A practical guide to process mapping and improvement

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So what’s the plan?

Mapping your business process for improvement

Getting a good outcome from your process improvement plan involves finding the right balance between momentum and attention to the specifics of the required change. Yes – the devil IS in the detail but striving for complete perfection will only ensure delayed deployment.

Below we look at a practical approach to ensure you can reach your objectives quickly, without compromising on delivery.


How to begin

Gather everyone’s requirements and don’t expect these to remain the same throughout the process. Try and focus on the end goals and move away from simply applying clunky and dated methodology onto a spangly new platform, you’ll just get bad outcomes faster. You can leverage almost any outcome by applying solid BPM – reduction in spend, improved operational efficiency, better data control, outstanding customers processing and support….but you must be clear on what the priorities are and which can be looked at more closely later.

The discovery phase should take the longest…and if you are reading then then you have probably already made a start.


Start asking questions

  • Can you map it out? As a flowchart, with PostIt notes? If you can write it down and lay it out visually then you can map out the process and rebuild it to be more efficient.
  • How often is it used?
  • How many people need to use it?
  • Who will be in charge?
  • How often will it be changed?
  • Do you want to adopt it in house or have a 3rd party in control?
  • Does it need to connect it to other systems and processes?
  • Is there more than one to think about?
  • Does it need to be measurable? (reporting)
  • How would you like to improve the process?
  • What measures will determine its success?

TIP: Bring in the people that actually USE the process. Don’t assume that what you think is (or should be) happening actually is. The users are likely to be changing the process already so they can actually get the outcomes you are looking for so they are your richest source of insight for improvement.


Understand what it can, and what it cannot achieve

Good processes will pull together multi-dimensional strings of events that if applied correctly, can directly support business goals. However, you get out what you put in. If a particular part of a process is not thoroughly understood and it remains in place causing trouble, you are never going to achieve a more favourable outcome just because it’s linked to other more efficient parts of the system. Ultimately, it’s just an automation of your manual tasks – and this means greater speed and efficiency – but only if you tell it to do the right things.

And remember – the early stages are not likely to be a speedy process, keep in mind Hofstadter’s law…. It will always take longer than you expect.

Need some expert support? Contact our solutions team who will arrange a consultation with an experienced Business Analyst.


Give it to the people, and say hi to your re-imagined workforce

Get end users and maintenance teams involved in the start. Changes of this nature are often knitted in to wider transformation (see our whitepaper on digital transformation in the UK) so it’s likely that they will have lot of disruption to acclimatise to and you need their buy-in to secure success.

With the right process tool you can designate staff that are not necessarily highly skilled developers to maintain and grow your process platform exactly as you need to, without relying on external priorities and commitments. Your internal IT team should be allocated to more technical changes but mostly they can be free to deal with their (increasing) bottleneck – which is a challenge more and more organisations are facing.

Low-code systems offer the flexibility most companies now need in the building of their processes and are solid platform from which organisations can manage their systems. Learn more about Low-code.


Define the limits of the process you are mapping

Many systems, workflows and processes blend into each other and trying to map these all simultaneously is likely to put the brakes on the whole thing. Start by outlining the strictly critical steps, leaving the detail out for now. Focus on the bit you want to change, be clear on where it starts and ends (bearing in mind there may be multiple starts and finishes).

Interrogate this simplified plan in isolation as a series of actions and use this time to understand whether improvements can be made and also identify where future adaptations may be required.

Now build in the detail

Each critical action will have a series of nuances – this is often the most laborious part of the job because so many of the smaller incidents overlap, are badly broken or completely managed and stored offline. This is where significant improvements to efficiency are most often identified.

TIP: To identify how one action relates to another you would traditionally lay it out visually. For example – ovals for the beginning/end of process, rectangles for tasks/steps, diamonds for decision points and arrows to mark the process direction flow. It’s generally more digestible and easier to move around to optimise the opportunity for improvement.

At this stage it’s a good idea to build in appropriate KPIs to manage its performance and value top the business.


Accept that it will be an ongoing process, build it so you can change it

Build it, trial it, test it, amend it, roll it out. Then continue to interrogate that process. Your business will change and so will your needs of the systems and processes in place to support it.

A bad process can impact everything and everyone (from employee productivity and good will to product placement and customer retention) because it takes away the time, energy and money invested in mundane, manual tasks. A good process gives you the tools to tackle almost anything.

However, if you aim for perfection you’ll never get the thing out the door. So focus on NOW and aim to make the processes good for today, everything else will reveal itself as a vulnerability once you have greater transparency. If you opt for a Low-code platform then you can just pop in and tweak it as your organisation requires.


The right partner

Once you know what you want, find a vendor that can support it. Most business do not have the appropriate capacity to design, build and deploy intricate processes as programmers are expensive so are better directed towards significant projects rather than processes simplification and BAU. The right supplier will understand your process and support you in the planning, optimisation and roll out. True process improvement is about flexibility so constant improvement should be a core requirement. A fixed solution vendor is unlikely to offer you long term value – nor will they be as invested as your own workforce when it comes to the immediacy of necessary updates to keep the system optimised.

……and finally

The secret of getting ahead is getting started

Agatha Christie


Thanks for reading! If you want to know more about process transformation and improvement visit our Resources page or get in touch, we’d love to help.


Don’t settle or compromise, you’ll just have to cut corners to make it yours and that defeats the point of this whole exercise. Speak to us to arrange a FREE DEMO and see how powerful process transformation can be. We’ll build you a bespoke solution in days that you can adopt in house.


FLOvate.com | 0330 111 0570 | solutions.team@flovate.com