The Steps & Benefits of Business Process Mapping
Undergoing business process redesign for fundraising? Or, are you simply looking for a way to create end-to-end process flow across your organization?
You’ve likely heard that process mapping is the solution, and while it’s true that they can help with new hire training and getting everyone on the same page, you won’t reap any of the benefits if it’s done incorrectly.
Good ideas are not automatically adapted, and each time you change management, your process flow is automatically outdated. Essentially, it’s not as easy as it seems.
So, how do you map a business process correctly? We’ll get into that- as well as things to consider before you even begin searching for business processes mapping tools- below.
What is business process mapping?
Business processes are how people within an organization collaborate to accomplish a goal or task. Everything we do within an organization contributes to some type of process.
A business process map is a visual framework for those processes/ workflows, typically using different shapes to represent each part of the process on a flow chart.
The map will also show the steps and inputs, and the relationships between them to create an end-to-end process flow.
Do you need business process mapping?
A lot of companies set and forget their business processes because they typically don’t need them until they’re looking for funding or approaching an ERP software company.
(Also, they’re incredibly challenging to upkeep in enterprises, due to constant shifts in employees and management and new software.)
The companies that do undertake process mapping as a part of redesign, do so because it increases their cost-savings and increases the efficiency of their total operations. In some cases, it may even increase revenue.
But do you really need business mapping?
After all, a redesign can take up to 4 years, cost thousands of dollars, and you may not even have someone to dedicate to mapping tasks.
In that case, here are the key indicators that you need to map business processes across your organization:
- If you’re approaching an ERP company, they’ll need to know who they’re building for, how many roles and departments, so an up-to-date business process is essential.
- If you’re approaching the bank for fundraising, one of the first things they’ll ask for is an up-to-date business model.
- If you have old working charts that show employees that no longer work at the company, or responsibilities that no longer fall under existing positions, you need to update your business map.
- If your system references ERP tools or software that you’re no longer have- or it’s in your process but no one uses it- you need to update your business process.
- You’ve faced regulatory or compliance issues in the past and want to avoid them in the future.
- You simply want to identify gaps in your existing processes and workflows to reduce bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
When considering investing in a new ERP or CRM system, ensure that your current needs and objectives are met and the system fits your current processes, not your processes the last time they were documented.
Benefits of process mapping
One of the largest benefits of process mapping is that it enables your entire team to see essential processes within your organization the same way- whether they’re new and on-boarding or have been in management for decades.
But there are quite a few other benefits of process optimization through mapping, including:
- Enables more consistent training, which helps reduce procedural errors.
- Helps stakeholders focus on the process itself during the adoption of new technology, such as ERP software.
- Builds understanding between and across departments.
- Documents the “current state” of the business, which is a soundboard for future innovations.
- Helps identify and document workarounds, loops, and information gaps in existing business processes.
- Illustrates opportunities for improvement, streamlining, cost reductions, and automation.
Process mapping methods
Creating a business development process map can be highly complex, using precise, cross-functional flowcharts with varying levels of detail based on the process tasks.
Generally, a simplified process flowchart is effective and executable enough, but there’s more than one way to map your process.
Just to cover the basics first, a flow chart is a very simple chart that shows the entire workflow as various boxes connected by arrows.
There are actually quite a few flow charts to choose from:
- Top-down flowcharts - clusters steps into a single flow.
- Deployment flowcharts - expands to show who’s assigned to each task.
- Detailed flowcharts - show as many details as possible.
Business process flow diagrams are a great way to simplify very complicated processes in a visually appealing and easily adaptable way. There are a few methodologies here as well:
- Swimlane diagram - (cross-functional maps) display all of the subprocesses and responsibilities within each main process.
- State diagram - uses the Unified Modeling Language (UML) to display the behavior of internal systems.
- Data flow diagram - displays the types of data that flow through your system at any given time.
Value stream mapping
Value stream mapping is more like foreshadowing, or rather, setting projections for what a process will look like in the future based on its current state.
It focuses more on the products and services themselves, and how they’re developed from beginning to end. Essentially, building an end-to-end workflow.
Process mapping best practices: a model for success
Whether you use a process mapping tool, business analysts, or an ERP business process consultant, business process mapping is pretty standard.
- Determine the process you want to map and its boundaries.
Many of your processes likely overlap and intersect with each other. Your order fulfillment process and your returns process are good examples of this.
Just define the specific process, such as the sales order process, and where it begins and ends. Then you can move on to other processes and see about connecting them.
- List the steps in the process.
The level of detail you want to document is up to you, depending on your goals and plans for benchmarking success.
There are several business process mapping tools online for creating flowcharts. Even something as simple as Google drawings works as long as you are consistent in the symbols that you use.
You can create a very accurate flowchart using as little as 4 symbols.
- Order tasks in the process.
After you have checked that you have listed all related tasks, put them in order. If you’re using sticky notes on a white board or google drawing, the idea is the same, to put everything in order. Generally, processes flow left to right and top to bottom.
- Connect the tasks to document process direction flow
Use arrows and your other symbols previously defined to clearly connect the different tasks in the process so all involved easily understand and can collaborate.
Adding the process map (or process model if you’re getting into the details of how employees perform those processes), to your organizational repository helps to ensure it stays up to date and that everyone can access it.
Important things to know when building a process map
Before you can even start streamlining your organization through business process modeling, you have to align the right resources.
That means ensuring you’re truly documenting and assessing your current state, rather than your organization state as it was 3 years ago.
It’s not uncommon to find that your training manuals haven’t been updated in years. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, growth and change are constant.
Going through each process and identifying areas that need improvement will ensure that the rest of your optimization efforts are worth it.
Aligning the right resources also means involving the right people, and interviewing those actually doing the work in each process.
There are a several other things you’ll have to consider before, during, and after process improvement, including the following:
- Decisions points are key when those involved in the process have to follow different paths in the process based on the outcome of the decision.
- Ensure that decision symbols are properly used and the flow is logical and clear for everyone expected to follow the process. It is possible to capture too much detail.
- Look for redundant steps and steps that can be combined, for example multiple and unnecessary approvals, to make sure every step is necessary and there are no delays.
- Will automating certain processes eliminate delays? Or is changing responsibilities or delegations work better?
- Look for “danger points” — parts of the process where you encounter the most issues either in customer satisfaction or product/ service quality.
- Examine decision points: who is making the decisions? Do they have the information they need to make informed and empowered decisions? Do they need access to more or different information in your business enterprise resources planning (ERP) system?
- Are there places where the process is not complete, gets dropped or is not closed out? For example, defective products are not disposed of properly and are taking up warehouse space.
If you’re creating a process map for new hire training, it’s going to be less granular than one created for upper management, which would focus more on process analysis and opportunities for cost reduction.
Business processes change over time, so revisiting your map every year ensures that your business needs are continually met, and that your business can adapt to new markets in the future.
Key takeaway about mapping your business process
Maps of any kind are incredible ERP tools. They empower you with a clear perspective of where you are relative to where you want to go.
With the scope of business process mapping software, your map can be exponentially more powerful in ensuring that you maximize your investment.
Feeling overwhelmed? Our success agents can help you map out all your relevant processes and take a look at where better software could take the load off — click here if you would like to set up a quick chat.