How to become an Agile Business

First, get a handle on your processes. If you are starting from scratch, focus on your Customer interactions first. A familiar example is Order Fulfilment; say your company is a supplier of desired widgets and gadgets of various types that your customers order as they need them. You need to identify the events that can trigger the process, define the ending point of the process, and any other events that can occur during the process.

Order Fulfilment:

Trigger Event: Customer places Order

End Point: Order received by Customer

Other Events:

          Customer changes Order

          Customer cancels Order

          Customer asks about Order

Defining a process like this will look similar across companies, but it will not be exactly alike even at this point. For example, you may determine that the real End point is when Payment is received from the Customer. (Looking ahead, what will make your process unique is the decisions and rules you use to guide your process.)

Given the above definition, you need to identify the distinct activities that will always be performed by the process, such as:

          Receive Order

          Record Order

          Pick Products for Order

          Ship Order

          Confirm Order received by Customer
Thinking of an activity as “one Person, one Place, one Point in Time” can help in defining Activities, especially in recognizing there may be hand-offs in the process, and/or gaps in time between Activities.
However, you may look at this example and say that is too simple to be useful. Indeed, drawing a diagram of this process would simply a row of 5 boxes with arrows doing from one to the next.

The process becomes more complicated when you identify the variations to the process, the things that don’t always happen, but change the flow and potentially the outcome when they do occur.

For example, not all Customers are alike; while it is important to have as many Customers as possible, you do prefer the ones that regularly pay for their orders. Customers that don’t fit this profile are a variation that has to be handled in order to prevent business losses. You may start with a simple decision, such as not accepting an Order from a Customer who has not yet sent payment for their previous Order(s).
(Looking ahead, highly complicated processes can become a problem, and may need to be streamlined; however, something that is complicated can still analyzed and defined down its component activities and flows. The real challenge is when your processes become complex, meaning that they are changing over time; if you analyze a complex process today, and then do it again in 3 months, the activities and flows from both analyses will not be the same.)
Next Time: Rules and Decisions

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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