Do more with less. It’s the idea at the heart of almost every business goal. However, as time goes on, it’s a goal that only gets harder to achieve.
Your business sees orders flowing in and products getting shipped out. However, costs seem to grow, and schedules get further behind.
Creeping inefficiencies can accrue over time, and can significantly impacting your bottom line. Yes, it’s important to address those problems. However, it’s not always easy to decide how to make improvements.
Business process analysis provides a method of understanding a business’s operations in a well-defined and organized way. At the end of an analysis, you’ll know where a business works and where process improvements are required.
This article will explain process analysis and why it may be the tool you’ve been missing.
What is process analysis?
Process analysis focuses on how a business performs its regular operations. Operations are broken down into processes. Business process analysts study current processes to identify areas of potential improvement. The goal of process analysis is to implement better processes. In other words, create more value with less waste.
Process analysis is most useful after processes have become established. Various tools are used to map processes. Other tools are used to understand their effect on key performance indicators (KPIs). A crucial aspect of process analysis is suggesting changes that improve operations.
This sort of analysis focuses on business operations processes rather than other aspects of planning. In other words, it focuses specifically on the activities your business performs regularly.
In particular, process analyses map and improve how your business creates its products, and other operations that support it. It can be applied to the creation of a smartphone app, a service, or a physical piece of merchandise. It’s an important aspect of understanding your business processes, whether you use waterfall or Agile management methods for your projects.
Business process analysis vs. business analysis
The difference between business analysis and business process analysis is sometimes confusing. The two disciplines are related. However, they are separate areas of focus.
Business process analysis improves aspects of a business’s operations. The discipline investigates a specific process, or processes, whether part of production, marketing, or operations.
In other words, it focuses on business operations that are performed consistently. Processes are modeled to improve or optimize them, delivering greater value.
Business analysis will focus on two areas. First, it offers methods for defining requirements for a product or service. Second, it provides methods for changing a product or service. To accomplish those goals, it identifies the needs of internal and external customers. It then will recommend solutions for those needs.
Business analysis may require modeling or changing business processes. However, it’s primarily about determining what stakeholders need and defining what that means regarding a project or change initiative.
Business analysis follows up that understanding by guiding the needs of stakeholders. This guidance allows a project or change initiative that addresses those needs to be implemented.
Usually, projects and initiatives will require changes to existing business processes or even entirely new processes.
Why perform process analysis?
The main benefit of business process analysis is to improve efficiency or gain a better understanding of how a business functions. However, a process analysis usually has specific goals.
- Identify process capacity - There may be a functional limit to existing processes that limits your overall business operations.
- Standardize processes - Creating a single way of performing similar processes can reduce costs and improve training efficiency.
- Resolve bottlenecks - Resources or information may be tied up, slowing or stopping a process.
- Modify processes - Understanding the processes in place can make introducing new elements easier.
- Identify gaps - Is there an incomplete process, or is something missing entirely?
How to perform a process analysis
To an extent, every analysis will be different. However, there are a few key elements that every analysis should include. Process modeling is a significant part of the analysis, which reveals factors that impact as-is processes. The models are then adjusted to find potential improvements.
Process analysis is usually performed on-site, where processes can be directly observed and measured. Analysis will also often involve interviews with workers performing the processes.
What are the steps of a process analysis?
In general, business process analysis is broken down into several stages. The later stages, particularly improve and control, may be considered part of process management.
- Define - Identify the processes you’re interested in and begin to describe them. You may begin by diagramming as-is processes.
- Measure - Begin collecting data to measure the functions of existing processes. Doing so allows you to compare them to metrics like KPIs. Efficiency is a common metric to consider, though the specifics will depend on the process and its goals.
- Analyze - Begin to analyze your findings. You might use various types of analysis, diagrams, models, or consultations with team members to gain insight into processes.
- Improve - Identify problems and then create potential paths to improvement. In general, the analysis will include several options for improvements. Specific steps to be taken are then determined in collaboration with other stakeholders.
- Control - Determine if the implemented changes had beneficial effects. This step may include quality control. You may even perform a follow-up process analysis down the line.
Analysis tools and resources
A wide variety of techniques and tools may be used to better understand the processes being studied.
Depending on your objectives, you might be looking at the difference between current results and the results you want (gap analysis). Or you may be searching for the root cause of problems (root cause analysis).
You might even want to find which activities or steps add value, and which do not. Then you can focus on enhancing those that add value and eliminating or changing those that don’t (value-add analysis).
All of these approaches require a precise understanding of the processes you’re examining. Most process analyses will include some sort of process modeling, including a visual representation like a flow chart.
Although there are many techniques for process improvement, all of them have some common steps, sometimes with different names.
- Process mapping (flowchart) - A big part of process analysis is mapping the process. Depending on your focus, there are many ways to create such a map. Options can include:
- Business process model notation (BPMN) - A specialized method of visually depicting a business process.
- SIPOC (supplier, input, process, output, customer) model diagramming - A mapping method focusing on inputs and outputs.
- UML (Unified Modeling Language) diagrams - A method often used to visually represent software system modules, but increasing used for business use cases.
- Spaghetti diagram - A continuous flow line that follows an element or activity throughout a process.
- Failure mode effect analysis - Identifying the consequences of failure at each step in a process.
- Subject-matter experts - The analyst usually isn’t an expert in the business or process being analyzed. Seeking the needed expertise is, therefore, essential.
- Data-collection tools - Tools for collecting data vary depending on the type of operations. They can include surveys, personal interviews, performance reviews, production reviews, automated capture, and more.
Process analysis example: Thai milk collection
Business process analysis is a very complex endeavor. However, it may be easier to understand with a simple example. This basic business process analysis considered milk collection in Thailand as part of collecting, processing, and distributing milk to consumers.
The process analysis in this example followed the steps we outlined previously in the article, starting with understanding the current operation process and collecting data.
To understand the specific process of collecting milk, some broader context regarding the business of selling milk in Thailand is necessary. Process analysts interviewed business owners and process managers. With that information, the analysts created a process diagram using a public-domain business process modeling method.
Once they understood the specifics of the process, it was possible to measure its different parts and collect more detailed data about operations. Analysts also identified factors that impacted the process, from local regulations to requirements regarding delivery times. Further direct interviews with stakeholders played a big part in this step.
The analysts produced diagrams that offer a more detailed look at the factors impacting milk collection. Specifics of the process also mapped out, including requirements for testing the milk and the equipment required.
The analysis revealed several areas of potential improvement. Some were outside the scope of the specific process, such as connecting dairy farmers with veterinarians to produce more nutritious milk. Fundamental improvements were suggested, such as long-term planning and the introduction of real-time tracking.
This particular example didn’t include a follow-up. However, analysts should theoretically return to the same collection center after implementing changes. Then they can then assess which suggestions were implemented, ane what effects those changes had. Based on those findings, further refinements may be suggested.
Take a step to streamline your own daily processes
Business process analysis is a complex field that has its own specialists and methods. However, anyone who wants to improve their business and reduce inefficiencies in their work can use the approach. Not only will it help you gain a better understanding of how you operate, it will help you do things better.
Keeping the complexities of a business process analysis straight can be difficult. It’s made a lot easier by using tools like those provided by Motion. It can help keep you on task, communicate with team members, and organize data.
You can streamline that business process as a project using Motion’s Intelligent Calendar, especially if you're constantly reprioritizing tasks. The cutting-edge AI will manage those decisions for you. Sign up for Motion and see the difference it can make in managing the tasks for process analysis or any other project.