If you can't model it you can't optimize it OR effectively control it. We use the Lean Planning Method to capture the existing process, and then create an optimum process model. We use GEMWorX FlowModeler software to document and clearly show the special resources required at any point in the process. The software is an add-in to Visio, and offers the added benefit that one can document training with steps for education of new employees, and to clearly identify new education needs when the process is modified.
The problem with processes can be shown using an example where the integration of the physical processes and the related support software are properly married to create an optimum operation for the business. ERP systems such as SAP often face challenges when attempting to automate operational processes within a business because the activities are often rarely explicitly modeled and documented. One routinely finds it impossible to easily answer the question, "Should we use SAP as-is or do we need to customize certain modules?" Those who are successful at ERP implementations (and that is a rare few) understand that one must capture and explicitly model the existing processes before one can answer how much change would be required to map them to the standard SAP processes.
When one uses the Lean Plan Builder approach with the existing processes, the within Functional Silo processes are easily captured and documented. However the Lean thinking quickly identifies an over arching problem which is the single most limiting issue for successful process optimization - all key revenue processes span Functional Silos, and the handoffs between the silos are the true control points for optimizing revenue generation.
So the first step is to model the existing process using the Lean Plan Builder process to identify all of the tasks and handoffs. With this superior model of the activities, one can then ask whether any of the existing processes give the business strategic and tactical advantage in the marketplace. These need to be understood and carefully preserved.
The second step is to use Lean Plan Builder to design the proposed "optimized" process using the framework of the chosen software system and the key business critical activities identified above (the approach is identical whether one is improving processes for an existing software system or launching a new one). The resulting model is moved to FlowModeler for easy viewing and study of the optimized process. Most organizations receive major benefit when they use the high level view to explicitly highlight the cross-functional activities and the key handoffs between the functional silos.
Copyright Velocity Pointe, LLC 2005