How valuable are your business processes? They ARE your business.
According to Appian.com, a business process is a collection of linked tasks which find their end in the delivery of a service or product to a client. Generally, business processes are grouped into three categories:
- Management processes;
- Operational processes;
- Supporting processes.
Operational processes are what constitute the key value chain – they are at the heart of what makes your business different (or similar) from any other. For example, in manufacturing, the operational processes are those directly linked to making the product (sourcing raw materials, production, finishing, packaging, shipping, etc.). Supporting processes include finance/accounting and, of course, IT.
The natural human tendency is to minimize waste and optimize. However, left unto itself, the process of finding areas for improvement takes significant time, especially within an organization with processes that may span several months. This is where Business Analysis comes in. Wikipedia.org describes business analysis as
“a research discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a software-systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development.”
That is, business analysis develops and optimizes solutions to address business needs.
Any process is based on the flow of information, and a business is no exception. The main role of IT systems is to streamline, organize, and speed up information flows in business. IT Business Analysis focuses specifically on developing IT solutions to business needs and improving existing business processes. IT solutions can be as simple as the implementation of an instant messaging tool to speed up communication, or as complex as an information system that holds all business information and facilitates the entire workflow from lead to final sale to customer follow-up. A particular example of the effectiveness of IT Business Analysis is the Barcode Scanning System Commit100 developed and implemented for Nuform Building Technologies Inc., which allowed for fast entry and accurate accounting of raw materials and stock. This system decreased the time needed for a full Inventory count by 4-5 times. Commit100 also develops and supports custom in-house information systems.
IT Business Analysis can work with all types of business processes. If focused on operational processes, i.e. those that form the key value chain, it can unlock the hidden potential of your business.
Management often frowns upon investing into IT systems, and this is often a legitimate concern – IT systems should only be based on adequate business analysis, showing what specific improvements to business processes will happen as a result of implementing the IT solution. Depending on the business, the adequate IT solution may be off-the-shelf or fully custom, which is what we will discuss in future blog posts.