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What you should know about documenting and analyzing your existing processes.

Published 16 December, 2021
Marquis Murray
Written by Marquis Murray

There are a number of process analysis techniques that can be used to analyze existing processes, from process mapping and process discovery to process improvement. While there are some subtle differences between these approaches, they all have the same goal: gaining a solid understanding of how things currently function so you can improve them going forward. This kind of process analysis is referred to as process discovery or process mapping.

When you start analyzing your process, it can be very useful to use process mapping software to map the process visually. Process maps provide a clear representation of what is taking place in your department and how things are related to one another, which can make it much easier for you to spot inefficiencies and gaps in the process.

Once you have a process map, you can start to identify areas where improvements can be made. You may find that some steps in the process can be eliminated or consolidated, or that there are opportunities to streamline tasks and make them more efficient. Process mapping can also help you to identify choke points in the process where tasks or decisions are bottlenecking the flow of work.

If you're looking to improve process efficiency and effectiveness, process analysis is a great place to start. By documenting and analyzing your as-is process, you can identify areas where improvements can be made and start to put together a plan for making those changes. Process improvement doesn't have to be difficult - with a little effort, you can start making your process work better for you.

What is as-is process analysis?

Studying your as-is (or current state) processes is a great way for businesses to track, measure, and optimize processes in order to improve performance, efficiency, and results across the board.

The process management technique of as-is process analysis or current state analysis is an approach for analyzing a company's existing processes. Current state analysis may concentrate on the whole organization or one or more departments or teams.

In process management, process analysis or process discovery is a process improvement strategy that identifies and evaluates existing business processes.

There are a number of different reasons for performing current state analysis, including:

  • Saving money
  • Increasing productivity and operating efficiency
  • Increasing client happiness
  • Coordinating and responding to changes in your business, and
  • Merging processes after undergoing a merger or acquisition

Current state vs. future state process analysis

When it comes to evaluating business processes, you must consider both the current state and the future state. Simply put, as-is maps document where your procedures are now, while to-be maps chart their progress towards a desired outcome.

It is important to remember that process improvement initiatives always take place in the context of an as-is process. You cannot improve what you do not understand. So, your first step should always be documenting and understanding your current process. Only then can you begin to identify opportunities for improvement and put together a plan for making those changes.

The as-is phase describes the present state of your procedures and any gaps or problems with the current mode of operation. Once you've drawn it out, you can move on to process management's to-be stage.

Documents that describe the process you want to have are known as process mapping documents. You collaborate with stakeholders to create modifications to the current procedure and illustrate those changes on your to-be map using the as-is diagram.

Keeping track of both the current and future state workflows will help everyone on your team stay consistent with their procedures, monitor progress, and evaluate outcomes more effectively.

Process documentation workflow

Benefits of analyzing your as-is process

The major benefit of process analysis is laying a firm foundation in an organization's processes. As-is evaluation allows a company to assess its current state of processes and identify areas for improvement.

Without this basic information, it's tough to manage and improve processes. To put it another way, if you don't know where you're starting from, getting to where you want to be will be difficult.

Expected outcomes of doing this type of analysis include:

  • Aligning the operations of the business with the strategy.
  • Improving training and change management.
  • Improving operational efficiency.
  • Increased consistency across the company.
  • Gain a competitive advantage.

Steps in performing an as-is process analysis

The following is a breakdown of the three phases of as-is process analysis —research, documentation, and analysis.

Research

For a full current state analysis, you'll need to obtain an overview of the organization's primary goods and activities. To gain a clear picture of the company's value chain, begin by making a list of all products and services. Then rank them chronologically based on each level's processes used to generate those items and services.

Make a note of when each process begins and finishes, as well as which teams or individuals are involved (or responsible for) those stages of the process.

Key stakeholders and managers can assist you with the broad strokes, but you'll need to connect with people who are executing and managing each separate step in order to produce a full and accurate report.

Here are a few ways you can go about gathering the information that you need.

Personal interviews

Conduct meetings and ask interviewees who complete each step as well as the managers or other subject-matter experts in charge of the process. Personal reports will need to confirm procedures that are functioning effectively (or not) and shed light on elements of the process that you would not otherwise know about.

Keep in mind that while personal interviews are beneficial, you should gather input from several people (where feasible) to get a well-rounded understanding of each process.

Company documentation

Oftentimes, process analysis requires deep dives into company records and documents to learn more about the process. This is important because process teams are usually spread throughout departments or locations. Use your company's intranet site to search for process updates, standards, orders, guides, manuals, and other process-related information.

Participate in process audits

You should take advantage of process audits, which are done to keep team members doing their jobs effectively and efficiently. You can also use process audits as opportunities for you to identify potential improvement areas or deficiencies without the fear of embarrassing team members.

Don’t forget that people may withhold process information due to concerns about job security or process failure. To avoid this, stress that process audits are meant to improve performance and encourage collaboration across teams.

Surveys

To gather formal written responses, send surveys or questionnaires to process participants. Surveys allow you to ask certain questions that you may not have been able to answer during observation or interviews.

Group meetings

Finally, organize a meeting with the key stakeholders to outline the procedures and confirm previous findings with process participants. The objective is to gather often in order to document the procedure together. These meetings should be held once you've completed other research (e.g., interviews and observation) because you can summarize everything you've learned before discussing it with individuals and resolving any outstanding questions.

Document

Once you have the information, organize it in a process map or flowchart to create an accurate depiction of how your process works at present. While process documentation may take time based on the complexity of your process, it is critical for analysis purposes.

There are many ways that you can approach the documentation of your processes. If you're new to this practice, simply drawing it out on paper can be the easier way to get the thoughts out of your head and visualize the outcomes.

Tools like Miro, Lucidchart, and Process.st can help to make this stage of the process easy for teams to collaborate and iterate together in a shared space.

Your as-is process map, at its core, should document all of the process inputs, systemic support functions, detailed descriptions on executing the procedure, and all process outputs. These process outputs should include only the critical process-related information that can be acted on. Other process outputs, such as welcome emails and receipts, are not actionable and do not need to be included in your process documentation.

Good process documentation (e.g., process maps) will:

  • Allow you to identify options for process improvement based on your process analysis
  • Aid in the communication of process changes to process participants
  • Serve as a training resource for new employees and process-matter experts
  • Be a living document that can be updated when process changes occur

When it comes to process improvement, taking the time to analyze your as-is process is one of the most important steps. By doing so, you can develop an accurate understanding of how your process works and what improvements can be made. Having a well-documented process also makes it easier to communicate changes to process participants and to train new employees. Finally, process documentation should be considered a living document that is updated as process changes occur.

Identify gaps, bottlenecks, and weaknesses

Before you create a future state diagram, make sure to evaluate your present condition. Review your current processes in detail and be aware of any of the following:

Bottlenecks

Review the processes for any potential shortcomings and what's causing them. A blockage might be mistaken for a lot of meetings or people who are involved in an approval procedure.

Gaps

Examine your processes for any areas that might prevent you from achieving your intended performance or result. You could need to include another phase to your procedure, or you may even require the assistance of a specialist.

Weaknesses

If your organization has the right procedure in place but overlooks flaws in its present process, you're setting yourself up to fail. If this is the case for you, try budgeting to implement a system that enables better communication and hand-offs.

All in all

If you're looking for more resources on process mapping and process improvement, download our eBook which breaks down how to get started, with easy-to-follow examples. The blog also has a wide range of articles that can help you get started.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful in highlighting the importance of process documentation and process analysis.

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Topics: Systems and Processes Workplace Management