Business Process Mapping could be the first step you take towards creating a more efficient, profitable and quality focused company in 2019.
There are many different approaches to mapping processes championed by different business methodologies, but the desired output is usually the same, a graphical representation of the way key tasks in your business are carried out.
Why should I map my business processes?
Visualisations bring abstract concepts to life. They make ideas tangible so people can grasp them more quickly. This is also true of business processes. Instead of reading instruction manuals and long-hand explanations of the way your business works, a diagram can help you see a process in its entirety, together with all its necessary inputs, dependencies and expected outputs.
A graphical representation can give you an overview of the way your entire operation functions while allowing you to zero in on particular parts of a process quickly.Visualising tasks through diagrams and workflows, therefore, can help you identify the separate elements of a process and understand the way each step relates to another. They can be used to gather information and data about a process as an aid to decision making or optimising performance.
You may not yet realise the benefits business mapping could bring to your company, but here are 4 sure signs you should be considering it as part of your strategic approach:
1.Inefficiencies are eating into profits
You are aware that tasks in your business are taking longer than they should and costing you more as a result. You can see delivery timelines are slipping and fulfilment is sometimes chaotic. But as a manager looking in, it’s often difficult to see exactly what is happening within a process to cause specific mistakes and delays to happen. Taking the time with employees to map out the way a process works, is a good way to home in on the problems in a particular part of your operation and find the right solution.
And the good news is, in the first place all it takes is a pad and a pen. Working together with the people who are delivering the task to draw out a workflow might be time-consuming but it will be revealing. A process flow diagram like this can reveal bottlenecks, it can show you where tasks are being duplicated and where certain parts of a process are superfluous or wasteful. A process map will let you track backwards and forwards within a task to search out weaknesses or omissions, as well as opportunities for optimisation.
Visualising the task as it is currently carried out will help you diagnose the problems within it. Agreeing how it should work, and mapping it accordingly will help you focus on getting the process right in the future, delivering a product of consistent quality, on time, every time.
2.Onboarding is proving difficult
If you’re finding on-boarding challenging, getting new employees up to speed with what you do and how you do it, it may be that you have not properly defined your processes and have no efficient way of passing this knowledge on. In this scenario, you might know you need to delegate, but you can’t easily see or work out which jobs you can pass on to others.
This often leads to a kind of paralysis within an organisation where one individual, key to business growth ends up responsible for too much of the day to day delivery, yet cannot relinquish those responsibilities without threatening the smooth running of operations. Having a process map can help you effectively delegate part or all of a process, knowing that the details of a task are properly recorded and can, therefore, be replicated by someone else.
Fig 1: How a Business Process Mapping tool could streamline your operations
3. Confusion over ownership of tasks
If certain tasks are often found to be orphaned within a process, this is a sure sign that something is awry. Mapping out processes collectively will often show up where there is confusion about ownership, roles, and responsibilities around certain tasks and fill in gaps in key parts of your operational structure. Visualisations are very good ways of quickly noticing gaps and omissions in information hierarchies and process.
4. Optimising your business processes is difficult
If you’re finding it difficult to develop strategies for continuous improvement, it might be you have no point of reference from which to start. Properly mapped business processes should form the basis of any operational audit, and yet they are often absent from a company’s documentation.
This may be particularly pressing if you are looking to obtain ISO 9001 as a demonstration of adherence to quality standards. You need to be able to prove you have the resources and tools in place to regularly review, analyse and optimise the way you ensure quality and consistency in your end product.
Without a way of seeing how a process functions from end to end, it is difficult to identify ways to improve it and tempting to ignore the need for change.
Process mapping not only gives you the opportunity to analyse and correct issues with delivery of an end product, but it can and should involve key business stakeholders in identifying those issues and creating solutions for them.
Successful process mapping is only the start
However, the successful mapping of your business processes is only half the story. The diagrams and documents you create need to be accessible and usable by the teams for which they were created. The quality system they describe needs to be always front and centre in the minds of the people tasked with delivering it.
We have mentioned before the potential obstacles in the way of a trouble-free implementation of a quality system based around business process mapping, from encouraging staff engagement with a project’s objectives to the practical matters of making process maps available via an intranet.
But a commitment to build a Quality System via a Process Driven Intranet will certainly be worth the investment. Interactive, graphical business mapping tools will make even the most complex processes easier to visualise, grasp and optimise.
With an easy-to-use interface integrated with the right tools, you will quickly be able to create an online operational ‘bible,’ that defines the way your business operates and to which all staff members can contribute and refer.
In this way, everyone who works in your business can become an integral part of your commitment to continuous improvement and the delivery of your quality objectives.