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Discovering business processes

Webisodes with Alec Sharp: Discovering business processes within your organization

Reading time: about 5 min

Often, the most challenging step in optimizing your business processes is getting started. There are many different approaches you can take, and it is essential to research different options. 

In this blog post, we will summarize the first and second webisodes Alec Sharp, senior consultant at Clariteq, did with Lucidchart about discovering your organization’s business processes and activities. 

You will discover how to turn your unstructured processes into efficient ones and bring employee awareness to company processes. We’ll also discuss refining your business to bring clarity, save time and money, and increase customer satisfaction.

Facilitated sessions

Many facilitated sessions use either a top-down or bottom-up approach. Both are used to analyze processes and make important decisions. 

Top-down: The goal of a top-down approach is identifying the “big picture” and all of the details associated with it. This approach is often associated with macroeconomics. Someone using this approach would be looking at how multiple factors affect a single outcome.

Sharp explains that there are some issues with the top-down approach because it confuses the process with function and can be difficult for individual collaboration. Instead, he recommends a bottom-up approach to discover your organization’s business processes.

Bottom-up: The bottom-up approach focuses on the microeconomics of the organization. Bottom-up starts at the bottom of the organization (customers) and works through each level to the CEO. This approach is often more customer-focused and uses “active verb-noun” naming without naming “who and how.” 

Let’s take a look at how to use the bottom-up approach to discover your business processes.

In Webisode 1, Sharp explains that he uses his “TRAC” framework to discover processes:

  • Trigger
  • Results
  • Activities
  • Cases

Steps in the TRAC framework include: 

  1. Identify where a final result of value is delivered to one or more stakeholders. Sharp calls these “happiness points.” Happiness points can be customer satisfaction, opening an account with a bank, or any transaction that would increase good business.
  2. Identify points where a triggering event beyond the organization’s control is required before activities can proceed. These elements can include time, conditions, and decisions. For example, if a business must wait on a customer to seek loan financing for the business process to continue.
  3. Identify the cardinality of connections between activities. Put simply, this is the ratio in which activities relate to one another. For example, one successful prospect leads to one paying customer.
  4. Identify tokens in the activities. Tokens are transformations in a process such as transforming from a prospective lead to a customer, applying for a service, paying for the service, etc. Simply put, these are conversions.
TRAC framework
TRAC business process boundaries example (Click to modify online)

Watch the entire first webisode about discovering your organization’s business processes: 

Interviews 

Sharp proposes that another way to uncover business activities is through 1:1 interviews. Because it can be hard to conduct these interviews, it is crucial to prepare in advance, maximizing results and minimizing time.

There are several essential components of the interviews. First, be sure to introduce yourself, the interview, the objectives of the role, and any details you wish to disclose. Second, the sessions should be open-ended, allowing for feedback, and should cover three main topics.

  1. The work: Ask the interviewee to define their role and list 5-10 activities that are crucial in the role.
  2. Issues and objectives: Allow the interviewee to explain the current problems in the role and/or issues this undertaking will raise individually and for the group. This is also a chance to discuss goals and impacts.
  3. The environment: Discuss if any cultural or historical factors will impact the success of this undertaking.

By repeating this process with 10-12 people, who each come up with 5-10 activities, you will then have 50-100 activities that have been identified in your organization.

Sharp stresses the importance of going unscripted, as this exercise is meant to be conversational. 

Role descriptions 

This discovery method uses a “meet in the middle” approach because it incorporates both top-down and bottom-up techniques. The top-down method is first used to identify seven process families:

  • Environmental intelligence and assessment
  • Product lifecycle management
  • Demand stimulation
  • Customer relationship management
  • Fulfillment
  • Industry relations
  • Product service and support

Next, the bottom-up approach validates and extends process areas:

  • Identifying essential activities
  • Map activities into process areas
  • Link activities into processes
  • Name and refine processes

Creating role profiles is found to help develop key messages and issues. Though this process does take some time, it is proven to be profitable. To create a valuable role profile, first identify activities in each role, map activities to their process areas, and lastly, link activities to the end-to-end process. 

Sharp concluded that the activities were linked to the process and the related departments by doing this, making it convenient to produce a process summary chart.

This approach uses the arc of analysis to analyze processes, first using the top-down technique to identify high-level process areas and then the bottom-up technique to create role profiles and other resources, identify essential activities, map them, link them, and refine the processes. 

Sharp concluded that the activities were linked to the process and the related departments by doing this, making it convenient to produce a process summary chart.

Watch Sharp’s second webisode about techniques for discovering activities:

Guidelines for well-formed processes

Sharp concludes these webinars by reminding us of the five guidelines for well-formed business processes.

1. “Active verb-noun” naming that indicates the primary result

2. Triggered by an event (decision, time, data) outside of process control

3. In the end, results make stakeholders happy

4. 1:1 activities are most likely a part of the same process; one-to-many or many-to-one relationships are most likely a boundary

5. The same token moves through the whole process, changing the state, and there will be a change of token across a process boundary

Discovering business processes

Watch Sharp’s entire webisode series on our YouTube page. 

Watch now

Watch Sharp’s entire webisode series on our YouTube page.

Watch now

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