Map your business’s anatomy
- 20 september, 2021
- Article - Innovation in Business
It is important to understand the operations of the business from all levels. What are the economies within the business, what is the average customer acquisition cost, what is the process followed in branches, what daily planning happens for different teams? And finally, how do software solutions support and enable different areas of business?
A general understanding of these facets reveals hidden mechanisms which mould the solution, helps address problems before they happen, and creates champions for progression in the employee structure if they are involved and heard from the beginning.
A visual map is a tool that can be leveraged in facilitated workshops between an array of stakeholders. This map is a “shared brain” including perspectives, experiences, and subject-matter knowledge from different people and areas within the business – everything from on-the-ground operations, to technical decision-makers, and business owners. Read more on how to create buy-in and include the right people.
This vision is usually the driving force behind more specific initiatives that involve technology.
The map below encapsulates a number of key areas that guide the discussion and fills in the picture as we go.
Vision and goals
Every enterprise should have an ambitious vision that differentiates them in the market. This vision is usually the driving force behind more specific initiatives that involve technology. The vision aims just over the horizon, but the goals are concrete objectives that solve real problems that business is currently experiencing, or aims to innovate and provide an offering that takes the business to the next level.
It’s easy to talk about ambitious ideas, and pretend we’re in the ideal position to achieve them. However, the reality is that there are numerous challenges, friction points, and past failures that are usually well-known among the business that creates hesitance, and must be taken into consideration as key aspects of the map and any solutions that might come of it.
Actors in the map include all sorts of entities. They might be real people, different departments or business areas, specific software of systems in the ecosystem, third-party providers or partners, and more. The actors are anyone and anything that can have an impact on the goals or that will be impacted by anything trying to achieve those goals. Defining these actors are critical in understanding how the machine works, and where responsibility lies.
The as-is journey is a crucial step for the group to focus on. Even though it may be understood, it’s an opportunity for stakeholders from varying divisions of the organisation to validate it and create a broader picture of the business environment. Usually the differing business units are unaware of the details and nuances within these journeys that sometimes impacts them. During this exercise areas of friction or blockers in the journey are identified, which will be addressed in the new to-be journey as areas that need solutioning.
Once the as-is journey and all its nuances are mapped and understood more clearly, stakeholders, subject-matter experts, business unit heads and decision makers can collectively start solutioning towards a new journey. With the challenges in mind, they can map this to-be journey with the shared wisdom of the broader business to achieve the vision and goals they had set out for initially.
Areas of interest
While plotting the as-is and to-be journeys, themes begin to emerge, and participants hover around these areas as conversation points which indicates an area of nuance or even opportunity. When the map is finally complete, these are areas that can be circled back to where participants will have the opportunity to prioritise and solution for potential blockers or put forward their ideas to ultimately reach their vision and goals.
It is important to note that, throughout the mapping process, a factor of facilitation needs to be considered. A good facilitator will know when to ask the right questions to guide conversations so that they are valuable in gaining enough context and without derailing the process. Oftentimes, these can in fact reshape the initial trajectory of the vision, and is also important for a facilitator to adapt and reimagine the way forward. Asking targeted questions at the right people and modelling what is said as visual diagrams is important in eliciting the right information to move the conversations towards a place of solutioning.
After looking at the processes that exist in the business; hidden business rules, exception cases, and ways to handle them emerge. This developed into the new solution being developed. With more unknowns comes more complexity, cases to cater for, and uncertainty.
Although creating a visual map that represents the group’s “shared brain” is useful for planning, ideation, prioritisation, and decision making, the most powerful side effect is the conversations and alignment between the people part of the exercise. It creates empathy, understanding, and spurs collaboration to help the business thrive.