Process Improvement (CMMI, Six Sigma, SPICE, etc.)

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In a large firm, a business analyst (BA) organization makes an effort to identify, analyze and provide a solution to the above questions. A BA organization is a prime pillar in optimizing resources to provide maximum value out of it to the business.

A BA organization consists of business analysts in various roles like Product Manager, Program Manager, Project Manager, Business Analyst, Business Systems Analyst, Business Systems Consultant, Business Process Analyst etc.  The prime objective is to analyze business to maximize value addition.

To understand more about the BA organization, it is important to understand what is business analysis

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I don’t know how many articles I’ve read where the author states requirements should be “what” the user/client needs, not “how” to deliver the solution. They say “A requirement should never specify aspects of physical design, implementation decisions or system architecture”... In my humble opinion, every requirement, even the business level needs, goals and objectives, are just the start of a long march to a solution.
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This short paper series, “Deep Dive Models in Agile”, provides valuable information for the Product Owner community to use additional good practices in their projects. In each paper in this series, we take one of the most commonly used visual models in agile and explain how to create one and how to use one to help build, groom, or elaborate your agile backlog.
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Process Flows are usually used for user facing projects/systems, although their cousin, the System Flow, can be used in virtually the same manner to document system processes and logic.  When on an agile project, the Product Owner (PO) or Business Analyst (BA) will usually elicit the high level process flow (L1) in a sprint 0 or planning type phase. From there, during that same planning type phase, the L2 processes to be created will be prioritized and the PO or BA will usually work on the 1-2 highest priority process flows at the L2 level. This is to build the initial backlog.

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A bid is like a product that, once designed, the team must be able to deliver it. This delivery includes manufacturing the product, testing it, preparing the marketing for the product launch and finally launch it.  We propose a staged approach that replace guessing a number with qualitative investigation. The model suggested, distilled from experience, shows how estimates are transformed into effort and, ultimately, into a coherent story with a price tag attached.
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BA needs to ensure that any process improvements benefit the end-customer – a quicker delivery, higher quality, or a less expensive product/service from the eyes of the customer. But what happens if the BA only evaluates a sub process? Can the end-customer value be harmed (i.e., slower delivery, lower quality, more expensive product or service)? 
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Lean techniques use a process-oriented approach. In non-industrial organizations however, the process is invisible. In order to apply Lean techniques successfully in this environment, the visibility of processes has to be significantly increased. Employees have to learn to look at their organization from a process viewpoint. Furthermore, it is important that the method is applied to all layers of the organization.

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A swimlane diagram is a type of process flow diagram (also sometimes called a cross-functional diagram) that features divisions or "lanes." Each lane is assigned an actor (which may be an individual, department, division, group, machine, entity, and so on), or even a phase or stage in a process, that is responsible for the activity or work described in the lane.

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In a process improvement project, the analysis team needs to model and examine several aspects of the current (AS-IS) value chain under study. The purpose of the analysis is to create a visual diagram of the value chain along with its associated text and metrics and determine if there are possible areas of improvement (e.g., reductions in cost or time). If improvements are identified, the team constructs a modified value chain model (TO-BE) with the improvements and then conducts a gap analysis on how to transition to the new value chain. This article focuses on the analysis of the current value chain by providing a method for structuring the AS-IS and TO-BE process improvement discussion.

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I began my career at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young where doing business analysis and implementing large scale systems was my job. At that time, I just thought everyone intrinsically knew you had to understand the business and all the requirements before you begin designing a system (whether custom built or off the shelf).

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Businesses cope with manual, repetitive tasks to get the job done. Email, conference calls, and "walking the cubes" are too frequently the process for requesting information, getting approvals, and checking project status. Time and resources are wasted, errors abound, and everyone is less productive.

Automating these everyday business processes is the way to improve productivity and gain efficiency. Traditional Business Process Management (BPM) systems can provide a solution, but the cost and complexity to implement simple processes is often too expensive for many business units.
 

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The business analyst's job has changed this year -- and so have the critical skills that companies demand. New research shows that while communication is still key, knowledge of Lean and Agile methods is a must-have as well.

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When the first flowcharts were applied to manufacturing processes, they followed the flow of a single part through its manufacture.  They displayed, in sequence, the steps it took to make the part and they made sense.  They were easy to visualize, easy to follow, easy to work with, and they resulted in millions of dollars worth of productivity gain. 

This same concept was applied to information process charting in the 1940’s.  However, rather than following a single flow, multi-flow process charts were used.  They showed all of the records in a business process in order to make clear the exchange of information between records.  Once again the effort generated millions of dollars worth of productivity gain.

 
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A process is a series of steps completed to achieve a particular result. It is hard to imagine a process improvement effort that doesn’t start with a focus on that result with a question like “What is the purpose of this process?” - whether the customer is actually engaged or not. Sometimes we have a strong sense that our product or service is good. Sometimes we choose to “get our own house in order” before we step outside the organization. Sometimes we base the result on a prescription provided by the customer. However, sometimes, our focus may be misdirected to how we do the work without considering why it is done in the first place...particularly where slick new technologies are involved. In any case, without actually engaging the customer, we can’t really know how well the process is working to provide the customer with what the customer needs or wants.

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Before starting, it is important to understand process mapping’s place in the larger context of business process improvement.  Improving your process typically starts with documenting how it works today, what we call the “as-is” process.

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