independent of who carries out the activities and the organizational structure of the company. A defined set of business processes can be used as a framework for assessing the changes across the business.
The activities in a business process provide a checklist of what could or should be happening within the organization. The very exercise of defining processes forces a company to formulate and pin down common terminology, as well as common aims and expectations, and to eliminate misunderstandings. An organization’s set of processes, taken as a whole, communicates best practice and helps everyone in the organization to understand the common goal towards which each individual or department is working. The processes illustrate the flow of not only tasks, but also information, around the company and help to contain and disseminate the information and experience that are amongst any organization’s most valuable commodities. In short, analyzing and defining a company’s business process is the single crucial step required to understand how an organization works, how that organization wants or needs to work, and how to go about bridging the gap between the two.
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Essent is the leading provider of fully-integrated business management software solutions and services for process-intensive industries and the largest trading network for the promotional products industry. The Essent family of fully-integrated products and services combines best practices, business processes, software automation, and network communications to deliver unparalleled, unified business management solutions. Since 1980, Essent has offered the systems, service, software, and support critical to success in today's highly-competitive marketplace.