Those of you who enjoyed my previous article "Linking Process, Procedures & Business Requirements to Successful Customer Outcomes - a Business Analyst Guide" will love my free whitepaper which is available from the Orbus Website. It's an expanded version of that post.
You will have to register with Orbus to download the whitepaper but they also have some really great content on their website including visio stencils.
I run a lot of workshops these days – I find that they are the most efficient way of getting to the heart of processes and improving them. I’ve seen people spend months doing depth interviews with staff only to have projects shut down before they’ve even get near to identifying improvements. That’s tragic and very avoidable. What can be accomplished in a well structured workshop can eliminate weeks or even months of unnecessary activity. Here’s how to get it right.
Don’t waste time planning too much. Against my will I was once made to write a 25 page document on how to run some workshops – it delayed the project by 3 months. Workshops aren’t complicated so don’t make them so. Create a spreadsheet with all your workshops, times, rooms booked and attendees. That’s all you need – don’t overbake the cake.
Pick your workshop room carefully. Find the biggest room with the longest walls – you’ll need them!
Identify all staff involved with the
process. It’s really important to get a cross section of staff that are involved end-to-end (that’s the customer experience of the process). You want staff that do the actual work – not managers or
Create a slide pack to guide you through the workshop. It will help you focus on the key stages and will avoid you missing anything and looking like a plumb.
Buy materials. You’ll need lots of 3M super stickies and a big roll of good quality brown paper, some blu-tak and some market pens. A whiteboard and whiteboard pens can also be handy.
Pick the right attendees. It may sound warm and fuzzy to ask the business who they want to attend but chances are they’ll send you people who aren’t busy rather than the staff you really want. What you want are people who know the process but who want to make things better.
Explain to staff what process you are looking at and what you want to achieve. It will make them feel more comfortable. Let them know they’ll be needed as early as possible.
Have a spreadsheet ready to capture the process details and a scribe there to capture them. Your job is to focus on facilitation not typing!
Set up the room by sticking up 3 sheets of brown paper as long as you can along the wall.
Set up chairs so that they all face the brown paper rather than behind desks. This helps to make the session less formal and more interactive. Ensure that your projector screen is set up in a manner which makes it easy for them to pivot around and see.
DO NOT put any processes up on the wall! This limits their thinking!
Set the scene by talking about the scope of the process. Identify what outcomes the process has (from a customer point of view).
Identify the current process. Give each person a pack of sticky notes and individually ask them to write down their own interpretation of the process (no collaboration!) Merge all the individual processes together to create one agreed end-to-end process.
Probe, ask questions, identify missing tasks until you are comfortable that everything has been identified. Check that nothing has been missed. Get the scribe to document all the steps in the process. Gather task timings so that you can calculate cost per process before and after.
Tear it to shreds – encourage them to question everything and to rework the process with the focus on eliminating activities. If it can’t be eliminated, improve it. Get the scribe to document all potential improvements in an action plan. Coax, cajole, prod, suggest – but never tell them what they should do.
Take plenty of breaks, have a laugh, give them plenty of sugar, make jokes, do a silly dance – push them beyond their current scope of thinking – for that way the land of process innovation
It's a handly little PDF (3.2Mb) that you can read anywhere.
I hope you enjoy it.
This video on the PEX Network is the best video I've ever seen that encapsulates the importance of process.
It's a must watch.
Tell your friends, tell the world, the process revolution is here...
I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to an article in the Herald Sun late last year entitled "Express too slow? Try the slow queue to speed things up"
I enjoy looking at retail processes but still surprised that Australia lags so far behind the rest of the world.
How many times do we hear this said?
When I hear this being it immediately fills me with dread; images of men in suits wandering through dark forests without maps, looking for mushrooms...needles in haystacks and the like (you get the idea...)
What generally happens in these situations is that business analysts go away and do just that - gather requirements - what the business thinks they want. Typically what this results in is a giant rambling document written in a pseudo business / IT speak that the business say they can't read and the IT guys say isn't detailed enough for them to build from. So the BA goes away and creates a functional spec which the IT guys love, but by this point in time it has morphed so far from what the business want, they have a heart attack when they see the final product!
"But that's what you told us!" say the BA's and IT guys!
It doesn't have to be this hard. Here's how you do it:
1. Define the successful customer outcome(s)
2. Define the process scope
Establish what the process actually is from the customer's perspective - current state (if a current state exists!). Don't take the business's word for it - their interpretation of what a process is may be radically different to yours. Document the process at a high level (e.g. SIPOC) - confirm with the business. Tick in box from business?
3. Define the current process
Proceed to document the process at a task level. Don't waste too much time on the as-is if you are going to change the process! Photos of sticky notes on a wall is sufficient. Tick in box from business?
4. Improve the process / define new process
List all the tasks in the current process and eliminate or improve tasks focussing on the outcomes required. If a new process, sticky note the tasks required to achieve the outcomes required with the minimal amount of activities. Don't just consider "sunny day processes" where everything goes right - consider everything that can go wrong! Look at the paths from every business rule in your process! Consider all process permutations!
5. Link Process Tasks to Procedural Steps
For each task, create procedural steps - how and why each process step is done rather than what is done. This can be done very simply in a spreadsheet ( For example my Process Ninja Workbook that utilises the CEM Method). What's more, you can then spit it into a procedural document for your staff to use for training and day-to-day operational procedures.
6. Link Procedural Detail to Business Requirements
The procedural detail helps to create a granular level of detail that greatly benefits the creation of specific requirements. It forces the analyst to think of all possible permutations and options - it forces them to think in the context of the real world, not a gobbledegook business requirements document.
7. Link Business requirements to test scenarios
8. Build it. Iteratively.
Presuming that there is actually an IT solution involved (and let's face it, there usually is), it's best to adopt an iterative (agile) approach where there are short development cycles with high business involvement. I have seen too many waterfall development disasters in my time.
It's not really that hard, but isn't it amazing that so many people can make it seem that way?
For those of you looking for some further clarification on Customer Experience Management and the CEM Method, it's well worth a read.
We've all experienced them. Customers loathe them. Companies don't realise they exist. They suck good sentiment out of your customers and suck money out of your company coffers. I call them "Process Black Holes".
Process black holes are where a process blackspot occurs where one of two things happens:
Process black holes exist because companies don't understand their processes, don't have visibility and dare I say it "management" of their processes. They are more prevalent in organisations where there are processes that cross more functions (hence more breakpoints) - more opportunities for the process to fail.
So what can we do to rid our organisations of Process Black Holes?
Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Close those black holes.
This is my attempt at it - I hope it provides a handly intro for those of us out there trying to provide some clarity on what the CEM Method does and why it's different.
"The Process Improvement Group specialise in reducing costs and improving the customer experience for financial services firms. We do this by streamlining the way they do their work. It's not uncommon for us to identify multi-million dollar savings in days." - Craig Reid, CEO