I would start at one stage further back than most suggestions in answering this question – and you may well have already taken this stage, so take this as a reminder.

That stage is why are you analysing the process? In many ways this might seem obvious, but so often in my consultancy life, this question was greeted with bewilderment as if it were immediately obvious. There are many reasons – most of them linked – for wanting to understand a process within a company, but understanding what your driver is or your drivers are will tell you a great deal about what you have to do. For example you might be worried about complexity – that you have made something far too complex when it can be simplified. You might be worried that it is not compliant with regulations. You may not understand where the value is added during the various stages and want to tease out the crucial elements. You may wish to create compliance with some quality standards. All of these are completely valid, but they tell you what depth you need to go into. I have known companies produce brilliant, in-depth analyses of their processes which have actually done nothing for the business because they haven’t been acted upon – and this sort of exercise will create indifference.

When you know what outcome you want from the exercise – so not the output but the outcome – you will be equipped to see whether you need tools to help you. If the outcome is purely or mainly descriptive, you can use something as simple as Microsoft’s Visio. If you are using the analysis to determine where investment is required, or where compliance is lacking, or where there are single points of failure (like a person who has the knowledge or a system that contains the vital algorithm), then you will need a more complex tool that allows you to describe what you are doing but also dynamically link the resources and give you an understanding of the costs and relative value.

There are many good articles on the web that you can search for once you are in this position, but remember that you should have several factors in mind: what are your inputs and outputs; what outcomes are required from the process; follow the money, that is both costs and return on investment; understand how the liveware (as the computer industry calls people), hardware, software, premises, location, logistics all interact and where they interact. You might find one of the Bite-Sized Books useful, Understand Your Organisation – Improve Your Business – An Introduction to Enterprise Architecture Modelling by Matthew T Brown, not only because like all Bite-Sized Books it is short but because it focuses entirely on what you need to know and how you need to approach this task in order to be successful..

Throughout the process of understanding and analysis, do keep at the forefront of your mind why you are carrying out the exercise. It can become far too complex and while your final description and analysis may be a thing of beauty for ever, it might well hold up your actual business purpose – making money.