Process mapping is a powerful tool and practice that allows you and your team to gain a new perspective on your business and identify and target any areas that could be made more efficient or improved.

Process maps can also be an extremely valuable tool in new hire training and change management when adopting new technology. First, what is a business process? Processes are how people within an organization collaborate in order to accomplish a goal. Essentially everything we do in an organization involves or contributes to some type of process.

At Naologic, every custom ERP system we build begins with a map of the business processes that are going to be affected. If these processes are not mapped already, we work together until we have a clear and complete process map.  When done properly process mapping has many benefits, not limited to:  

  • Enabling the entire team to “see” the process in the same way  
  • Enable more consistent training and even help reduce procedural errors  
  • Help stakeholders focus on the process itself during the adoption of new    technology, such as ERP implementation  
  • Builds understanding between and across departments  
  • Documents the “current state” of the business, which serves as a basis to    discuss and innovate for the future  
  • Helps identify and document where there are workarounds, loops and even    information gaps in the existing process.  
  • Illustrates opportunities for improvement, streamlining, cost reductions,    even opportunities for automation  
Business Process Mapping gets everyone “on the same page”  Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience — Admiral Rickover

Business Process Mapping can be a very high level and complex activity. Six Sigma is a school of Business Process Architecture that very precisely defines cross-functional flowcharts according to the level of detail (0–4) they contain regarding the the tasks implied in the process. ISO 9001 is a more technical methodology that is designed to control quality standards.

Based on the industry you are working in and your role, these terms maybe familiar, if for example you work in quality assurance in manufacturing. However, every business, regardless of the industry, has processes that can benefit from being properly mapped, even at a more basic level.

For more general purposes, a simplified process flowchart can be very effective and executable. A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents an algorithm, workflow or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting them with arrows. Documenting processes this way makes it very clear to everyone involved what the steps are, and the decisions involved.  

Here is how you can map your business processes with your team:

  1. Determine the process you want to map and it’s boundaries Once you begin to map your processes you will most likely realize that many overlap and intersect with each other. For example, your order fulfillment process and your returns process. There is no need to be overwhelmed. Just define where the specific process, such as the sales order process, begins and ends. Then you can move on to other processes and see about connecting them.
  2. List the steps in the process The level of detail you want to document is up to you, depending on your goals. Use action verbs to describe each step or task of the process. There are many digital tools 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.
  3. Order tasks in the process After you have checked that you have listed all related tasks, put them in order. If you are 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.
  4. Connect the tasks to document process direction flow Use arrows and the other symbols listed above to clearly connect the different tasks in the process so that everything is documented and easily understood by all those involved.  

Some important things to keep in mind:  

Be sure to directly involve or interview those who are actually doing the work described in the process. This will ensure that you are documenting the actual current state, not how it was last documented 3 years ago.

It is not uncommon and nothing to be ashamed of if you find that your training manuals need to be updated. Growth means change! Change is constant. This is actually a benefit of going through this practice, to identify what needs attention. It is important that team members involved understand that this process is not to find fault in their work and that they will not be “penalized” so that they feel comfortable sharing valuable information and insight. 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 the flow is logical and clear for everyone expected to follow the process. It is possible to capture too much detail.

This depends on the purpose of the process map. For example a process map specifically for new hire training would include more granular detail than one created for management for higher level process analysis to determine and eliminate delays or opportunities for cost reduction.  Business Process Analysis As mentioned earlier, it is very common for processes to change over time. This is one very important reason why revisiting process maps can be a powerful tool in ensuring continued efficiency and quality as businesses adapt to the market, and often as a consequence become more complex.

Also, this is truly critical when considering investing in a new ERP or CRM system, to 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.  

Things to consider when reviewing your process map:  

  • Is each step necessary? Look for redundant steps and steps that can be combined, for example multiple and unnecessary approvals.  
  • What is causing the delay? Look for delays in the process.
  • Can these be eliminated with automation or a change in responsibility/delegation?  
  • What can be changed to improve the over all result? 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 ERP system?
  • Take a big picture look: Is the process logical? Are there places where the process is not complete, gets dropped or is not closed out? For example cancels ordered that are not sent follow up surveys, or defective products that are not disposed of properly and are taking up warehouse space.  

Conclusion: Maps of any kind are incredible tools. They empower you with a clear perspective of where you are relative to where you want to go. Business process maps, particularly with the scope of digital transformation or implementation of new ERP systems can be exponentially more powerful in ensuring that you maximize your investment and continue to grow and improve your business.  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 to set up a quick chat.

Thanks for reading!
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