Intelligence on processes offers abundant information on the operations of a business. You can use the insight to determine the root causes of problems and prioritize where you need to invest for improvement. For businesses which plan to undertake a major transformation initiative, process intelligence also provides the background information needed to expedite the work.
To capture process intelligence, there are five key steps.
- Create a visual picture of the process
A process map is the best way to depict a workflow. The swim-lane diagram remains my favourite to illustrate who does what because you can pick up idiosyncrasies that occur along the process easily. The visual picture requires little training to interpret. The diagram fully displays the involvement of various teams, enabling everyone appreciate the extent of others’ roles in fulfilling the mandate of the process.
- Identify key business constraints
Each process is subject to constraints such as deadlines, regulatory compliance, labour restrictions, health and safety concerns. These requirements add complexity to the process. They could create unnecessary delays when handled inappropriately. For requirements that must be met, the question is how to fulfil them in a way that is effective. It is important to identify what the constraints are so that they won’t fall through the cracks when changes are being considered.
- Gather feedback
People who are involved in the day-to-day activities know the process well. They know what’s working and what’s hindering their progress. It is critical to get their input. In addition, observe how the work is performed. Inquire about the handling of exceptions. This in-person experience is the best way to verify what has been captured and uncover odd things that might not have been discussed. It is also an opportunity to get a better sense of the relative significance of the problems presented. For processes that involve customer interactions, gather feedback from the customers too. Their input should be given more weight when addressing the need for improvement.
- Collect useful data
Data are useful in helping you understand how well the process performs today. They are useful for establishing benchmarks. The common process data include the cycle time, error rate, delays, and throughput. Be mindful that useful data are information on parameters that support the delivery of the intended business outcomes. To gain a better understanding of any issues, be specific and pay attention to more granular data. Qualitative data could be quantified by assigning weights. You just need to be meticulous with the definition of the ranking descriptions.
- Identify cross impacts
This step involves synthesizing the information gathered from the first four steps and determine whether there is any impact from other processes. For example, the procurement process has an effect on the manufacturing process. The extent of the cross impacts affects efficiency and certainly, the overall performance. Therefore, it is useful to take a holistic view to avoid addressing a problem in isolation. The cross impacts need to be noted as they might present potential opportunities for significant performance improvement.
If this is the first time going through the exercise for a process, be prepared to take more time to do the work properly because you want to capture solid information. When a process performs well, you want to identify potential best practices. In the event that there are problems, you have good data to make informed decisions.