What is process mapping?
Below, we will look at process mapping in detail, what it is, why it matters, and different types of process maps.
What Is Process Mapping?
In business, process mapping is the practice of creating detailed visual diagrams of business processes.
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These process maps can be used to gain insights into:
- The steps involved in a business process. Each business process map will typically outline the individual actions taken in a workflow or process.
- Resource utilization. The resources used in a process can include human labor costs, material resources, equipment usage, and more. That information, intern, can help managers better optimize their processes in order to increase efficiency, cut costs, and improve productivity.
- Process timelines. As we will see below, every process map is different. Many, however, include information about the time it takes to complete a process. For managers and business leaders taking a high level view of business process management, this information can be critical when designing time-sensitive business processes.
- Process costs. Costs are another important factor to consider when modeling business processes. Process mapping enables process managers and analysts to gain deep insights into the various factors that contribute to a process’s costs, which can help when calculating the costs of business projects, programs, operations, and so forth.
Different process maps offer different insights into business processes.
Some are high-level and offer only conceptual understanding of processes. Others go into great detail and offer granular insights into costs, resource utilization, and more. Some focus specifically on the steps involved in a process, while others focus on the entire value stream, and others emphasize the roles and responsibilities of those involved in a process.
Let’s look at a few examples now.
Examples of Business Process Maps
Common types of business process maps include:
- Flowcharts. A process flow chart is a flow chart that diagrams the individual steps in a process, focusing on events and decisions. Maps are so simple, they can provide a straightforward overview that anyone can understand. On the other hand, they do lack detail, which limits their usefulness.
- Swim lane diagrams. Swimlane diagrams look like flowcharts, but they break down a process into “lanes” that correspond to the departments who perform the process. This can be useful for designing processes that span multiple departments.
- Value stream maps. Value stream maps focus on the value chain, or the complete set of roles and steps needed to create value for customers. Although these are more complex, they go into greater detail than flowcharts, making them more useful when analyzing the resources used in a process.
These are just a few examples of the types of process mounts that are used.
Next, we’ll see how business process maps are used in conjunction with these types of tools and approaches.
How Process Mapping Is Used
Business process mapping is often used as part of a business discipline, such as:
- Business process management (BPM). Business process management is dedicated to managing, optimizing, improving, designing, and redesigning business processes. Business process maps are a standard tool in this discipline.
- Business process optimization (BPO). Business process optimization can be thought of as a sub-discipline up business process management. As the term suggests, its aim is to optimize processes by improving efficiency, productivity, and other key metrics.
- Business process design (BPD). Designing business processes from scratch, or redesigning existing processes, is common during organizational reorganization, restructuring, or growth. As with the other disciplines and practices covered here, business process designs rely heavily on process maps to create processes that are efficient and cost-effective.
Today business process maps are designed and optimized through tools, such as BPMS tools, as well as platforms such as:
- Process mining platforms. A process mining platform is designed to analyze a process through software logs. This information focuses on the back end of a process, allowing process managers to better understand how processes are actually performed, where waste is occurring, and how to improve efficiency.
- Task mining platforms. While process mining focuses on back end data, task mining focuses on front end data. That is a task mining software will extract users’ interaction with software and analyze it, providing process managers with the insights they need to improve digital workflows.
- Workflow management tools. Workflow management tools, like task mining tools, are designed to analyze and improve front end workflows. Their entire purpose is to help managers and employees create workflows that are more efficient and more effective. Tools such as digital adoption platforms, for instance, enable employees to design and optimize their own workflows.
- Automation platforms. Automation platforms often include features such as task mining and software analytics, but their emphasis is naturally on automating business processes. Using these tools, managers can both gain insights into what’s working and what isn’t, while also enabling businesses to perform certain tasks with machines.
Process mapping, in short, is far more than simply the diagrams used to visually depict a process. From business process standardization to business process optimization and design, process mapping is a tool that can be used across an organization to generate significant performance improvements.