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Do you know what you are doing? 8 Essentials for Effective Business Process Mapping

Do you know what you are doing? 8 Essentials for Effective Business Process Mapping

Business Process Mapping Introduction

The history of process mapping dates to 1921, when Frank Gilbreth introduced it in his presentation called “Process Charts: First Steps in Finding the One Best Way” to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Flowchart, 2024). Business process mapping (BPM), also known as business process modeling and notation (BPMN), is one of the best tools organizations can leverage to bring clarity to how “things” actually get done and identify opportunities for improvements. Business process mapping provides a visualization of the process that allows people to see the actual flow of the activities that make up a business process from the beginning to end. The completed process map can be used to communicate business processes clearly and visibly to employees, reducing confusion and misconceptions while also improving understanding of the process. Process mapping, a value-added activity, costs money and consumes valuable resources time. However, skipping process mapping can be much more costly. The BPMN exercise can lead to identifying inefficient, ineffective, incomplete, clunky, bottlenecked processes that continue to frustrate employees, waste valuable employee time, and take away from the businesses’ bottom line.

Steps of Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping starts by identifying a business process to map out. Next, determine the scope – documenting existing processes that have not been documented, verifying existing documented processes before attempting to optimize the process, or documenting “to be” future state version of a business process. Now, identify stakeholders in the business process and perform individual interviews. Individual interviews are a suitable place to start because people might hold back in a larger group setting where they might not be comfortable. Next, create a draft process map from the information gathered from interviews. This could be with software like Microsoft Visio, or good old fashioned brown paper on a wall.

Depending on the complexity of the process, it may be beneficial to share the draft document with the team in advance of a cross functional team review. Next, schedule some workshops with the cross functional team to review the draft and revise the business process as needed until it represents the actual current process. It may be a bit messy at first, but that’s ok. Work through it. That just means confusion exists with the people in the process and the exercise is already providing value. It may take several meetings to agree on a final business process which should be signed off on by the department leaders, the people that own the process. Remember, before making any changes or improvements, validate the current business process first. Otherwise, any implemented solution will not consider what is not part of the documented process.

Cross-Functional Teams: Building Relationships and Breaking Down Silos

My first experience in process mapping was as a participant. I was one of several people that made up a cross functional team from the maintenance organization tasked to define a business process and its details. I did not know any of the other people involved in the process. I had heard their names, knew a little about their roles, however, we did not have any sort of relationship. My second experience was as a facilitator. I was the project manager of an enterprise asset management improvement project that focused on work and inventory management. I facilitated the workshops reviewing the “as is” business processes identifying gaps and inefficiencies and then creating the future state, “to be” business processes. Both were great learning experiences for me.

The most important thing I learned as a participant, and watched occur as a project manager and facilitator was the breakdown of department silos, the start of building a collaborative culture. People meeting people they never met before in roles either upstream or downstream of their place in the process. Faces became associated with voices and some friendships were formed. People wanted to identify ways to improve the process as a team. The group did not know some minor tweaks in how one person completes their activity could help someone else in the process. People started to ask, “What can I do differently to help the process improve? Is there anything I can do differently to help?” Interrelationships between people that operate in different departments in the organization were formed, silos began to breakdown. The comment I remember hearing most from participants was, “I didn’t know that.”

Optimize Processes + Eliminate Waste = Reduced Costs & Gained Efficiencies


Whatever the reason for the BPM exercise, once the initial business process has been mapped out, further analysis can lead to optimizing the workflow. Analyzing a business process map, new or existing, can lead to identifying redundant activities, where bottlenecks might occur, process inefficiencies, or opportunities where technology can be leveraged to improve the process. Benefits here are two-fold. 1. Non-value-added activities are removed, and ineffective activities can be addressed. 2. The time saved from eliminating non-value-added activities can now be redirected to value added activities. Win-win!

Drive Engagement & Ownership for Activities in the Process

It is critical to get the right people in the room. Creating a team of subject matter experts, the ones that are closest to the process to review and refine the process shows respect for the employees and that management values their feedback. Participating in business process mapping workshops will help drive employee engagement and ownership of the activities within the process being mapped. The BPM activity provides people directly involved in the process the opportunity to voice their opinion, as well as listen to others’ concerns and thoughts. These are the people that can identify the gaps in the process and want to improve it because they are a part of it. The process is part of their life.

Define Business Requirements

A detailed BPM can be used to develop business requirements for software implementations. Details include steps which are in sequence with roles and responsible for each activity and requirements for each activity, the inputs to effectively complete the activity and provide a quality output and move to the next step. The purpose is to accurately define who does what, when, required inputs, technology used, outputs and what is next in the process so those needs can be satisfied and so on. A detailed business process flow can be a solid foundation to start to define more detailed business requirements.

Monitoring Key Business Processes

Key business processes should be monitored, allowing the business to react and learn from negative and positive performance. You will want to know the performance of the process for a given period and when the process is changed—if it has had the intended effect or not. Monitoring the processes that support your organization’s objectives means that the right data is required. This data could be the inputs, outputs, or statuses of steps mentioned in the previous section. Whether creating a new business process or revising an existing process, make sure to consider how you will monitor the process. Thinking about this will ensure that the process supports gathering the data that is required to effectively monitor the process.

Planning to Include Future Project Portfolio Improvements

Whether you are creating a new business process or reviewing or improving an existing process, it is important to consider future planned improvements that are part of the project portfolio. Perhaps there is a roadmap which lays out a staged improvement plan which can be referenced to reduce the impact on other existing processes because you will have planned for them. Be sure these discussions take place with the right stakeholders. Less change is good, however, constant change on the other hand, reduces stability, causes frustration, and may indicate a lack of planning on management’s part which does not reflect well with the employees that the changes directly impact.

Potential Future Improvements

Some items that will be identified in the process mapping exercise will be related to the limits of the business’ capabilities. Some improvements can be made with low levels of effort and implemented with minimal planning, cost, and change management. Other changes will be identified as a high level of effort to implement, requiring additional planning, funding, technology, change management etc. Don’t disregard improvements that cannot be implemented due to current constraints, document them. As improvements are implemented, constraints may be mitigated, allowing for improvements to be made that were previously put off due to those constraints.

Best Practices for Business Process Mapping& Recap

  • The right people. Make sure the right people are involved early in the process. People that engage in the process and are an SME will be able to make informed suggestions for improvements.
  • Validate/Review current business process maps- If a process needs to be improved, verify the documented process is correct before analysis begins.
  • Keep it simpleBreak larger processes down to smaller processes or sub-processes. After those smaller sections are mapped out, then you can look at the larger picture and see how it looks.
  • Eliminate non-value-added activities – It is not about keeping everyone busy, or being efficient at everything, it is about identifying ways to be efficient at value added activities.
  • Use clear and consistent languageMake sure the words used to discuss the process and applications are consistent with the process being mapped. If there is confusion with the meaning of specific words, consider creating a glossary as part of the exercise. This will clarify what certain words mean and help keep the exercise moving in the right direction.
  • Regularly review and update business processesReview processes on a set frequency. Make sure that any changes are documented in the process maps and old versions are archived.
  • Business processes should support gathering the right data The right data will support the needed reports and metrics to effectively monitor the process.

Jason Weis

Jason Weis worked on several commercial and industrial construction projects as a Journeyman Electrician. He also worked as an Instrument Technician in Nuclear Generation Plants, Coal burning power plants, and helped restart the Delaware City and Monroe Energy refineries as a contractor. He has extensive experience both in the field and in planning and scheduling, asset management and Project Management. In addition to completing a 5 year IBEW apprenticeship Jason also earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management, and the following certifications - PMP, CRL and CMRP.

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