Embark on your process mapping journey

Written by Peter Hilton | 3 min read
Published on: January 22nd 2018 - Last modified: May 28th, 2021
process mapping-a man presses buttons on glass

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—but sometimes it seems like that first step is the hardest! This can often be the case when a company or organization realizes they need to start process mapping.

Many people find this method a useful way to introduce business process management concepts to an organization and help people think about their work from a process perspective.

Fundamentally, process mapping works by breaking down large tasks into smaller, component parts and inputs, which can then be worked through in a systematic and logical way. This guiding principle also applies to process mapping itself! The following “golden rules” will stand you in good stead as you embark on your process mapping journey:

  • Keep it real: don’t expect process mapping to answer every possible question.
  • Keep it broad: keep business improvement objectives in mind, but don’t get sucked into the detail.
  • Keep it loose: “perfection is the enemy of good”—be careful not to waste your time!
  • Keep it social: make time for discussion and planning that includes all staff as participants.

Of course, that’s not all there is to it! If you would like to know more, simply read on...

Understanding the purpose of process mapping

Before you start your mapping, you need to understand and define what you want to gain. Identifying a primary goal before beginning to develop your process map is vital, especially to avoid the difficulties that may arise from different staff members having different ideas about what process mapping involves, and what results it will deliver. In short, is the purpose of your process mapping to:

  • Introduce the basic concepts of modelling a process to beginners?
  • Create an understanding of process modelling within a specific team, or across the whole organization?
  • Allow experienced process modellers to practice their techniques and maintain their knowledge?
  • Improve visibility of the different kinds of work in your organization?
  • Raise questions about why you work the way you do?
  • Generate discussion about how your workplace operates in practice?
  • Create a foundation for bringing in additional business process management techniques, like more detailed process modelling, waste reduction, or process improvement?

Assembling the team

Like so many things in life, process mapping is easier and more fun when you work with a small group. A diversity of views and opinions is always beneficial, especially when different staff members interact with the same process in different ways.

Setting aside specific time to conduct a process mapping workshop is usually the best approach, as this matches the theoretical thinking and planning involved in process mapping with more practical focus and analysis.

A couple of hours is enough for a few people to get started, while 6-8 people will need a whole day to feel like they had enough time for the session. Larger groups start to become unwieldy, and would benefit from splitting the group over a number of sessions.

Step one… then what?

Once you have determined the fundamental goal of your process mapping, you will be ready to begin the mapping itself. Unfortunately, this is often where the process mapping endeavour runs off the rails. Which business process should you work on first? Is it familiar to everybody? How do we analyze? Does it directly affect day-to-day work? Is it simple to understand, but not too simple as to be irrelevant? And once you have figured this out, which aspect of the process should you begin with?

Never fear! A moment of thought will reveal numerous options within any organization. One that works particularly well is a new employee induction process. A new employee may require staff introductions and an office tour, a desk and equipment, email account setup, accounts for IT services, initial introductory assignments and information about anything else particular to your organization. This has the benefit of being an easy-to-understand process which includes multiple areas of an organization, with a specific outcome at the end—the successful onboarding of a new employee.

A few more possibilities could include approving a particular document (management), approving a training request (HR), invoicing a customer (finance), fulfilling a purchase order (logistics), or in fact developing any new product or service.

Taking things further

Knowing why you are mapping your processes, assembling the right staff, and determining where to start means you are well on your way to a successful process mapping endeavour. However, this is only the beginning!

Naming your processes, identifying tasks within each processes, marking the links and causes between tasks and events, determining who within the staff team actually does the work, not to mention working out which processes and tasks are essential and which can be discarded to improve efficiency: this is where the real fun begins.

This is also where Signavio’s Process Mapping—Basics can help. The resource offers step-by-step instructions, including pictures, diagrams, and to-do lists, which guide you through a process mapping activity. You can download a copy by clicking the link to the right. Otherwise, email info@signavio.com for more information.

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Published on: January 22nd 2018 - Last modified: May 28th, 2021