When working to improve business processes, the normal place to start is by documenting the way things are currently done in “As Is” processes. But many of today’s initiatives are completely skipping that step and moving directly to “To Be.”
There are opposing views on this approach. Some people say it’s not a big deal, and may be a better idea, to skip directly to the “To Be” effort and others are adamant about doing the “As Is” first.
During a discussion on the approach in the LinkedIn Business Process Mapping group there were some interesting arguments shared on both sides of this issue. Here are some excerpts from the discussion.
Skip the “As Is” and Go Directly to the “To Be”
“If we start with “To Be,” we are more likely to innovate / transform. If we start with current state, we likely only increment...”
“Actually, the business has low interest in modelling “As Is” processes.”
“I would seriously question the benefits of modelling the “As Is” as the start point of a BPM project. It immediately draws thinking inwards to what we do rather than starting with what we should be doing.”
“… the current state “As Is” is an impediment to innovative thinking as it acts as a constraint on vision. Instead, a tabula rasa approach of "If you could do this from scratch, what would it look like?" encourages and promotes innovation.”
Complete “As Is” First
“We created an “As Is” process map and through the analysis by the stakeholders, we determined which steps needed to be replaced. The “As Is” process map became the baseline.”
“These discussions on building / confirming the “As-Is,” are extremely good tools for building bridges, navigating gaps and forming real partnerships within a business, site or even a department.”
“… by starting with the “As Is” mapping not only did it give me an understanding of the overall business but also identify areas of opportunity where there was duplication between departments.”
“The “As Is” is a blame free way of showing folk what is going wrong and why.”
“To jump to the “To Be,” suggests solutions based on opinions and not facts.”
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Occasionally, cost is a consideration in skipping the “As Is” mapping. It takes a lot of time, effort and hours to get things documented. It can be a hard sell to the folks at the top of the organization if you can’t quantify the benefits to the business. Identifying how the effort will save or make money for the company, in the long run, can help make a case for getting the effort done.
I’m a believer in starting with the “As Is” process first. Mostly because process mapping is as much (or more) about the people doing the work as it is about making sure a process is efficient.
After all, it’s the people who are going to make it work or not work whether they’re using it for today’s processes or some future changed process. Documenting the way things are done today goes a long way in building relationships and helping people clearly understand the needs of each department and the obstacles that can cause problems.