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.

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 is the input processes
  • Output – what is the outcome of the processing
  • Customer – to whom the output 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.  

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: Collect all the information about the 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.

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 as start points, and the final results are considered as endpoints. Sometimes a process may have more than one endpoint.

Supplier and customer: Identifying the key people in the process is important 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.

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 step helps prioritize tasks and align the process to the overall business goal. You can use action verbs to describe each step in the process.

Business rules: The product or service delivered by the process needs to be aligned to the business goal. In-depth knowledge of the business strategy, business process, and how they connect and correlate is necessary to map business processes. Understanding business rules makes it easy to make informed decisions.

Review and streamline: 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.

Continuous improvement of the process must be borne in mind while mapping out the process. 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 ensure sustainable business growth.

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 in 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 to 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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