ERNI Technology Post Nr. 58: The Business Analyst’s Role in Business Process Management

Abstract

What Business Analysts (BAs) do nowadays varies by the size and type of company and the line of business the position reports to – IT or Business. Moreover, within organisations, employees performing business analysis tasks have various job titles – Business System Analyst, Data Analyst, Management Consultant, Process Analyst or Requirements Engineer, just to name a few. Business Analysts play a critical role in organisations. Moreover, they can provide important value in BPM initiatives. Their success depends on understanding how to work with key stakeholders, knowing the domain, understanding processes and how to use a consistent BPM methodology.

In the following paragraphs, the contribution of the BA towards Business Process Management (BPM) will be described, together with the activities that he/she performs and the methodologies and tools that can enable the process.

Short introduction to the BPM discipline

While it is well known that business focuses on costs, revenues and competitive advantage and IT focuses on the nuts and bolts of how a process works on a technical level, BPM manages to align both of them and shift the management of change from reactive to proactive.

Nowadays, many companies undergo business process improvement (BPI) initiatives and/or business process management (BPM) programmes to improve operational performance and obtain a better competitive position in the marketplace. BPM combines BPI, performance and change management with technology to ensure the sustainability of improvements in processes while enabling a successful process culture.

The Business Process Management Common Body of Knowledge (BPM CBOK) defines BPM as “a disciplined approach to identify, design, execute, document, measure, monitor and control both automated and non-automated business processes to achieve consistent, targeted results aligned with an organization’s strategic goals”.

The increase in BPM adoption and service-oriented architecture (SOA) has created a high demand for qualified business analysts (BAs). BPM – a management practice – and SOA – an IT practice – share the purpose of improving agility in their respective areas, and for this reason are often considered as going hand in hand.

Competences required by BAs involved in BPM initiatives

All senior level BAs should be generally familiar with BPM processes. This skill set, as described in BABOK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge) is divided into six knowledge areas: business analysis planning and monitoring, elicitation, requirements management and communication, enterprise analysis, requirements analysis, and solution assessment and validation – and each of them may be utilised in the sphere of BPM.

BAs are required to understand and challenge the status quo, investigate the root causes of a problem, assess why things are being done in a particular way and encourage subject matter experts (SMEs) to consider new ideas and approaches to make their processes more efficient and effective.

Interaction and communication skills are prerequisite in a BPM initiative due to the effects that changes to processes have on the individuals’ working habits. Negotiation, arbitration and conflict resolution are essential for BAs to manage different opinions within the organisation. The BA must be a neutral and independent facilitator of the change.

BPM Activities and Drivers

In order to drive change within the organisation’s processes, the BAs perform tasks within the following activity cycle:

Picture1: BPM activities flow

For a deep understanding of the organisation’s processes, BAs use BPM frameworks, which are sets or descriptions of processes for a generic organisation, specific industry, professional area or type of value stream. BPM frameworks define particular levels of processes throughout the organisation's process architecture. As an example, analysis of the supply chain is frequently conducted by deconstructing group-level processes into individual sub-components and then breaking these down to individuals performing specific tasks.

Identifying customer business needs is frequently the basis of the business analysis efforts (BPM drivers). Among these, we can mention:

  • cost reduction initiatives,

  • increase in quality,

  • increase in productivity,

  • emerging competition,

  • risk management,

  • compliance initiatives,

  • next-generation process automation,

  • core system implementation,

  • innovation and growth,

  • post-merger and acquisition rationalisation,

  • standardisation initiatives,

  • major transformation programmes,

  • increased agility, and

  • speed or faster processes.

Executives typically start the enterprise-wide BPM initiatives with focus on value and outcomes and then link these strategic objectives to the corresponding business processes which most closely support the objectives. External situations generating a business need are the usual triggers for BPM initiatives.

Within BPM initiatives, the BAs may assume a variety of roles:

  • Process Architect: responsible for modelling, analysing, deploying, monitoring and continuously improving business processes. He/she knows how to design business processes and how to enhance them. They are engaged in process analysis and transformation initiatives.

  • Process Analyst/Designer: has detailed process knowledge, skills and interest. They are experts in understanding process design along with performance trends and documenting. They are also interested in business process optimisation to increase overall performance. This requires an understanding of the detailed process and performing the necessary analysis. They perform analysis, evaluate alternative design options and make recommendations for changes.

  • Process Modeller: captures and documents processes (both AS-IS and TO-BE). He/she is frequently a process analyst working to document a process for implementation.

Picture 2: BPM stakeholders and BA involvement

Business Analysis Outcomes

While working with BPM, BAs usually produce one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Business process models,

  • Business rules,

  • Process performance measures,

  • Business decisions,

  • Process performance assessment.

Business Process Models

Business process models start as an end-to-end model of the whole process and can become as specific as a workflow model. Being divided into current (AS-IS) and future (TO-BE) state models, they serve as both output and input in the process analysis.

Business Rules

Business processes are guided by business rules, which are intended to support business structure or control business behaviour. Their identification usually occurs during requirements elicitation and process analysis. Before improving or redesigning business rules, their existence and impact on processes is analysed.

Process Performance Measures

In order to identify process improvement opportunities and to ensure processes are aligned to the organisation’s business needs and strategic objectives, process performance measures are used. They can address many aspects of a process, such as quality, time, cost, agility, efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness, adaptability, flexibility, customer satisfaction, velocity, variability, visibility, variety, rework and volume. Where an organisation provides service to their customers, performance measures are keys to defining service level agreements.

Business Decisions

Business decisions determine which option will be acted upon by the process from a set of options. Decisions are modelled independently and are best described using business rules.

Process Performance Assessment

The intention and capability to continuously measure and monitor the performance of targeted business processes is the key to any BPM initiative. The assessment can be static (documented with assessment reports and scorecards) or dynamic (delivered through dashboards). Decisions makers are provided with the necessary information to redeploy and adjust resources to meet the process performance goals.

Business Process Analysis

Business process analysis includes defining how an activity in an organisation is enacted and determining how to improve it.

The focus areas for BAs while performing this analysis are:

  • The level to which the process adds or creates value for the organisation

  • The extent to which the process aligns to the organisation’s goals and strategy

  • The degree to which the process is and needs to be efficient, effective, repeated, measured, controlled, used and transparent

  • The extent to which current solution requirements correspond to the future process

From a BA’s perspective, a business process analysis consists of:

  • Gaining a working understanding of a business process

  • Understanding stakeholder requirements for it

  • Determining the purpose and goals of the process

  • Identifying problems with the process and isolating their causes

  • Developing options for improving the process

  • Initiating process improvement actions

BAs have at their disposal a toolset encompassing various techniques for supporting BPM initiatives. In particular, for process analysis, BAs can use the following set of questions:

  • Why is the process done?What is it trying to achieve? (Key questions)

  • Why is it done the way it is?What are the constraints? (Key questions)

  • Who are the actors who participate in the process?

  • What activities and steps are involved?

  • What data, information, tools or other inputs does the process use?

  • What data, information, services, etc. does the process produce?

  • What is the history of the process?

  • When can the process begin (entry criteria)?

  • When is the process complete (exit criteria)?

  • Where are the activities and steps in the process done?

  • Where do the inputs that the process uses come from?

  • Where do the outputs that the process produces go?

  • Where is the process documented?

  • How well does the process work? (Important questions)

  • How can it be improved? (Important questions)

Knowledge areas

There are six business analysis knowledge areas that represent domains of expertise, each of them encompassing several tasks. Each knowledge area lists techniques relevant to the BPM initiative.

The manner in which each knowledge area maps to the BPM initiative and the relationships between the knowledge areas are described in detail below.

Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring

The amount of information available for full planning may be limited in the initial stages; therefore, progressive elaboration is typically used in BPM planning. For this reason, planning is an ongoing activity throughout the entire life cycle. Planning is based on the information gathered during the elicitation phase, while collaboration between all those involved is essential for the successful monitoring of the entire process. BPM initiatives usually fail due to failure in planning for ongoing monitoring of the effect of changes to the process throughout the whole life cycle.

Elicitation and Collaboration

The scope and the process under consideration must be well defined and understood in order to obtain a successful BPM initiative. 

Process modelling and stakeholder analysis are generally used during elicitation. To drive elicitation, process maps are an important tool and stakeholders are frequently consulted during their development. In process modelling analysis and design work, effective elicitation and collaboration is crucial. The effect of process improvements on the organisation, people and technology must be considered. Process changes may not be successfully implemented or may not meet the organisation’s goals and objectives without effective stakeholder management.

Requirements Life Cycle Management

BPM activities can drive business requirements, resulting in new design, coding, implementation and post-implementation changes. It is the responsibility of the BA to maintain this connection and ensure that communication with the ultimate decision makers – stakeholders and process owners – is effective. Business process documentation should be available to all stakeholders as it is to be used in the daily operation of the business.

Strategy Analysis

In this context, strategy analysis means understanding the process role in an enterprise value chain. The AS-IS value chain and the current performance measures are likely to describe the current state, while the future state is described by the TO-BE value chain and target performance measures. The change strategy will involve the identification of possible process changes.

Strategy is also shaped by the requirements evolving during the elicitation phase, the ongoing requirements evolving from the BPM activities, their analysis and design and the overall process solution evaluation.

Requirements Analysis and Design Definition

Requirements analysis and design definition focuses on defining the future (TO-BE) process model. The set of requirements is likely to include the process model, associated business rules and decisions, information requirements and the organisational structure.

This is a recurring activity spanning redundant the management of the entire life cycle, based on inputs coming from elicitation, planning and monitoring, strategy analysis and process evaluation.

Solution Evaluation

To assess the performance of the business process, solution evaluation is a recurring activity during BPM initiatives. Solution evaluation tasks help to understand the impact of process improvements and the value delivered by the change.

Solution performance evaluation is done to understand the differences between potential and actual value, to discover why there is a variance between the two and to determine if an alternative solution can perform better or realise more value. The evaluation assesses the implemented solution’s opportunities and/or constraints, how it matches the needs and how it can be improved. This may trigger further process improvement initiatives and a repeated BPM cycle.

While receiving inputs from all the knowledge areas, evaluation results shape the process’s design and the general BPM strategy.

A word in conclusion

As described above, there are many business areas into which a BA can bring his/her knowledge and experience, while at the same time he/she needs to possess important skills to drive process improvements and organisational change. Given the increasing importance that companies place nowadays on improvement initiatives, including BPM, the BA – regardless of the name of the position he/she holds – needs to act as the main driver towards organisational evolution.

Sources:

  • Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK)

  • Business Process Management Common Body of Knowledge (BPM CBOK)

posted on 06.03.2017
von:Raluca Viman-Grecu