Process mapping basics: conclusions & next steps

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By Peter Hilton

The sixth and final part of a tutorial for beginners - what you learned, what’s missing and the next steps for using process mapping in your organisation

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 article reflects on what you discover by doing a process mapping session, and what you can do next.

This article follows on from the previous sections of this process mapping tutorial:

  1. Introduction to process mapping
  2. Tasks
  3. Events
  4. Roles
  5. Hassle vs value

What’s good and bad

A process mapping session isn’t for everyone: some people get more out of it than others. A good session allows participants to step back from the details of daily work and reevaluate how the work works. As a secondary benefit, participants get a broader understanding of how their own work relates to other people’s. This makes process mapping a good way to engage people who are not process management experts.

Basic process mapping lacks a focus on the details and doesn’t do anything to identify any but the most obvious opportunities for process improvement. Managers who have a good overview of business operations won’t learn anything new or useful, and will only benefit from anything that happens to come up in conversation with colleagues about their work.

What’s easy and hard

A basic process mapping session, using only pens, paper and sticky notes, is easy to organise, run and participate in. The low tech approach makes it easy to get ready and to avoid technical difficulties. In each session, participants generally find it easy to brainstorm and identify parts of the process model, starting with tasks.

The hardest part of process mapping is an important challenge: working out good names for processes, tasks, events and roles. However, there are also practical difficulties: pen and paper make it hard to be neat, which tends to lead to results that require explanation by whoever wrote them down.

Pen and paper limits you to working with people who are in the same room, sharing session results outside the room means taking photos of the work. This matters because process management requires organisation-wide collaboration, not just local expertise. Fortunately, there are software tools for that – Signavio Process Editor and Signavio Workflow.

What’s missing

Basic process mapping, as described in the previous articles, only covers a few aspects of a business process. Several things are missing, such as:

  • work instructions
  • schedules
  • data and documents
  • IT systems
  • interaction between cases
  • model data for analysis.

How important these are depends on the business process in question, and which aspects include important details or significant complexity. In practice, it would be useful to add an additional part to a process mapping session to cover the most interesting aspect of the business process.

What’s next

There are several ways to use to results of a process mapping session. You can follow-up by using additional techniques:

  • relating a large number of processes in an organisation’s process landscape
  • more ways to identify and remove waste
  • other kinds of process improvement
  • BPMN process model diagrams.

Alternatively, you could repeat the exercise using a different approach

How to use process mapping in your organisation

You can get people to learn more about process management by doing something practical. An organisation’s skills have breadth as well as depth, and BPM is no exception. To introduce process mapping to your organisation, run short introductory workshops, for a large number of people. Sometimes, you can get people reaching for better training and tools by giving them only basic training and tools.

Process mapping can also be a continuous activity. To identify process improvement opportunities, regularly discuss process maps with the people the maps identify. You might even find it useful to post the latest maps on the wall as a conversation starter.