In our Business Process Analysis course, one of the most common questions that comes up is whether it’s more appropriate to document the “as is” or current state process, the “to be” or future state process, or both.
Like so much in the business analysis process, “it depends.”
In this article, we’ll define what an “as is” or current state process is, how to analyze current state process, and then discuss when it’s an appropriate form of documentation.
(Before I forget, be sure to download our free business process template which incorporates a host of best practices on process modeling.)
Definition of an “As Is” Business Process
An “as is” business process defines the current state of the business process in a organization. Typically the analysis goal in putting together the current state process is to clarify exactly how the business process works today, kinks and all.
How to Analyze an “As Is” Business Process
An “as is” business process contains all of the sections in a typical business process model – a description, list of roles, list of steps and exceptions, etc.
When putting together an “as is” process, access to business stakeholders who perform the business process is key. Secondarily, access to business stakeholders who understand the process (such as a manager or subject matter expert) can be helpful, even if these individuals do not routinely perform the business process.
You’ll need at least one stakeholder to represent each role in the process. For example, for a process describing how a new customer gets set up, you may need representatives from sales, customer service, and fulfillment.
Once you determine who needs to be involved, you can elicit information about the current state using a variety of different methods. Interviews and observation tend to be the best elicitation techniques to understand the current state process. Once you are able to put together a draft, a document review can be used to confirm your understanding and fill in any knowledge gaps.
When “As Is” Business Process Analysis is Appropriate
It’s not always necessary to document the current state, but it can be extremely helpful in giving your project team a foundation from which to build new enhancements or make business process improvements.
Here are some scenarios when starting with the current state is particularly appropriate:
- There are known issues with the current state, such as orders not getting processed or customers being frustrated with your organization’s level of service.
- Business users are confused about what the right process is or what steps to take in what situations.
- Your organization wants to automate or streamline the current processes, but the current state is not well understood or documented.
Often in bringing together stakeholders and analyzing the current state processes, you can’t help but improve them, at least slightly. The clarity that comes from good business process documentation can, on its own, sometimes resolve confusions and fill in the gaps that are causing issues.
But many times, documenting the current state is an interim analysis step to improving the current state by creating a new “to be” or future state process.
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- Help business users from multiple departments clarify their actual step-by-step workflow;
- Avoid wasting money on software solutions that don’t solve the right business problems;
- And even helping new business analysts figure out what questions to ask when starting on a new project or domain.
Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project.