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As-Is vs To-Be: Where do you start?

THIS BLOG WAS UPDATED ON 07/07/2020

Where should you start with As-Is To-Be? It’s a thorny question and one that divides analysts, consultants and clients alike. We recently raised this discussion point on LinkedIn here and sure enough there were plenty of views on the subject. So – should you start mapping the As-Is or should you go straight to the To-Be?

Some analysts swear that you can NEVER start any project without first mapping the As-Is. Others argue that mapping As-Is is a waste of valuable time and you should jump straight to the To-Be. 

The truth is, as with so many things, it really depends on a number of points. To help you understand more about it, in this article we explore those factors, drawing from our experience working in process management, to help you decide the right approach for your project.

So lets start at the beginning….

What do we mean by As-Is and To-Be?

In general we are talking about business processes and the need to understand them. 

As-Is process mapping is about understanding the here and now. It tries to answer the question;

What is happening in this process right now?

How does it work today?

It’s also often called the Current State and isn’t just always the process but also includes lots of other data and information from a business.

Want to learn more about process mapping and how to make it easier for people across your business? Check out our process mapping guide here.

To-Be process mapping is where we start to explore the future; 

How should this process work tomorrow?

To-Be process mapping is also commonly called Process Design or Future State mapping. It might be that we are making minor improvements to an existing process, or designing a process that doesn’t even exist today.

The disagreement many have is whether there is value in spending time documenting the As-Is or whether you should jump straight to the To-Be. This decision really depends on the individual project.

Develop and Manage People Process
Example of a Skore Process Map

Things to consider when making this decision.

Define the type of project

The type of project you are about to embark on will sometimes indicate where to use As-Is versus To-be. If this is a greenfield area for the business, something that’s completely new, it’s likely there is no existing process to look at. In this case there is no As-Is to map.

Consider whether this is just a new way of doing things, or a completely new value that’s being delivered. If this is a completely new service or product being delivered to a client there may be little precedent for how it should or could be done. This is different to providing the same service or product but in a contrasting way.

In the second case it may still be worth performing some sort of simple As-Is review to make sure that previous problems are avoided. For example your organisation may have traditionally used a third party to deliver the service and now you’re bringing it in-house. An As-Is review will help you learn the lessons of the past.

Perform pre-project diagnostics or root cause analysis

An area where As-Is process mapping is particularly valuable is where a project is yet to be defined. Perhaps a problem has been identified but not fully understood. Alternatively there may be a desire to investigate the possibility of improving an existing way of working.

Analysis is required to understand the problem better and establish whether a project is needed to find and implement a solution. In this case some form of As-Is will be important to complete. 

Have clear goals and objectives for the project

It goes without saying that a project should have clear goals and objectives, these can help determine whether As-Is mapping is required. 

The project description should indicate whether the problems are already understood, or require further investigation. If the existing problems are clear and agreed by everyone then As-Is might not be required. 

As-Is can be useful for building a plan as it will help you figure out how to get to your To-Be. You can use it to identify gaps and how to fill them. Sometimes your As-Is can be done after the To-Be for this purpose. 

Find out more about how Skore works here

Review any existing information

If you have already established that you need to understand As-Is versus To-Be first, you still may not have to create it. Check whether any existing documentation exists, for example, process maps or procedures. 

Ask stakeholders to review these for accuracy and analyse them to understand the gaps and potential opportunities. Even with existing documentation there are likely to be gaps that need mapping out. Sometimes the documentation may be so far out of date it’s quicker to recapture the latest process. 

Shows a part of the Skore Process Map with a comment and not on it.
Notes made on part of a Skore Process Map

Understand the team dynamics

This is an area that can easily trip up a less experienced business analyst. What people say, how they act and what they think might not match others. It’s common for one person to confidently tell you that they understand the problem. When in fact their view of the problem is different to that of others. 

In these cases there is always a danger that these different view points will cause problems later on. If different stakeholders have different views on the cause and size of the problem they will place different values on the solution. This will make it extremely hard to get people to buy in and implement the solution successfully. 

As-Is mapping can be an extremely powerful tool for aligning people on the current problems and potential solutions. It allows people to discuss the work that happens today and highlight the issues in a relatively safe environment. Care should be taken not to map too much detail if it’s not required. The object may just be to align people on one main problem and/or solution. 

Don’t go into too much detail

How much detail is required? That will depend on the project so this is why having clear goals and objectives are so important. If the project goal is to automate an existing process then enough detail is required to understand the requirements.

If the goal of the As-Is mapping is designed to align stakeholders we normally apply the 80/20 rule. You’ll get 80% of the answer in the first 20% of the effort. Consider whether getting 80% of the way there is enough for you to continue. If it is, and it normally is in our experience, then you could save yourself a lot of unnecessary time.

Use the right tool for the job

If you have to map As-Is / To-Be or both then you’ll need to consider the right tool for the task. There are lots of process mapping tools and methodologies available. However, one of the overriding concerns for any team embarking on As-Is discovery work is the amount of time it takes.

Skore has been designed specifically to make process discovery and analysis as easy as possible for the widest possible audience. It can be used in live process capture workshops to map a process at the speed of conversation. Participants can see the process come alive as they describe it. This means no additional time is required to write up the process after the workshop and because it’s web based, the processes can be shared instantly.

In addition to the visual flow of the process, Skore supports various types of analysis that will help you quickly understand a process. Data such as roles, durations, costs, risks, requirements and many more can be captured against the process and generate instant insights. This not only makes As-Is capture much quicker but also helps rapidly identify opportunities for your To-Be design. Skore takes the pain out of mapping a process and allows you to start benefiting from your process mapping from the start. 

Conclusion – As-Is vs To-Be

You can therefore begin to understand that  the question of whether to use As-Is versus To-Be is not completely straight forward. In most cases you will need both.  The real question you should be asking yourself is how much time, or how much detail, do you need for your As-Is?

It’s worth spending time considering this up front before embarking on lengthy and costly As-Is process mapping exercises. You may be able to save an awful lot of time if you understand the right level of detail required and have the right tools to do it from the very beginning. 

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