As-Is and To-Be: A Visual Comparison Worth Doing

I’ve always been a visual learner. Explanations or exercises with words alone has its place and need, but depending on the situation, visuals may be so much more effective. 

An as-is and to-be analysis is an excellent example of this. 

What is this analysis and when is it useful?

As-is and to-be is a comparison between a present circumstance and a future one. The tool is best used when there’s a current process or system that needs revising for ease-of-use or to eliminate issues. 

There are many instances where the analysis is helpful. It can be used for yourself – say you need to change the order of operations when doing laundry – your current process may be to add detergent before the laundry load, but this creates issues that there’s either too much or not enough detergent, creating missteps. So instead, you change the process for the future to add the detergent after the laundry load. This is more of a casual example of when the process is useful, but it is feasible. Otherwise, as-is and to-be can effectively help teams and work processes.

In the world of user interface and experience, this method is extremely useful when comparing systems and upgrading them for improvement for the users.

How to create an as-is and to-be method

First, you’ll want to begin the comparison by visually mapping out the “as-is” portion of the interface. Whatever visual routine works best for you is great as long as it directly compares two situations, i.e. flowchart, fishbone diagram, mind map, etc. This is all about how the interface currently works, and should be as detailed as possible – make sure you’re not leaving anything out! Map it out in ordered steps – how would the user manuever inside the system? 

Once you have the “as-is,” use the same layout to map out the “to-be” by altering the ordered steps in a new way. This may require some critical thinking, brainstorming with teams, research, and testing before and after this point, all while keeping the end user in mind. Draft up a few options in order to find the best solution.

After finishing the analysis, the process still isn’t quite done yet. Discuss with team members, test it within groups or individually, and make changes as you find necessary. Overall, the analysis will benefit the system by pointing out the best experience for the user, possible risks, and different end results. 

Effective examples

One example of the as-is and to-be analysis is shown from the CUNY School of Law. Students used a paper-based system that required a lot of time tracking down signatures, exchanging physical documents, and filing. On average, they spent about 9.3 hours per week doing this. After realizing the unnecessary amounts of time, the students wrote the process out, and made changes to the system for a digital application. After implementing the digital system, the time to do the documentation went down significantly, and the application prompted students automatically if actions were needed.

Another example involves StoneGate Senior Living. Medicaid funding required a bundle of paperwork to the state for each live-in resident with a short 30 day turnaround time. The process was not automated so the possibility of forms falling through the cracks were higher, requiring that the process start all over again. They took a look at the as-is structure, and developed a to-be structure by making the process automated. The team identified all necessary check points, and had them automatically transition to the correct staff members for each step. If any information was missing, a flag would appear to inform the team members. By transitioning the as-is system to a to-be system, they reduced billing issues by 25%.

The as-is and to-be method has shown itself as an effective tool for improving systems. If you’re at a point where you want (or need) to update a process for ease of use, consider this analysis. In a few weeks time, I will use this method myself for a UX research project. Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so it seems that this comparison will definitely be worth doing! Stay tuned!

How to do process improvement with AS-is and to-be processes. Tallyfy. (2020, February 26). Retrieved from 

Lewis, L. (2022, February 14). 5 business process improvement examples. ProcessMaker. Retrieved from 

Pannafino, J., & Mcneil, P. (2017). UX Methods : a quick guide to user experience research methods. Cduxp.

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