Process mapping is the act of creating a workflow diagram with the goal of gaining a clearer understanding of how a process and its parallel processes work.
Mapping out business processes is a great way to understand all the steps needed to complete a workflow. With process maps, employees–especially in upper-level management, can easily gain an overview of how processes are carried out, how they can be improved or constrained and how many of the steps taken are necessary to drive the process to its end.
What are Process Maps Used For?
Generally, process mapping is done in order to establish company execution standards or procedures. Some organizations use process maps as guides or diagrams for procedural tasks, and to enforce employees to follow the steps of a workflow in the correct order. However, when relying on maps alone to enforce process standards, many telling metrics go untracked. That’s why process mapping is usually a precursor to setting up a workflow management tool, workflow engine or business process management software.
With a workflow management tool, or business process management (BPM) software, you can track the amount of time it takes to complete a process, find process bottlenecks, enforce execution standards with required fields or approvals, automate work and more.
Process Mapping Methodologies
There are many different ways for you to build process documentation and develop your processes map. You can use flowcharts, diagrams, mind-maps or whatever your creativity suggests. There are some widely used and recognized methodologies out there, though, and they’re worth hearing about. Below we’ll be going through the most common models we have when speaking on business process mapping:
Value Steam Mapping (VSM)
First of all, Value Stream Mapping, also known as VSM, is one of the most important Lean principles. It is a visual representation of all interactions you have with your customer and the value delivered by each interaction.
Keep in mind that value is everything your customer is willing to pay for. Then, think about what are the steps you need to face in order to deliver this value. All these steps together compose the VSM, which provides big picture visualization of all added-value and wasteful practices, and allows you to analyze and improve your value delivering process.
Here’s what a VSM looks like:
Another method that is definitely worth knowing is the Business Process Model and Notation, shortened to BPMN, and perhaps the most commonly used process mapping methodology. It uses symbols to create a graphic representation of the process – ovals for the beginning/end, rectangles for tasks/steps, diamonds for decision points and arrows to mark the process direction flow.
The final result is something like this:
Last, but not least, we have a SIPOC diagram, that stands for Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer. This a high-level process map that results in a very detailed diagram. It looks difficult at first, but actually, it’s one of the most intuitive and practical ways to quickly understand phases of a process when things start and end with inputs and outputs.
- Supplier: who inputs the information to start the process?
- Input: what does this person input?
- Process: what do you do with this information?
- Output: what is the result after processing it?
- Customer: who did you deliver that processed information to?
This is the framework:
Here’s an example:
There’s definitely not a single, universal way to map your processes – you should choose which methodology to use according to the level of detail you seek.
I would even say those methodologies are complementary: you can use VSM to understand the big picture and value delivered to your customers, BPMN if you want functional flowcharts and a better understanding of where the information comes and goes and SIPOC for detailed understanding of inputs and outputs.
What they all have in common is the ability to provide a clearer understanding of activities flow, people and resources involved in the process, from the beginning to the end.
How to Map Business Processes Step-by-Step
Now that you know what the process maps are and the advantages of mapping your process and three different ways to do so, it’s time to choose one of them. If you’re in doubt, we strongly recommend you to use de SIPOC diagram – and start the mapping work!
Here are the general steps to mapping out your business processes. These, of course, should be applied using the methodologies and best practices we already discussed.
1. Collect Information
This is where you’ll truly understand how things happen within your process. Identify what people do what, how they do it, how long they take doing it and what resources they need… gather all the information you can. You can use observation and interviews to collect the information needed – and don’t forget to write it down!
2. Establish Boundaries
Identify where/when the process starts and where it ends. We call inputs all activities/triggers that start a process, and outputs all final results. Sometimes a process has more than one end and it’s important to map all of them out to determine all possible outcomes.
Imagine a recruitment process – in this case, the input is an application to the open position and the output is either a selected candidate on an archived CV. When talking about a bug tracking process, the input would be a new bug found; and the output a bug solved.
3. Identify Suppliers and Customers
As important as identifying where/when a process starts and ends, it’s equally important to identify who the key people involved in this process are. Besides the team responsible for executing and managing this process, there are two more relevant participants: suppliers and customers. Suppliers are responsible for triggering the start of your process and customers are the ones who receive the outcome.
4. List and Order the Actions
Now that you know where things start and end, it’s time to list the steps in between: use an action verb to start describing each step/task. You can either stick to the strictly necessary information or choose to go into detail for every action. Here is an example of the Purchase Process we used on the SIPOC diagram. Listing those actions would be something like this:
5. Business rules and handoffs
Here you require a deep knowledge of the process, the business strategy and how things connect and correlate. Business rules are conditions that make decisions easier (e.g. if a sales opportunity is bigger than US$10k, it should be assigned to a Senior Account Executive, or if a purchase request is lower than US$10, it does not need approval), while handoffs represent a change of responsibilities between teams (e.g. handoff between sales and customer success when someone buys your product).
6. Review and Optimize
Once your flowchart is done, take a look and see if the process is actually being run the way it’s expected to. Do the people involved actually follow the ideal flow? Are there any missing/redundant steps that could be crossed out?
It’s essential to use a control system to follow-up on your process execution while keeping you headed in the direction of continuous improvement. Making gradual improvements is the key to running efficient and goal-oriented processes.
Why Only Process Mapping is not Enough and What to do Now
Having your process mapped is a very big first step and has many benefits, as you can see here. Many do-ers get stuck at this point wondering what they should do with a bunch of paper, diagrams and flowcharts. How will we share and collaborate with everyone? Is it enough to guarantee standardized execution? How can I extract data from my process?
That’s the perfect moment for you to get to know Pipefy! Since you already have your process map, what you need now is a way to keep your process execution on track – easily track SLAs, lead time, cycle time, responsible and important KPIs. No matter which methodology you have chosen to map, we can help you model these processes inside our platform and keep up with your business’s goals.
Pipefy is the best way to centralize, standardize, automate and control your processes, empowering do-ers with standardized execution and the tools to avoid wasteful practices.