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What's the Problem?

By Genevieve van den Boer posted Thu December 31, 2020 09:45 PM


IBM Blueworks Live is your front door to digital transformation with the IBM Cloud Pak for Automation. The digital transformation journey starts with the Gather phase, where the focus is on identifying a sponsor and business goals, building your team of business and technical subject matter experts (SMEs), and capturing the model of the current business operations and pain points. In the sixth posting of this series of articles, we introduced some guidance for documenting current state. In this posting, we will discuss approaches to start discovering, capturing and quantifying the pain points in the current state for your digital transformation initiative, as well as provide some examples of typical process problems.


Collaborative workshops are an effective way to elicit input and discuss processes, as discussed in this Process Discovery workshops posting. Goal-driven workshops start with an agenda. Ensure all participants are familiar with the purpose of the workshop to discover pain points, time-box discussions of each pain point, and stay focused on the problem and not on the solution. There are no future wishes in current state. Get to the base of the problem by asking the ‘5 whys’ to determine the root cause.  Pain point discovery usually takes multiple passes over the process. Using an iterative approach to discovery, revisit the process in multiple workshops to understand, document, and quantify current process problems.

Capture & Quantify Problems

All workshop participants should be either an editor or a contributor in Blueworks Live. Editors can document process problems directly in the process mode, while both editors and contributors can provide comments on the process model and problems captured.  Problems can be captured both at the process level and at the level of individual activities or tasks within the process.  When you capture a problem in the Details pane of an activity (a process, sub-process or task) you can provide 3 pieces of information to identify and also quantify the problem:

  1. Title – brief phrase identifying the problem
  2. Severity – Low, Medium, or High
  3. Frequency – Low, Medium, or High
Problems defined in the Details pane

The title of the problem should be a brief and unique summary of the problem. Each problem that you identify in the Details pane will be entered into the Glossary, as with any other attributes in Blueworks Live. In the Glossary, you can edit the problem Description to describe it in more detail. You can also add References, as relevant. Since the Problems get added to the Glossary, you can reuse Problems in your activity details. Each activity will have unique Severity and Frequency levels defined for the problem, but the Description and References can be reused from the definition in the Glossary.

Problem defined in the Glossary

The problem that you have captured can be quantified by two metrics: Severity and Frequency. The severity represents the business impact of the problem.  For example, a problem that causes major quality defects, high penalties to be incurred, or low customer satisfaction should be classified as High Severity. The frequency represents how often the problem occurs.  For example, a problem that occurs every time an activity is executed or often, such as every day, should be classified as a High Frequency problem. A problem that occurs rarely or once a year should be classified as Low Frequency.

Typical Process Problems

As you document the problems in your processes, you will find that there are many common problems that occur across various processes in your enterprise. You will find these common problems in the Glossary in Blueworks Live. By using the Where Used button, you can find all the places where these occur in your process.

Where Used to see where a Problem occurs

The following are some examples of common problems that occur in processes across various industries and process types.

Manual and non-value steps

    • Waiting time between activities
    • Process bottlenecks
    • Excessive process durations
    • Workers must look at different systems or locations for information
    • Workers do not have a view into their work or status
    • Workers lack understanding of where their actions fit within overall process
    • Rework steps to re-do work already completed


    • Multiple ways and work-arounds to complete process
    • Focused on managing process
    • Manual routing and prioritization of work tasks
    • Hard-coded or manually applied business rules
    • Manual data entry
    • Hands-offs of paper documents


    • Incomplete data or re-keying between systems
    • Poor data quality
    • Difficult and costly to make changes to other systems, such as SAP, Salesforce
    • Challenging to make process rules changes
    • Scale process by adding more knowledge workers


    • Limited visibility of process status and performance
    • Limited insight into worker performance and quality
    • Manually documented audit trails and information for regulatory requirements

In this article we introduced some approaches to discover, capture, and quantify the pain points in your current state process. We also shared some typical process problems that occur commonly across process types and industries. In our next posting, we’ll discuss how to analyze the process, including reviewing these quantified problems.