What a Business Process Analyst can do for K-12

A BPA can deliver valuable benefits to a school.
A BPA can deliver valuable benefits to a school.

Delivering financial savings, continuous innovation, and better execution is a must for every K-12 organization.  A Business Process Analyst (BPA) can deliver that benefit and allow the organization to recognize the required return on investment (ROI). With the funding cliff looming for K-12, there will be resource cuts that will impact daily operations and projects.  Leadership makes difficult decisions regarding essential projects when impacted by a reduction of revenue.

The BPA provides the research and data to determine which project to implement based on the highest ROI.   Many K-12 agencies have these positions in place today.  They are starting to shift from a tactical firefighter to a more internal consulting role.  This shift allows the analyst time to build internal relationships and become a more strategic partner between business and IT.

“This is how we’ve always done business” is a traditional mindset within the education culture.  Educators are not always receptive to change or to new technology.  Districts that have escaped this tradition are using their BPAs to overcome a culture of silos and negative mental models.

By acting as a liaison, the BPA establishes service and solution standards and processes that integrate business needs with IT operational efficiencies, providing constant innovation in an otherwise stagnant environment.  Because of their unique funding constraints, some K-12 organizations feel that their current technology is sufficient, while at the same time investing in quick-hit solutions that do not provide long term ROI.  They do not realize the opportunities missed unless they assign someone to monitor the results of these projects.  The same applies to business processes–unless they are being evaluated through key performance indicators (KPI), the organization doesn’t recognize the need for process efficiencies.

Organizations like the Council of Great City Schools provide a sounding board for other K-12 organizations to compare their KPIs to an industry standard.

As in the private sector, K-12 performance can be measured across districts to determine strengths and weaknesses within the organization.  The business process analyst can take these results and work with the business and IT teams to establish governance through standardization of technology and processes.  They map the end-to-end business processes to show duplication of effort and redundancy in systems.  A BPA subsequently researches solutions within the current ERP system to support decommission of shadow systems and automate manual business processes.  The BPA is responsible for aligning the mission statement and goals of the district by applying best practices.   Such technical and process efficiencies, for example, can relieve the labor costs and/or burden off the schools so that they can concentrate more on the delivery of instruction and student achievement.

Constant innovation keeps an organization from becoming stale and provides more opportunities to optimize savings.    All K-12 organizations looking to save money, seeking a return on investment, and establishing governance through standardization of technology should consider hiring a BPA.

A December 2009 USA Today article reported a nearly $15 billion state budget shortfall for 2010. In addition, the current federal stimulus funds will soon expire, leaving some K-12 education agencies struggling to find funding in an already lean system.

K-12 organizations are reaping benefits from the stimulus dollars but also are recognizing that the revenue is merely a band-aid.  Organizations are turning to process improvements and automation to help streamline everyday production and fill in gaps for decreasing resources.  As a result of this trend, in June of 2009, market analyst Gartner estimated that by 2013, “business process management” (BPM) will be an essential system for companies trying to maintain efficiency.

BPM is not a one- time process improvement or re-engineering. It is the focus on continuous process improvement and optimization. While money is being cut in all other areas, Gartner also stated that “despite a turbulent economy, companies expect to increase BPM spending by more than 10 percent in 2009,” hence creating or maintaining existing positions, such as a BPA, that support this effort.

This is more challenging for the K-12 organization that may not have the option to reserve funding for this position.  However, the savings realized through the work of an analyst can more than pay for themselves.

In Florida, for example, Business Process Specialists (BPS) with Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) lead a “procure to pay” business analysis that saved the district $121 million by implementing a new business process for closing purchase order encumbrances.  Below are additional examples of direct and indirect benefits provided by the OCPS/BPS partnership that the district realized during process improvements and system enhancements from an SAP upgrade project and module enhancement.

•    Payroll: Processing Time. The payroll team realized significant improvements in the processing time needed to run payroll. In the most stunning cases, they reduced the processing needed for time evaluation from three hours to 20 minutes and payroll processing time from over 12 hours to less than 3 hours.
•    Plant Maintenance: Work Order Web Interface. The plant maintenance team created an
interface for the schools to communicate work orders directly to the transportation and plant maintenance department via an automated web interface for an overall savings in labor cost of $21,600
•    Employment Self Service (ESS): Electronic paycheck implementation (paperless paystub) provided a savings of $60,000 though automation and process improvements.

The BPA promotes execution by obtaining results from an organization’s investments. Once an organization decides to attempt a project, the BPA helps the team with implementing the triple constraint–the relentless focus needed in order to balance the project’s scope, cost, and schedule as a team pursues the goals of the project.

Once these three factors are set, any increase in one constraint will generally result in an increase in at least one of the remaining two.  Familiar business examples include budget cuts that result in reduced features, schedule slips that drive higher costs, and “scope creep” that impacts both cost and schedule.

Something needs to be adjusted, and an analyst can help the district determine a more efficient way to deliver the project. The BPA will not only drive the execution of the initiative but also provide post operation monitoring of measurement to ensure that the processes and systems are operating efficiently and that the team is following new policies. The goal is to proof the ROI calculation from the business case with realistic data analysis. In many cases, a project may fail not because it was an ineffective system but because internal processes and policies weren’t monitored to ensure compliance.

Where do K-12 organizations find a Business Process Analyst?  There are many names for this role, including: Business Process Analyst, Process Champion, Business Process Specialist, Relationship Manager, and Requirements Analyst.

Although there are technical definition differences for each title, they all have business process analysis as their common function.  All of these positions define operational processes and technology requirements while spearheading development and implementation of solutions.  The role of the business analyst can vary depending on the needs of an organization.  Although the role’s popularity is increasing, companies must understand that a candidate should be selected based on business knowledge, system aptitude, and soft skills.

Qualifications recommended by Gartner include:
•    “An understanding of IT as it relates to how the ERP/business application was configured.
•    Change management skills to facilitate changed processes across the organization as they apply to the project.
•    Ability to develop and sustain a good working relationship with business and IT stakeholders.
•    An understanding of how the K-12 organization conducts business.
•    Facilitate the development of strong business case analysis.”

Ultimately, the job descriptions are tailored to fit a K-12 organization’s funding requirements.

A combination of duties from various titles can be added to one job description.  This can be challenging, as the right person must have a diversified background to fulfill all the requirements.  Median salary for an experienced BPA of two to seven years is around $82,600, with top pay reaching $119,000.  Some companies promote the role from within their agency but it is not uncommon to hire from the outside.  There are also consulting firms that can provide resources, but the continued benefits of the position leave with them when they leave a project, unless there is someone to receive the knowledge transfer.  The size of an organization will determine how many BPAs it needs. Gartner suggests assigning an analyst per major identified business process and notes that many of those processes cross business units.

BPAs benefit the K-12 organization by providing analysis and recommendations for constant innovation, which in turn becomes savings.  They promote operational efficiencies and ROI through streamlining processes and execution.  A key BPA skill is the ability to understand interdepartmental roles and align measurement metrics with business objectives. They assist the business and IT team in building the business road map by identifying integration points and driving process improvement initiatives.  Their ability to solve problems can provide savings otherwise missed without this role in place.  A BPA provides research to a department head in order for them to make informed decisions while maximizing the value of governance to ensure standard practice is being implemented.

The goal is to move this role out of production support and the system maintenance category and into a more forward thinking, data driven level by assigning these duties to the IT department and subject matter experts, thus allowing the analyst time to be more strategic.   They follow through with the implementation of a project and/or process improvement and monitor the performance measurements to ensure success.

Because the role generally pays for itself, it should be considered as a beneficial position for the K-12 organization. Delivering financial savings, continuous innovation and better execution is a must for every K-12 organization, and a BPA delivers those results.

Michelle V. Gonzalez is a Senior Business Process Specialist/Analyst with the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) in Florida.

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