I’ve been around IT for a while. Actually, more than a while. In fact, my kids would say WAY more than a while. It amazes me how different the business environment is nowadays (I actually said nowadays. I sound like my grandmother. If I find myself saying “whippersnappers” I may need to retire). The environment in which businesses operate today is radically different than the one that existed when I first entered the workforce. Things change at the speed of light – literally. Our organizations compete in a truly global economy. New businesses and new ideas enter the marketplace overnight, and we have to be prepared to respond.
One area that I’ve been watching with interest is the Process Excellence movement. I recently reviewed the PEX 2017 Annual Report, and it struck me that there is a real opportunity here for Business Analysts – and for organizations with strong BA teams that want to pursue Process Excellence. Why do I say that? Just look at some of their key findings:
- 80% of respondents do not expect to see a reduction in their operational excellence budget in 2018
- 51% of respondents said they would describe the current perception of process/operational improvement in their organization as expanding
- 38% of respondents said that the current scope of their process deployment was enterprise wide
- 41% of respondents cited linking process improvement with top level business strategy as one of their primary operational excellences challenge for the year ahead
- IT continues to be the main individual business function where operational excellence methodologies are applied to drive change
Let’s review….what is Process Excellence? The PEX Network says that process excellence “…is about improving the way that businesses create and deliver value to their customers.” Their annual report identified some common names that organizations give to these efforts, including:
- Operational Excellence
- Continuous Improvement
- Process Improvement
- Process Excellence
- Business Process Management
- Performance Excellence
The report also gave insight into how organizations view the process excellence function. The top four answers were:
- A way to help the organization deliver its strategic objectives
- A way to improve customer satisfaction through better quality and efficiency
- A way to cut costs by improving productivity and/or reducing headcount
- A way to improve the quality of a product or service
Huh. Am I the only person who wants to put their hand up here and say, “Hey, hang on! Business Analysts do that!!”
Process Excellence Almost Always Involves Business Process Analysis – a Key Business Analysis Skill
However, be sure you don’t confuse process excellence with process improvement or process re-engineering. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same thing. Process analysis is often the first step on the journey to process excellence. And that’s right up our alley — most BAs are equipped to help their organizations with process analysis.
As some food for thought, here’s a quick skill check to ensure you’re ready to participate in these initiatives. The following techniques from the BABOK v3.0 (also covered in our Business Process Analysis class) and are fundamental to performing thorough process analysis:
- Business Rules Analysis (10.9)
- Decision Modeling (10.17)
- Estimation (10.19)
- Functional Decomposition (10.22)
- Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (10.28)
- Process Analysis (10.34)
- Process Modeling (10.35)
- Root Cause Analysis (10.40)
Taking It to the Next Level: Going Beyond Process Analysis and Improvement
Where process excellence starts to depart from traditional process analysis or process improvement is in its effort to ensure alignment with corporate goals and strategies. Remember the quote from above: “At its most fundamental level, process excellence is not about a methodology, it is about improving the way that businesses create and deliver value to their customers.”
Hmm…Value…Where have I heard that before?
So many conversations in the business analysis space are starting to revolve around the concept of value. This is another area where I think that analysis skills are key. In our class Establishing Business Value and KPIs we explore the concept of value in detail. More importantly, we teach an approach to ensure that:
- There is a vision of business success, described as an outcome of value
- Barriers to that success are identified
- A solution is purposefully constructed to overcome the barriers and deliver that valuable outcome
- Measurements (KPIs) are established to monitor the need for the solution, its ongoing performance, and its success in delivering the desired value
- The maximum value is obtained from the minimum effort
These topics go beyond mastering some modeling techniques. They fit most closely into the BABOK’s Strategy Analysis knowledge area, and rely heavily on underlying competencies such as Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving. While I wouldn’t tap a junior BA for this type of work, this is a perfect fit for a senior BA – and will likely be fun and challenging for them.
The Good News If You’re a Business Analyst
You’re well positioned to participate in process excellence initiatives in your organization. That’s one of the things I love about analysis skills – they apply to so many areas. In fact, their “portability” is how I got my CBAP in spite of being in management for most of the years leading up to my application. While I didn’t work on many software development projects, I worked on tons of other projects and initiatives that used my analysis skills.
- Lead a “Tiger Team” to get to the root cause of implementation problems? I can do that!
- Oversee the process for prioritizing enhancements in our next three software releases? Got it!
- Do cost-benefit analysis and develop a business case for the CEO’s pet project? Sure thing!
And now…Process Excellence? If you’re an analyst, you got this! It’s a fantastic opportunity to put your skills to use outside of traditional software development efforts.
You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to…you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to….
Leading a Process Excellence team? If you’ve got some talented Business Analysts in your organization, you’ve got a head start on building a team. In case you haven’t spent hours reading definitions in the BABOK, let me share with you how it explains what Business Analysis is:
“Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.” (BABOK v3.0)
“Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. It can be used to understand the current state, to define the future state, and to determine the activities required to move from the current to the future state.” (BABOK v3.0)
Process Excellence…Business Analysis…two names for the same thing? Maybe not exactly. But the synergies and overlaps are sure food for thought. And organizations with strong business analysis professionals on their projects have a major head start on creating a top tier team.
Have an “excellent adventure” with your processes!