Companies are often spurred to undertake business process mapping to improve their quality management.
Visualising business processes through diagrams and flow charts (often published via an Intranet) is a well-established way of communicating best practice within an organisation. If an employee can actually see a workflow, the theory goes, it is easier for them to follow particular steps, understand the dependencies and objectives of a process, plus identify weak spots in the procedure for improvement.
But those process maps aren’t going to contribute to the quality goals of an organisation unless they’re accurate and can ‘live’ at the very heart of your operations.
And that’s where a business process mapping project may really come unstuck.
10 ways a business process mapping project can go wrong
1. It’s part of a badly defined intranet project
Intranet projects can start off with good intentions but often sink without a trace. The desire to record best practice in a company-wide Wiki can quickly get bogged down as the choice of software and design is debated, an (often reluctant) project owner is appointed and the laborious process of ‘writing it all up’ begins.
Without the right tools, internal buy in and a clear plan for its execution an intranet based ‘wiki’ may founder, or end up incomplete. Images of poorly conceived process maps may simply end up appended to certain process descriptions with no clear strategy for their future maintenance.
2. You’ve appointed a single analyst to map your processes without consulting your teams
A single Quality Manager mapping processes without consulting the people involved in carrying them out, may well come up with a distorted or unrealistic version of the way they should work. Disconnected from the rest of the business, they may map processes in the way they deem right, but misunderstand their reasons for being or the conditions in which they have to be executed.
3. You’ve ignored the process owners
If you don’t engage with the people who are actually carrying out the tasks you are mapping, you may forfeit their engagement later on. A process mapping initiative should be collaborative so that people in your business can really ‘own’ the material that pertains to them and participate in future optimisation.
4. You’ve ignored the critical detail
Sometimes the process edge cases are the most significant when it comes to documenting the way a process is supposed to work. Process maps need to be thorough and able to capture all the contingencies and exceptions that affect the way it is carried out - if it is to be a useful training and optimisation tool.
5. You’ve chosen a format that can’t be easily updated
Process maps that are difficult to change or update may quickly become obsolete, or cause procedures to become ‘fixed’ and immutable. Make sure your process maps are created in a format and stored in such a way that they can be easily updated as and when required.
6. You’re not reviewing the output regularly
Conditions in a business change. Procedures and their reason for being change. Your organisation needs to have a way of ensuring regular reviews of the process maps you have created by key stakeholders, as well encouraging suggestions to improve and optimise the processes they depict.
7. You’ve been too vague
There’s no point creating hugely prescriptive procedures, but if your process maps are too flexible in the way they show a task should be carried out, they’re not going to achieve the desired consistency and repeatability.
8. You don’t have a single integrated QMS
It is almost impossible to keep the QMS integrated if it depends on separate and unconnected resources kept in different spreadsheets and databases. Carefully gathered process diagrams need to be readily available and always accessible as part of a single, searchable Document Management System, if they are to be useful to a business.
9. You’ve wrapped it up in red tape
This is the Catch-22 of a QMS: the more procedures and forms that exist, the more risk of any individual document being non-compliant. The more your Business Process Maps are inaccessible, unchangeable and the processes they depict seemingly set in stone - the more likely your people are to abandon or ignore them.
A different way to map and document your processes
For a business process mapping project to be successful, its output needs to emerge from a company wide, collaborative effort of reflection and optimisation. And this output then needs to be recorded, stored and made accessible to a business so that it becomes part of your organisational DNA - or, in other words, ’the way you do things’.
As we have suggested elsewhere, the Quality Management function in a business can lead this process but they need to be working with the employees who own the tasks to extract the detail of what they do and agree what constitutes best practice.
When the process maps have been created (sketched out as flow charts or other diagrams) they need to be indexed and stored in as part of your QMS, the repository of all your quality documentation.
Process maps as part of a Lean Document Management System
An easy to set up, internet based, Lean document management system (DMS) could well be the best way to do this for your businesses.
With this kind of product, processes can be described simply and visually through interactive flow diagrams, with components that hyperlink to the more substantial regulatory and operational documentation sitting underneath it all. Ultimately, all the structures and procedures of a business can be mapped in this way, showing the links and dependencies between every part of a company and all their processes at a macro and micro level.
Published via an intranet, all your process maps are therefore available and accessible in one place, but part of a networked view of your entire organisation. This, in turn, can become part of the way you define best practice across your operations and become the auditable system by which you prove compliance to regulators, certificating bodies and the like.
With a system flexible enough to have non-coders update the process maps, but robust enough to control changes through group review and approval functions, they can become a truly organic part of a company-wide process of ongoing learning and optimisation.
As we’ve mentioned before, if a process mapping project is to be a success and contribute effectively to the quality management of a company, it needs to result in its proper integration into your company’s organising structures:
“contributors need to add their content to a well-organised system with clear workflows. Versions must be controlled. Ownership must be clear. Reviews of all materials must be structured and easy to follow. Approvals must be explicit and trigger next actions. Publishing must be automatic.”
Creating a QMS that makes Business Process Mapping an integral part of a secure, document management mechanism is a way of ensuring you never lose sight of their central importance.