Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Business Processes and Scenarios - Think Like A BA

Like many Business Analysis Trainers / Consultants - I've spent a lot of time in hotels over the years.

One thing that I enjoy as a BA is observing how businesses work, even if I'm simply a customer rather than on an assignment. I find the process of doing business and how different organisations work quite fascinating.

Observation is one fact finding technique that you can apply anywhere at any time.

This can lead to some interesting insights into the way that a business works and how things might be improved. One of the things that Business Analysts do!

To give an example - I was once staying in a large chain hotel, in Belfast as it happens (one of my favourite cities to visit and work in).

Once I'd checked in and unloaded my bags into my room I headed for the restaurant. Like many travellers I was hungry after a long journey.

One question a BA might ask - why do most larger hotels have an on-site restaurant? Particularly those in city centre locations where there are dozens of places to eat within a short walk.

Restaurants incur cost overheads - staffing, heating, lighting and use of space that could be used for something else.

One reason is that it is a useful facility for their guests, easy and convenient - the Customer viewpoint. Another is that it should generate cashflow and profits - the Business viewpoint.

What follows on from this is that one way (there are others) to achieve this business objective is to provide good food and good service.

Returning to my own story - I was shown to a table by a very friendly and polite waitress, handed a menu, asked if I wanted to order a drink, given my beer and asked if I was ready to order food.

I placed my order, enjoyed my beer, waited a short while and my meal was delivered by the waitress.

I started to eat and the food was not good, overcooked and dry, probably pre-prepared and left under a heat lamp in the kitchen for too long.

After about 5 minutes the waitress returned and politely asked if everything was ok with my meal. I replied, equally politely, that it was not. She smiled and without saying anything moved on to her next customer.

Once I'd finished I walked over to the restaurant bar where the same waitress produced my bill and asked me to sign for the meal, so that it could be added to my final hotel bill. I thought about complaining, but was too tired to argue so simply signed the chit.

Then - she asked me again, with a smile, if everything was ok with my meal. I again replied, equally politely, that it was not. She handed me my receipt and I headed out.

Why am I explaining all this? After all if I wanted to moan about the hotel I could post on TripAdvisor or Facebook!

Well it got me thinking, why did such an obviously polite and pleasant member of staff behave like this and completely ignore my complaint? Other than that the service in the restaurant had been excellent.

I'll never know for certain, but based on my experience of business processes and Business Analysis it probably came down to failure by the hotel , not her, to do two things properly:
  • Business Process Modelling.
  • Process Implementation and Staff Training.

I reckon that when the waitress did her initial training in the hotel she was taken through the basic processes of dealing with a restaurant customer:
  • Show to table and give menu.
  • Take drinks order.
  • Deliver drinks.
  • Take food order.
  • Deliver food order.
  • Check all ok.
  • Produce bill.
  • Check (again) all ok.
  • Take payment.
What the hotel had failed to do was consider various scenarios for the process.

The waitress had clearly been well trained in "Scenario A":
Check all ok - answer = Yes.
Check (again) all ok - answer = Yes.

What the hotel had failed to consider was "Scenario B":
Check all ok - answer = No.
Check (again) all ok - answer = No.

Or indeed variants - "Scenarios B-1 and B-2"
Check all ok - answer = No.
Check (again) all ok - answer = Yes.
Check all ok - answer = Yes.
Check (again) all ok - answer = No.

This resulted in two potential weaknesses - and therefore potential areas for improvement.

First - a training plan that not only covered the "Happy Day" Scenario but other situations as well.

Second - a business process that included additional actions to be taken in the case of various "Unhappy Day" Scenarios.

In addition to the above there might be a whole range of other Scenarios to consider - including, as in my case:
Check all ok - answer = Yes (but Customer's real feeling = No).
Check (again) all ok - answer = Yes (but Customer's real feeling = No).
...... and many more.

So how could a Business Analyst have helped the hotel to do things better?

Well - there are a number of BA techniques that you could apply - including:
  • Stakeholder Analysis.
  • Scenario Analysis.
  • Process Modelling - Business Activity Models.
  • Process Modelling - Use Case Diagrams.
Stakeholder Analysis would help to identify the various participants "actors" in the business process (Serve Restaurant Meal) - and hence their roles and viewpoints.

Scenario Analysis would help to identify the various possible routes through the process - as described above.

Process Modelling would help to identify and design the business processes and actions needed to deal with the various Stakeholders and Scenarios.

Plus of course, in addition to the various diagrams and documents that could be produced using the techniques above - just simple observation and common sense by a good BA.

I'll describe how you might do this in future posts - and I also cover these techniques in my various BA training courses (shameless plug - see links above top right).

If you have anything to add to this - please comment!

You might also enjoy:

Adrian Reed Blog:
Make It Easy For Stakeholders: Think Like a Restaurateur!

Business Analysis Blog:
Stakeholder Analysis - Identifying Stakeholders

Photo Credits:
Restaurant Photo 1
Restaurant Photo 2
Restaurant Photo 3
Restaurant Photo 4

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