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Modeling Tip: Business Objectives Model or Key Performance Indicator Model?

Here at Seilevel, when we begin a new project, we typically start off by asking a fundamental question, “Why is this project valuable to our client?” Establishing a “Why” guides the effort, allowing us to understand which areas of the project offer the greatest monetary return. To do this, we create the Business Objectives Model, which links business problems to objectives, and then links those objectives to the features we are describing with our requirements. Business objectives frequently have success metrics associated with them, which will tell you, generally, how you know your objective has been met.  The best business objectives are those that lead directly back to money, for example “Save $5 million by automating manual tasks.”


But not every project fits this mold. Often we will find ourselves working on projects that involve updating an existing system, merging two sets of distinct features into a single system, or changing existing systems to comply with outside regulations. For these types of projects, where the true goal of the project is to make sure the users of the system are able to successfully accomplish the same tasks in the same amount of time, the process of tying business objectives to features does not tell us enough about what those tasks are and how they should work.

In order to effectively model the objectives of a conversion-type project, we use the Key Performance Indicator Model (KPIM), which captures the performance metrics as an objective of the project. Built from process flows that describe a given task a user wants to accomplish, KPIs state the conditions that have to be met to consider that step a success. So, for example, if a task that once took 5 minutes in the old system now takes 10 minutes to complete, the added cost in time spent would make this step unsuccessful. If the step returns too many errors which have to be addressed one at a time, this would also make that step unsuccessful. In the diagram below, the KPIs are the call-outs bracketed above the process flow steps.


In order to create the KPIM, the first challenge is to identify the critical processes that will be affected by the project. To do this:

  • Create a high level process flow containing the major steps needed to complete a given task.
  • For areas that have important processes within a step, create a process flows for each of these more detailed steps, and relate them to the overall flow (The goal is to capture the tasks involved and display them in a way that allows your project stakeholders to think through the individual actions each process step requires).
  • Continue this exercise until all of the high-impact processes have been captured as process flows. (Tip: It is essential to validate these process flows with the individuals who perform those tasks to make sure everything is correctly recorded.)
  • With this done, review your process flows with your project stakeholders and subject-matter experts.
    • To reveal the KPIs associated with each process flow step, you might ask:
      • “What is the outcome of this step?”
      • “How long should this step take?”
      • “How many people are needed to complete this step?”
      • “How many errors are acceptable?”
      • “How often manual input is required”

If our first goal in beginning a project is to make sure we are delivering value to the business by maintaining existing processes, we have to approach the problem in a way that defines the process and how it is accomplished, not just the desired outcome. And with the Key Performance Indicator Model, greater detail can be added to the project’s basic objectives, ensuring that any new system that is put in place will perform as expected and be easily adapted to existing processes.

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