Large organizations have been ‘process mapping’ for many years but not everyone is familiar with the techniques and even among those who are, many still don’t fully understand all the variations, or the benefits which can be gained by using them.
To overcome this, we have drawn together the basic principles of process mapping; what it is, how it helps improve daily business functions, and where you can find out more…
Process Mapping is a method of charting a business activity from start to finish in order to identify potential problems and to make the activity more efficient.
The technique traces each step in the activity (what is done, who does it, when, why and where) using symbols to form a clear, logical chart which can then be evaluated for potential changes.
Process mapping can be used by virtually any industry, any business, or any department in order to streamline business processes and improve efficiency.
For example, process mapping can be used within production processes to make them more efficient, HR departments to standardize recruiting procedures, or by finance departments to streamline invoicing and payments.
Process maps are designed to be clear, straightforward, and easy to follow.
They use symbols to represent key processes which include components such as input, output, questions, decisions, movement, documents, data, and so on.
Simple symbols used within process mapping include paralellograms, ovals and rectangles.
The ‘process map’ is a blueprint for your organization which charts current processes from which it is possible to create a new map (or blueprint) for improved processing.
This map can be checked and followed by all employees, colleagues or management at every stage.
Process mapping gives you a better understanding of your business and helps you to create a unified structure where all team members are pulling in the same direction.
The illustrated map allows users to actually ‘see’ where problems might arise in any process and can reveal where business operations are losing efficiency or effectiveness.
There are numerous types of process maps available to businesses which range from simple flowcharts which follow a linear pattern from top to bottom, through to the more complex ‘swim-lane maps’ which chart multiple avenues alongside one another.
Depending upon your business and requirements for process mapping you might use any of the following:
• SIPOC process maps
• Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
• Swimlane process maps
• Y=F(x)+e process maps
• Activity diagrams
• Spaghetti diagrams
• IDEF Modelling
• ‘To be’ process maps
You’ve probably already figured out from the above information some of the ways that process mapping benefits your business.
Here are a few more:
• Identify and Solve Problems – sometimes you need to actually see something to believe it and once you’ve completed your process map, you’ll be able to see exactly where problems are arising and how to solve them.
• Risk Probability and Management – visualizing business processes highlights potential areas of risk and can ensure issues are solved before they have even materialized. It is easier to identify risks and see how they can be resolved when everything from the start to the finish is right in front of your eyes.
• Allocate Roles and Set Boundaries – a process map shows each contribution or input from a sector or individual, highlighting responsibilities and tasks. This is a great way to ensure everyone is aware of their own role and are completing all tasks allocated to them.
• Encourage Collaboration – process mapping encourages team members to take responsibility for their own tasks yet it also encourages collaboration by highlighting which teams or members might be best placed to assist others with certain processes.
• Standardize Processes – a complete process map offers a blueprint for best practice and future use. It can be followed, revisited, or revised as necessary.
• Ease Onboarding – a visual map helps facilitate onboarding for new employees or those in transition from one role to another. Documenting processes and clear allocation of tasks are essential for everyone to understand their role.
Business process mapping can take time and will require input from all key stakeholders, colleagues, and employees, especially those at ground level who are completing the tasks.
Interviewing and recording all the data and information from multiple areas is essential to ensure that no information is missed.
Remember, it is much easier to reduce and edit information, than it is to find that elusive something that you missed!
More information on process mapping including identifying the most appropriate level of mapping for a particular situation and understanding how to work with a team to generate the various types of process maps can be obtained via our specialist course.