My job is IT Functional Administrator in a privately owned fruit & vegetables company. My duties includes answering questions regarding (missing) stock, tracing of pallets in the key ERP system. Occasional project management of small implementations (VoIP, test changes).

BUT: How to learn the processes?

In order to get anywhere & valuable its essential for me to know processes, and as much detail thereof. This way it would be easier to connect various IT-related issues, resulting in a faster resolution of (support) questions. Its also my ambition to grow towards full business analyst.

Our company have sales, production, warehousing, transport-departments etc. My end users are diverse from order pickers to logistical & production support.

 My IT-manager it a Manager Tools-manager. Together with him we agreed that my goal of 2014 is to now business processes inside & out supported by our ERP-system, as well as various nitty gritty details. Its tricky at best!

My manager thus threw me a “bone”. However, my challenge is HOW achieve my 2014-goal without irritating people & not interrupt day-to-day operational work.

 My approach would be to interview (end)users, on what they do, why they are doing things, what are the typical problems they face. BUT… 99% of my colleagues are focused on their piece of the process chain. These specialists knows everything about their small piece but nothing about what happens thereafter. Which isn’t their problem either. Considering some specialists has been doing the job for >10 years and when I come around with a question you can literally hear the “sigh”. Most of these specialist aren't into explaining what they do. They want to finish the job.

According to my 3-weeks planning I should start on it next week. After this 3 weeks I need to reflect on my learnngs, by giving a presentation on business processes to the fellow IT-team members.


  1. How I do reserve time from the busier than busy operations?
  2. How do I learn what customer support / invoicing guys do?
  3. How do I approach people in Transport department, that makes trucks ready for local & international customers?
  4. How can i best make appointments to get some time from these operational specialists, without them *sighing* in frustration, or sending me away..?


flexiblefine's picture

You've got a variety of processes there -- invoicing, customer support, transport, etc. Are you trying to learn all these processes in 3 weeks?

Start with one process. To make it most useful to the IT team you will eventually be presenting to, choose a process that receives IT support. 

Before you go to the people who actually perform the parts of this process, pre-wire with whoever owns the process -- their manager, for example. Let them know that you want to study the process so you can help the IT team understand it better and provide better support. Ask that process owner how they think you can get up to speed on the process. Are there manuals or instructions? Which team members are better choices to speak with, and who would be better to observe? Do they have team meetings you can sit in on?

Then, assuming you can get the process owner's buy-in for your study, you can start actually examining the process. You don't want to slow them down, bother them, or interfere with their efficiency -- you're trying to get a win-win through improved understanding of the process.

You've got a lot of opportunities to practice business analysis skills here. Identify the stakeholders in your "learning the process" project; learn their objectives and concerns; help create agreement around the project; perform document analysis, observations, and interviews; produce deliverables to document the business process; deliver a presentation to your team.

From a Manager Tools perspective, you're also getting the opportunity to build relationships with the people who work on that process. You never know when some help from the other side of the building might be handy...

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476

merasmus's picture

 Thanks for the tips!

I am in contact with the varius department heads, and is settingup meeting with some directs.
As it may take >3  weeks to interview everyone my manager has extended my 'learning deadline' with another two weeks.


woolly_jumpers's picture
Licensee Badge

WOW. Sounds like the proverbial drinking from a firehose. Has the organization recently (or ever) gone through the exercise of value stream mapping? If they have one, that might be a place to start. If not, it may be worthwhile. Was it Ford who is quoted as saying something about not improving activities that shouldn't be done in the first place? It's really easy to get caught up in internal processes.  All business functions and the ERP interactions should make sure the business is satisfying the customer.  Take a couple of weeks and follow the organization horizontally.  You have fruits and veg because someone needs them...go to where order entry happens, then procurement and inventory management, then the distribution process, for example. Follow through to invoicing. Ask folks doing the work, what's a pain in the neck for you? What's a pain for the customer? Then come back inside to the business functions - anything that is driven by regulatory or internal policy.

Flexiblefine is spot on. You're going to have the foundation for relationships in every department! If you typically wear formal business attire, within some reason, dress for each department and it will help with the relationship building. Wear jeans to the warehouse, if that's how that team dresses. (I worked at a plant where operators wore shorts and tank tops...sometimes a khaki skirt and an oxford have to do.)

A lot of employees will be happy to talk about what they do.  Ask for time to shadow, try not to justify why systems work certain ways if someone complains, just listen and understand. If there are team members who are nervous or bitter, ask the department leader for another guide.  This approach has worked for me nearly always during audits.

Good luck!


merasmus's picture

I will post back here a summary of my findings, questions asked, responses, interactions with bitter/happy employees ;)

met vriendelijke groet,

DiSC-profile: High "S".