- Inputs: What the function chews on to create its ...
- Outputs: What the function exists to create, along with any by-products. A car is an example of a primary output, management reports are examples of useful (one hopes) by-products.
- Resources: What the business function makes use of in transforming inputs into outputs. The distinction between resources and inputs is that a function operates on inputs to create outputs, but makes use of resources. It's the difference, when baking bread, between flour and yeast (inputs) and a recipe and the oven (resources).
- Constraints: Imposed conditions that limit both how the process operates and ways the process may change. Regulations, license terms, budgets, human frailties, and for that matter, the physical laws of the universe can all constrain a process.
By contrast, white-box analysis doesn't care what the function is for. It cares about how it works; describing its motor, gears, levers, pulleys, and controls; and how they're hooked together.
Probably the most useful tool in the IBC arsenal for white-box analysis is the Rummler Brache diagram, though most people call these "swim-lane diagrams" because that's what they look like and it's easier to pronounce.
Swim-lane diagrams are flow charts in which each process actor gets a separate row. That's what makes them superior to standard flow charts -- they display both the sequence of actions and who is responsible for each of them.
Cheesy but effective trick
If you're the sort who liked Rodney Dangerfield's approach to business class in "Back to School," this trick is for you. It's a technique you can use to demonstrate how superior your process improvements are when compared to the current state.
What you do is to cram every step and every loop in the current workflow into a single megacomplex swim-lane diagram. The result will look like a plate of spaghetti that would earn you a chef's hat in any Italian restaurant.
That's the current-state description. The future state? You describe it with a layered set of individually simple and straightforward swim lanes, one per case, which means your flowcharts have few if-then branches. Ideally, each has no more than about seven steps on it.
Even if you haven't figured out any actual improvements, the future state will look so much cleaner, everyone will be sure you've streamlined what used to be a mess -- everyone, that is, except the employees on the ground who do the actual work. They'll know nothing has changed.
Just make sure they like you. Otherwise, they might blow your cover.
This story, "How to succeed as IT's new business analyst," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.