Focus On Business Process
Adopting A Process-Centric Perspective
In today’s dynamic business environment, evolving technologies and markets necessitate a swift delivery tempo for products and services. Enterprise-level applications are pivotal in enhancing business efficiency, primarily by automating, optimising, and standardising processes, thus providing a scalable solution catering to ever-expanding business needs.
The essence of a process-oriented approach in project implementation must be considered, particularly in achieving an organisation’s strategic objectives. By deploying such an approach during implementation phases, consistency is bolstered across all project stages, communication is streamlined, and operational processes are optimised, thus enhancing overall business performance.
This chapter elucidates the profound significance of adopting a process-centric perspective when implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Applications. The objective is to underscore the strategic advantages of utilising business processes as the blueprint for an effective project implementation cycle.
Business Processes as the Foundation
The Role of Business Language
Business processes are the primary drivers when defining the solution within your project.
The Importance of Business Language
In daily operations, every organisation employs an internal language deeply entrenched in its business processes. This language, often steeped in industry-specific terminology, is a critical tool. When implementing business applications like Dynamics 365, this business language becomes the most effective and familiar means for the business to conceptualise its needs, tools, and technologies. More than mere terminology, it encapsulates the day-to-day transactions and activities essential to the organisation. Curating and employing these processes in the language of the business is imperative. It ensures a clear understanding of fundamental business requirements, preventing the implementation team from getting entangled in technical jargon and terminology during the project. Placing the business process view at the core from the project’s onset yields substantial dividends.
Crafting a Business Process Future Vision
Initiating Transformation Through Vision
Commencing with a vision of how technology transforms a business facilitates a focused approach to the necessary activities for goal achievement. This vision must encompass an understanding of the current state of the business and the envisioned future state.
Aligning with the Business Model
The crux of successful implementations lies in a profound understanding of the organisation’s business model. This understanding encompasses how value is created through products, services, and relationships with customers and suppliers. Strategically aligned business processes underpin this business model. Business processes serve as the baseline for charting the roadmap of your digital transformation solution.
Processes Derived from the Business Model
Defining Functional Scope
Processes derived from the business model provide invaluable insight into reaching the desired future. These processes not only define the functional scope of the solution but also necessitate clear definitions before delving into requirements and other aspects.
Assessing the State of Processes
During the definition of the business model, a crucial step involves assessing the state of existing processes. Organisations may use new technology to optimise processes through automation or introduce entirely new processes. Understanding the current state allows a nuanced approach based on the effort required to implement technology in existing processes or define new ones.
Variability in New Business Processes
New business processes will sometimes be uniform across the entire organisation. Variations may emerge based on different divisions’ preferences or strategic shifts. Whether optimising existing processes or defining new ones, business model analysis, process reengineering, and standardisation strategies should be integral parts of the project definition. This anchoring ensures alignment with the business strategy and generates process-based project goals.
Optimisation Opportunities through Business Process Mapping
Optimising processes become more accessible through meticulous business process mapping.
Processes serve as the core of every business, delineating how operations unfold. The safe and timely delivery of products or services to customers results from a sequence of tasks executed by diverse roles and business units. Business mapping visually represents these crucial steps.
Baseline business processes, termed “as-is” processes, form the foundation. These may range from legacy processes to newly engineered ones aligned with a fresh solution or business model. Describing as-is processes at an appropriate abstraction level is crucial regardless of origin. A more abstract representation helps define the project scope and allows the team to concentrate on desired business outcomes. Delving too deeply into current implementations risks reimplementing legacy systems.
Objectives of As-Is Business Process Mapping
The goal of mapping as-is business processes is multi-faceted:
- Provide structure for defining project scope.
- Express project aims in the natural language of business processes.
- Enable the definition of main end-to-end business scenarios.
- Identify areas for innovation and improvement, along with associated risks and constraints.
- Serve as a basis for mapping equivalent process design within the new system.
- Create a workable project definition accessible to the business without delving into individual requirements.
Involving the Right Stakeholders
Efficient business process mapping necessitates the involvement of the right people. A team guided by the business stakeholder, responsible for the process in the business operation, ensures decisions align with goals. Subject matter experts (SMEs) supporting the stakeholder contribute real-world operational insights—their knowledge, coupled with openness to new methodologies, steers effective process mapping conversations.
For instance, transitioning to a B2B business model via e-commerce requires crafting processes based on expected outcomes rather than replicating legacy steps. This mindset should pervade all processes, focusing on expected “business scenarios” and desired outcomes.
Evaluating Process Diagrams
When reviewing process diagrams, considerations should include:
- Recognition by business SMEs of their operations in the processes.
- Adequate coverage of business activities in scope.
- Representation of key interconnections between processes.
- Illustration of meaningful end-to-end business flows.
- Applicability for communication with stakeholders on risks, progress, decisions, and actions.
- Ability to identify opportunities for improvement.
- Definition suitable for driving the design in the Dynamics 365 system.
Process diagrams help define the baseline for the organisation’s current business, offering a starting point for identifying inefficient or poorly understood processes.
Efficient Process Mapping
Efficient process mapping hinges on several factors:
- Involvement of the right people to guide mapping.
- Use of mapping tools that facilitate rapid definition without causing delays.
- Describing process levels proportionate to their business importance.
- Fostering an interactive mapping effort.
- Utilisation of visual tools like sticky notes, Microsoft Visio, or specialised process drawing software.
Executed early in the project, this mapping becomes fundamental for analysing opportunities for process improvement and establishing a baseline for the project.
Modeling for Future Solutions
Current processes may not remain competitive tomorrow in the swiftly evolving digital transformation landscape. Technologies like the cloud, AI, ML, RPA, VR, IoT, big data, virtual conference rooms, etc., present possibilities that were nonexistent a few years ago.
When reviewing business processes, considering innovative technologies becomes crucial. These technologies can enhance process outcomes and collaboration, presenting opportunities for improvement in multiple process areas.
Standardising Features through a Business Processes Approach
Process reengineering and standardisation opportunities arise from a well-defined business model analysis.
Assuming alignment of business models across units, standardisation brings various benefits:
- Cost reduction by minimising variations in processes.
- Comparative analysis across multiple user groups executing the same process.
- Improved resource mobility within the organisation.
- Adoption of best practices across departments.
Considerations for Successful Standardisation
However, successful standardisation requires a careful balance, considering:
- Local market constraints or competitive reasons.
- Identification of constraints and implications.
- Industry-level standardisation alignment with Dynamics.
- The balance between standardised and locally varied processes.
- Alignment with standard capabilities in Dynamics.
- Maintenance of a strong business case for standardisation after considering all implications.
Process Standardisation in Implementation
In phased rollouts, process standardisation often involves a “core template” expected to roll out to subsequent business units.
Process maps are integral to identifying opportunities and realising benefits. Using a common business language of processes brings focus to these aspects.
Defining Implementation Scope
A business application implementation fundamentally involves delivering a new capability for end-to-end business transactions through the application. The foundation for defining the scope of this implementation lies in understanding and delineating business processes.
Business processes exhibit key properties that contribute to an effective scope definition:
- Familiar Language: Business processes are articulated in a language familiar to the customer, facilitating better understanding.
- Context-Rich Nature: Processes carry richer context than a mere requirements list, offering a comprehensive view of the envisioned solution.
- Interconnectedness: Processes elucidate connections between elements, including business units, roles, functions, task-level steps, and systems.
- Hierarchical Structure: Naturally hierarchical, processes can be expressed at different levels of detail, aligning with their intended purpose.
- Feedback Loop Representation: Processes serve as connectors, visually depicting the feedback loop between data and people.
Process Catalog Management
Process mappings can be systematically organised into a process catalogue, converting visual process diagrams into structured data. This catalogue involves numbering, labelling, and uniquely referencing business processes, with the option to manage a hierarchy as part of data structures.
Typically, tools like Azure DevOps (or equivalents) are employed for catalogue management, where processes can be assigned to specific tasks such as configuring, building, designing, or testing and allocated to different project roles.
Interconnected Business Processes
Business processes are often intertwined with others, spanning multiple systems. Integration with external systems, whether through a simple endpoint or an entire subprocess, is a crucial consideration for the solution scope. If an external process significantly impacts the end-to-end process, its inclusion in the process mapping is advisable. This comprehensive approach aids in understanding processes and making informed decisions regarding customisations and third-party solutions (ISVs) within the defined scope.
Collaboration with Implementation Partners
Process mapping proves invaluable when collaborating with implementation partners. The visual representation of process flows is a powerful tool for articulating project outcomes. Integrating these visualisations into the statement of work fosters a more comprehensive project definition, reducing the likelihood of change orders.
Adaptability of Business Processes
Recognising that business processes are dynamic and subject to change is imperative. As the project progresses, business process flows are continuously enriched, potentially leading to adjustments in the solution scope. The inherent flexibility of a business process flowchart accommodates these changes, ensuring alignment with evolving business needs.
Fit-to-Standard and Fit Gap Analysis
Addressing Inertia in Processes
In numerous projects, the tendency to cling to established practices poses challenges when transitioning to a new Dynamics system. The pitfalls of replicating processes from legacy systems can be extensive, leading to unnecessary customisations, increased costs, and missed opportunities for innovation.
Risks Associated with Legacy Replication
Recreating processes designed for outdated systems can result in the following drawbacks:
- Excessive Customisations: Unnecessary costs and efforts related to design, coding, testing, training, and documentation.
- Stagnation in Innovation: Loss of opportunities for innovation and improvement in business practices.
- Creation of Siloed Processes: Development of unique, inefficient processes that diverge from standard practices in Dynamics 365.
- Usability Impairment: Damage to the inherent usability engineered into Dynamics 365 due to the imposition of legacy processes.
- Reduced Efficiency: Creation of processes that hinder the natural flow, limiting the use of related functions.
- Limited Utilisation of Documentation: Impaired use of available documentation, training, sample code, and data for Dynamics.
Analysis for Future Solutions
Understanding the future solution requires a meticulous analysis of current processes and areas for improvement. A comprehensive fit-to-standard and fit-gap analysis is recommended to determine which functionalities to retain, build, or acquire externally.
Initiating projects with a fit-to-standard approach involves creating a business process catalogue early. This catalogue, representing core processes, guides the iterative configuration of Dynamics 365. Starting with foundational processes promotes a culture of adopting standard practices wherever possible.
Advantages of Fit-to-Standard
- Reduced Customisations: Emphasis on configuration over customisation minimises the need for extensive custom developments.
- Risk Mitigation: Lower risk of overlooking requirements as fit-to-standard assessment is based on a broader context of business processes.
- Clear Visualisation: Iteratively working through processes helps stakeholders visualise how well business requirements align with the system.
- Quality Solutions: Standard processes, tested by Microsoft and market-tested by others, contribute to higher-quality solutions.
- Agility and Support: Adopting standard processes allows for more agility in embracing related technologies and facilitates more accessible support.
While the fit-to-standard approach is robust, specialised functions may not be covered. Gap analysis identifies areas where customisation or external solutions are necessary.
Considerations for Extensions
- Innovation: Some extensions bring innovation, adding long-term business value.
- Adaptation to Dynamics Releases: Vigilance is required to align custom extensions with Dynamics 365’s evolving features.
- Impact Assessment: Process maps aid in assessing the impact of potential custom extensions on connected processes.
Methods for Requirements Unmet by Standard System
- Citizen Developer-Led Applications: Power Platform-led applications offer rapid, low-cost solutions for simpler designs.
- Professional Development: Complex solutions may involve professional development, leveraging Power Platform or other technologies.
Consideration of third-party solutions from Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) is a viable alternative for specialised functionalities. ISVs bring expertise and specific functionalities to address gaps in industry-specific processes.
A balanced approach involves combining third-party solutions with a standard implementation, leveraging the flexibility of Dynamics 365.
Representing Fits and Gaps
Representing fits and gaps within a business process map enhances comprehension within the implementation team and the organisation. This representation is crucial for deriving requirements and designing the future solution effectively.
Process-Centric Implementation Lifecycle
Business process mapping serves as a fundamental tool to comprehend the current state (as-is processes) and envision the business’s future state (to-be processes). Emphasising the significance of early business process mapping mitigates risks and enhances project clarity.
Risks in Requirements
Initiating projects solely with lists of atomic functional requirements, divorced from mapped business processes, introduces potential risks. This approach can lead to late discoveries of missing process steps, misinterpreting requirements, lower business engagement, and extended review cycles due to unclear requirements and designs.
Once decisions are made on what to retain or build, creating a requirements list aligned with business processes becomes paramount. Utilising tools that facilitate end-to-end traceability ensures an accurate depiction of requirements and their connections to underlying processes.
In a process-centric solution, tools such as Azure DevOps and Dynamics 365 Business Process Modeler (BPM) in Lifecycle Services (LCS) play pivotal roles in managing and tracking requirements. These tools contribute to a structured and traceable requirement management process.
Leveraging D365 Features
Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, features like Business Process Modeler (BPM) within Lifecycle Services (LCS) provide a platform for comprehensive requirement management. Integration with Azure DevOps further streamlines the process, binding requirement definition and project execution.
Crafting the list of requirements is facilitated by initiating the process from the business process mapping. This iterative approach allows for continual revision and refinement, ensuring that requirements accurately reflect the current and evolving understanding of business processes.
Ensuring Clarity and Engagement
Aligning requirements with mapped business processes enhances communication and engagement. It facilitates a shared understanding among stakeholders and reduces the likelihood of misinterpretations, fostering a collaborative and efficient project environment.
Process-Centric Implementation Lifecycle
The advantages of adopting a process-focused solution extend beyond refined requirements. Aligning all subsequent phases with a process-based methodology enhances project outcomes, irrespective of the underlying methodology chosen.
At the go-live stage, Dynamics 365 users engage with the system through business processes, not isolated requirements. Understanding this is crucial for a comprehensive project lifecycle perspective. Success is ultimately measured when the system is operational, and designing, building, and testing are pivotal steps toward this end. The end-to-end business process is the overarching framework guiding and measuring all related activities.
The design phase marks the shift from business processes defining the scope to designing solutions within the system. Expressing this in business language ensures meaningful engagement of business users in reviewing and approving the proposed solution. While other views like data flow and system landscape are integral, breaking down end-to-end business processes into subprocesses aids in task management and effective communication with business users.
Utilising a structured and hierarchical process catalogue during the design phase provides several benefits. It assists in determining the sequence of work, highlighting interrelationships between business value streams, and managing the distribution of actions. The catalogue also facilitates mapping process flows directly to system design, delivering working processes in Dynamics 365 software early in the project.
Benefits of Process-Centric Design
- Facilitates early implementation of processes in Dynamics 365.
- Enhances understanding of the solution’s current capability.
- Reduces unnecessary customisations.
- Engages business SMEs and stakeholders effectively.
- Accelerates the delivery of working software in the Dynamics 365 SaaS cloud environment.
Practical Implementation Strategies
Overcoming legacy approaches tailored to the on-premises, pre-cloud and SaaS environments is a key challenge. Embracing a process-centric view of design aligns with the practical benefits and realities of the Dynamics 365 SaaS cloud world.
Initiating the breakdown of end-to-end business processes into meaningful subprocesses adds granularity to project tasks. This approach streamlines the design and build processes, providing a clear business context for user stories, configurations, and build work.
Emphasising a Process-Centric Approach
In conclusion, prioritising a process-centric approach throughout the implementation lifecycle is paramount for project success. Aligning activities with end-to-end business processes enhances engagement and ensures the delivery of a system that seamlessly aligns with operational needs.
Development, Configuration, Testing, Training, and Support in a Process-Centric Approach
Development and Configuration
A process-centric view is a robust foundation for translating designs into software, particularly within Dynamics 365. By integrating configuration and development tasks into the broader business process context, projects can avoid the pitfalls of technical isolation and ensure the delivery of a process seamlessly embedded in Dynamics 365 software. This approach promotes productive collaboration within teams and minimises the risks associated with a “fit-gap” methodology, fostering the creation of a coherent and well-functioning solution.
A process-first view facilitates productive team collaboration by providing a comprehensive background of process designs within the Dynamics system. Unlike task-centric approaches, this perspective ensures that each development task is deeply rooted in the business process context. This not only aids in mapping access requirements but also enables a clearer understanding of implications for each build task, contributing to creating a robust security roles framework.
Utilising a process-focused view allows for impactful reviews of the solution with broader business stakeholders. These reviews, grounded in business process terms, enhance the quality and usefulness of discussions by minimising technical implementation jargon. This approach is particularly valuable for organisations anticipating business process transformation with Dynamics 365 implementation, as it enables clear communication in the language of the business.
Issues related to resource constraints are well-known in project management. Demonstrating incremental progress of build and development using business process language instils confidence in wider business stakeholders, significantly contributing to project success.
In a process-centric approach, testing becomes a seamless and natural progression of the project lifecycle. With existing process definitions and associated designs, testing benefits from enhanced coverage, early detection of inadequacies, and a focus on evaluating business process outcomes. This method allows for incremental testing of processes and subprocesses, contributing to engineering high-quality solutions. Testing end-to-end processes mirrors actual production use, providing a comprehensive system evaluation.
Training in business systems like Dynamics 365 is fundamentally a process of learning how to conduct day-to-day business processes using the system. Process-based training materials, derived from the process catalogue, aid in collating training materials and guide training sessions. Mapping roles against processes during design facilitates testing and generates role-based training materials. A process-focused project approach ensures the smooth generation of training materials, allowing new hires and role-changed users to absorb business processes simultaneously with understanding system interactions.
The process catalogue, a key project outcome, extends beyond implementation to support the solution. It becomes a valuable tool for the support team, aiding in reproducing and investigating issues. A robust process-based definition allows support to recreate steps defined by standard process flows, fostering effective communication with business users. This ability to place issues within the business process context reduces communication cycles, enhances understanding, and improves user sentiment toward the system.
Optimising Business Operations through Thoughtful Design
Crafting a Comprehensive Solution for Business Excellence
The intricacies of designing and building a transformative solution that substantially positively impacts business operations require careful consideration. Every component and phase of the project is interconnected, and overlooking even a minor detail can have profound repercussions. Business process flows emerge as the central arena where all implementation artifacts converge, providing a cohesive platform to seamlessly align solution components and phases. They serve as the linchpin connecting disparate elements, acting as a vital instrument for communication and facilitating transformative changes in business operations. This, in turn, safeguards against oversight of crucial details, ensuring the holistic success of the project.
The Pervasive Influence of Business Processes
As highlighted throughout this chapter, business processes play an integral role throughout the implementation journey and continue to offer enduring value for ongoing business enhancements. Their impact is perpetual, contingent on regular revisions to align with evolving business goals and vision. The dynamism of business processes becomes the driving force for change, consistently reflected in the evolving solution.
The Strategic Role of Business Process Flows
The meticulous creation and documentation of business process flows serve as the foundational groundwork, fostering an environment conducive to the growth of implementation activities. This groundwork is the fertile soil from which activities sprout, leading to the cultivation of optimised and efficient processes. The benefits extend to risk mitigation, cost reduction, role compliance, and the establishment of a comprehensive solution. Ultimately, the overarching goal is a triumphant implementation that positively shapes the operational landscape of the business.
In this comprehensive exploration, we underscored the strategic importance of adopting a business process-centric perspective in technology implementation. Recognising the pivotal role of business processes in sculpting transformative solutions, we delved into diverse aspects of the implementation lifecycle. These insights covered Scope Definition and Mapping, where business processes lay the groundwork for outlining the range of a technology implementation. An organised process map, catalogued for easy navigation, enhances understanding and enables effective management using tools like Azure DevOps.
By welcoming a business process-centric paradigm, organisations can navigate technology implementations with clarity, coherence, and continuous improvement. From scope definition to ongoing support, the inherent link between business processes and technology becomes a key factor for successful outcomes in the dynamic landscape of contemporary business operations.
We’re here to answer your questions, provide valuable insights, and guide you through the process. Schedule a consultation to discuss your specific requirements, and together, we’ll craft a tailored roadmap for success. Following a proposal and agreement, our onboarding process ensures a smooth transition, setting the stage for your business to experience the transformative power of digital innovation. Start your journey with SMEx Digital today and unlock the full potential of your digital landscape.