North Creek FLOW Analysis Process

North Creek Flow analysis process:

1. Identify business process to analyze. Create a clear boundary (process starts at this point, is finished at this point).

2. Identify all the human characters involved (like a movie script cast list for this 'scene').

3. Place characters around outside of page (stick figures). Draw numbered arrows between characters for each step. If multiple characters are involved in a single step, try to break step down into smaller steps. If not possible, flag for step (8).

4. If there are decision steps and branches, your process is too big! Divide into at least 3 processes:

  1. before decision
  2. choice 1
  3. choice 2
and so on for each choice. Track decision points in a separate document.

5. For each numbered arrow, identify the information that is flowing in each direction.

6. Now list all computer systems that are used for each numbered arrow. Hopefully there is only one system per arrow.

7. For each step, within each computer system, record:

  1. How the data is stored (web form, spreadsheet, database, text file).
  2. Human/Computer Interaction steps (login, form data entry, compose email, save file).
  3. Frustrations, extra steps, mismapped data, manual steps required.

8. If there are steps with more than 2 characters involved,

  1. identify 2 'main' characters that give/receive value in this interaction
  2. note the computer systems involved
  3. find ways to automate 3rd party involvement in this step.

9. Note when data is first entered into the system. Pick a data point (customer name, cost, price) and follow it through the process. Note when data is changed.

10. Note all systems that need access to that data point, and whether they need read or read/write access.

11. Create a dictionary of data types, and for each data type, note in which business processes they appear, and in which systems they are stored.


1. Drawing per business process

2. Larger drawing of how business processes fit together

3. Human character cast list

  1. including which processes each is involved in
  2. the other humans with which they interact
  3. the data they need to perform their role
  4. the systems they must have interactions with

4. Decision points throughout business process

  1. Inputs to that decision, and resulting business processes

5. Computer system list (software)

6. Data Dictionary:

  1. Data type name, description
  2. System of Record for that data type
  3. Systems that need to read that data type
  4. Systems that create that data type
  5. Systems that change that data type
  6. Processes that interact with that data.

The North Creek Flow Analysis system can be used as an input for Security/Authorization analysis (determining who needs access to what parts of the business). It can help in understanding hardware acquisition. The resulting data can be segregated into relatively constant cost business processes vs. costs that scale as the business grows.

For Data Integration, Flow Analysis makes it obvious where one piece of data is being handed from system to system, and which persons in the process need access to which systems.

An analysis performed at the Departmental level will identify optimization opportunities. Expanding the analysis to multiple departments could expose missed strategic opportunities.

As you go through the process, please note your frustrations with the Flow process itself, but attempt to carry on to completion for an individual process before experimenting with changes to the Flow process. If you find a useful alteration, please send me an updated process description at dave@northcreek.ca.

The discussion around the analysis will be more valuable than the analysis itself.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Categories: Business , Methodology