A Quick Guide to Business Process Mapping

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Work in the dark and eventually you’re going to hit a wall. While the myth of the entrepreneur who comes up with a million-dollar idea and back and watches the money roll in might be persuasive, it’s a fiction. Businesses need to plan and execute tasks in an organized manner.

To do that, every company needs business processes to manage work and achieve its goals. A business process is a series of tasks or steps that need to be taken by an organization to accomplish a concrete goal.

Managing these business processes makes companies efficient and that’s why business process management (BPM) was created. Business process management is a discipline that uses a series of tools and methods to help managers streamline business processes.

One of those methods it’s called business process mapping. Let’s define what it is and why it is so important when managing business processes.

What Is Business Process Mapping?

Business process mapping consists of using a workflow diagram or process map to visually represent a business process and define:

  • What the business process steps are
  • Who’s responsible for what in the business process
  • What tools will be used
  • What the standard is for completing that business process
  • How success is determined

With a clear workflow diagram or detailed business process map, it is easy to see where improvements in the business process can be made to increase efficiencies and productivity. This is also a way to take a specific objective and measure it in order to compare against the overall objectives of the business, ensuring that they’re in alignment.

Now that we understand what business process mapping is, let’s learn how to create a process map.

What Is a Process Map?

A process map it’s essentially a flow diagram that represents elements of a business process with symbols. Those symbols have a standard known as the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) which was created by the Business Process Management Initiative.

However, you don’t need to be a BPMN expert to create a process map, today there are many online business process mapping tools that automate this process for you.

Business Process Mapping Steps

Process mapping can help with many business goals from improving processes to training and workflow clarification, but also regulatory compliance, internal auditing and clarifying roles in the business. Here are 7 steps to create a process map for your business.

1. Process Identification

Identify the objectives, scope, players and work areas you want to focus on. This can be done on three levels: reactive, when addressing a process that failed or underperformed; strategic, as in high-level overhaul; customer-focused, such as seeking better customer satisfaction.

2. Assemble a Team

Get a group of people who work with the process, though it helps to have a senior management person on board, too, as they can help with approvals when changes are requested.

3. Information Gathering

Once you’ve identified the process, then you must gather the information you’ll need to create your process map, such as the who, what, where and when of the business process. This is done by gathering information and conducting interviews with the people who do the work you’re mapping.

4. Process Mapping

Take all the information you’ve collected and turn it into a process map flow diagram. This will likely include the process or overall workflow. All process maps are different, but these are the main elements you should include in your workflow diagram:

  • Tasks: Each step of the workflow.
  • Events: Triggers or gateways that begin, redirect or end a process.
  • Participants: Those involved in the business process.

5. Analysis

Study the process map and challenge each of the steps by questioning the why of each.

6. Develop and Install New Methods

After your process analysis has identified unnecessary work, see how steps might be combined, rearranged or new steps added to improve efficiency.

7. Manage Process

Now the business process must be maintained and stored, but also reviewed routinely as well as monitoring the process for changes.

business process mapping steps

Types of Business Process Maps

Business process mapping can be done in several ways. There are different types of process maps you can use to visualize your processes. Each of those process maps has advantages and disadvantages.

Process Flow Diagram

Flow diagrams are the most common type of process map. They can be hand-drawn or created in software. The ease of use and familiarity are an advantage, but the disadvantage is that these types of business process mapping lack the flexibility to adapt and change the flowchart.

Related: 3 Free Tools for Making Network Diagrams

Swimlane Diagram

A swimlane diagram acts like a classic flowchart, except in a swimlane diagram each step is divided between different teams or individuals who are responsible for them. Thus the name swimlane, as the diagram looks like lanes in a pool for swimming laps. The advantages and disadvantages are about the same as with a flowchart.

Value Stream Map

A value stream map is often used in lean six sigma applications. It’s not as easy to analyze at a glance. Therefore, this is more of a benefit to those looking for a more in-depth view of business processes. Value stream maps are not recommended for giving people an easy-to-read summary of the processes.

SIPOC Diagram

A Supplier Inputs Process Outputs Customer, or SIPOC, is a simplified business process map. It removes most of the information and focuses solely on the essentials of the process and the people involved. Naturally, this is going to provide an overview that can be quickly understood, but it’s not going to offer any deep understanding of a process and how processes interact.

Software

There is software available for business process mapping. These tools help to track the processes after the mapping has been done, so you can see how it performs and where it’s underperforming because of bottlenecks, missed deadlines and other blocks. The advantage of using a business process is that it automates the creation of process maps and has other features that employees can use to manage their tasks and to-do lists. It also allows for management to easily monitor what’s going on.

Benefits of Business Process Mapping

Using a process map to visualize how a business works, what people’s roles are, and the responsibilities and standards of the business is necessary for several reasons.

Maintain Compliance

It helps keep a company ISO 9001 compliant. This is a set of standards that are geared towards making sure a business meets the needs of its customers and complies with related regulations.

There’s also compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002. This federal law requires transparency and proper disclosure for all publicly traded companies. Business process management documentation is a key component of this act.

Helps with Onboarding

Business process mapping is also critical for onboarding new employees. With a set of documented processes for the new employee to follow, their transition is shortened and doesn’t take as much time away from other employees for training and other things. A process map also creates a consistent onboarding process and continuity between new hires.

Bolsters Communication

Business process mapping is also a great way to effectively communicate to others in the business and outside of it. Because business process mapping is a visualization of a process, it is easier to digest than a long block for everyone in the business.

Simplifies Audits

Internal audits can be done more efficiently with process maps. They can make sure that the work is always aligned with the business’ standards and practices. This also leads to process improvement. Once a process is documented and understood, it can be studied to see how to improve it.

Related: Using Operational Excellence to Be More Productive

Improves Problem Solving

Process maps can also help with general problem solving. They create a visual of the process, and in so doing, make it easier to discover conflicts. If there’s a block somewhere in the process, the visual map will make it clear what led up to that bottleneck and offer paths to resolve it.

Additionally, business process mapping helps identify risks that are caused by processes that might open the business to legal or health and safety issues. By showing the big picture, it can also help a business with best practices.

History of Business Process Mapping

A process approach to quality management, and how each process relates to the other processes in a business, is at the heart of business process mapping. This goes back to the first structured method for documenting process flow, the flow chart, which was introduced by engineer Frank Gilbreth in 1921.

These tools were then picked up by industrial engineering, and in the early 1930s industrial engineer Allan H. Mogensen started training others in this method. Art Spinanger, who graduated from one of Mogensen’s classes, took the discipline to Procter and Gamble and developed a work simplification program called Deliberate Methods Change Program.

Another one of Mogensen’s graduates, organizational theorist Ben. S. Graham adopted the flow process chart to information processing with his development of the multi-flow process chart, which displays multiple documents and their relationships.

Business process mapping is best with a software that is accessible by everyone in the business, updating their status in real-time and giving manager a portal to monitor and track progress. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that has a real-time dashboard to track and report on process, with a collaborative platform that everyone can use to facilitate work and communications, as well as Kanban boards to create process maps. See how it can help you streamline your business processes today with this free 30-day trial.

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