What is process mapping? And how does it benefit your business?

In this article we’re going to discuss what business process mapping is, what the benefits are for your organization and how to create process maps. So with no further ado…

What are the activities, which if you stopped them, would make your business come to a halt?

These activities form your core processes; the things that together, comprise the blueprint of how your organization works. 

This blueprint is the single most important thing you own, because it details how you add value to your customers. By documenting every step your business takes in order to operate efficiently and effectively, it ensures that your team members do things the same way every time.

But…

It’s rare that an organization has this information written down. If they do have process documentation, it’s often buried deep in a file share. More commonly, it’s kept in your head. This means that it’s easy to forget steps or do things your own way – introducing inefficiencies and breaking the process flow. Now it isn’t being followed, and now you’ve lost your IP.

Process mapping creates your business blueprint

Business process mapping is a simple framework that shows you a visual representation of all the core processes in your business, details the relationship between each step, and the decision points in the process.

There are many benefits of building business process maps, including:

  • Clarity over the current state of your processes
  • Making process more visible across the business
  • Identifying places for automation and process improvement
  • Improving communication between departments
  • Consistency over the way you do things
  • Removing redundancies and irrelevant process steps
  • Better customer service
  • Compliance with industry legislation

It’s why consultants who deal with Six Sigma methodology and ISO 9001 benefit from seeing their business, or their client’s organization, undertake a process mapping exercise.

How to process map – starting with the ‘as-is’ model

There are two main parts to business process mapping. The first part starts by looking at what current process looks like in your business.

It would be really challenging, if not impossible, for one person to document this accurately, especially as things change quickly in real-time! Therefore, you need to start by assembling all the key stakeholders in the business. This includes people who are responsible for managing the process, and those who actually run the processes everyday as part of business-as-usual. Process mapping software can help here, as it means you don’t have to draw out everything on a whiteboard!

Define the parameters

Every process has a start point and an end point. That’s not to say that certain steps in the process can’t take you off in a certain direction, or kick-start another process, but it still has a start point and an end point, so set those parameters.

List the steps

This is best done by someone who runs this process day-in, day-out. They’re the people who figured out that something was broken, and created a work-around; they’re the ones that tried a different way of working and saw it was better than the original; they’re the ones who know how process actually works in your business. Making a process chart without them is ignoring the expertise available right there.

Connect the dots

Now you have all the component parts in the process, it’s time to add a layer of detail. Mark in where the lines of responsibility and accountability lie. Highlight the decision points and hand-offs, as well as sub-processes. And show where the important triggers are for starting the next action or process.

Read How to create business process in 8 easy steps

Process mapping gives you a better understanding of your business

Having applied the ‘as-is’ model to your organization, you can see the way it currently operates, and how certain processes work in parallel in order to reach a final outcome. This is sometimes referred to as an organizational process map and it’s a great first step in business process management (BPM).

By seeing this workflow drawn out, it becomes simple to spot bottlenecks, redundant steps, and other inefficiencies. You can also identify areas for improvement, where you can change or update the process to make it work more efficiently.

Where do you need ‘to-be’?

Creating the ‘to-be’ model is all about looking at the bigger picture. It considers what the business needs to achieve overall, how it can get there from its current state, and then looks to review and optimize your existing processes to make it happen.

It is also necessary to ask everyone involved what is going wrong. It’s not just management – every team member will have useful input. Where is communication breaking down? Where do we let the client down? Where does it all go pear shaped? This will give you a better understanding of where to start making changes.

The idea behind the ‘as-is’ ‘to-be’ models is to get everyone aligned in your organization, so they’re all pulling in the same direction and ensuring that any change you need to create in the business sticks.

But the challenge in applying it to your business is that it quickly becomes apparent how fragmented the organization is. No matter how excellent your mapping techniques are, changes won’t work without good communication and management tools. Often, the departments are working in silos, doing their own thing to complete their tasks. That means they’re not always considering the daily impact they have on other areas of the business. 

And because they’ve been doing things a certain way, and it works for them, they think it’s the right way – and they’re going to fight to keep it that way. You may find that what started as a simple attempt at optimization requires re-engineering company processes as a whole. Having clear metrics that you intend to monitor can help here, as it gives you an easy way to check if you tactics are working.

Types of process maps

Depending on what you need to represent, there are many different types of process maps you could use. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Basic flowchart. This is good for representing a simple workflow, or planning a new project.
  • SIPOC. Ths stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers – and, unsurprisingly, represents the relations between them. It’s better for more complex processes.
  • Swimlane. This map (sometimes known as a cross-functional flowchart) shows different steps in different lanes, depending on who is responsible for them. It’s great for teams that have job share, or where there are a lot of different people involved.
  • Value stream mapping. This can be fairly complex, but are great for showing a lot of information in a small space. 

There are a lot of types of map, and it’s important to spend time finding what works for you. From there, you can use it as a template to accurately map out your processes. 

Managing the cultural clash of business process mapping

Process mapping is a valuable exercise, particularly for growing organizations that need to work on documenting and implementing the systems, processes and hierarchy that enables them to scale. But it is a culturally sensitive exercise, and you can’t overlook those challenges.

Managed in the wrong way, and you’ll end up causing conflict, a deeper ingrained siloed mentality and an outcome that’s worse than your current state!

Managed in the right way, process mapping can open people’s eyes up to a new way of working, where they’re prepared to listen to new ideas, and perhaps try a different/better way of working. From here, you can move into a place of continuous improvement, constantly striving for better.

Process mapping in Process Bliss

You’ve dedicated so much effort into creating the blueprint of your organization, and then optimizing it to drive your business forward. But then making it all happen is often where people fall down…

But that’s where Process Bliss fits in.

Our process mapping tool allows you to define each step in the process in a clear, visual way. Through the use of decisions you can map what should happen next in the process depending on different conditions, and you can add all the information needed to complete each step, such as detailed instructions and files.

In this way, process is no longer stuck in a file share, or kept in someone’s head, it’s a useful and integral part of the business.

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