You’re not alone if you’ve found yourself scratching your head in the face of process maps. They can be overwhelming, especially when handwritten and resembling a mad scientist’s scribbles.
You might be inclined to think, “Why can’t someone just hand me a GPS with ‘efficiency’ and ‘productivity’ buttons?”
While we can’t do that, we can help you understand what it is and how to do it.
What is business process mapping?
Business process mapping is also sometimes referred to as business process modeling. It is a technique used to log, display, and catalog how work is performed in a company. The aim is to create a visual map showing how a business's work, decisions, and interactions operate. Mapping the different components in detail helps to find ways to optimize the process or remove potential obstacles.
For example, you want to improve a specific process, such as how projects move from conception to completion. Once you have the data, you create a visual, such as a flowchart or diagram, with a process mapping tool to make it more understandable.
Business process mapping comes in handy in various situations, such as:
- When you want to analyze how a particular process functions in your company
- If you've identified bottlenecks, redundancies, or inefficiencies
- If you are training employees, a mapped-out process can be an excellent training resource
- Complex processes might carry risks, and mapping the processes can help spot them
Benefits of business process mapping
The perks of process mapping are like hidden treasures, as they only show their best rewards after some searching (pun intended). However, the many and massive rewards are well worth the wait.
Business process mapping is highly beneficial in improving efficiency. With it, you can map out every step, from procurement to completion. This visual map highlights areas where things slow down or even come to a halt. For instance, you might notice delays in obtaining building permits. Equipped with this knowledge, you can alter the process steps and make the procedure easier.
Business process mapping also lets you see where and when resources are necessary. And because you can better see where they are required, you can allocate your team's time and skills more effectively.
Another great thing about 'good' business process maps is that they are a universal language. This is because, when done right, these maps are typically easy to understand and intuitive to use.
It's also useful for mapping out communication channels. With these, you can see the intersections where departments interact, exchange information, and collaborate. For instance, let's say you map out the HR department's onboarding process. You'd then see where HR works with IT to set up accounts, finance for payroll setup, and training for orientation.
Smoother business operations
Business process mapping helps eliminate unnecessary steps in inefficient processes (leans them out). It also ensures everyone follows the same process, regardless of who's in charge.
Other benefits and examples
Other than the above benefits, there are a few more, which we have listed below:
- Increased productivity
- Cost savings
- Time savings
- Customer satisfaction
7 steps for business process mapping
Now that we've got a good idea of business process mapping and how much it can help, let's review the seven key steps you need to follow to map correctly.
1. Identify the process to be mapped
Just like a captain needs a destination, you need to know which process to map. To do this, first look at the bigger picture of your organization:
- What process is causing bottlenecks or headaches?
- Where are you losing value?
- What is hurting your customer satisfaction?
It could be anything from order fulfillment to customer support.
After this, you should choose a process that, when improved, will make a noticeable impact.
For example, let's say you run a fast-growing tech company. The hiring process is taking forever, causing you to miss out on top talent and deliver late. Choosing to map out this process aligns with your business goals and can greatly impact operations.
2. Gather relevant data and information
Next comes data gathering on process improvements you want to make. This is like gathering all the puzzle pieces before putting them together.
To start, you should identify the current steps in the process. What inputs go in, and what outputs come out? Interview the team members who are part of the process to hear their opinions.
Remember the hiring process example? Here, you could ask the HR managers and interview some of your newer candidates to gather your data.
3. Create a visual representation of the current process
Now that you've gathered your puzzle pieces of data, it's time to assemble them into a clear picture.
To do this, you'll need to draw a flowchart or diagram using a BPM tool to illustrate each step of the entire process. We'll go over the different types of maps in a few sections; for now, use the picture below as a guide for our example.
With the hiring process, you'd draw a flowchart from applications to shortlisting candidates, interviews, and selection.
4. Analyze the current process for inefficiencies
With the puzzle now together, you can analyze the current process. You look for bottlenecks (where things get stuck), redundancies (where you do the same thing twice), and areas that could work better.
Two techniques that come in handy are process walkthroughs and root cause analysis.
- Process walkthroughs: help you understand the whole flow, from start to finish.
- Root cause analysis: helps you dig deeper to discover the real reasons behind the issues.
Returning to the hiring process, you might notice delays in scheduling candidate interviews. A walkthrough of the steps of that entire process can help you see where it slows down.
5. Brainstorm and design an improved process flow
Next, we need to improve or fix the process.
Start with some creative brainstorming sessions with everyone involved in the process. Gather their ideas and solutions and see if you can develop a few ideas together. After this, you choose the best idea to have the most impact and improve.
Take the hiring process again. After brainstorming tons of solutions, you chose to use an automated interview scheduling system.
6. Document the new process with clear steps and roles
Once you have your new and improved process, you should outline the revised steps, responsibilities, and decision points. Clearly define who is in charge of doing what so the team members know who's accountable for what.
You should also update the old process (map the new one) to reflect the changes in the flow, roles, and responsibilities.
With the hiring process, you’d need to define who's responsible for implementing the automated system and who is responsible for using it.
7. Communicate the new process to stakeholders
For the last step, you should share the updated process with relevant teams and individuals. For simple changes, an updated email explaining the new process can help. With complex changes, holding meetings or even providing training sessions is best.
For the HR team, this means they might have to learn how to use automated scheduling software.
Types of process maps and their uses
Next, let's take a quick dive into each type of process map and its uses.
Flowcharts use shapes like rectangles, diamonds, and arrows to represent different stages and choices. They're great for showing the order of steps, decision points, and how one action leads to another.
Flowcharts shine when you need to dissect processes with basic steps. They're excellent for:
- Approval workflows
- Order processing
Swimlane diagrams use “lanes” to represent departments or roles. Tasks and decisions are neatly placed within these lanes, showing who's responsible for what (like our example below).
Swimlane diagrams shine in cross-functional scenarios such as:
- Order fulfillment
- Project development
- New project launches
Value stream maps
Value stream maps come from lean methodology and help to identify value-adding steps and wasteful activities. They map out the end-to-end flow of the process and show value-adding steps in green with non-value-adding steps or lag times in red.
SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers. They capture the essence of a process without diving into the details, which helps when scoping new work.
A SIPOC diagram maps the processes’ high level steps, identifies its outputs and the customers who receive them, as well as its inputs and the suppliers who provide them.
Gantt charts help to visualize work over time and aren't usually used in business process mapping. Since they help track tasks and dependencies in project management, they can also help with time-based business processes.
Mind maps visually map out thoughts and ideas, which can help with idea generation. They start with a central idea and branch out into related topics so that you end up with groups of ideas.
Tree diagrams are useful for breaking down complicated processes into a hierarchical family tree.
Tree diagrams start with a main process or concept at the top and branch down into sub-processes or components.
- Content creation
- Performance analytics
- Resource allocation
- Employee onboarding
- And many more
Common mistakes to avoid
There are a few common types of mistakes that you should avoid so that you can use your process map to its fullest potential.
A lack of research can lead to incomplete or inaccurate process maps. For example, failing to gather all the data for a content creation process can cause key business processes (like quality checks) to be overlooked.
It's a dangerous idea to assume process details without verification. For instance, if you incorrectly assume that a particular step in the process is unnecessary, you might end up removing the wrong step.
Bottlenecks are points in a process where work slows down that can impact overall efficiency. Failure to recognize these can cost you dearly.
For example, you are working on a process where tasks tend to pile up, but you didn't allocate more resources or redesign the process to alleviate the bottleneck.
Failing to involve stakeholders
Not involving all relevant stakeholders can result in incomplete mapping and a lack of understanding of the process.
For example, excluding end-users from the mapping process may result in a process that is difficult for them to follow.
When everyone partakes, you can gather more diverse perspectives.
How to choose business process mapping software
The right business process mapping software can make or break what you are trying to accomplish. It can be essential to clearly show the business processes you want to map.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when you select the software:
- Think about the software's usability and the learning curve it presents. Opt for intuitive interfaces and user-friendly features that your team can quickly adopt.
- Choose software that supports the process map types that you want to create.
- Also, determine whether the software facilitates collaboration among team members.
- Think about the customization options it allows and whether the tools have enough for your goals.
- Consider the compatibility of the software with your existing tools and systems.
- Assess the software's ability to grow with your organization.
- If available, opt for a free trial.
Tackle your business process mapping with Motion
Now that we've shared info on process mapping let's go over how to take this to the next level. Using a project management tool, as we mentioned earlier, can help you automate parts of your workflow, like scheduling tasks, and help to improve accuracy.
Motion's suite of features aligns with the objectives of business process mapping. Successful business process mapping is usually a small (or large) project in itself. That means planning for tasks, activities and collaborative meetings.
Motion’s AI assistant takes the guesswork out of planning by optimizing schedules. All you have to do is assign the tasks to the people who need to be involved, add target deadlines and priorities, and Motion will take care of the rest. And, you can attach process maps to the tasks and meetings easily.
So, the marriage of business process mapping and Motion's powerful features offers a winning combination.
Start your 7-day free trial today.