Are you looking to improve your business process, build a new product, save cost, or understand customers’ product requirements?
Then business process mapping is an essential tool to do this. Process modeling is not just for the realms of large manufacturing plants looking to optimize operations it is also a highly effective tool when applied to every aspect of your business to identify opportunities to improve existing products or start the process of building new ones
Everything within a business is a process, you will frequently hear comments on how people do not like processes or they do not work to a process. The reality is, regardless of what they think, they work within a process…
If you truly want to understand, improve efficiency and save cost, you must map your business processes or customer processes at a level of detail sufficient to enable improvement.
What is Business Process Mapping
It is the action of laying out each individual micro-step your business systems and people do or what your new product will do, followed by establishing who will own the step and what the inputs and outputs to process steps are.
The Objective of Business Process Mapping
The fundamental objective is to get a process laid out at a sufficient level of detail such that the following can be addressed:
- Identify pain points and bottlenecks
- Remove steps which are not required or add no value
- Clarify responsibilities
- Identify opportunities for automation
- Put in place success measures to monitor process performance
- Give clarity of product requirements (assuming you are mapping a product journey)
- Provision of training and guidance
Getting to a sufficient level of detail will be painful but necessary, consider the below scenario that most people will be familiar with, a website login and registration process, a simplified view may be:
The reality is more like this:
We moved from 5 steps to over 20 with at least double this if we include the steps within the sub-processes for resending verification emails and resetting usernames and passwords. It’s only until we get to this level we have something we can measure, analyze, and improve.
Business Process Mapping
Phasing — the Process Pipeline
There are a few ways to embark on business process mapping, I’m going to share my approach which has served me well, it is formed of the following steps
- High-level phasing
- Success measurements
- Process steps
In most cases I start with the high-level phasing, this always helps to get a fast-track understanding of the overall process, for the sake of ease I will refer to this as the ‘process pipeline’.
The aims are:
- identify and lay out the top-level phases of your process within which the micro-steps can be grouped so you have sensible (typically commercial) naming and grouping.
- Phase goals and Measures
- Brief description of the phase
- Some sample activities that occur at each phase.
A download of a template is available in the resources section of the website or directly here.
The below example is for a typical sales pipeline.
Once you have this Process Pipeline defined then you can progress to the next step of mapping your business processes within each phase.
Mapping the Micro Process Steps
There are a few approaches to doing this all will require engaging with the people who do these steps every day so your facilitation skills are going to be tested. By far the quickest and most productive approach is to gather all key personnel into a room at the same time and run a workshop, it’s a highly interactive and informative way to do it with differing opinions and points of view giving rich insight, alternatively you could go round each user individually and bring it all back together yourself.
Whichever route you choose, will dictate the best tools to use, if you are running a workshop layout several flip chart paper sheets on a large desk side by side, using Blu-tack to hold them in place, now divide up the sheets into the process pipeline phases but add 2 columns one preceding called ‘sources’ and one following called ‘Notes’ so you have something like the below.
Try and identify the various sources of the process start points, these are various ways people or information enters the process, for example, for a sales process leads could come in from email, phone, F2F, exhibitions, Social Media, websites, etc) every start point will likely have different process maps, you need to know ALL of them so list as many as you and your audience can think off and list them in the sources column.
Another example, going back to the registration process, login menu, popup login, end of article registration, email link login landing page.
Using each of these ‘sources’ as starting points, select one source and find the first step to your process, in the case of the sales process above this falls within the prospecting phase and maybe “a visitor is on our website” and simply ask 2 questions of your audience “what happens next?” and follow this up with “Why?” and keep asking until you get to the end of the process.
The key here is to review what your audience is telling you as you go and ensure steps are not being missed, for example, in step 1, a visitor lands on our website, in step 2, a lead is entered into our system the question you then need to ask is “How?” magic? (OK maybe not the magic bit…) you will probably get a response like “oh yes, well, we use the website to funnel users to our contact us page which when submitted creates a lead in our CRM system automatically for sales to pick up”
As each step is communicated, write a post-it note for each step and place on your process map in the relevant location and you will start to build a process map that looks like the below:
Well ok, the reality is, it will more likely look like this:
Repeat this activity until all sources are mapped.
Identify the pain
Before you let your audience go, uniquely label or number each of the steps, enter these into a spreadsheet similar to the below and ask your audience to agree on a pain rating for each step, this rating should be between -10 and +10, (+10 being it’s very easy, takes no time at all, even enjoyable and -10 they hate it, its bottleneck, hard to do, takes ages involves lots of people, difficult systems, etc) capture the rating given and some verbatim commentary as to why they gave the rating for those that seem most important.
Write-Up Post Workshop
Once you’ve gone over this and all agreed on each end-to-end process, you can use tools such as Draw.io (free), Microsoft Visio (mid-range price), or SmartDraw (top-end price) to tidy it up and draw up a soft copy ready for the next steps (if you are doing 1 to 1 conversation and space is limited, the best approach is to either sketch up in your notebook or create the process directly into the tools mentioned. If using the latter make practice so that you are quick and competent in front of a customer, otherwise stick to your notebook!).
We have also provided a template to make it easy to tidy up the pain points identified in the last step. For this, we use a Customer Experience Map which can be downloaded from here.
- Read running discovery workshops and Essential Workshop Equipment.
- Use phasing as a process pipeline to get you started and start to understand the journey
- Adapt your process pipeline as you gain more detail and your first will be wrong
- Make sure each possible start point is considered (for a sales process leads could come in from email, phone, F2F, exhibitions, Social Media, websites, etc) every start point will likely have different process maps, you need to know ALL of them.
- Ask “what happens next?”, “Why?” and if you feel something is missing, ask “How?”