Improving the efficiency of business processes requires a complete understanding of the process flows. Business productivity is directly proportional to the efficiency of business processes.
Understanding Process Flows through Flow Diagrams
Process flows or workflows refer to a series of sequential tasks that are performed to achieve a certain goal. Each task in the process flow is governed by input, transformation, and output. A process flow represents the order in which tasks need to be executed in order to achieve business goals.
Process Flows – Purpose and Benefits
What is a process flow?
The definition of process flow is a series of sequential tasks that guide people to get work done. Process flow components include operations, timelines, resources, and people.
The main aim of process flows is to streamline and standardize business processes and provide a better understanding of business to the team. The tasks in process flows can either be executed in a sequential or parallel manner.
The main benefits of creating a process flow are:
- Standardizes business process flow:
Creating a process workflow standardizes the operations so that employees get to work on established, time-proven processes.
- Optimizes resource utilization:
Process flow creation helps identify the resource requirements of the process. Including resources in the process flow design helps plan their utilization efficiently.
- Updates and trains employees:
Having a process design in place helps employees understand the flow. Training employees on the process flow is easy when you have established the flow clearly. Internalizing the process and enabling future changes becomes easy when you have a standard flow.
- Improving processes:
Once you have a clear process flow, identifying redundant and repetitive tasks becomes easy. Detection of opportunity gaps and taking measures to improve them becomes easy when you have a standard process workflow.
- Mitigates risks:
Identification of risks associated with the process is easier when you have a clear process flow.
- Increases visibility and transparency:
Each team member gets clear insights into the status of tasks with an established workflow. The overall transparency of the process increases with a process workflow.
- Assigns roles:
Assigning tasks to appropriate stakeholders becomes easy with a process flow. Accountability of employees also improves as each employee is clear about the role, they play in the business process.
Well-defined process workflows help streamline and optimize business processes. Process flows define a set of steps that employees can follow to achieve desired business outcomes. The steps in the workflows visually guide and indicate which stage of the process people are in. Setting up the sales process, employee onboarding, and Capex approvals are examples of process flows. Two main purposes of process workflows are explaining how the process works and improving process efficiency.
How to Document a Process Flow?
Documenting a process flow is the first step to understanding the process. Once the workflow is documented it becomes easy to understand the workflow and identify the redundancies in it.
Here are the steps in documenting a process workflow:
1) Name the process:
The process should be named to represent the essential aspects related to the process or the objective of the process. The naming conventions laid down by ISO must be followed while naming the process.
2) Define scope:
After naming the process, the next step is to define the scope of the process. The scope is decided based on the boundaries of the process and the elements that need to be included.
3) Defining the objectives:
The objective of the process can be defined by finding answers to the questions mentioned below.
- What is the aim of the process?
- Why does the process exist?
- What would be missing if the process did not exist?
4) Identifying the key process input variables (KPIV):
Identifying the key inputs required to begin and run the process is an important step in process workflows. Typical inputs for industrial process workflows are energy, water, and other raw materials. One key input variable is identified, and statistical experiments can be designed to determine optimal values for each input to achieve desired output quality.
5) Identifying key process output variables (KPOV):
Key output variables are various factors that can cause an impact during the production process. Some examples of KPOVs are the number of sales, customer complaints, and profit. Based on KPOVs statistical experiments can be designed to optimize the process.
6) Structuring the key operations:
The structure of the process determines how the process should be designed with respect to resources. The structure of the process is defined over several business divisions and providers.
7) Assigning roles:
After defining the structure of the process, each task must be assigned a stakeholder for the execution and completion of the task. A transparent process workflow enables better coordination of work and team responsibilities. In public process flows, each team member is aware of what is expected of them.
8) Adding control points:
To monitor and control the process flow, you need to include control points within the flow. Control points ensure that the next task in the sequence is executed only when certain conditions are met by the preceding task.
Elements of Process Flow Diagrams
What is a process flow diagram?
A process flow diagram (PFD) is a visual representation of the steps in workflow management. The relationships between various tasks in creating business process flows are illustrated by a process flow diagram. The use of process flow diagrams is prevalent in chemical and process engineering. PFDs are used to document a process for a better understanding of the flow and to improve the process. Block Flow Diagrams, Flow Sheets, Process Flow charts, Top-down Flow charts, and Schematic Flow diagrams are some of the PFD types.
All process flow diagrams are designed using symbols and notations to represent various tasks and their relationship. The symbols and notations used in process flow diagrams adhere to standards set by ISO, the American National Standards Institute, and the German Institute for Standardization.
The various elements that are used in simple process flow diagrams are:
Major Equipment: The equipment used in the process must be listed by mentioning their names and ID numbers.
Process piping/channel: The path for moving products between equipment must be specified by the process piping channels or piping.
Process flow direction: The direction or sequence in which the tasks need to be executed needs to be documented in the flow diagram.
Major bypass and recirculation systems: Conditions under which sequences need to be rerouted or bypassed need to be specified in the flow diagram.
Connection with other systems: All processes are interlinked in a business. The output of one process will be the input of another process. This connection between systems needs to be specified in the flow diagram.
Notations and symbols used in flow diagrams are rectangles for representing equipment, ovals for start and endpoints, parallelograms for input or output, diamond-shaped symbols for decision-making tasks, circles for control points or links to another processes, and lines or arrows to connect tasks and sequence of tasks.
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Process Workflows Examples
Software engineering or IT company process flow chart is a set of related activities that are performed to get a software product outcome. Software process workflows linearly lead to software development. Detailed process flow diagrams can be designed for key workflows in software project management.
Every department in an organization runs on processes of different kinds. Some processes may be simple, while others are much more complex. Here are some examples of simple processes that can be automated based on the process flow plan.
Approvals are part of key business processes like finance, Capex, and procurement. The steps in the approval process are submission of the request, validating contract information, department approval, and finance approval. In some scenarios, the request may be sent back to the requestor for lack of information. Automation of the approval process can be done based on the approval workflow.
New Hire Process
The hiring process can be automated based on the workflow plan that outlines the steps mentioned below. The various steps in the process may be handled by people from different departments. The steps in the new hire process are screening applicant information, generation of a new hire file, scheduling pre-employment tests and interviews, evaluation of test and interview results, the decision on hiring the candidate taken, rolling out offers for selected candidates, background verification process initiated, employee onboarding initiated for the chosen candidate. Some of these steps can be effectively automated based on the automation flow chart business designed for the hiring process.
Project team managers or team leads are in charge of approving timesheets. Timesheet approval involves the following steps: filling in time detail by the employee, submission of filled timesheet to a higher authority, validation of timesheet data by the manager, and approval of timesheet based on data validation. These steps can be represented in the form of a simple workflow.
Process Workflow Automation
The processes that are defined by flow charts can be analyzed to explore the possibility of full or semi-automation. Basic process flow diagrams outline the process for a better understanding of the workflow and identification of potential improvement areas. Creating a process flow chart is the best way to identify the potential areas for automation. Even complex processes represented by multi-process flow charts can be automated effectively.
A business process automation system comprises functional process forms, notifications, communication, and a central engine that drives all these tasks. Once the process is completely mapped, automation is a breeze. Process mapping illustrates all the activities and the rules associated with the process. The workflow engine converts the received inputs into outputs based on a present sequence of actions. The engine activates the next task in sequence once the preceding task is completed successfully.
A powerful BPM automation platform like Cflow can automate key business processes within minutes. Automation of key business workflows accelerates the process and improves efficiency. Creating process workflows is a breeze with Cflow’s visual form builder. Businesses can customize their workflows in Cflow. Setting up automation rules, customizable dashboards, reports and analytics, and bullet-proof AWS data centers are some of the key differentiators of Cflow.
Depicting a business process flow diagrammatically provides a deeper understanding of the process. Identification of process loopholes and potential areas of improvement is simplified through flow diagrams. Repetitive and redundant tasks in the process workflow can be automated effectively. Process automation streamlines an automated key business process, which improves operational efficiency. Cflow is a cloud BPM solution that automates critical business processes within a very short span of time. If you are looking for completely customizable workflow automation software, then Cflow is your go-to solution.
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