Posted by: Adam Deane | 21/07/2011

The Impact of Impact Analysis

BPM ImpactI decided to blog this week about “Impact Analysis”, a topic that rarely generates any interest in the BPM community.

It’s one of those topics that even if I try to wrap it up in a bit of humour, to make it more interesting, it still won’t get anyone’s pulse running…

The reasons are obvious: Complexity, it’s not sexy, and, unfortunately… there is no real interest from the customers.

Now I can bang on about how important it is.. bla, bla, bla.. but if customers are not demanding it and if sales teams don’t see it as a sales feature – it will be put on the back burner.

And before you all tell me that how nicely you’ve embedded it in your software and how all of your customers are using it – let me remind you what happened to Pinocchio…

Everyone does a bit of impact analysis nowadays, but Impact Analysis is a enormous area to cover properly. You’ve got:
* Metadata impact analysis: If you change something in the process, how will that impact the rest of the process
* Data impact analysis: If you change data, how will that impact SLAs and KPIs
* EA impact analysis: If you change a process, how will that impact the other processes in the organisation
.. and probably a bunch of other areas

And inside these areas you’ve got:
* Impact on time
* Impact on budget
* Impact on risk
* Impact on resources
.. and probably a bunch of other impacts..

Now I’m sure the summary above is very lacking, and I’m sure that there are people out there that can articulate it much better than I have.
The point I’m making is that Impact Analysis is a big area to cover properly. BPM uses only a tinch of it (usually to show product ROI and a bit of process simulation).
Most BPM case studies are around how automating a business process has saved X amount of money for the customer. You don’t hear many impact analysis value pitches (and if you do, it’s usually from the Six Sigma guys)

I can’t stop feeling that we are missing a trick by not embedding more of it in BPM.
It might be because Impact Analysis belongs to the realm of BI, or the simulation vendors, or six sigma “gurus”.
My gut feeling is that impact analysis is more important to customers than just simulating how a process runs, but as long as I can’t show the impact of impact analysis, it will continue to simmer on the back burner.

Anyway, I doing a bit of research on it because I think it’s a fascinating topic, but I still haven’t found a “compelling” solution for it yet.


  1. Even if we scope out the “business” aspects of impact analysis that you briefly discuss here, Adam, and just focus on impact analysis in the context of changes to models and code for process applications – many BPM technology platforms do a pretty sucky job.

    Given that a big part of the BPM value proposition is about business agility and support for continuous change, you’d expect BPM technology platforms to make it easy to drive change with confidence. Still, the number of vendors I’ve come across which say some variant of “oh, we use the built-in version control features of Eclipse and you can plug in your own SCCS” is forehead-slappingly depressing.

  2. I agree with Neil – most BPM vendors do this very, very poorly. When reviewing vendors for clients, the most frequent response to my question about impact analysis is a blank stare.

  3. Great subject here Adam!

    I have recently carried out analysis on a process where I currently work to find that it took one person to manage the work that came through the process. That person was very experienced and skilled in the role and had been here for over 5 years, so naturally had found a more “efficient way” of managing the process. At the current volume that the process was consuming, I developed an Excel spreadsheet that mirrored the process in a table to demonstrate the time and consequent cost at each step by volume of work items. Needless to say it saw a few jaws drop!

    When I entered the projected future volume of work items (this was the driver behind the analysis as the area in question was projected to grow by over 100%), this was the “bingo” figures people were looking for as I had managed to demonstrate the cost, time and labour required to administer the process in its current state or AS-IS as we like to call it.

    This led me nicely in to our TO-BE scenario as we could easily visualise the process and see that if we could make the subsequent changes required what we could save if we were to leave the process as it is. Now the figures were probably not 100% accurate as there are many contributing factors that led me to those figures, and then even more factors that would impact the process, but everyone was fully aware of this beforehand. I am just required to justify the proposition of a BPM solution through savings versus cost and time of development.

    So through my impact analysis I could now highlight the benefits that could be gained, I can attempt to measure the solution against them, and to me, far more importantly I can help the users visualise what they will see change which will help my implementation and transformation initiatives very nicely. It also formed the spec for my BPM solution which was great.

    What I would like is this to be native to a BPM tool. I appreciate there are Process Mapping tools and then BPM tools, both of which I have used separately, but perhaps this is just to complex and is not seen as adding much value to what is actually produced and should be left up to us as BPM practitioners? My impact analysis that I have described, could have gone to the nth degree, but I focussed on what the management wanted …. SAVINGS! I suppose each analysis is different, and requires a different approach, it just depends on what you want to achieve at the end of it.

  4. Impact analysis is an important part of planning. It helps to reduce the frequency of elegant solutions to the wrong problem. Any initiative that introduces change requires impact analysis prior to, during and after such change (preparing an ROI, planning change management, re-assessing one’s competitive position,).

  5. Impact Analysis is the biggest gaping hole in Corporate America (the whole world actually). Lack of it is the reason why hundreds of billions of dollars go into regression, integration, system testing, etc. and why most CIO’s are afraid to make changes to their tried and true software systems. The inefficiencies that arise from tribal knowledge as opposed to metadata-driven analysis is frightening. But you are absolutely right – the old adage that “nobody gets rich saving money” results in minimal attention paid to this important subject. I always get the deer in the headlights look whenever I bring it up.

    Great blog Adam!

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