All You Need to Know About Business Process Mapping

business process mapping

Business processes are proof that a business exists! Business processes occur at every level of the business: from the smallest startup business to a global organization with multiple operational centers – business processes hold the key to success. If there was a survivor guide for businesses, then efficient and hassle-free running of business processes would top the list. How do you make your processes efficient and optimized? Understanding business processes is the first step to improving them. That’s where business process mapping can help. Process mapping helps an end-to-end understanding of the process.

Business Processes at a Glance

Wikipedia defines a business process as a collection of related, structured activities or tasks by people or equipment in which a specific sequence produces a product or a service. Processes are essentially a sequence of tasks performed by people (usually) to produce a product or a service. The quality of the product or service and the success of a business depends largely on the business processes. Each step in the business process is a task that is assigned to a person. A business process helps streamline individual activities and optimize resource utilization.

Process mapping can be defined as the visual representation of the workflow, which gives a clear understanding to the teams of the processes and their components. You may know the process maps by different names – flowcharts, high-level process maps, document maps, detailed process maps, value-added chain diagrams, a swimlane, a value stream map, a flow diagram, a process flowchart, a process model, and a workflow diagram.

A process map essentially outlines each individual step within a process, identifies task owners, and details expected timelines. It is generally used for easy communication among stakeholders and to highlight potential areas of improvement. Most process maps will be started at a macro level, and other necessary details will be added throughout.

Business process mapping is a great way to understand business processes. It helps you break down the process into individual tasks and also understand the dependencies between tasks.

Continuous improvement and optimization of business processes are essential to building a sustainable business. How does one improve the outcome of business processes? The first step is to understand the process by breaking it down into individual tasks.

Need for having a well-defined process:

  • Prioritize the tasks that are aligned to larger business goals
  • Optimize resource utilization
  • Establish a clear communication path between people, processes, and systems
  • Organize day-to-day operations
  • Clarify accountability of roles
  • Standardize processes and systems

Key business processes include Human Resources, Procurement, Sales & Marketing, Finance & Accounting.  

What is Business Process Mapping?

Understanding business processes is essential for the top management and the team members. Individual tasks and their relationship, roles assigned to each task, and priority of tasks w.r.t to overall business goals – a clear understanding of these aspects helps employees contribute better to the organization. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of the processes, the top management can steer the business towards better productivity and higher returns. Business process mapping is a methodology used to detail the steps in a business process. Process mapping is part of the business process management system (BPMS) that is followed for business improvement and optimization.

Business process mapping is essentially a visual framework that represents the tasks and their relationship and the inputs required to produce an end-product or service. Business process mapping techniques throw light on the what, why, and how a business goes about its operations. The use of business process mapping techniques dates back to the year 1921 when Frank and Lillian Gilbreth from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) introduced the flow process charts. The process mapping tools that they introduced were adopted as engineering standards through the 1940s. The ASME introduced the symbol system to maintain consistency in these flow process charts.

Process mapping has evolved with software to become the modern-day business process mapping of today. Businesses can now use business process mapping tools to create process maps, streamline them as per business needs, make them accessible to team members, and integrate them with business process management systems.

Why Should We Map Business Processes?

In addition to comprehending business processes, process mapping is a useful tool in preparing for business audits or a sale or to measure and realign people’s efforts. Here are a few reasons why businesses would map their processes.

  1. Brings everyone on the page in understanding the process
  2. Eliminates bottlenecks, errors, and redundancies in procedures
  3. Optimize business processes by eliminating inefficiencies and repetitions
  4. Builds cross-functional understanding between areas
  5. Promotes internal collaboration between teams
  6. Decreases waste by identifying extras and gaps in the process
  7. Ensure standardization of processes for internal audits and compliance with policies and regulations

Principles of Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping is based on certain principles. The following principles must be followed while mapping every process:

  • Define the scope of the project clearly, along with the boundaries, starting, and endpoints
  • Define each task (step) clearly along with the purpose, dependencies, and the person responsible for the task execution
  • Appraise all the stakeholders about the process updates
  • Identify redundancies, repetitions, and eliminate them from the process design
  • Test the process updates against the key performance metrics
  • Re-design the process with customer focus
  • Leverage technology for better process outcomes

Designing a business process map based on the above principles can be done with the help of software. A reliable and robust business process mapping software like Cflow will be able to provide an accurate mapping of the process. Cflow is loaded with all the mapping tools and templates that can create a comprehensive business process mapping diagram of any type of process.

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Business Process Mapping Methodologies

Creating process mapping and documentation can be done by following a number of methodologies. The use of flow charts, diagrams, and mind-maps are some of the visual ways to represent a business process. Some of the most commonly followed business process mapping methodologies are listed below:

Value Stream Mapping (VSN): This is one of the most popular Lean management principles. This methodology maps all the interactions with the customer and the value delivered through each interaction. While developing a process mapping based on this methodology, you need to bear in mind the value that you provide to the customer and all the steps involved to provide this value.

Value Stream Mapping

Image source: Lucidchart

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN): This is the most commonly used process mapping methodology. The use of business process mapping notation and symbols to represent the process graphically is what the BPMN method is all about.

bpmn symbols

Image source: Wikipedia

Symbols like ovals, rectangles, and diamonds are used to represent start/end, tasks/steps, and decision points respectively. Arrows are used to mark the sequence of process flow. The image below shows the symbols and notations used to represent processes.

SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer): This methodology creates a detailed mapping through high-level mapping of the process. As the name suggests, it focuses on

  • Supplier – who provides the input for the process
  • Input – what is the input
  • Process – how are the input processes
  • Output – what is the outcome of the processing
  • Customer – to whom the output is delivered.

Businesses can choose from business process mapping methodologies that align with their business goals. In some cases, two or more methodologies can be used together to represent a business process in a lucid manner.  

Types of Business Process Maps

Following are some of the types of business process maps, and typically the most basic form of business process map starts with a flowchart.

Flowcharts –

By definition, a flowchart is a graphical representation of a process flow documenting the sequence of operations. A flowchart serves as an easy means of communication from one person to another. It contains information about the time order of actions. When an analyst prepares a flowchart, they show the execution of a single process with respective inputs connected to the process. Ultimately, their outputs are in the most generalized form using basic outlines and standard symbols.

High-Level Process Maps –

High-level process maps are a simplified representation of how a process works in just a few steps. High-level process maps generally don’t require in-depth knowledge of the process. It is used to provide a quick overview of how the process works without getting into many details. This type of process map helps to communicate with people who are not particularly important in knowing the facts.

SIPOC –

Stands for Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer typically consists of 6-8 steps. SIPOC process maps are ideal for project managers for providing a high level view of the actions involved in the process. The supplier provides the input to the business process; input refers to the resource that a supplier adds to the process; the process is a series of steps involved in converting the input into output; output is the final resource produced by the process and the customer is the end user receiving the output.

Detailed Process Maps –

A detailed process map consists of precisely all the necessary information. These types of business process maps are created with incredible details using a drill down approach. It contains more than 7 – 8 elements with sub processes within. In general, a detailed process map is contained within a high-level process map. For instance, think of the home page of a website as a high-level process map and the links to the other sites as detailed process maps.

Value-Added Chain Diagrams –

These are strategic diagrams that allow organizations to model primary and secondary activities. A value-added chain diagram is created with a pattern that consists of symbols connecting a sequence of primary activities in a chain and supporting activities underpinning them. This type of process map is typically used when strategic planning is needed. It allows people to understand by breaking down the chain sequentially and identifying areas of improvement.

Swimlane –

Much like lanes in a swimming pool for each swimmer, swimlane diagrams show both a process from the beginning to end and who is responsible for what in each step. The diagram has horizontal and vertical lanes belonging to the respective people involved in the process. Swimlanes are used for making people easily understand their roles and positions and how the process moves as it helps identify redundancies and bottlenecks.

Value Stream Map –

A value stream map is a lean tool that allows easy visualization by documenting every step in the process. This process map is fundamentally useful for identifying waste, reducing process cycle times, and enhancing process implementation.

How to do Business Process Mapping?

You need to gather complete information about the process before you start mapping it. Irrespective of the business process mapping technique followed, gathering information about the process is the preliminary step for all methodologies. Here is a broad framework of business process mapping steps to be followed:

Gather information: Before performing any detailed review of a business process, the reviewer needs to collect as much background information as possible. Process reviewers should thoroughly understand the business process mapping and put together a process map.
The gathering of information starts from the moment a reviewer needs to analyze a process, and it continues until business process mapping is completed. Gathering data is crucial for mapping the business process. Identify the purpose of the process, roles played by people, duration of the process, resources required, expected output, and any other relevant information. Data can be collected through observation or by interviewing all the stakeholders. However, the challenge for the reviewer will be to identify these resources. Once the reviewer gathers resources, they will start to assemble the pieces to get the whole picture.

Start and Endpoints: Identification of the boundaries is important to define and map the process accurately. All activities that trigger the process may be considered start points, and the final results are considered endpoints. Sometimes a process may have more than one endpoint.

Supplier and customer: Now it is time to walk through the business process and involve all the participants. Identifying the key people in the process is essential for assigning roles and optimizing resource utilization. Apart from the team members performing various tasks in the process, the supplier and customer need to be identified. Suppliers trigger the process, and customers are recipients of the outcome. It is essential to get all the additional input from management to stakeholders. The information gathered from this step can always be filtered out.

The sequence of actions: Once the start and endpoints and the stakeholders are identified, the next step is the identification of the sequence of task execution. This is the step where you will create a baseline. This step helps prioritize tasks and align the process to the overall business goal. The baseline you create will help show how the business process is currently and how it was before the changes. You can use action verbs to describe each step in the process.

In this step, you will need to identify if each task in each step of the workflow is correctly given, and that flow connects all the tasks sequentially—the events which will trigger the functions and the participants involved.

Business rules: The process’s product or service must be aligned to the business goal. In-depth knowledge of the business strategy and process and how they connect and correlate is necessary to map business processes. Understanding business rules makes it easy to make informed decisions. To understand the business rules, make sure you visualize the essential components involved in the business process mapping. Make sure to use relevant flowchart symbols when you create process maps.

Verify, Review and streamline: Before finishing the business mapping, verify if the process map is accurate and includes all the applicable participants. Get approval from all the people involved to ensure that the mapping is done correctly and will be implemented once finalized.

Once the process is mapped as-is, the repetitions, redundancies, and bottlenecks become evident. A business process mapping diagram can also reveal wrong resource allocation, digression from ideal flow, or missing steps. All corrections and updates can be done based on the findings from a review of the process map.

Get feedback once it is finalized and implemented. Validate the enhanced process map with applicable members and ensure that no steps are missing or repeated. When stakeholders finalize the process map in the current stage, solicit feedback for validation. This will enhance collaboration and quality assurance.

Now that your business process is mapped, it is time to identify areas of improvement. Conduct a proof of concept (POC) to scale any changes and to discuss broadly with the different departments in the organization. This will minimize the risk and provide the opportunity to incorporate additional feedback. The process’s continuous improvement must be considered while mapping out the process. Establish metrics for measuring and optimizing the process maps. Regular monitoring of the process will help optimize and allow businesses for smoother transitions, allowing continuous improvements over time. The business process mapping template must be flexible to accommodate future changes or upgrades to the process.

Applying Business Process Mapping to Your Business

Business processes may be categorized as managing, operating, and supporting processes. Mapping specific types of processes only will prove to be an advantage to the business. You need to carefully consider and choose the right process for mapping and subsequent improvement. Here are a few approaches that businesses can follow to choose the process for mapping:

Customer-centric: Group the processes that are customer-centric. These are usually core, guiding, and enabling processes for the business. Process mapping and improvement of these processes will have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Deliberate improvement: Processes that fail an audit or exhibit compliance issues may necessitate immediate improvement. Such processes need to be mapped without any delay to identify the issues and make necessary changes/corrections.

Aligned to business strategy: Another approach is identifying the processes that are aligned to the company’s strategic goals. After identifying the company’s overall strategy, the next step would be to identify those processes that are most relevant to achieving the overall business goal. Mapping such processes ensures sustainable business growth.

Business process mapping examples

There are several scenarios where business process mapping becomes essential. Here are some of the example scenarios:

  • When a product manager wants to research a product, they create a basic flowchart to plan the survey process. The questions will be put in diamond and corresponding arrows represent the “yes” or “no” answers. Depending on the customer’s answer, the corresponding arrow takes them to the questions.
  • A swimlane diagram can be used in a toy business where they work with clients, including internal and external stakeholders. When using a swimlane diagram, they can track different aspects of the process using separate lanes – for customer service requests, clerical and service department.
  • While evaluating customer service skills of employees, a value stream map can be used as it involves a lot of variables. The complexity of the business process can be illustrated by using different symbols for each stage. The aim of using a value stream map here is to improve their skills through the training program and eliminate redundancies.
  • A SIPOC process map may be useful in a car manufacturing company. They can use SIPOC process maps to log the inputs and outputs and identify important aspects. SIPOC process maps will be particularly helpful here to easily identify the errors and improve their efficiency. With a SIPOC process map, they can identify the reasons for fewer manufacturing of cars in a quarter and determine precisely what caused the decrease.

What’s the Difference Between Mapping and Modeling?

Every business is a collection of business processes, and each business process is a complex set of related activities in tandem driven towards the business outcome. Performance reviews, marketing activities, software development, sales, content creation, and IT are standard business processes in any organization. Organizations use business processes to edit, inspect, modify, and oversee each workflow to ensure that all these activities occur as intended.

Organizations have developed methodologies that will transform these abstract workflows into comprehensive pictures that perfectly illustrate the inner workings of each business process. These methods are process mapping and process modeling. Now you need to know the difference between process mapping and process modeling.

Process Modeling Process Mapping
Process modeling refers to the visual representation of the workflow. Process mapping refers to the creation of a visual representation of the workflow.
Provides quantitative and objective illustrations of business processes. Process maps are qualitative and subjective.
The process models generally consist of a wealth of data such as – events, who owns and initiates those events, paths in a specific workflow, timelines of each task, success rates and more. Mapping business processes is generally done by reviewers, business analysts, or strategists who interview and hold workshops with those involved in the target process.
Process modeling is seen as a subcomponent of process mining, where you can specifically see which algorithm has been used to event log data in a workflow model generated. Here, process mapping software will be used by the reviewers and analysts to create business process maps with the gathered information.
The key benefit of process modeling is that it gives an exact picture of the process as they exist instead of how the organization thinks the process exists. The key benefit of business process mapping is to have a more vivid human-centric visualization of the workflows.
Since process models use process mining to create qualitative models, it gives enhanced transparency into the organizational workflows. Process maps help in describing how different people from various teams are interconnected in a business process instead of capturing the objective metrics alone.

While both process maps and process models provide visual representation of how a process flows, they are not interchangeable.

Benefits of Business Process Mapping

Process mapping is an integral part of a successful business. Without accurate business process mapping, the process outcomes are unpredictable and the team is left clueless about the process sequence.

Here are the main advantages of business process mapping diagrams:

Standardized Processes: Business process diagrams are extremely useful tools for standardizing business processes. Compliance checks during internal audits can be easily done with the help of process maps. Third-party audits like ISO 9001 can be handled easily when processes are standardized with process diagrams.

Process Improvement: The first step to improving a process is an end-to-end understanding of the process. Mapping out the process helps in understanding every step of the process. Identifying areas of improvement becomes easy when you have a lucid map of the process in front of you.

Identifying Gaps, Bottlenecks, and Redundancies: When a process is mapped according to a standard business process mapping template, it becomes easy to identify inaccuracies, discrepancies, bottlenecks, and redundancies that are affecting the process flow. Assessing the process to check if it is aligned with the overall business goal also becomes easy with a process map in hand.

Employee Training: A process map helps the team understand the process better. Training the employees on process improvement updates becomes easy when you have a process map.

Business process mapping is the first step to business success. Take that first step with confidence by partnering with Cflow. Cflow is the most trusted and reliable business process automation solution loaded with process mapping tools that make process mapping a breeze.

Cflow is a complete business process mapping guide for businesses of any type and scale. Our cloud BPM offers deep business insights that enable data-driven decision-making. Transform the way you work with Cflow. Sign up for a 14-day free trial today to see the difference.

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