The Curse of the As-Is Process

Scott Francis
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It’s a sincere question.  And recently this question was posed on BPM.com as well.Reasons to skip the as-is process:

  • Even if you try to model it, it won’t be accurate“.  If the company doesn’t already know what their process is and document it, there’s no way you’ll get it right through interviews and modeling.
  • It will be throwaway anyway“.  In other words-  you don’t intend to take the as-is process forward, so why burn energy and money on it now? 

Reasons to model the as-is process:This question comes up periodically with customers: “Should we model the as-is process or just focus on the to-be process?”

  • “I want to meet my goals”.  For example, the goal is to deliver a 30% operational improvement. Thirty percent compared to what?   We need a baseline measurement to compare against – and a baseline understanding of the current process’ best and worst attributes.
  • I want to build a better mouse trap”. How do we know we aren’t just recreating all the problems of the current bad process? How do we know we aren’t just paving the cow path, so to speak?  We need to understand the original as-is process.
  • Uncovering unexpected details.  Often you find hidden nuggets of information – an integration to a core system that was forgotten, or a user community that is under-served – that aren’t obvious if you skip the as-is.

There is a trap here of course.  Once a consulting firm hears “model the as-is” they can spend more of your money than you expect in this exercise.  Modeling current state is something that should be time-boxed, and focused, in order to have the most ROI:

  1. Measurements of inputs and outputs are most important – these should include economic impact. Let’s not just do a project because it feels good, let’s measure the actual impact!
  2. Process measures like throughput and task time are the next priority to track. But these can be tracked at either a coarse or a fine grain. My advice is to start with coarse-grained
  3. Don’t focus on making the as-is executable, but have someone who has built executable models help build it.
  4. Focus on areas that can be compared to the to-be process
  5. Be careful not to let this exercise fully shape the to-be process or you miss out on significant opportunities going forward.

When you do this right, you get a beautiful case study out of it.