Business process mapping is a framework that helps companies create visual representations of processes within the organisation. Mapped processes can include products, software, services and even the on-boarding or off-boarding of employees.
Organisations also use this framework to improve current processes or to map out and brainstorm new ones. Process mapping is also useful for training, internal auditing, role assignment or RACI, compliance, workflow clarification and business process improvement.
Business process mapping has a long history going back to the 1920s when Frank Bunker Gilbert Sr. unveiled the “flow process chart” to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Since then, the framework has evolved with regular updates as it passed through the hands of various engineers until the 1950s.
Eventually, it was adapted for more generalised business processes, rather than just for mechanical engineering. Now it helps organisations create new streamlined processes and improve processes that are already implemented.
Business process mapping methods and techniques
A business process map can help your organisation be more efficient, reduce waste and gain insights and transparency into daily business operations. Typically, business process mapping falls on the desks of business analysts, but it’s a skill that can span industries and job titles.
If you deal with business processes on a daily basis, it can be important to understand every aspect of that process from start to finish, whether you’re an analyst or not.
Creating a business process map takes time and consideration, but it doesn’t have to be over complicated or stressful. There are plenty of examples online that will help you build your own process map and you can easily find business process mapping templates if you search for them.
The key to creating a successful business process map includes asking questions, assembling a team of relevant employees, getting leadership on board and monitoring the success of the process once it’s been improved or implemented.
There’s lots of advice on how to create a process map but general best practices include the following steps:
- Process identification: Identify the process that needs to be mapped and pinpoint any key players and team members that need to be involved. You’ll want to create a team to handle the process mapping and ensure that team includes all relevant parties, knowledge area experts and leadership
- Information gathering: Pull together all the facts by meeting directly with the people in that department who work with the process being analysed. You’ll need to ask them the “who, what, where and when” of the work they get done to get a detailed picture of the process being evaluated or created
- Analyse and identify: Determine what areas of the process can be improved, eliminate any redundancies or waste, analyse the data and map out where the process is failing or falling behind and how that needs to be changed
- Draw the baseline maps: Once you have all your data and key stakeholders or participants, you’ll want to create the visual process map. You can choose from flow charts, diagrams and third-party software to help you create this map. Or businesses can choose to follow business process mapping templates shared by other companies or from third-party vendors
- Monitor improvements: After implementing your process map or process improvements, your organisation will need to closely monitor how it’s working. Through analytics and regular feedback, reviews and monitoring, businesses can either make adjustments or rest easy knowing their processes are running efficiently
Business process mapping tools and software
Creating a business process map can be as simple as drawing it up on a whiteboard during a meeting, but if you have a large team or organisation with several stakeholders spread out across departments, you might opt for third-party software to streamline the process.
These software tools can help you see real-time changes to a process map, collaborate with other team members, track data over time and deliver valuable analytics to everyone involved. Typical features include real-time collaboration tools, visualisations that will help non-technical stakeholders understand the process, and templates and guidelines to help you build and create process flow charts.
Popular tools and software for business process mapping include:
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Visio
Business process mapping training and certification
While business analyst is the job most commonly associated with the framework, business process mapping is a tool anyone in an organisation might need to master if they deal hands-on with business processes. Whether you are a seasoned business analyst or are looking to add business process mapping skills to your resume, there are several courses, training programs and certifications available.