Author: Cody McCullough
Every business can benefit from improving their processes to reduce waste, identify cost-saving alternatives, speed up process lead time, or standardize commonly repeated activities. Although many businesses know that they want to implement these improvements for valuable time and money savings, many are unsure of how to get there or where to start.
This is where we come in. As continuous improvement practitioners The Poirier Group (TPG) is often hired to help document and map our clients’ workflows into repeatable systems and processes to identify where they can find more value in their organization. By visualizing these processes, we can decide what areas need to be altered or improved while aligning with current business structures.
To achieve these process improvement goals, our team engages in process mapping.
What is a Process Map?
A business process is a collection of related activities or tasks conducted by people or machines in which a particular sequence results in a product or service. A process map is a planning and management tool that visually depicts the workflow (or sequence) in which this transformation occurs. Process Mapping can greatly improve any process improvement project by increasing the understanding surrounding the flow of activities, information, people, and resources.
Why do I need a Process Map?
Our clients often wonder how process mapping the existing workflows can be of use to them. In answering this question, it is important to understand the needs of the business, and what the ideal state of their company will look like in the end.
Clients will often request process mapping as a service for one or more of the following reasons:
- Standardizing a process – By documenting a process, a business can standardize it so that it’s always performed in the most optimal way, reducing confusion and inefficiency
- Training employees – Process mapping provides a standard training document for both new and tenured employees
- Improving a process – Once an existing process is mapped, it can be analyzed for bottlenecks and other inefficiencies
- Communication – Process mapping provides a visual representation of the process that may be easier to understand than narrative text
- Internal audits – Businesses want to ensure that they are meeting their company standards, and that their processes are aligned with their mission and goals
- Compliance with International Organization for Standardization, called ISO 9001 – Used to conduct third-party audits of an organization’s quality management
- Compliance with the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or SOX – Also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act
What are the Benefits of Process Mapping?
Besides having a visual representation of how your business operates on multiple levels, a successful business process mapping (BPM) initiative will typically result in one or more of the following direct or indirect benefits:
- Productivity – Process improvements like removing bottlenecks, introducing parallel processing, and eliminating redundant steps can be easily achieved with BPM
- Efficiency – Because BPM gives organizations the opportunity to work more efficiently, they are able to save their resources
- Compliance & Transparency – When you adopt BPM, you integrate compliance into the process life cycle. This also implies that organizational processes will become transparent and visible to employees.
- Employee Satisfaction – Since process automation cuts down on a lot of repetitive work and makes information access easier, BPM eliminates a lot of red tape in organizations and allows employees to focus on their work 100%
- Process Consistency – With an optimal process in place, identical problems are addressed the same way and there is no need to reinvent the wheel, even if roles or staff change
- Sustainability – Business processes are continually improved to adapt to changing organizational conditions so that they can deliver the expected results
- Measurability – All processes can be measured end-to-end and compared to expected/benchmarked results
- Technology Integration – BPM, when implemented with technology, provides reporting and analytical tools for making executive decisions
What Does This Look Like in a Business?
The following business scenarios describe ways in which our team applied process mapping to solve a business need:
Scenario 1: Implementation of a New Call Center
The challenge: The client hired us to implement an entirely new Call Center that would be operated by a team of 20 new employees. The client understood the types of customer calls they would receive, but did not know how to effectively train their employees on how to resolve these calls.
The process mapping solution: In this circumstance, our objective was to create simple flow-charts that were applied by the Call Center employees to resolve customer issues.
Benefits: The client received standardized process flow charts that start with a customer calling into the Call Center and end with the issue being resolved. This process is now being used on an ongoing basis to guide the resolution of customer issues, resulting in a happier clients and more efficient call center employees who can focus on the solution instead of “re-inventing the wheel” for each call.
NOTE: every process map should begin with an event or trigger, and in this case, it was a customer calling in with an issue.
Scenario 2: Confusion around Roles and Responsibilities Within a Process
The challenge: The client had a massively complex business process that required input from 5 unique departments and over 30 individual employees
The process mapping solution: In this circumstance, our objective was to document a very detailed cross-functional process map.
Benefits: Employee capabilities, roles and responsibilities were clearly outlined for each sub-process in business process workflows. This established accountabilities within the team and made organizational processes more transparent and visible to employees.
NOTE: A cross-functional process map (also referred to as a swim-lane map) groups components into a distinct sequence, or lane, in the visual presentation of workflow and process charts.
Process mapping is an extremely important method of improvement, but it is just as important to appropriately understand why the process map is being created in the first place. It is therefore not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but rather a methodology, that can be applied in many different ways to solve a multitude of business challenges. The value is therefore not in the process map itself, but rather in what the map reveals.
At TPG, we are uniquely skilled in our ability to map complex businesses and processes to identify areas of improvement and implement solutions to address these. In the scenarios above, the types of companies, the issue being addressed, the approach taken, and how the process map added value varied significantly. However, each client saw tangible improvements in the way their business operated.
Let The Poirier Group find new value in your organization. Contact us today