Business process mapping explained
Business process mapping is an activity that is often undertaken as part of a project. It’s an important activity in any business or project which is making changes. Sometimes it’s not obvious that you are making changes to a business process, for example putting in a new application or IT system can seem as though it is just a change of IT system, but in reality it is highly likely to change the way people work. Changing the way people works is a change to the business processes.
What is business process mapping?
Business process mapping essentially defines how a particular activity in a business is carried out. It defines:
- the individual tasks
- who is responsible for each task
- the outcome of each task if there is one
- any regulations or standards that are being adhered to
- the overall outcome
Why do you do business process mapping?
Business process mapping can be done for several reasons:
- For use in training manuals where colleagues need to be able to reference what they should do step-by-step
- Identify where processes can be made more efficient
- Understand the impact of changes e.g. a new IT system is being implemented; how will this change the way you work?
How is business process mapping done?
There are many tools available for business process mapping, but you really could just do this exercise with a pen and piece of paper. A colleague of mine LOVED getting a HUGE piece of brown paper stuck on the wall and sticking post-it notes all over it.
- Firstly make sure you understand what business process you are looking at. It should have a clear beginning and end. If it doesn’t you are probably looking at more than one process. Most projects will cover multiple processes, so don’t worry if you end up mapping more than one.
Some examples of processes would be physically receiving raw materials onto a manufacturing site and checking them in to the system, customer successfully gets insurance quote by telephoning insurance company or customer purchasing good online
- Next make a note of all the tasks in that process. This is where post-it notes can be good. Remember that a task can be something an individual, team or system does (some things are automatic in a computer system but still count as tasks). If you have a very simple process you can include decision points in your process, however ideally there will be minimal decision points. Any major decisions would result in a different process.
For example a customer phoning for an insurance quote might:
A – provide all of their information and receive a quote via email from the insurance company or
B – provide all of their information and not be accepted for insurance as they don’t meet the criteria
Whilst the first part of the process is the same, the outcome is completely different. In this case you could:
Have 3 processes (first part, quote received, insurance rejected)
Have 2 processes (quote received, insurance rejected)
In the second option there is repetition in the process flow, but this is ok.
- Identify who is responsible for each of the tasks. Again, this could be an individual, team or system. It might be someone inside the organisation or someone external such as an auditor or a customer.
- Put the tasks in order making sure that each task has an outcome and the overall process has an outcome. The outcome of each task might simply be that it moves to the next task.
- Join the tasks up with arrows to depict which way the business process flows.
At Easyprojecthub we find that laying the business process out in ‘swimlanes’ really helps identify inefficiencies or who will be impacted in the case of change.
To do this, create a horizontal ‘swimlane’ for each responsible individual / team / system. Make sure all the tasks are placed in the correct swimlane.
This makes it really obvious when there are too many handovers between teams or too many people involved which can be easily simplified.
For more on business process mapping and analysis keep an eye out for future posts. You can sign-up for notifications and get FREE copies of all of the blog summaries by clicking below.
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Do you use swimlanes? Are you new to business process mapping? What else would you like to know?
Thanks for reading!