What About the Current State?
What about it? It’s an old, slow process, barely working and will be replaced soon with a new fully automated, high-tech solution.
No one needs it and the sooner we’re rid of it, the better it will be!
In this age of innovation, when everyone is being encouraged to look into improving and streamlining current processes, we suddenly find that the methods that served us well all these years are being looked at as antiquated and more than ready for a refresh. Sure, we are all for finding ways to do our jobs more quickly, with fewer keystrokes (maybe even none) in less time. So let’s hurry and build this nice new solution. Why bother about what we have now? Why do we have to look at the current state?
Because it is part of the key to a bright future state.
“One must first understand a process before one can change it, much less, improve it.” I don’t remember when or where I read this, but the message has stuck with me since. How simple, how elegant, how true! Yet in our excitement to better the world, we often overlook this important step.
Taking time to understand the (most probably) clunky current state from start to finish enables us to 1) examine each feature to determine why it may or may not be important to include in the new solution; and 2) establish a baseline against which we can measure the success or shortcomings of the future state or its prototypes.
When looking at an existing system process, for example, we can note features that are available but not widely used – why is that? Would users take advantage of it if it were more visible on the screen? Or maybe the conditions for its use do not come up often and therefore, may justify exclusion from the new solution? We can consider additional steps done elsewhere but are required to complete this process – for example, a rate that needs to be looked up on another system before it is entered on screen. Would it be possible to get the rates fed automatically into the new solution or should this process be done outside of the new solution, but as part of some other more appropriate process? We can ask the users what they like most about the system, find the reasons why and ensure that this functionality is not lost when we plan for a new solution. In the end, we may find that a new solution is not required; the current state will do nicely with just a few tweaks. Or we may come to the conclusion that nothing works properly with the current state, and therefore, everything will have to be built new. Either way, the knowledge acquired at the end of this analysis will serve as a blue print of what the future needs to look like.
Once the new solution is built, this blue print will also serve as one of the guidelines on what and how we should test the new solution. How was it working before? Should it work the same or differently in the new world? Should the end result be the same or different? Does the new process take more or less time than the old? Does it involve more or less manual effort? Hopefully, it will be all the current process is supposed (or not supposed) to be.
Following are some techniques we can use in our current state analysis:
- Data/Process/Interface Modelling and Analysis – understanding current data structures and the processes (including interactions with external processes) that use them may uncover opportunities to improve data integrity and streamline future processing.
- Business Rules Analysis – understanding the rules that may have defined and/or constrained the current state design may give insight as to which of these will impact future state design.
- Document Analysis – reviewing existing documents may uncover information towards understanding of the current state.
- Interviews/Surveys or Questionnaire – getting first hand feedback from end users may identify unspoken requirements and opportunities for improvement.
- Observation – witnessing first hand actual processing and usage may identify opportunities for improving the user experience.
- Data Mining – identifying patterns related to usage of our current process/product/service may enable us to use these patterns to our advantage.
- Benchmarking and Market Analysis – comparisons against industry and market standards may identify opportunities to make our process/product/service stand out within the industry and measure up to consumer expectations.
Each of the above techniques gives us a clear view of what currently exists and at the same time, allows us to make plans for the future, giving us a rose-coloured peek into what may be if we can only get the right people, sufficient funding and enough time to work on the new solution. But that’s for another article!
Bottom line, investing time to understand the current state is a crucial step to get to your desired future.