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“I saw three advantages to doing process analysis this way:

1) the employees are doing real work in a team setting

2) the teams see different perspectives and feel like they're not the only one with this problem

3) we're driving a methodology through the organization and starting to get critical mass who knows and uses business process analysis.”

Jon Bain-Chekal,
Finance Project Manager
University of California, Berkeley


Don’t Stop with Diagramming the Current Process: Analyze It (Part 1)

There are probably a hundred analytical techniques for improving a business process, but four are required and swim lane analysis is one of them.  (For more information on the other three see my blog, “We Finished Modeling Our Processes? Next is Optimization–WRONG “)

After creating the charter, and selecting the sponsor, process owner, project lead, facilitator and team members, one of the first things the BPM team does is model the current state process using a swim lane model, also called a cross functional deployment model. This is a process diagram showing the steps and decisions/gateways in the process by role.   This task in itself can be eye-opening and motivating. (See other i4Process blogs,
Isn’t There a Simpler Way to Model a Process?” and “Which Process Improvement/BPM Diagramming Notation Should We Use?” Parts 1 and 2 for more information.)  While diagramming the current state employees see the whole process, note how their part impacts another part of the process, identify current problems, and suggest improvements.  They also learn the basics of diagramming a process and how to use the notations and communicate the flow, steps, and decisions with them.

But the ‘As Is’ process diagram provides much more.  It is a picture of the process, and the picture can be worth a thousand words if you look at it as a team and talk about it.  Begin with this question first:

What does the current state process diagram show us?  Let team members answer with what they see. 

Here are some possible answers:

  • It shows us who the players (performers) are and how many there are.
  • There are a lot of handoffs.
  • We have a lot of different applications interacting with the process.
  • We waste a lot of time getting signatures.
  • There are a lot of approvals in the current process.
  • We have some things we could do to improve this process right now.
  • And so on…

I write this list down for all team members to see or just let them offer random comments and keep them contributing by saying “anything else?”

But now take this list and formalize the analysis of the swim lane. For each element that the team raised and a few others you have noticed yourself, ask the next level of question. For example:


We do have a lot of players.  Are any of them duplicative?  Could we redistribute the work to reduce the number?  Could we train the employees so that multi-skilled employees could do more steps?  Example:  I had one manager say to me about the swim lane, “So much of this work flows through this one role, and yet the role is really just a pass through. We could eliminate that role in the process and send the information directly.”

Four more ideas on swim lane analysis will come in Part 2.  Please add your ideas as well in a blog comment.

If you want to learn more about how to document BPMN swim lane diagrams, facilitate them to get input from the team and stay focused and finish the model in 90 minutes, register for Starting and Organizing BPM Projects – next offered online Feb. 12 and 13. 

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