5 Business Process Analysis Techniques to Know

Dane White March 5, 2021 Business Process

business process analysis

As the saying goes, “don’t blame the person, fix the process.” Weak links in supply chains and service fulfillment have driven demand for better processes globally. When processes cause problems for your customers, and your employees, and ultimately your bottom line, business process analysis (BPA) is the journey to solutions. The fix seems simple: locate the troublesome process, unpack what it looks like today, drill down to the true pain points, then design the better process.

The catch? There are lots of possible ways — or techniques — to get results. And results aren’t all made equal. A misanalyzed process might just remain a faulty one if the true problems go undiscovered. With the five most recurring analysis methods, you can more quickly move past decision paralysis and into action. These techniques are:

  1. Gap analysis
  2. Value-added analysis
  3. Root cause analysis
  4. Observation analysis
  5. Examining the experience

To patch out the real problems instead of rehashing the same results, you’ll want to use the right techniques for the job. Each has its own value, and multiple techniques can be used to extract and solidify your insights. Let’s explore what to be mindful of when choosing from these most-used analysis techniques.

BPA concepts to remember when choosing techniques

As you choose and put business process analysis techniques to use, you’ll engage in:

  • Identifying your process for analysis
  • Gathering intel on the process
  • Analyzing the process “as-is”
  • Developing the improved process “to-be”

Beginning with your information gathering, you’ll be examining and refining what fuels and shapes the process in question. The four components of any business process are inputs, guides, outputs, and enablers — creating the acronym “IGOE.”

Inputs enter the process to produce results, or outputs. Resources known as enablers — tools, systems, human staff, and various assets, as well as the facilities that house them — are used to perform the process. Guides like policies and knowledge from experience decide when, why, and how the process plays out.

To collect and unpack these components, you might discuss the process with stakeholders like frontline employees. Along with interviews and other intel sessions, observation is another info collection and analysis method we’ll be exploring shortly.

Consider all of these as you pick and use suitable techniques for your specific processes. Let’s explore how these techniques work and when you’d use each one.

1. Gap Analysis

Gap analysis finds and reconciles the “gap” between the performance you’re getting, and the performance you want to achieve.

 The key concepts at play are as follows:

  • Your performance is where your results are now.
  • Your potential is where you want to be.
  • The gap is created by what’s keeping you from reaching your potential.
  • Closing the gap requires an action plan to overcome roadblocks and improve.

Gap analysis is an invaluable way to reconnect with your goals and reorient where your performance is headed. 

To evaluate your gap, you’ll look at the relationships between the four business process components. 

Starting with input-output relationships may reveal redundancy, wasteful activity, poor task timing, and missing steps.

Examining the role of guides and enablers to the rest of the process may, each respectively, hold traits that limit productivity.

  • Guides may reveal inconsistent steps, undocumented steps, overregulated tasks, and unintended knowledge gatekeeping via experience-exclusive knowledge.
  • Troublesome enablers may include poor workspace setups, inefficient use of equipment, or an absence of tech tools necessary for effective performance.

If you need more high-level visibility into your throttled productivity, gap analysis may be an excellent place to start. Expect this technique to take time and embrace it, since the strong ROI of these insights will be worthwhile.

2. Value-Added Analysis

Value-added analysis weighs and labels whether any needs are met by each business process step. The technique acts as a broad sorting lens for activities to help your team cut or reduce the non-essentials.

Steps that add “value” must be completed to meet a need of either the customer or business itself. With this definition in mind, consider what activities in your process fall into these three categories:

  • Real value-added (RVA) steps meet an expectation or need of the customer.
  • Business value-added (BVA) steps meet an expectation or need of the business.
  • Non-value-added (NVA) steps do not meet customer or business needs, or meet needs that can be fulfilled even if the steps are removed.

Assessing value requires digging to the core of why each activity exists. Carefully question all activity within the phases of a process life cycle (i.e. planning, execution, analysis, and adaptation). To do this, you’ll be sorting steps via simple verb-and-noun labels (ex: prioritize support tickets) to establish the purpose and reveal the true value.

Value ultimately is added by activities driven by either planning, execution, or prevention. Acting with the intent for preparation and control falls under the umbrella of NVA steps. 

Consider value-added analysis for objectively seeing how lean your process runs. Be mindful that not every issue can be fixed with a simple pass-fail test of value. Other techniques can help you polish your findings to ensure the true sources of any problems are being addressed.

3. Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis specializes in finding the core reasons for problems to show each of the possible fixes.

The root cause technique shines in tracing relationships between effects and their many possible causes.

Simple or obvious concerns could hide their own deeper issues that are less visible. Being the ideal technique to drill down to the heart of an issue, root cause analysis is an ideal path for getting beyond assumptions about your problems.

 Visualized charts and tables are your primary vehicle for unpacking the root cause relationships. Specifically, the Ishikawa diagram (“cause-and-effect” diagram) is well-suited for clearly showing who and what feeds the undesired outcomes. The subjects investigated may include these specific enablers and guides:

  • People or human stakeholders, including staff, supervisors, etc.
  • Guides such as references, logs, and schedules.
  • Methods like payment processing, request routing, etc.
  • Materials including consumables like paper supplies, pens, ink toner, etc.
  • Equipment such as physical machines, devices, and other maintainable tools.
  • Environment like onsite or offsite spaces that house and support the process.

Between these components lie branching steps that influence the outcome. Even when connective threads are discovered, there may be more to find as analysts gather intel from different perspectives.

For example, each stakeholder and unique situation could hold serious hidden problems. Some of these may occur infrequently enough to be overlooked at first glance. Continuing to ask questions and remaining curious are the keys to finding all the possible causes. 

Your team will find the root cause approach invaluable for ensuring any process revisions are reliable on the first run. This runs especially true if your company has a history of recurring issues and attempted quick fixes. However, as with the previous techniques, confirming these and other process evaluations is equally important.

4. Observational Analysis

Observation analysis gives analysts a real-time, first-hand view of the process in motion.

As a critical point of information collection, observation reveals overlooked or undervalued steps in a process. It also shows any activity that’s absent, despite being documented or implied as an active part of the process.

Observers can also engage in confirming if employee recall of a process is accurate. Interviews and process mapping sessions can be tainted with an intuition that comes with experience. As novices to the process, analysts may see and question roadblocks that a process vet has come to unconsciously bypass.

An observer may operate under one of two modes:

  • Passive observers avoid interacting to keep the process natural and unaffected.
  • Active observers jump in with questions and may participate in the process for real-time insights.

Regardless of the method, observation has an important caveat: it introduces your analyst as a foreign presence that may unnaturally shape the process. Unlike any of the other four techniques, observation will shift the analyst from an outsider to a factor in the process itself.

Observers would be wise to plan ahead and clarify their role with employees. Clear expectations can help keep the process free of distortion. Even in passive observation, being conscious of this influence can allow your team to adjust their conclusions accordingly.

Your team will also need to overcome their innate bias, conduct multiple sessions under varied workloads, and clearly plan what to observe.

As a final note, post-pandemic workplaces may struggle to observe remote employees. Consider using tech tools for recording the process — such as live video conferencing — to keep your team activities from slipping to the fringes of your organization.

If you have any difficult-to-explain processes, observation can cleanly record these for stronger analysis. Used in tandem with other techniques both as intel and data validation, observation can help your team navigate the process more reliably.

5. Experience Examination Analysis

Experience examination analysis captures the process knowledge of longtime employees.

Where observation gathers information from a novice perspective, experience examination unpacks lessons learned by expert staff.

Experience-based knowledge is typically undocumented and not often discussed. As a result, the “why” behind these activities may not be recorded through observations, interviews, and other sessions alone.

Targeting veteran employees helps teams find out:

  • What fuels high-level productivity in the process?
  • What drives faulty activities within the process?

Analysis of this sort can reveal critical connections between root causes and non-value-added (NVA) activities. The impact of these often “invisible” factors — like company culture and unintuitive policies — may be visible only to the experienced staff since they’ve been affected by it for a decade or more. This technique aims to bring that visibility to the wider organization.

If your organization has retained seasoned staff that knows your process thoroughly, experience analysis is absolutely pivotal to get durable results. It also allows teams to retain this exclusive knowledge even after the experts leave the company.

Consider experience analysis whether you’d like to support theories around your other analysis data or if you want to expand your process visibility.

Getting the most from Business Process Analysis

By now, it’s likely clear that selecting techniques for process analysis isn’t a simple one-and-done choice. If you keep these goals in mind, you’ll be on track to finding the results you need:

  • Better documentation to know and teach how your process works at its best.
  • Fewer problem tasks to cut the friction in the process.
  • Ongoing improvement to perpetually fine-tune the process to current needs.

Organizations find they offer more value at a lower cost with cleaner, leaner, more reliable processes. More importantly, your frontline staff, management, and customers will all reap the benefits. The path to progress is paved by informed decision-making, and you’ll need intelligent tools that work towards your vision.

Whether striving for better analysis or putting your new process to work, intelligent visual tools make this burden a breeze. Drag-and-drop visual process maps and adaptive automation are among some of the benefits of our low-code intelligent BPM platform. If you’d like to learn more, ProcessMaker is here to help.

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