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BI Focus Areas – Focus Phase

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown

BI Focus Areas – Focus Phase

Focus Areas - Focus Phase.png


  • The selection of ‘high-payback’ business processes for analysis and redesign (i.e. narrowing the scope of the BPI program to concentrate on ‘high-potential’ processes). Priority processes are selected based on their ‘business impact’ (the degree to which they support the Critical Success Factors) unless other external factors (identified as part of a Process Characteristics Analysis) constrain or influence this choice.    

Client Value

  • This selection allows the project team to focus resources and time where on changing those processes that will yield the maximum benefit to the organization. Narrowing the project scope in this manner will also eliminate pro­cesses from redesign that are not strategically important or are considered ‘low-payback’ (in terms of the stated BPI objectives). For example, the Holistic Business Model may identify processes which are strategically important, but which are highly-regulated, already highly-automated, or have other attributes that make them less attractive candidates for major reform.   
  • Not taking the time to identify Focus Areas properly often results in a ‘guesswork’ approach to selecting processes for redesign. Unless the project scope is narrowed through Focus Areas, the BPI exercise runs an increased likelihood of cost overruns, a failed redesign or the redesign of processes that do not significantly contribute to the client’s (Confirmed) Business Vision).


Depending on the size and nature of the client organization, the selection of Focus Areas typically ranges from ‘management intuition’ to ‘analytical deduction’ (generally with the assistance of the consulting team). The processes to be evaluated are based on the Holistic Business Model developed previ­ously. The selection of Focus Areas is based primarily on ‘the degree of impact each business processes has on Critical Success Factors‘. Before a final selection is made, however, other characteristics that may influence the viability of these ‘shortlisted’, high-impact process (e.g. known legal and regulatory constraints) are examined to ensure basic feasibility.
One basic approach to selecting Focus Areas involves scoring each process based on its impact on Critical Success Factors, followed by a qualitative ranking of its priority, based on the external influencing characteristics. Once this analysis has been completed, the highest-payback processes are selected, validated with senior management and scheduled for subsequent assessment and redesign.
  1. Develop an approach and framework to analyse the potential contribution of each process to BPI objectives and confirm with senior management to ensure up-front ‘buy-in’. (Process Impact Analysis)
    1. The complexity of the framework for analysing the contribution of each process is influenced by the number of processes to be evaluated, and the nature of the audience (e.g. Some clients will reject outright any scoring and ranking algorithms that is not easily understood. Others will insist upon their development.)
  2. Make a preliminary assessment of the contribution or each high level process to be evaluated.   
    1. This assessment can best be made jointly with a selected group of senior client representatives.   
  3. Take into consideration other pertinent ‘process attributes’ or risk factors that might influence the selection. (Process Characteristics Analysis).   
    1. The analysis of process characteristics is usually limited to those that have a significant impact upon the Critical Success Factors. (As a starting point, refer to any preliminary listings made of the attributes of each process.)        
  4. Select the ‘highest-payback’ processes for redesign.    
    1. In certain circumstances, competitive surveys and customer input alone will point to the necessity to improve certain processes.   
  5. Determine the schedule (sequencing) to assess and redesign the high-payback Focus Areas (often groups of interconnected processes)   
    1. Selection and sequencing of BPI efforts can be performed in various ways, depending on the accessibility and availability of sponsors and executive management. In some cases, the consul­tant, together with the client team, will develop a draft to review with the sponsor. It is also possible to apply selection and sequencing criteria and develop a plan in a workshop environ­ment.
    2. When sequencing Focus Areas for redesign, the following factors must be taken into consideration:       
      1. An area’s past track record with change and change risk factors.
      2. Focus Area’s degree of sponsorship (defined by Role Map Analysis).
      3. Organizational or technical issues that apply to individual processes.
      4. ‘Upstream or downstream’ relationships between processes.
      5. Potential overlap of project sponsors or design team members.
      6. Ratio between risk of change versus reward of improvement.
  6. Document and communicate results.



  • Be sure that the Holistic Business Model is accurate and sufficiently to provide the information required to describe and define the candidate processes. If not, additional work may be needed to refine the Holistic Business Model to the appropriate level of detail.
  • Remember that the analysis of business impact and the comparison with the process characteristics needs to be easily understood. The consultant should emphasize that the analysis tool is a way to help people think and sort out information and not a strict decision-making mechanism.
  • Be careful of choosing processes as early targets that will require significant up-front technology investments, which are costly and which delay both tangible change and measurable benefits.
  • Be aware that unexpected, ‘hot’ organizational issues may cause the executive team to shift its focus to processes that do not have a significant business impact. The use of the Process Impact Analysis can help to refocus the executive team.
  • Where many processes are being considered, it may be necessary to assign weights to the Critical Success Factors, so that a quantitative rating of processes will not produce many ‘ties’ and so that the relative importance of Critical Success Factors is considered (see technique Process Impact Analysis).

Tactics/Helpful Hints

  • Characteristics can overlap significantly with Critical Success Factors. For example, if one of the Critical Success Factors is to improve customer service, then the characteristic ‘customer service impact’ should not be evaluated to eliminate the redundancy.  In most cases, a relatively short list of characteristics (four to six) will result. These can be evaluated intuitively by the consultant creating a ‘first cut’ selection with input from process participants or managers.
  • The sequencing should consider actions required to address organizational or technical issues that have an impact on the ability to design or implement new processes. Actions that may need to be included in the overall BPI program plan are as follows:   
    • Changes to performance evaluation and/or compensation plans to accommodate group or process performance measures.       
    • Improvements to existing technology infrastructure and/or information systems     delivery capabilities.       
    • Evaluation and potential changes to hiring, transfer, force reduction, or other human re­source policies.       
    • Changes in career path, training programs, and performance reviews to allow for ‘pay for skills’ or other organizational learning capabilities.       
  • In gen­eral, it may be desirable to focus initially upon a single project in each division or business entity. This initial project effort should have the potential to provide significant business benefits and to improve the value provided to customers. Otherwise there is a risk that, although the first project will result in improved pro­cess performance, there will be no significant business benefits. Subsequent efforts may consequently be jeopar­dized. The initial effort should also be in a business area that has had successful experi­ence with major change and can provide highly motivated staff for the design team.


  • It is important for the consultants completing this deliverable to have considerable workshop facilitation skills and experi­ence in redesigning a variety of processes.
  • The length of time involved in this phase is dependent on the number of processes identified in the business model and on the extent of previous work to understand these processes. Client managers and staff may be involved in workshops to evaluate process characteristics.

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