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Process Mapping: Sketching Solutions!

Jul 28, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Business Process Management (BPM) does not merely refer to managing a process, but rather refers to the entire lifecycle (Process LifeCycle Management: discovery, documentation, execution, monitoring, retirement) of business processes. Each aspect of this lifecycle is important in the development of a sound methodology for process management. This blog focuses on the discovery phase of the BPM lifecycle, and will explore and explain how “process mapping” aids in identifying process automation opportunities to save a company time and money.

Since process mapping can sometimes be a tedious, time-consuming task, is it always necessary when making changes in operations? Yes—making system changes without truly understanding how and why the process is operating can lead to costly mistakes, and can also create conditions that make it difficult for employees to work effectively and even damage employee morale. Process mapping also allows people, teams and departments to get down to a common ground and common language when discussing their business and challenges they are working to overcome.

When considering the impacts a process has on the success of your business, it is also important to analyze the impacts the process has within your business and consider the effects of downstream impacts. Processes typically have one or more outputs, and changing a process should logically account for a change in its output. Also, one process’ output are typically another process’ input—which could help or hamper productivity depending on how well each process is defined and managed.

According to a survey of 150 Information Technology (IT) directors conducted by Computer World UK, 15 to 20 percent reported low productivity and customer dissatisfaction as a result of process issues. The survey also reported 45 percent of companies said they had no BPM system in place—though they were planning on implementing one.

Process mapping enables a business to clearly define their current processes in chart form—listing each task within a process in detail and sequential order, creating a well-constructed visual that gives an easy-to-comprehend view of the process from beginning to end (process maps typically feature symbols that represent different types of tasks, and appear in a flowchart-like manner with arrows indicating how the process flows from task to task). Our process mapping methodology at Praecipio Consulting begins with mapping out process steps and details on a whiteboard and proceeding to transfer what is learned and developed on the whiteboard to Microsoft Visio for refining with the team. Basic steps to mapping a business process generally look like these:

  • Gather and review all relevant and existing documentation of current business process
  • Identify boundaries of current process
  • Identify weaknesses of current process
  • Identify inputs and outputs of the process
  • Generate a flowchart of the above information, clearly describing each task and describing feedback loops
  • Identifying measurable data points and the key attributes that direct a process through it’s life cycle

The mapping process prepares a business to:

  • Generate a draft procedure for developing solutions/review
  • Develop an implementation plan/review

Process mapping often reveals problem areas like bottlenecks, capacity issues, delays, or waste. Once identified, this knowledge provides a solid base for developing process solutions.

Praecipio Consulting emphasizes the importance of process mapping in our efforts to help businesses improve their operations. We’ve clearly defined the boundaries of our clients’ unique business operations; since some business processes overlap with others, clearly defining the scope and boundaries of a process is essential to mapping out its steps precisely. Our clients’ end product will facilitate effective management of business processes with the intelligent integration of appropriate technologies.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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