This paper will discuss which information gathering methods can be used in analyzing requirements, identify which business process mapping methods should be used in analysis activities, discuss which business process mapping tools should be used in documenting analysis, indicate how the analyst would know if these methods and tools were effective in understanding the requirements, and explain how prototyping tools could be used to confirm these requirements.
Assessment of Enterprise Level Business Systems
Information gathering used in analyzing the requirements of a business are essential to ensure that the customer is getting the best possible product for their needs. It is important for the consulting team to know different methods of information gathering to obtain the best possible information they can as this will help to ensure a higher success rate for the overall implementation of the product.
In today’s world, it is very easy for a customer to comparison shop the different products available to them. Browsing online and clicking a mouse is all it takes to move from one company to the next. The process starts when a customer starts narrowing down what they are looking for and begins to choose a few systems to have personally demonstrated to the company. Best practices would state that the consultant in charge of providing the demonstration of the software would do some homework on the company to find out what they do, start speaking with some of the stake holders to see what they expect from a new system (HR may not have the same requirements as IT, who may not have the same requirements as management or production).
Meeting with a number of stakeholders within the different departments of a business will help the consultant narrow down the needs of the organization. This gives the consultant an edge and can help the consultant provide a customized demonstration of the software for the company. Digging deeper, the consultant should also have a team of experts on his or her side as well, someone that may be a subject matter expert, and a technical expert will help as well. This is to ensure that input is taken from users and from IT and can be used to ensure the best possible user interface for those using the system and what resources are already in place vs. what is needed on the technical side. Every avenue available to the consultant should be examined to ensure the best system fit for the business.
The business process mapping methods that should be used in analysis activities should be determined by what the business is doing. There are four main steps of process mapping that are needed. They are: * Process identification or attaining a comprehensive and well-rounded understanding of all the steps of a process. * Information gathering, or identifying objectives, risks and key controls in a process. * Interviewing and mapping or gaining the perspective of individuals in the process and designing actual maps to be used in the process. * Analysis or utilizing the tools and approaches used to make the process run in the most efficient and effective way possible. (Jacka, J. Mike) First, the process or processes used by the business must be identified so the consultant may gain a full understanding of what is to be expected in the new system. Without process identification, the project would be at a standstill.
Gathering information around the processes helps identify what the objectives of a process might be, what risks might be involved within a process and what is needed to control the process from beginning to end. For example, if a company that makes fiberglass bathtubs were to put a process in place for the gel coating or painting procedure of a tub project, the process might show that the mold is to be positioned in the paint booth, dust and debris is to be removed from the mold using a wipe down cloth and air hose, the paint has to be a certain thickness, so one of the risks involved would be paint that is too thick or thin in spots.
Finally we have the controls that maintain the process from beginning to end which may be manual or robotic. Other things could also come into play such as paint levels, catalyst and dry time, so it is important to obtain all information surrounding the process as possible. Interviewing individuals who currently run a process is important to ensuring that nothing is left out of the process. If it is possible, the consultant should interview a few different people that perform the same function to obtain an objective look at the overall process and cover different ways of doing the same thing. From these interviews the process map could be created.
Finally, we would analyze the process map and ensure that each step of the process is accounted for and is conducted in the efficient and effective way. The consultant may ask additional questions at this point to see if something within the current process is wasteful, and what may be done to improve on the process.
Documenting the process of the analysis should be done meticulously as well. This can be done in a report fashion or in a flow chart fashion. Both have their merits, however, a flow chart can make a very complicated process seem very simple by breaking it down into steps and utilizing different shapes for these steps. A flowchart is a primary type of business process mapping the shapes or symbols used such as arrows, circles, diamonds, boxes, ovals or rectangles will mean something different for each step. Though a flowchart simplifies a process, it can detail the inputs, activities, decision points, and outputs of any process.
An analyst could know that this type of documentation and mapping has shown its worth by the understanding and acceptance of those he has interviewed to understand the process in the first place. If the analyst allows the users to review the flowcharts and they understand each step of the process, then the documentation has done what was intended. Additionally, the users may be able to point out additional ways to make a process better at that time if they had not done so before.
Prototyping tools allow the analyst to create a mockup of what the documented process may look like and how it may actually work in simulated real time. The prototype can show users what a version of the finished product may look like and how it will function. This is yet another failsafe built into the overall assessment process and may give the analyst another area to make process improvements based on the input of users, management and project stakeholders.
The assessment of an enterprise level business system is lengthy and can be complicated if the right people are not included in the process. However, if the analyst follows time proven techniques to identify what is needed, gather information, document and map out the processes and use the analysis of the mapped out processes to create a good prototype, the analyst should be better able to create what is needed for the business.
Jacka, J. Mike & Paulette J. Keller (2011), Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction, Second Edition(6-10)