Mathew Cropper

March 4, 2021

Analysis foundations for process improvement

Originally published: December 29, 2014

Process improvement is all about getting from where we are now (As Is) to something better (To Be). It’s about finding out the things we can do better, and then actually doing them better.

One very easy way of making that happen is simply to have your ears to the ground and listen out for pain points. Trust me, you’ll have no shortage of things to work on as a team if you follow this approach.. BUT it is disorganised, lacks prioritisation, and panders to the loudest voices.

This post is about using some seriously powerful analysis techniques to help put structure around process improvement, create consistency, and hopefully add value to the process by using them.

The three key things, from my point of view, are the following:

  • Domain model: understand how everything hangs together
  • User journeys: the end to end experience of your users of your product or service
  • Process maps: the processes you follow in house to deliver the product or service, preferably linked back to the user journeys

How do these things help?

  • To produce all three you have to have conversations about how the nitty gritty of the service works, and together they cover the most important aspects of any business; your customer experience, the processes that support that experience, and the organisation of your company/dept/domain. This knowledge is invaluable, and visualising it in these documents makes it accessible.
  • Well written user journeys and process maps highlight pain points and ‘could do betters’. For example, the user journeys we use in our team don’t just contain the end to end experience, but also mood maps and ‘what is the user thinking’ annotations (the diagram above is a crude mock up of what this looks like). A single glance at a user journey document will tell you the parts of the process that need focus.
  • The three sets of documents together show you easily whether there are downstream impacts or dependencies relating to any changes you make. It’s a super powerful group of documents!
  • Value of processes is made clear, making prioritisation simple.

The problem is, nearly everywhere I’ve worked before has lacked these. They take time and effort to produce, which means moving analysis effort away from things that have a more obvious customer value.

Trust me, the effort to do this is completely worth it.. The level of understanding you create, as well as the number of useful conversations it fosters, bring an amazing level of insight to any team. The documents themselves will become the cornerstone of your analysis work in future, your product planning, and your understanding of what value you deliver.