Effective Technical and Human Implementation of Computer Systems – ETHICS
How can you replace an existing system with a new system when you don’t know exactly how the existing system works?
Mapping business processes is a part of requirements analysis, and is one of the most difficult but most important tasks of implementing an information system. Its difficulty is based on the size and complexity of the system being implemented, and the ability of users to specify their requirements. A system with multiple shared databases crossing different functional areas or global locations will clearly be a complex implementation, compared to a simpler implementation where a system with a single database is operated in one department.
All the different types of users need to be included in the process, and each will have different perspectives on the project with some being keen for change and some resisting. Getting users to think about their requirements might cover a range of answers, from the information request a user handled last week, to a detailed account of information requests for the last year.
The importance of requirements analysis can be related to the opportunities a new information system can bring in terms of benefitting the individual or the company as a whole. The opportunities might include bringing more variety to the work tasks undertaken, or increased job satisfaction.
Two key approaches to mapping business processes are a horizontal analysis and a vertical analysis.
A horizontal analysis focuses on input->process->output. For everything that happens in a business there is a trigger which acts as an input, common triggers include:
- Correspondence is received from a client
- Enquiry received from a new prospect
- Client or customer raises a query
- Supplier quotation is received
A process then happens. Someone does something with that input as part of their job duties. They run a business process. The output of their process might be any of the following:
- Client emailed thanking them for returning their correspondence
- Enquiry passed to a sales team
- Client or customer query passed to customer service
- Customer quote updated to include supplier quotation
There is always an output to a horizontal process. An output from department A may form the input for department B. The output from department B may form the input for department C, and so on, until the end of the process chain has been reached.
A vertical analysis focuses on the relationship between complexity and importance of tasks and activities. It’s best illustrated visually.
The vertical analysis is based on Professor Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model (VSM). It helps to breakdown into key areas the relationship between different levels of tasks and activities so it is easier to understand how, for example, a department operates overall.
Once you’ve mapped out your horizontal and vertical descriptions you’ll have:
- A better understanding of exactly how your departments and business work overall
- Clarity over how your existing system operates and how a new system might improve the speed and/or quality of what you do
Mapping your business processes is key to achieving success, and we help a whole range of businesses and their users complete this important process.