Key Points of “Business Process Analysis” in Problem Solving

Hello everyone. Last time, I wrote about “internal interviews” as one of the major methods used in “internal research”.

This time as well, I would like to write about “business process analysis”, which is one of the major methods used in the “internal research”.

I believe that business process analysis is well known to all problem solvers. If you are working for consulting firms, I think that each firm has its own formats and tools. If you are not, still in many cases, I think each company has its own formats. So, this time, I will write only the points when performing business process analysis for problem solving.

1. Key points of “Format”: Be sure to include process time!

First of all, regarding the format, it is important that it contains “4 elements”.

"4 elements" of business process
Fig1. “4 elements” of business process

I am going to write about each element.

Element1: Sense of level

I wrote about “SIPOC” in the previous post, but when writing a business process, a sense of level is important. There are various definitions about this in the world, so let me put only one link for reference. I think SIPOC is the highest level process in this kind of definitions.

It really depends on the case at which level should be described, but in many cases, as shown in Fig1, I think it is easier to understand if you write at two levels (mainly the process level you want to analyze and the higher level that summarizes them).

Element2: “Swimlane”

This refers to the vertical axis of “element 2” in Fig1, but it represents the “players (divisions/departments)” of the business process. It is sometimes referred to as a “swimlane” type of process because it looks like a swimming pool viewed from above.

It is important to clarify “who” is doing what work and passing it “to whom”. When the “handover” of work occurs in this way, there is usually a waste of “waiting time” (I would like to write about “waste” later in this blog). That is a point that needs improvement, right?

Element3: Process time (the most important!)

Process time is very important. Personally, it’s the most important of the 4 elements. Processes that are taking a long time often contain some underlying issues. To grab the trigger of it, let’s clarify the process time.

There are 3 types of process time.

a) Operating time (OT): Time taken for each business (process box) unit within the business process

b) Wait time (WT): Time between the businesses

c) Lead time (LT): OT + WT

Any notations are fine as long as they are understandable, but as shown in Fig1, the bumpy line is usually used on value stream mapping (a business process used in Lean Six Sigma. I would like to write about this later in this blog), and this is called “Lead time ladder”. The bumps are WT, and the dips are OT. Draw a box on the far right, and write OT total, WT total, and LT, which is the total of them.

There are roughly 2 ways to measure time.

1) Hearing: In interviews, workshops, etc, ask stakeholders who are familiar with the business about how long the process takes roughly

2) Shadowing: Go to the site where the work is actually being done and measure it with a stopwatch (recently, there is also a method of taking a video and measuring the time later on the video)

Shadowing, of course, is more precise, but it also takes more time and effort (sometimes people on site don’t like it, so we should be careful). So usually proceed by hearing, and if there is a part that should be elaborated, I recommend shadowing. Also, depending on the case, there are cases where the system is used for business and the time stamp can be obtained on the system. In those cases, make good use of system timestamps.

Element4: Issues on the process

Since it is a business process analysis for problem solving, it is also important to identify and write down issues on the business process. This can also be written in any way, but I think it will be easier to see if you put one row under the process diagram as shown in Fig1, to describe issues.

2. Key points for “how to create” a business process: Be efficient in “workshop format”!

How do you create business processes? By utilizing the “internal interview” which I posted last time, there are many cases where you interview the people involved in the company and then summarize the content into a process map, aren’t they? When I was in a consulting firm, I remember that this was the major method.

Of course, that’s fine, but among the Lean Six Sigma practitioners, the major way is to hold workshops that bring together relevant stakeholders and identify the process on the spot by using “value stream mapping”. With this method, you can proceed while confirming with the people involved on the spot, so there is little rework and it is efficient in the end.

In case of face to face workshops, post-its are used to draw business processes on whiteboard, etc. This makes sorting easy, right? Take a picture and share it when it’s done. There are cases where this alone is OK, and there are cases where you need to make slides later (such as giving a presentation to Steering committee, etc).

Workshop (Image)

Recently, I think that there are many online workshops, but in case of online, you can share the slides and make processes on the slides, so there is also the advantage that you do not have to make the slides again later. In case of face-to-face, there is also a way to proceed while projecting slides with a projector. Personally, I prefer post-its because they are more realistic, but I think it’s fine as you like.

Finally, some tips for using post-its in workshops.

Tips1: The size of the post-it should be larger. It would be nice to have a large one with a height of 75mm x width of 127mm. If you ask people to prepare post-its, they often come up with something about 75mm x 75mm, but that’s too small, so let’s try to prepare larger ones!

Tips2: The writing utensils should be thicker markers. Again, when you ask people to “prepare something to write with”, there are always people who write with a thinner felt pen or ballpoint pen, but it is hard to see letters written by them in workshops. So let’s ask to prepare thicker markers.

That’s all for this time, and I would like to continue from the next time onwards. Thank you for reading until the end.

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