How to Analyze a Business Process

When you are trying to figure out what problem to actually be solving before you dive deep into the software requirements, you want to by analyzing the business process and to do that you create both a visual and a textual business process model.

Business Process Model is a commonly used business analysis technique that captures how a business process works and how individuals from different groups work together to achieve a business goal.

Let’s look at what a business process model is, how you’d go about creating one, and why it’s important to model your process both visually and textually.

 

For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

Hi, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap, and we help business analysts start their careers.

Today, I want to share a really important technique with you on our business process modeling and how to analyze a business process because when you’re trying to figure out what problem you’re actually solving as a business analyst, it’s really important to know what the business process is. It helps you look at what the need is, what the scope is, and what problem we should even be solving with this process. You want to do this in both a visual way and a textual way, and we’re going to talk about how those work together.

Now, you might not be a business analyst yet. We help a lot of people get started.

  • If you’re in a software development role, this is a great technique to use to understand the business perspective of the technical or the software that you build. How does the business actually use this software in the bigger picture? What are all the steps that they might do before they use your software, and what are the steps they might do after? It helps you see how your software fits into their day-to-day workflow.
  • If you’re a subject matter expert or somebody who’s hoping for technology improvements to the work you do every day, using this sort of analysis can really help you fully articulate what you do day-to-day and how that work flows, so that when you’re talking to a developer or business analyst about the enhancements you want to a system, you can be very clear about how that process flows today. You might find opportunities to improve it, even just by analyzing, as well, which is always a win-win.

In this video, we’re going to talk about what a business process is, as well as what the key sections in a template that we teach at Bridging the Gap in terms of how to document and analyze a business process in a very clear, very complete way.

What is a Business Process Model?

Just to lay the groundwork, a business process is just a step-by-step sequence of events that is performed by a business user to achieve a specific goal. You want to know: what’s the desired outcome? What’s the goal? What’s the thing that happens at the end of this process?

Then, you back engineer. What are the things that have to happen to achieve that goal? All of those steps go into your business process.

Some of those steps could be manual. They could be in a spreadsheet. They might be on a sticky note on the user’s computer, the business person’s computer.

They might be using software. Those steps are not limited to what the software sees on a use case, which is very limited to the software. It’s very all-encompassing. What are all the things they need to do? Even if that’s getting up and walking over and talking to somebody at the desk next to them, that’s the kind of information that you want to capture in your business process.

One more important thing is that they can have variations and exceptions. We’re not always doing the same sequence of steps. One way that comes up for us at Bridging the Gap is when you register for one of our courses online, when you go through our online shopping cart, the system automatically will create a course registration for you and send you an email with that course registration information and your login details so you get access right away.

That process works beautifully for a majority of the registrations we have, which are one person paying for one course at a time. Every once in a while, we have teams invest in our training, or a manager who wants two or three people on their team, or a business analyst who gets the person next to them to join with them, which is awesome, and they’ll pay for multiple course seats at once. Then, the system doesn’t work so well. We actually have a manual process that’ll work around so that you send us the names and emails of those people, and then we will, within a day or two, set up access to all of those course participants.

So, an example of when you have a main process and then variations. It’s the same goal with the same outcome. Each individual course participant is getting their registration information, but there’s a variation to it when something triggers that variation. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that when we go through the sections.

You don’t have to take notes. You can if you want, but you can actually download the template we have for free, and that will walk you step-by-step through each of these sections we’re going to talk about so you can get started right away plugging your own information in about your business process. If you want to get that, that’s at bridging-the-gap.com/bptemplate, and don’t forget those hyphens in Bridging-the-Gap. There should also be a link below this video, as well, for you to grab that.

The Key Elements of a Business Process Model

Scope

The first section of our template is our statement of scope, or our purpose. This is: what is this process? You want to name your process, and you want to start your process name with a verb. It’s not “Our Course Purchasing Process” or “Our Course Participant Process.” It’s “Purchase Course Process” or “Give Access to Course Process.” It’s very specific on the outcome. You want to identify the scope of the process really clearly. You want to identify when that process starts and when it ends.

Desired Outcome

Then, you want to talk about the desired outcome of the process. It’s a little different than the purpose because there are a lot of reasons that we can execute a process. We can get really engrained in how we do it here. “That’s just how we do it.” Why are we doing this process? For Bridging the Gap, we have a course registration process because we want to help people improve their skills and because we are a company.

We’re a revenue-generating company, and those two things go hand in hand. That’s our “why” behind the course registration. If we did not have course registration online, we would have it through the phone, or we’d have it through fax way back in the day. It’s an essential business process to delivering the value we’re here to deliver, as well as receiving the revenue that allows us to be a profitable company that expands and grows and helps more people.

So, what’s the desired outcome of the process that you’re considering?

Activity Descriptions

Then, you’re going to go step by step through the process or activity descriptions. Step by step, what are the things that a business user does? Sometimes you’ll have multiple business users, so then you want to be clear about what the handoff is and who is doing what by using different actor or role names.

Exceptions

After that, you have the exceptions. As I mentioned, we have a primary path for when a course participant just purchases one, and then we have an alternate path, or an exception path, if multiple registrations come through at once. You want to be able to handle those sorts of variations and specify exactly what happens differently when you have a variation.

Business Rules

Another thing you might have is business rules. For us, a business rule is when somebody purchases more than one course registration at once, we will have them set up with access within two business days. Often, our team is amazing, and often, it happens within hours, but our business rule is two business days. You can have a business rule that a business user has to support. A lot of times we have business rules that are built into our systems that our system actually enforces for us. In a business process, you could talk about either of those kinds of rules.

Entry Criteria and Inputs

The other thing you have in a business process is your entry criteria and your inputs. Entry criteria are what must be true before the process starts. In the course of our course registration, you must have access to an online system. You must have a valid credit card. All of those things must be true.

The inputs are a little different. The inputs are what you have in place. What are you tangibly bringing to the business process? So, actually, valid credit card would be more of an input. You’d have an input of a credit card or maybe if you were buying a course and getting approval on your company, you might have an input of an approval document of some sort that allowed you to use that credit card. Something like that. It’s a tangible input. Our sales material and our marketing material for our courses could be considered an input for that process.

Exit Criteria and Outputs

On the reverse, you have the exit criteria and the outputs. What is true, or what has to be true when that process is complete? The process is complete when the course participant is set up and has access. Then, what’s the output? In our case, the main output is that email that gets sent to the course participant with their login information. That’s an output of the business process.

Process Flow Diagram

Finally, you might have a process flow, or a workflow, diagram. This is that visual model, and often you will have the visual model that accompanies your textual process.

All of this information that we’ve just been talking about can be modeled both visually and textually. It’s really important to look at it both ways, and you want to have those two types of information, essentially, side by side so you can see the visual. Often that visual is going to be a little bit higher level of information. Then, see the text, which has more detail.

Again, you don’t have to remember all of these details. We have, for free for you, the business process template. It’s below so you can start using this right away, getting started without a lot of roadblocks.

It’s one of the thirteen templates that we include in our Business Analyst Template Toolkit, and we’re just happy to give it away for free. The toolkit also has corresponding work samples and a guidebook. So, there is a lot more in that, as well, but the template we can give, for free, to you today.

Why Text + Visual Is Needed To Get a Complete View of the Business Process

I just want to talk a little bit more about this difference between the textual model and the visual model because one thing we see with our course participants is that they’ll just send us in the visual model and be like, “This is it, right? This is all I usually do.” A lot of business analysts really only do process flow diagrams or workflow diagrams, and they consider those complete business process models.

What happens, though, when you start going through the text is that—and especially start applying some specific guidelines about how to phrase those activity descriptions, what goes in the entry criteria versus the inputs. It really forces you to think through the process at a more granular level and dig deep. This is how you don’t miss steps. This is how you uncover, “The stakeholder jumped from here to here.”

When you’re winding that up on a process flow diagram, a lot of times, it’s easy to just skim over the fact that that connection actually doesn’t make sense. When you’re writing it out using the template, often you’ll say, “Oh, wait a minute. There’s a gap here that I didn’t see,” or, “I don’t know who the actor is,” or, “I don’t know this piece of information.”

The template helps. The textual view really helps you dig a little deeper as a business analyst and uncover gaps and ask really smart questions, which is what we all want to do: look smart. Even though we don’t actually know the process ourselves, it helps us ask really smart questions.

That’s why I’d encourage you, if you haven’t before, to check out how to actually document the business process textually, in addition to that visual model that goes along with the textual model.

Download Your Business Process Template Today

When you want to get started with that, go ahead and download our template totally free. We want to help you get started at Bridging the Gap because that’s our mission. We build our profession one business analyst at a time. Success starts with you, and we are here to help you start your business analyst career.

>> Click here to download the Business Process Template <<

Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Happy process modeling!

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