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First Steps to BPM Analysis with the 5 Ws November 25, 2009

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No Use Cases. No Workflow Diagrams. No Notations and Standards. Not even a Project Charter (well, maybe). No Systems. No Automation. No Sandman. No Freddie Krueger.

I kept wondering many a time if I could start my Requirements Gathering without any of these and make it simple for my Business Users. I wanted them to start their BPM Journey as I help them define or re-engineer their Business Process.

When in a meeting or a discussion, it was never that difficult, as we spoke casually and liberally and knowledge share was comparatively very comfortable. Yet, the moment this got translated into a document for review and approval, they became lost and confused.

The same elements branded as a No became part of these documents and all the understanding of their processes went for a toss. We have to keep in mind that at least 80% of their processes are activities they work with on a day to day basis. Something was wrong and I just was not able to put my finger to it.

I have tried UML, BPMN, EPC, Excel, PowerPoint, and HTML Wireframes and yet somewhere something was missing and changes kept coming uninvited. These changes soon became shape-changers as they took on the form of Delays and Scope Creeps.

I don’t believe I have cracked it yet, but, I felt maybe it’s the beginning that has its set of problems. Maybe, we don’t take off on the right note. And then I had an opportunity to explain to someone how eDiscovery helps legal and I think that’s when I had my Eureka Moment (with the clothes on, of course).

And that age old principle was added to it, KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid or in my case – Keep It Simple Sanooj!

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing to you the “5 W Approach”:

Walk in. Take your Pen and Pad and simply ask these simple questions for starters (I aim to improve them over time and your contributions are most welcome). Let them answer freely and openly and simply jot it down without battling an eyelid. Let it all pour, rather, let it rain!

  • Why?
    A great starter because every Business Process has a reason why it exists or needs to exist.

    •  Why do you want this or have this Business Process?
  • What?
    Here you identify freely, what elements constitute the process.

    • What is the first thing you do in this process?
    • What is the last thing you do in this process?
      Helps one identify where to start and where to finish.  
    • What systems do you currently use in the process?
    • What documents do you currently use in the process?
    • What does it cost currently? 
  •  When?
    Well, obviously you need to know when? Some processes maybe seasonal.

    • When do you use the process? Everyday or Seasonal?
    •  When does the process have to end after it starts? Is there any regulatory or internal compliance? Current SLA?
  •  Where?
    Don’t you think we need to know if this centralized or de-centralized? Is it internal or external? I am sure we do.

    • Where do you work on this process? Central or not?
    • Where do you store your documents/records? (Compliance and Audit friendly)
  • Who?|
    I felt its best to bring the people towards the end. Simply because, we don’t want them to start thinking selfishly, do we?

    • Who all work in this process?
    • Who monitors the activities?
    • Who audits and regulates the process?
    • Who decides during crisis and exceptions?

Hoping these simple and open approaches is useful. I haven’t practiced it formally yet, but, have actually been taking this approach informally and unknowingly. Aiming to fine-tune it and practice it more often in the belief that this eases the Business users to travel the BPM Journey comfortably.


1. Lokesh Pant - November 26, 2009

Very Informative post Sanooj. Nice consolidation of these important questions. I have experienced that orgs wants BPM/Workflows to be implemented, if asked why and what for, then, either they are not clear of what they want to achieve or sometimes it becomes difficult for them to touch the areas on what a process is intended to do.
Your 5W approach is definitely going to work and it will help the customers to convey effectively of their needs as well as the designers to design the process.

2. Andrew Smith @onedegree - November 30, 2009

A great post this one. Its always nice to have something in mind when you first start discussions off with a customer, especially regarding BPM and when the customer seems to be looking to you immediately for all the answers (including what their own processes are at the moment)….

I like the 5W approach and I am sure will quickly identify 80% of the requirements. I would like to say that the 5W approach will work when talking to business decision makers etc, but i think as a consultant / analyst, maybe the 5W’s should also then be asked / taken to key users within the actual process (if a process is in place already / after a process has been put in place). So many times the actual users of a process differ from what management believes the process to actually be……

Sanooj Kutty - December 1, 2009

You have a very valid point on the perception of a process between management and users. In fact, most issues a BPM project faces is due to the fact that the project is scoped and planned after management interviews or a high level process flow diagram with minimal ground level insight.
Add to this a lack of clear understanding of the LOB applications in terms of architecture, flexibility and proprietary nature only makes it more distant from reality. The 5W approach is only a structured beginning but by no means the journey.

3. Business process management - December 1, 2009

Business Process Management is a disciplined approach to identifying and managing the internal processes required to improve efficiency within an enterprise.Here the first step is very clearly explained regarding BMP.

4. ECM meets BCG Matrix - May 31, 2012

[…] post, much like my earlier 5W post, is also just a starting step into evaluating your content. This provides one with a decent […]

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