Business processes integrate your systems and people to achieve key strategic and operational advantages. Examples of these processes include, purchase order processing, staff recruitment, the receiving and processing of goods and employee expense processing. The management of these business processes boils down to the management of their life-cycles. If you search around the web, you’ll probably find a few different interpretations of the cycle itself – diagrams may differ in the number of cycle phases and the components of each of these phases may differ slightly. What you will find however is that all interpretations of the life-cycle tend to cover 4 main areas – Analyse, Design, Implement and finally Monitor. Each of the phases in the Business Process Life-Cycle incorporate smaller areas of work that are described below. The cycle basically illustrates the development cycle of processes and acts as a basic model for constant process improvement.
The Analyze Phase – Deals with reviewing the current environment and processes that run. Requirements are identified and improvements discussed. This phase may involve workshops that discuss the pro’s and con’s of current processes, identifying the area’s that don’t work so well and require improvement. The Functional Specification may be drafted at this point in a BPI project (can be dependant on the project methodology used). The Functional Specification will detail the functional requirements of the process. These are the details of what will actually happen at all parts of the business process (how it will function and what is required for it to function well). Depending on technologies used, certain data mining tools can be used to analyze business data at this Phase. Other project specific documents like the project initiation document (PID) and the project charter (depending on whether this phase is the first part of the project) may be drawn up within this phase.
The Design Phase – The design phase looks at possible solutions to current problem areas identified within a process. Technical Advisors and Business Analysts may share desk space to discuss the best ways to improve on current processes (data resulting from the prior phase) and to model the existing business processes. The Functional Specification may be completed at this phase along with the Design Specification. The Design Spec, sometimes called the Technical Spec includes how exactly the business process will be implemented (to as much detail as possible). This includes which systems will be involved in the process, how they will integrate (SOA,EAI,BPM) and the technical details of how it will be implemented. On a recent project, the Functional Spec and Technical Spec drawn up totally 400 pages, but of-course this does depend on the business process you’re looking at. The TDS may include platforms used, software used, security considerations and strategic high availability / redundancy planning. Its not all technical however, the design specification may also include how process users will interact with systems.
The Implement Phase – The implementation of the business process is as the name suggests. It covers the work involved in delivering the process agreed in Design phase. Sometimes this phase is known as the ‘Realization’ stage as it covers the materialization of the new process. This phase can take some time based on the breadth and scope of the process itself. Not only is the development of the process important, the testing is equally as critical. User Acceptance, Functional Acceptance and System Acceptance test plans are drawn up and followed by different areas of the business (users, process analysts and technical parties). Final preparation of the implementation may also be required prior to Go Live.
The Monitor Phase – This phase deals with the monitoring of your optimized business process. Many software vendors that are used to implement Business Processes such as Oracle, Microsoft, Cordys and IBM tend to include business activity monitoring functionality that allow you to pin point certain parts of running process instances and generate MI based on traced process information. What parts of the process are monitored is generally customizable in these platforms. Measures and process transactions can be recorded and this information can contribute to Key Performance Indicators and form the basis for the Analyse phase.
In this article I’ve tried to cover what happens during the improvement and optimization of a business process. There are lots of other project related activities that occur during the improvement of a business process (risk analysis for example), but my intention is only to illustrate the stages of a business process cycle.