Chances are that if you’re carrying out a business improvement activity you’ll need to take a look at the business processes at some point. Process maps are a fundamental to any successful organization – they describe what activities are undertaken from the acceptance of raw materials into the organization and the production processes that turn them into products for your customers. Without processes you wouldn’t have a business.

Why map your processes?

Standard processes generate efficiency – getting everyone to work the same way every time helps reduce errors and ensures a consistency in the finished product – mapping your processes helps make these standard processes visible – and helps the organization deploy them among their staff.

The crucial benefit to mapping your processes is that in doing so you have a model from which to analyze what you do – though analyzing your processes you can identify ways in which they can be improved, this can be support efficiency drives and help improve customer satisfaction.

Fundamentally if your serious about business improvement – process mapping is the key tool at your disposal and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

All Process maps are not the same.

You might be surprised to learn that there’s a huge variety of methods when it comes to mapping processes – no one way is alike – some use different terminology and slightly different icon tool sets and provide varying graphical methods of representing your process. From standard flow maps, value stream maps and cross functional process maps – it’s worth investigating the various types in order to choose the one that’s suitable for the business issue your trying to solve.

Process mapping tools – which to use?

Perhaps the best part about mapping your business process is that you don’t need any fancy tools – Utilizing pen and paper will produce a simple (but effective) process map. For the more technologically minded there’s a plethora of process mapping and modelling software from the likes of Microsoft Visio to the likes of eVSM. Most choose this method as it means that you have a simple way of deploying the maps and can make amendments without having to start the whole process again.

Process Mapping – the first steps

So what are the first steps when producing process maps? Consider these steps

1/ Select the process to be mapped
2/ Clarify the objective and method to be used (i.e. follow the process in situ or interview workers etc)
3/ Document the process using the chosen method (i.e. process flow map)
4/ Validate with workforce (ensure the process is accurate)
5/ Iterate and finalize
6/ Publish

Sustaining your Process Map activity.

Mapped processes act as a snapshot of your business activity at a given time. As such they can date – process maps should be reviewed regularly where processes become re-engineered or new processes become introduced. Consider an audit plan that reviews work carried out against the process map to ensure compliance. Also review how the map will be published – i.e. visibly within the workplace? Within corporate literature? Choosing the most suitable distribution method ensures the workforce has access to and can easily review the process for which they’re following.

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