By Peter Hilton
Many people find process mapping a useful way to introduce business process management concepts to an organisation and help people think about their work from a process perspective. This helps you get started with process mapping basics.
When you first try process mapping, the trick is to keep it simple at first and save the difficult details for later. The purpose of this article is to help you with the hardest part: getting started.
Process mapping is easier and more fun when you work on it in a small group. Bringing people together who are involved in a process in different ways, in different roles, gives you multiple perspectives on ‘how the work works’, and a broader understanding.
A good way to work on process mapping in a group is to use a workshop format that combines this tutorial’s ideas and structure with practical group exercises. People like to discuss their own work, but find the abstract idea of process mapping less interesting.
Until you’ve done process mapping before using pen and paper, don’t try using computer software. For introductory process mapping, use the minimum amount of equipment, to avoid getting bogged down in technical issues:
Process mapping tends to fill the time available when the participants become enthusiastic about it. A couple of hours is enough for a few people to get started but not have enough time to ‘finish’. Half a dozen people will need a whole day to feel like they had enough time for the session.
People usually have trouble getting started with process mapping because they don’t know where to start: they don’t know which business process to work on first, and which aspect of the process to begin with. Before that, you should think about is what you expect to gain from process mapping itself.
Process mapping cannot solve all of your problems, but you may be able to achieve one or more of the following.
Before you start, choose a primary goal for each process mapping session and write it down, to avoid the confusion that results from different people having different ideas about what process mapping consists of and what results it will deliver.
If you don’t explicitly identify a clear and realistic purpose, you risk wasting time on a pointless exercise, and producing process maps that will do no more than gather dust on a shelf.
For your first process mapping exercise, you need to choose a business process that will be straightforward to explore and won’t get in the way of getting used to process mapping. One example that works for almost everyone is an employee onboarding process, which deals with:
This works well as a business process to get started with, because it is:
Here are some more examples of business process that could work well for a first attempt at process mapping:
Once you’ve chosen a process, you need to come up with a good process name.
Good names are valuable but can be hard to think of. You may be tempted to skip this step and come back to it later, but a good name makes the next steps much easier. Besides, names stick and you aren’t really going to come back to it later.
Good process names stick to the following guidelines, as do the examples above.
Bad names for a process called ‘Ship order to customer’, for example, might be:
Work on naming in a group, because this will also be an important discussion about the process’ scope, what it means and what the process’ end goal really is. Don’t hesitate to change the name of the process, when new understanding suggests a better name.
To summarise getting started with process mapping, consider
Now that you’ve got started, chosen a process and named it, the next steps describe the process. Each step adds a different kind of detail to the process model.