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- July 27, 2006 -

When Changing Businesses Processes, How Much Time Should You Expend Documenting the Current Ones?  
  The current model may be a needed link to get employees to accept and understand the change, one consultant suggests  


SCDigest editorial staff

When you plan on substantially re-engineering business processes, does it make sense to spend significant time, effort and perhaps consulting costs to document current processes?

Probably yes, although the effort can get out of hand.

“Consultants love documenting current processes for two reasons,” a VP of logistics recently told SCDigest. “They get paid a lot of money to help do it, and while they are getting paid they actually learn the business.”

Say you are moving from a de-centralized transportation management approach to a centralized “load control center.” Current processes will be totally revamped in the move, which also includes new Transportation Management technology. In this type of scenario, does documenting current processes in detail make sense?

At a reasonable level, Yes, says consultant Stephen Craig, of CP Consulting. First, you need to make sure you really do understand what functional and process elements really need to be maintained in the new process and systems. It can also allow cross functional team members to better understand the full scope of requirements.

Second, employees that are involved in the change will want to feel their needs and concerns are being heard. Having them involved in documentation of the “as is” process can be an important element of this transition.

Third, the comparison of the new and the old is often critical to conceptually bridge the change, Craig says.

“We worked with a client once that was really changing its approach to transportation, and the executive didn’t feel it was necessary to document the current approach,” he said. “He was driving to his vision – but the team couldn’t make the leap without understanding how it compared to the current approach. In the end, we had to go back and do the “as is” document after all.”

But the effort can get out of control. “You don’t want to build a temple to flow charting,” Craig added.

The key is to focus on the truly critical issues and processes. Getting too dragged into “exceptions” at the this stage can drag the effort out for days or weeks. You also have to be careful to delineate between descriptions of process elements that are truly essential from a business or customer perspective, and those that are “critical” only in the minds of the employees themselves.

How much effort do you think should be put into documenting current processes, especially when moving to a substantially changed or totally re-engineered process? What are the keys to doing it well? Let us know your thoughts.
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