Is Your Business Process Ready for Automating?

by MK Strupe on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 @ 03:03 PM

What does it mean to have a business process?  And how can a company understand its day-to-day operations to formalize those operations as a documented business process?        

Process Discovery is the effort extended to establish formality around all of the activities performed in a company.  Process Discovery is instrumental in ensuring a company's day-to-day operations are documented, understood, and regulated.  Executing a successful process discovery initiative for a company depends on many factors:  company size, how expansive the process is inside the company, process participant involvement, and if there is a "process champion" for the process. 

 Process Discovery has 3 phases:

  1. Process Conceptualization: Gathering all process participants together for discussions on what tasks are performed through the process. This can be achieved in numerous ways, such as: having onsite interviews with process participants, utilizing process discovery software to document individual efforts, or simply watching and listening to process participants working.
  2. Process Mapping: Drawing the process through a BPA application (like Ultimus Process Designer or Ultimus BPM Studio Client)
  3. Process Modeling: Measuring the efficiency of the process in terms of time and cost (specifically measuring the times and costs of the individual steps of the process)
Only after all three of these phases are completed should you consider a process automation effort.  But what does it mean to actually model your process?  Through a BPA tool, you can analyze each step in the process to determine if how you execute your business today is actually effective and cost efficient.  Consider the following subsection of a simple business process:

Process Mapping, Expense Reporting

This process seems simple enough, in that expenses filed in the company are first reviewed by a department supervisor.  If the expenses are approved initially, then accounting additionally reviews the expense for final approval.  A process as simple as this normally would not cause for any concern, but even the simplest of processes can be critically inefficient.  Consider the following process metrics:

  • A new expense request is generated, on average, every 45 minutes. Anyone in the company can initiate an expense report incident.
  • There is 1 person executing the "Dept Supervisor" step. Also, the "Dept Supervisor" step takes, on average, 3 hours to complete (as the department supervisor is busy performing his/her own day-to-day tasks).
  • There is 1 person executing the "Accounting Review" step. Also, the "Accounting Review" step takes, on average, 5 hours to complete (as the accountants are busy performing their own day-to-day tasks)

By modeling this process in Ultimus Process Designer or Ultimus BPM Studio Client, you can test to see how well this business process, with its defined metrics, will perform over the long term.  By testing the process with 100 test process incidents, you can see that the "Dept Supervisor" step quickly becomes a bottleneck.

Process Mapping, Expense Reporting

Here, you can see that in this sample run of 100 executions of the Expense Reporting process, 67 of the incidents pile up rapidly on the supervisor's desk.  Moreover, as each step in the process has an internal cost associated with it, the inability for the department supervisor to execute his/her step is now representing a significant cost to your company, as shown below.

Business Process Expense Reporting

The value of modeling a business process is evident.  By having the ability to document, map, and model this business process, the reason why expenses are slow to be paid back to your employees is discovered.  You now have the understanding to focus your concerns on the "Dept Supervisor" step, where you will either decide to apply more resources on this step or reprioritize the supervisor's work to focus more on reviewing expense reports.  And once you remedy the supervisor's bottleneck situation, you can adjust the metrics in your process in Ultimus Process Designer, and model again.  If there are subsequent bottlenecks in the process (which there may be), you can then focus your efforts on those areas.  Once you are assured that the entire process executes efficiently and the cost is controlled for your process, you are now ready to consider automating this process.


Chris Adams
VP Product Marketing and Management

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This post was written by MK Strupe