Enterprises, whether they are commercial, non-profit, or government entities, are operational organizations that operate through the execution of hundreds of processes. The quality of these processes affects every aspect of the enterprise and these processes are rarely static. Business Process Analysis (BPA) is the discipline of examining processes so that they may be changed to align with enterprise objectives.
There are a number of reasons why PMs, in particular, must understand the BPA discipline. Project Management is a discipline full of processes that are targets for improvement. Also many projects originate from BPA, and the project implements the improvements, or the BPA is the project itself. This series of posts will explain BPA and why it is important to Project Managers.
What Is a Quality Process?
Most PMs are familiar with the traditional characteristics of a project. The product is considered unique in that most projects create a product or service that changes the enterprise from one state to another. This uniqueness brings uncertainty to the project that must be managed. Uncertainty is highest at the beginning of the project and is reduced over time. Assumptions can be made to help manage the uncertainty, but the outcome of the assumptions may not be known until later. In general, PMs must constantly reevaluate the project plan, make changes, and manage stakeholder expectations. This type of planning is called progressive elaboration.
Projects are often compared to operations that are composed of processes. Processes are very different from projects. They are executed over and over, and the results are not unique at all but are repeated. The use of progressive elaboration for processes would be chaotic. Because processes are repeatable, they must be engineered so they are high-quality processes.
What do we mean by a high-quality process? There are a number of ways to view process quality. Typically it can be described as a balance of efficiency, timing, and result quality:
- Efficiency – Costs to execute the process. Costs include labor, tools, and rework
- Time – Elapsed time to execute all or part of the process
- Quality of the Result – Results of without defects and within acceptable control limits
These attributes must be balanced appropriately. Overemphasis on one particular attribute can lead to severe problems in others. The discipline of BPA should help ensure that process improvement is not a series of over corrections. There are other quality attributes that can be just as important for a process. These include:
- Clearly Identified process goal and alignment with business needs
- Documented and repeatable processes
- Flexible processes – Changes can be made easily or the process can be easily adapted to changes
- Usable – it can be understood and followed by the intended users of the process
Business Process Analysis is the discipline used to document, create, or improve business processes. Process improvement is needed when processes no longer meet quality objectives. The process could be inefficient, take too much time, produce an unacceptable number of defects, or be deficient in any of the areas discussed above. The common, but not exclusive, areas on improvement include:
- The Process itself – This could include the actual process steps, documentation of the process, process compliance, accountability and ownership, and proper checks and balances.
- The Tools – Tools can include not only hardware and software but also the forms and documents that are still used in many manual processes.
- Process Inputs – Many processes suffer from poor inputs. Sometimes we may be working on the wrong process when we should be working to fix the process that provides poor inputs.
- People –There are still areas where people can contribute to process problems. Are they trained, motivated, available when needed, or under- or over-qualified?
What Is the Process of Business Process Analysis?
As a discipline, BPA is a process that is subject to process improvement. BPA is really a spiral process that repeats and overlaps steps as needed until the analysis is complete or when some deadline forces the analyst to move to the next step. The steps are described below.
- Determine the business process to analyze BPA starting with the selection of a process or collection of processes that are the target for improvement.
- Charter the Process Action Team (PAT). A PAT is a common term for the team assigned to do the BPA.
- Identify the stakeholders.
- Gather information from the stakeholders.
- Document the process goal and identify metrics.
- Model the current (as-is) process.
- Identify process problem causes.
- Determine improvement options.
- Feedback and validate information with stakeholders.
- Model the planned (to-be) process.
- Make the business case for improvement.
- Plan and implement the improvement.
How Does BPA Apply to PMs?
BPA is relevant to PMs in many ways. First, Project Management is conducted through the use of many processes that are subject to BPA. Second, many projects originate as proposals developed out of the BPA process. Third, sometimes the BPA effort is so significant that it is the project the PM must manage. Each of these will be discussed in the second half of this series.
BPA for PMI Processes
Project Management is composed of many processes. Project management methodologies are developed by enterprises to define how these processes are to be implemented in the environment and which tools will be employed by the PMs in the execution of these processes.
Many projects suffer due to poor risk processes. Poor processes can miss possible risks, cause poor impact or probability estimates, or fail to identify feasible risk responses. BPA can identify faults in the process itself (Process), make improvements to the tools used for risk management (Tools), identify training or mentoring needed to improve the PM’s ability to perform risk management (People), and identify the best and most complete data needed to get the best risk analysis (Inputs). In addition the identification and use of metrics can help determine whether improvements have been made or where/when further improvements are required.
Excerpted and available for download from Global Knowledge White Paper: What a Project Manager Needs to Know About Business Process Analysis