Home Think Topics Process analysis What is process analysis?
Explore IBM Blueworks Live Subscribe to AI topic updates
Pictogram collage with clouds, pie chart and graphs

Published: 2 July 2024
Contributors: Cole Stryker

What is process analysis?

Process analysis is a method of detailing and examining the steps involved in a process to understand how it works, identify areas for improvement, and ensure that it meets its objectives efficiently and effectively. This technique is used across various fields, including business, manufacturing, software development and more.

Process analysis, sometimes referred to as business process analysis (BPA) is a subdiscipline within business process management (BPM), a systematic approach to making an organization's workflows and business operations more effective, efficient and adaptable to changes in the business environment.

Process analysis provides a detailed understanding of each step within a process, enabling identification and elimination of inefficiencies and bottlenecks. This detailed examination often reveals redundancies and unnecessary tasks that can be streamlined or automated, leading to significant cost savings and increased productivity.

Additionally, process analysis promotes consistency and standardization by ensuring that all steps are performed uniformly, reducing errors and improving quality. It also facilitates better resource allocation by highlighting areas where resources are underutilized or overburdened.

By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, process analysis encourages regular evaluation and optimization, helping organizations stay agile and competitive. The valuable insights gained from analyzing processes support better decision-making and strategic planning, aligning processes more closely with business objectives, ultimately leading to enhanced profitability.

Future-Proof Your Firm’s Process Optimization Strategy

Download the study to explore Forrester’s findings and discover why continuous process optimization should be a business imperative for your organization.

Related content

Automate to elevate

How process analysis works

Process analysis works through a systematic approach to understand, evaluate and improve a process. The analysis can be guided by methodologies, such as Six Sigma or Lean, but regardless of methodology, analysis tends to follow some basic steps:

1. Identify the process

Clearly define the process to be analyzed. This includes understanding its scope, purpose and the wanted outcomes. It’s important to establish the boundaries of the process and what it aims to achieve. Gathering comprehensive and accurate data can be challenging due to incomplete records or missing information and poor quality data, such as outdated or inconsistent information, can lead to inaccurate analysis.

2. Gather information

Process analysts, in collaboration with project managers and line workers who have deep hands-on knowledge, collect detailed information about the current process. This includes inputs (resources, materials, information), outputs (products, services) and the steps involved. Data collection methods can include interviews, observations, surveys and reviewing existing process documentation.

3. Break down the process

The processes that make up business initiatives can be highly complex, making it difficult to map and analyze all the interactions and dependencies. Processes that frequently change or are not well-documented can be hard to capture accurately. The process must be broken down into specific process steps. This breakdown helps in understanding the sequence of activities and how the steps work together.

4. Map the process

Flowcharts, diagrams or process maps illustrate the process flow. These visual tools help in identifying the structure of activities, making it simpler to spot issues. This practice is sometimes called business process mapping.

5. Analyze each step

Analysts examine each step to identify problems, delays, redundancies and opportunities for improvement. This involves examining the time taken, resources used and any variations or inconsistencies. Focusing on symptoms rather than underlying causes can lead to ineffective solutions. Processes often have multiple root causes for inefficiencies, making it hard to pinpoint the primary issues.

6. Identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies

Managers review areas where the process slows down or becomes inefficient. Bottlenecks can significantly impact the overall performance of the process and must be addressed. Root cause analysis can help get to the bottom of where and why inefficiencies occur.

7. Propose improvements

Based on the analysis, analysts suggest ideas for streamlining the process. These improvements might include eliminating unnecessary steps, automating tasks, reallocating resources or implementing new technologies. Getting all relevant stakeholders involved and committed to the analysis process can be challenging, as different stakeholders might have conflicting priorities and interests, complicating the analysis. However, getting broad collaboration helps to ensure that the analysis yields meaningful, sustainable outcomes.

8. Implement changes

Cross-functional teams then take the proposed improvements and integrate them into the process. This step often involves coordinating with various stakeholders to help ensure smooth implementation. Lack of follow-through on recommended changes can result in a return to inefficient practices. Business process automation might be a business goal that is achievable after analysis takes place, with new technologies implemented.

9. Monitor and evaluate

After implementing changes, analysts monitor the process to ensure that the improvements have the wanted effect. They evaluate outcomes and make adjustments as necessary. Continuous monitoring is essential for sustained process improvement. Using metrics, benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) can help provide context around whether a process is meeting organizational expectations.

10. Document and communicate

Analysts document the findings and changes made, communicating these to relevant stakeholders to help ensure transparency and alignment. Proper documentation also serves as a reference for future process evaluations.

Examples of process analysis

Process analysis can be used to improve all kinds of processes, from tangible production lines in factories to content production workflows in marketing to employee onboarding in human resources. Here are a few examples elaborated:

Manufacturing optimization

In the manufacturing sector, process analysis plays a crucial role in optimizing production lines. For example, a detailed process analysis might reveal that a specific machine frequently breaks down, causing significant downtime.

By addressing this issue—perhaps through better maintenance schedules or investing in more reliable equipment—manufacturers can significantly reduce cycle times and increase overall throughput. Also, process analysis helps in implementing lean manufacturing principles, such as reducing waste and minimizing unnecessary activities, which further enhance operational efficiency and reduce costs.

Supply chain management

Supply chain management benefits greatly from process analysis as well. By mapping out and analyzing the entire supply chain process, organizations can identify areas where delays occur, costs are excessive, or resources are underutilized. For instance, a company might discover that its inventory management system is inefficient, leading to either stockouts or excess inventory.

By reengineering this process—possibly through the adoption of just-in-time inventory systems or better demand forecasting tools—companies can reduce inventory holding costs, improve cash flow and help ensure that products are available when needed. Moreover, process analysis can uncover inefficiencies in logistics, such as suboptimal routing of shipments, which can be corrected to reduce transportation costs and improve delivery times.

Customer service enhancement

In the realm of customer service, process analysis helps organizations enhance their service delivery by identifying areas for improvement. For instance, a customer service center might use process analysis to track call handling times and identify common issues that cause delays.

By reengineering these processes—such as by implementing better training programs for staff or deploying advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems—companies can reduce response times and resolve customer issues more effectively.

Process analysis can reveal patterns in customer inquiries and complaints, enabling proactive measures to address common problems and improve overall customer satisfaction. This not only enhances the customer experience but also builds loyalty and trust in the brand.

Compliance and standards

Ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements is another use case for process analysis. Companies operating in highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals or finance, must adhere to stringent guidelines and standards.

Through detailed process analysis, these companies can identify gaps in their processes that might lead to noncompliance. For example, a pharmaceutical company might analyze its production and documentation processes to help ensure that they meet the rigorous standards set by regulatory bodies, such as the FDA.

By doing so, they can implement corrective actions to address any deficiencies, thus avoiding costly penalties and ensuring their products are safe and effective. Regular process analysis also helps maintain a state of audit readiness, helping to ensure that the company can demonstrate compliance at any time.

Process analysis techniques

Process analysis involves various techniques to understand, document and improve business processes. Here are some commonly used business analysis techniques:


Flowcharts are one of the most fundamental and widely used process mapping techniques. They provide a clear visual representation of the steps in a process, including decisions, actions and sequences. Flowcharts use standardized symbols (such as rectangles for activities, diamonds for decisions and arrows for flow direction) to depict the flow of tasks and decision points, making them simple to understand and communicate.

Swimlane diagrams

Swimlane diagrams, also known as cross-functional flowcharts, extend the basic flowchart by organizing activities into lanes that represent different departments, teams or individuals. This technique clarifies roles and responsibilities, showing who is responsible for each step in the process. Swimlane diagrams are useful for processes that involve multiple stakeholders or departments, helping to identify handoffs and potential areas of confusion or delay.

Value stream mapping (VSM)

Value stream mapping is a lean management tool that visualizes the flow of materials and information needed to bring a product or service to a customer. VSM highlights productive and non-productive activities, helping to identify waste and opportunities for improvement. This technique provides a comprehensive view of the entire production process, from raw materials to finished products, and is commonly used in manufacturing and service industries to optimize overall efficiency.

Business process model and notation (BPMN)

BPMN is a standardized graphical notation designed for creating detailed and precise process models. BPMN diagrams use a rich set of symbols to represent different types of activities, events, gateways and flows, making them suitable for complex processes that require detailed documentation. BPMN is widely used in business process management (BPM) because it provides a common language for stakeholders to understand and communicate process designs, facilitating alignment and collaboration.

SIPOC diagrams

SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers. SIPOC diagrams provide a high-level overview of a process by listing these five elements, helping to frame the scope of the process and understand its context. This technique is useful at the initial stages of process analysis, providing a structured way to capture and communicate the key components of a process and their relationships.

Related products and solutions
Business process automation solutions

Discover solutions that deliver intelligent automation quickly with low-code tools.

Explore IBM business process automation solutions

IBM Process Mining

IBM Process Mining helps businesses make faster, more informed decisions for process improvement through data-driven insights.

Discover IBM Process Mining

IBM Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Boost ROI with full-featured AI-driven Robotic Process Automation.

Explore IBM Robotic Process Automation
Resources AI clocks in: How bots are streamlining restaurant operations

Learn how restaurant chain Primanti Brothers is modernizing back-office processes with a Robotic Process Automation bot.

The power of AI and automation: Intelligent workflows

Discover how organizations are employing predictive approaches, process mining tools and implementing tech-infused workflows to achieve data-driven innovation.

Business process management (BPM) examples

Simplify the identification of opportunities for process optimization by providing organizations with process models.

What is workflow automation?

How workflow automation improves business operations, IT network administration and DevOps collaboration.

IBM Blueworks Live demo

This product tour showcases how Blueworks Live can help you extract actionable insights for data-driven decisions.

Business process management (BPM) examples

BPM is intended to help improve the efficiency of existing processes to increase productivity and overall business performance.

Take the next step

Discover how high-impact automation can help make your IT systems more proactive, business processes more efficient and people more productive.

Explore IBM Blueworks Live Try it for free