What are Business Process Maps and are they Necessary?
By Wessel Coetzee
A Business Process Map is a management tool that visualises the flow of work. Process mapping dates back to 1921 when Frank and Lillian Gilbreth introduced this concept in their presentation called, “Process Charts, First Steps in Finding the One Best Way to Do Work”. Over time, this concept has been adopted by many industries and regulatory bodies even becoming compulsory in certain instances.
A process is a series of events that produce a result and a Process Map is a tool that visualises exactly this. There are several different types of process maps, each with varying complexity. Without going into too much detail, I will be looking at what value can be obtained by most of these.
3 Benefits of Process Mapping:
A process map gives you an overview of an entire process in one view. This gives you a holistic view of how activities, processes and systems interact with various stakeholders in the process.
Keeping this at a higher level adds more value than having a multi-page document with countless steps. This is a process map, not a how-to guide.
This process map will enable each person in the process to understand what their role and responsibilities are in this process and the effect on the rest of the team. This is one of the first steps to streamlining your process and reducing back-and-forth rework. When work gets stuck or someone does not know what the next step is, a process map can be used to get back on track quickly and keep the flow of work going.
We all tend to create an idea of what a process should be and how long it should take to complete it. Once a process is mapped out visually, all stakeholders will be aware of exactly what is required to achieve the required output. This leads to much more effective expectations of a process and how to manage it.
We all know that there is a certain adjustment period for a new employee to get up to speed with the requirements of their role. A process map accelerates this period as it is a great onboarding and training tool that can assist an employee to learn more quickly.
Process maps are not only for the role players in the process. This document can be shared across an organization to give other departments insights into your processes. This will encourage collaboration between departments and make communication much easier. The awareness created by this tool can break down silos and increase cross-functional efficiencies.
2. Discover Areas for Improvement
By looking at individual tasks, you miss a lot that you won’t realise until you see the entire process. A process map makes it very easy to identify obvious flaws in a process. You can quickly see if work does not flow freely throughout. This could be due to bottlenecks, steps not happening in a logical order or even a certain step not being done by any of the role players in the process. It is also easy to identify duplicate steps or multiple role players performing the same task. Ultimately it can be used to identify tasks in a process that is not adding value, pointing to inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.
Another benefit is that a process map gives you a clear indication of how much work is performed by your employees and how much is taken care of by systems. You might be surprised how much manual work is still being done outside the amazing system that your organization invested heavily in. This map will set the baseline of where you are and indicate how many opportunities for improvement there are.
Once a process map is set up it can be used continuously to keep on improving on a process. The process map can be used for scenario testing to understand which improvements will save the most time and make the most impact. This can greatly assist in increasing the return on investments you make in a process improvement project.
3. Ensure Compliance and Reduce Risk
Risks of various types will increase when processes are unclear, disjointed and unnecessarily complex. A process map helps to document best practices and enables these practices to be standardized across an organization. This greatly reduces complexity in the entire organization which reduces risk and makes compliance easier.
Many standards and certifications (like ISO 9000) require process maps as part of achieving the relevant results. This could greatly assist your ROPA as part of the POPIA requirements – if you know what I mean. Even if it isn’t a compulsory requirement, a process map is a great tool to prove how you are addressing compliance requirements. It is also a great tool to identify any risks of non-compliance when compared to the relevant laws or regulations.
After you have looked at all these benefits, you can decide for yourself if a process map is worth it or not. Otherwise, map out a process in 5-7 steps in Excel and see how much you learn from this quick exercise, how much awareness is created when you start asking questions about this process and how much you want to share this document with others to gain maximum benefit from this tool.
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