Business process analyst is often someone who can be a cure for the significant business uncertainties of the modern world. We live in the days characterized by increasing speed of changes and growing level of uncertainty. The markets change at the speed of light and consumers change their preferences and behavior faster than a business can adapt to the previous alternation.
How can a business make sure it stays in line with current trends and developments? In most cases, it would mean a constant monitoring of the environment, competition, internal processes and product or service portfolio. The biggest caveat is that someone who is a permanent part of the business will have a somewhat blurred vision. The internal business process analyst will be under the influence of his management and group opinion of his superiors and peers. This can lead to sub-par results of the analysis.
Business Process Analyst
Business process analyst is usually an in-house position at larger businesses. This is someone who is constantly monitoring existing processes and takes part in the development of new ones alongside the management. There are pros and cons of such a professional.
Among the main pros are:
- Perfect knowledge of the business, market and competition.
- Possible earned authority in front of the management and other colleagues.
- A better understanding of the stakeholders leading to easier buy-ins.
The main cons are also essential:
- Blurred vision, anchoring, authority bias due to constant brewing within the same processes with the same people.
- Lack of experience in other industries and companies, limiting the latitude of thought.
- A limited amount of work and overspending on the position in businesses with a smaller scale.
While an in-house business process analyst can bring significant improvement of processes, quite often the results are less cost-effective than hiring an external business process consultant.
Business Process Consultant
Business process consultant is a business process analyst on steroids. Usually, the consultants have significantly broader experience in different industries and companies of all sizes. This helps them share the knowledge and provide more effective solutions that are often quite out of the ordinary for a given situation that they work on.
While a business process consultant might not have a perfect understanding of your business from within, as a professional they always map out a complete picture quite fast. Experience gained in other companies often helps them work faster and more effectively than in-house professionals. Another important point is that they don’t are not bearing cognitive biases that usually characterize employees of your organization. They are not “afraid” of the management team and won’t tweak their analysis and initiatives in favor of a friend-colleague.
It is also often more cost-effective to hire a business process consultant as paying a salary to in-house analytic all year long is usually more expensive than to hire a consultant or even a team when you need this expertise.
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Key characteristics of a business process consultant to keep an eye for
Our experience shows that the following features are the primary descriptors of a good business process consultant.
- Transparency and honesty. Business process consultant digs into the tiniest details of your business and often gains access to confidential information and commercial secrets. Only a person who will be completely transparent and honest in his work should gain your trust. Working with someone who seems sneaky and lying will not lead to any food results.
- Majority of processes include a certain level of uncertainty. Excellent business process consultants determine the predictive factors of the equation and build the analysis around them.
- While business processes often seem quite straightforward and superficial, professional business process consultants take all elements into account. Accounting for all the inputs and outputs in addition to the processes and their steps helps to get a holistic picture of the situation and guarantees a more thorough understanding of it.
- A widely spread mistake that business process consultants make is to plan the processes for a single outcome while we live in the world full of quick changes and uncertainties. Great consultants plan for multiple outcomes that cover all possible scenarios.
- Another point addressing the same characteristics is agility and the ability to take quick actions. It is impossible to plan a business process that will stay up-to-date and current in the rapidly changing environment. It is vital to be able to adapt and tweak the developed processes on the go, depending on the new internal and external factors that come into picture.
When to hire a business process analyst or consultant?
When do you need to hire a business process analyst or business process consultant? In short, there is always an area for improvement, and it makes sense to have regular interventions of an external consultant. Most often than not these elements happen due to faulty business models or processes:
- Stagnating or decreasing sales;
- Low or decreasing work efficiency;
- Growing expenses;
- Declining profitability;
- Bloated headcount;
- Excessive overheads;
- High staff turnaround.
Do any of these sound familiar? Flawed business processes have a direct negative impact on everything – from your team spirit to the bottom line. Understanding the way your company works, analyzing the processes and streamlining them is often the missing puzzle piece that can make your company more effective. Some of our clients have managed to improve their bottom line by as much as 60% after an intervention of our business process analysts.
There are also some situations in which a business process analyst is mandatory. For example, diversifying into a new business area or developing a new product or service. Building new processes is always risky. Having someone aboard with expertise of the processes development will be beneficial for their quality.
Other common types of situations requiring a business process consultant are mergers, acquisitions and restructurings. All these processes trigger significant organizational and process changes leading to a wagonload of problems. Business process analysts can help make sense of all the factors and bring order to the chaos of these situations.
Business process analyst is a specialist who can help you get a helicopter view of your business by connecting all the dots and suggesting the optimal ways to improve the performance. So, what is the best way to approach business process analysis?
Business process analysis
Business process analysis is a long and complicated endeavor. A business process analyst or business process consultant must possess a set of skills and expertise to be able to deliver results that will improve business performance. In general, their role is to connect business objectives with the details of current business processes.
However, connecting all the dots is not a trivial task. To reach this objective, the business process analysis must be complete and thorough. Business process analysts must focus on all possible factors. Everything should be considered – from the initial entry points of the processes to their results, through all the fundamental internal and external factors influencing the processes, to the final results.
Research stages of business process analysis
1. List business requirements and objectives.
Any business process analysis should start with the final objective in mind. As all businesses are different and have varying requirements and objectives, we will not list precise examples here. However, the approach to this stage is similar no matter the type of organization. Every company has a set of short- mid- and long-term objectives. They should all be listed, ranked according to their importance and connected where appropriate. Understanding their interconnections will help map the processes better and understand their influence on each of the objectives.
2. Identify the processes within the business.
Listing the processes is an essential stage in understanding them. Together with the business objectives, this stage creates a framework for all further business process analysis. The quality of this stage influences the final results of the analysis greatly. Therefore, it must be done with utmost attention to details and can take as much time as needed. It is also important to understand the connections between the processes and business objectives and finalize the large-scale map of processes within the organization.
3. Investigate the steps of each process.
Listing all process steps within the framework established during the previous stages helps complete the big picture. This stage finalizes the initial research and is fundamental for effective analysis further along the way. While in prior stages we were investigating connections between processes and company objectives, at this stage it is important to list any direct connections and effects of single process steps on other processes and objectives. These connections will be instrumental in the subsequent analysis stage.
Core stages of business process analysis
4. Document ongoing cases.
Now, that a clear framework for proper analysis was established and all steps of each process were thoroughly described, comes the time for a final check before the time-consuming analysis starts. This stage is a flight test of the map created during the previous steps. To make sure the map is correct, it’s best to use 2-3 ongoing cases of processes and map them precisely according to their current progress. Usually, this approach helps correct all omissions and draw inferences that will be an excellent start for the next stage.
5. Analyze the processes and make conclusions.
This is the biggest and most crucial stage of the process. However, by the time we reach it, a big chunk of work is already done. The complete map of processes and their interconnections is filled with detailed process steps. The full picture is enriched with input and results streams. The results are checked with the help of currently ongoing processes, and first conclusions are already made. Further analysis includes a detailed investigation of the place of the processes within the organization and their impact on the results. Usually, this helps us to find all bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies which become the target for future process improvements.
6. Propose process improvements.
Detailed analysis should lead to a precise set of actions addressing potential improvements in relevant processes. A good practice is to rank the proposals according to RICE framework. It includes four factors: Reach – how many customers will the initiative impact; Impact – how much closer will the initiative move the needle to the objectives of your business; Confidence – this element factors in the level of certainty that this initiative will be successful; Effort – each initiative requires investment of your team’s time and other resources. Obviously, the improvements with the strongest level of confidence that require the lowest effort and offer the highest reach and impact are the ones to focus on, and that will be easier to gain support in the organization.
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Implementation stage of business process analysis
7. Facilitate buy-in and adoption.
The plans aren’t worth the time spent making them without effective execution. Any initiative introduction depends on management buy-in. Usually, the decision-makers do their job based on facts and numbers. This is where the ranking of initiatives based on RICE framework comes in handy. However, the quality of initiatives’ adoption depends only on the buy-in of lower echelons. Business process consultant’s role, in this case, extends to being the champion and showman, locomotive and salesman of the initiatives. Frontline management and their teams usually represent the group most reluctant to accept changes. Onboarding them is a big task and requires a combination of psychological, presentation and persuasion skills.
The stages described above are a generalization of our experience. Obviously, there are different situations and factors influencing the business process analysis approach. What stays fixed in all conditions is the necessity to take into account all details from the inflows to the steps of the processes themselves to the results that the processes provide.
It is also always important to start with the objectives and framework of processes and their interconnections down into details of each step, not the other way round. Another important point is to make sure the initiatives are accepted by those who will have to execute them. Otherwise, it’s all just a wasted effort.
Quandary business process consultants have a great deal of experience in business process analysis and development. We have helped numerous companies from different industries achieve great results and will be happy to help you boost your business too.