If you run a business, you’ll know that it isn’t easy.
Uncertainty and disruption are constant obstacles in your way.
And just when you think you’ve gotten used to the new terrain…
You’re back to square one again.
What you need is a map.
No, not a metaphorical one.
You need something to help you understand:
What’s going wrong in your operations
And how to make your processes more efficient
You need a process map.
What’s a process map?
Can it really benefit my business?
And how do I create one for my business processes?”
You’re in the right place.
We’re the business process mapping experts.
In fact, we’ve worked with lots of different businesses in our process mapping workshops.
And on average, we find them savings of $40,000 a year.
Last year, we started talks with an accounting firm based up in Glasgow.
They weren’t so sure of process mapping, either.
We showed them how we could map out their most complex processes.
And they had a lot.
They were using all the right software for their accounting services.
But their admin?
It was 40% manual processes.
Yep, you read that right.
Forms were filled out by hand.
Reports were uploaded slowly to the computer.
A complete mess.
They were hemorrhaging cash.
We stemmed the flow with a business process mapping template and some post-it notes.
A few days later and we had mapped every admin process.
They could finally see how much time - and money - they were wasting.
But the flowchart we used also helped them see a solution.
We patched up the gaps in their current processes with some custom automation tools…
Within 2 months they saved $13,000.
This article is going to cover everything you need to know about business process mapping.
What process mapping is
Whether your business needs it
The different types of business process mapping
Process mapping symbols
How to create one
There’s a lot we need to talk about.
So sit back, relax…
And let’s get you started.
Talk to the Automation Experts!
What Is Process Mapping?
Does Your Business Need Process Mapping?
The Different Types Of Process Maps
A Guide To Process Map Symbols
The Six Steps To Creating A Process Map
The Benefits Of Process Mapping
With any new strategy or tool, it can be tough to know where to start.
There’s so much jargon.
There’s too many software options.
And then you still have to get your work done at the end of the day!
That’s why we’re starting with the basics.
What is a process?
This one’s easy.
A process is a series of steps one takes to achieve something.
It takes your inputs and turns them into outputs.
Here’s a few examples:
Processing an order
Filing a customer complaint
Manufacturing a product
So, what’s a process map?
This is a visual tool that represents the flow of work in a process.
It charts out the individual process steps using shapes that symbolise different elements.
It shows the flow of resources, information and documents…
It demonstrates decisions made throughout the process…
And it shows the tasks that convert inputs into outputs.
What’s a business process map?
This is a process map that is used for business processes.
Pretty straightforward, right?
What about business process modeling?
This is the graphical representation of business processes in detail and in the context of operations.
Unlike mapping, it is used more for process improvement.
The content of mapping and modelling are also different.
What about value stream mapping?
It sounds a lot like a type of process mapping, but it’s not.
VSM, like business process mapping, displays the steps of a process.
But it aims to show the flow of goods from supplier to customer.
(AKA the value a company can deliver.)
It shows the flow of information and material throughout an entire process.
Now that we’ve got the definitions out the way, it’s time to turn to the purpose of process mapping:
It’s to help businesses improve their efficiency.
By providing new insights into a business process, it can help them brainstorm new ideas to improve them.
It also is used to boost communication and create effective process documentation.
Detailed process maps show clearly what’s going wrong in a business.
That includes bottlenecks, delays and repetition.
Your team - your entire team - can finally understand a business process in-depth.
Even if they aren’t experts in that field!
We also need to talk about the principles behind process mapping.
Multiple business strategies use process mapping.
Most notably, strategies that advocate for something called ‘continuous improvement’.
It does exactly what it says on the tin:
You find small ways to improve your operational efficiency over time.
So, the principles of process mapping align closely with those of strategies like Six Sigma and Lean Thinking.
The principles include:
Develop quality in a product or service
Create documentation and knowledge creation
Keep to delivery deadlines
Maintain respect for team members
Now we’ve covered what it is, let’s talk about where it came from.
Get your history books out, kids.
We’re going all the way back to 1921…
It started with an American engineer and consultant, Frank Gilbreth. He presented a flow process chart to his colleagues at ASME and showed them how it could find the ‘one best way’.
It clearly made an impact: the ASME soon introduced it to their industrial engineering curriculum.
By the ‘30s, one of these engineers (Allan H Mogensen) started training people using flow process charts.
Then, one of his students passed it on to Procter & Gamble.
You might have heard of them.
It was there that Art Spinanger used the tools to create a work simplification programme.
By 1947, the ASME went all the way back to Frank Gilberth’s flow process map and used his symbols to create an ASME standard for process charts.
Today, a whole host of businesses use process maps.
(It’s not just reserved for engineers anymore.)
Now you know what process mapping is, you probably want to know if it could work for your business.
SPOILER ALERT: Of course it can!
Any business can use some process mapping.
No, really, any business.
There’s only one condition:
Your business needs to have processes.
(Which, like, is every business.)
Still not convinced?
Here’s a list of reasons why you should use process mapping:
You need to understand how a process works before you put in place process improvement
You need to measure a process to manage it effectively
You need to identify and fix inefficiencies in your business processes, e.g. mistakes and delays
Yep, it’s a pretty effective tool to use.
But I understand if you’re not sure if it’s meant for you.
Heck, last year we start working with a business that was sitting on the fence, too.
They were a medical manufacturing firm based in the States.
They’d had a pretty hefty year.
As a result of the surge in demand, their profits were through the roof!
But there was a problem.
Or rather, there was a problem they didn’t even know about…
As new medicines and medical equipment faced a surge in demand, they often had to change operations.
And change can cause problems.
Every time they rejigged operations, productivity would plummet.
There would be errors…
Employees took time to learn the process...
Classic teething issues!
So, here’s what we proposed:
Frequent process mapping workshops with our team.
It allowed them to regularly rethink their processes as and when they changed.
Any shortcuts or opportunities to optimise could be found straight off the bat.
And any problems?
They were easy to spot.
We managed to save them (on average) $5,000 every time they switched manufacturing.
Not bad, eh?
Process mapping managed to solve their biggest conundrum.
But how will it fare for yours?
Before you put it to the test, there are some questions you should run by your team.
This will help establish the goals of the process mapping.
It basically puts boundaries on a process.
So, when you start to map it out, you know where to begin and where to end.
What marks the beginning of the process?
What is the goal of the process?
Who is included in the process?
What Key Performance Indicators does your team use for this process?
What metrics do you measure the process with?
What resources are required for it?
What risks are involved with the process?
What are your rules for running your business?
Once you’ve defined a direction for your process mapping, you can put it into practice.
We will cover how you can complete your process map later.
I get it.
It’s new. It’s scary.
You don’t even know if it’s going to work!
(It will, I promise.)
But right now you’re staring all the different maps and symbols in the face.
And there’s a lot to get through.
So, let’s take it slo-w-ly.
I’m going to take you through:
What the most popular process maps are
What they show
What they can do for a business
Let’s get started!
Basic Flowchart Process Map
This is the most common option for businesses.
It simply shows you the chronological steps that involve decisions.
This process map is especially useful for software developers.
Activity Process Map
This shows the value added and non-value added activities that occur during a process.
If you want to find out which activities are directly impacting revenue, start here.
If your process passes through lots of departments, try a swimlane flowchart.
It’s just like a basic process map, but shows the different teams that interact with it.
High-level Process Map
Also known as a value-chain map, it shows processes in-depth.
However, it is limited in detail when it comes to decision-making or rework loops.
This is best used for mapping out new roles, responsibilities and projects.
This is used to show the flow of information and materials from business to customer.
They are used to analyse data, record measurements and gain insights for future projects.
SIPOC Process Map
‘SIPOC’ stands for supplier, inputs, processes, outputs and customers.
It focuses on the essentials of the process as it moves from the supplier to the customer.
You should now know the type of process map that you should use.
But don’t start celebrating just yet.
Your next challenge is understanding the symbols used in process mapping.
To make things that much easier, I’ve brought them all together.
So, once you’ve drafted the tasks that go into a process, you can find the symbols to match!
Yes, it really is that easy.
Let me guess:
I’ve swayed you!
You’re convinced that process mapping is going to do away with your problems…
And then supercharge your efficiency.
You’re ready to get started.
And get started now.
Here’s the quickstart guide to your next process map.
First, you need to identify what problem you want to solve.
Is there a particular process that is:
Causing you lag?
Costing you money?
When you’ve settled on the process you want to visualise, start a new process mapping document.
There are lots of ways you can create a document to map your process.
You could go back-to-basics with pen, paper and a few post-it notes…
Or you could use those new nifty online tools and software programmes.
They come fully loaded with templates, symbols and opportunities for team collaboration in real-time.
Work out what kind of process map will work best for you.
From the detail of the process to the industry you work in, each type satisfies a different purpose.
(You can refresh your memory on the types of process map in chapter 3.)
Next, you want to brainstorm all the different tasks that make up the process.
This is when things list post-its come in handy.
Don’t worry about sequence or symbols…
Bring the entire team together and work out who does what.
At this stage, you also want to work out the level of detail you want.
You don’t want your legal eagles to catalog every minute behind their desk to then get a vague response from your customer service team.
In fact, this is the exact problem one of our clients was having last year.
We started talking with the director of an eCommerce firm about 9 months ago.
They had tried process mapping before…
But it went pear-shaped.
The problem was gathering together all the information about the process.
They were a rapidly-growing company.
That meant their team was bursting at the seams!
So, the incoming steps for the process maps were jumbled, delayed and inconsistent.
Here’s how we saved the day:
We held a process mapping workshop for their team.
It meant every stakeholder could come together and provide consistent and clear instructions on what they do.
In a remote world, that can be tricky!
Now, you want to set the boundaries of the process map.
This is easy.
When does the process start?
When does it end?
Go ahead, and bookend the process.
Now you’ve just got to fill it in!
You’ve already collected all the steps that make up a process.
Just put them in order…
Make the description of each step start with a verb, i.e. ‘process complaint’ or ‘order materials’.
Find the matching symbols and connect them all together with some arrows.
All you need to do now is review the process map.
Share your first draft with the stakeholders and see what they think.
Have you gotten something wrong?
Is a step missing?
Is it in enough detail?
Send copies out to your team and reflect on it together.
Online tools and software are really useful for this part.
A few clicks of your mouse and the process map is shared with your team members!
Once they’ve given you the all-clear, your process map is complete.
Wasn’t so hard, right?
Still not on board?
Give me just one more chance…
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of process maps.
It can improve employee engagement.
Employee satisfaction is a hard thing to pin down.
But when you bring the team together and tap into what they do, you can free up their 9-to-5 and validate the work they do.
By showing you value their input into operations on paper, you can start to do it in real life, too.
It can highlight even the smallest of problems.
Spending too much money on this process?
Devoting a lot of time to that one?
When a process is mapped out, everyone can see the issue.
Whether they work in the department or not.
And when you all understand the issue, everyone can chip in to remap the process.
Many hands make light work.
It boosts customer satisfaction.
I mean, who doesn’t want to make their customers happier?
Isn’t that the point of running a business?
By rebuilding your business processes with efficiency in mind, you can enhance customer service.
Product or service delivery runs smoother...
And customer support can receive the attention it deserves with freed-up employees.
It can help you optimise your processes.
So process maps can highlight problems.
But did you know it can show how to solve them, too?
It shows you opportunities to automate repetitive tasks that are eating away at your team’s productivity.
Automating these tedious, outdated processes is what we do when we aren’t helping businesses with process mapping…
It helps you produce training and documentation materials.
Imagine you run an online clothing shop.
You’ve been pretty successful for the last 3 years.
Heck, you just bagged $20,000 in profit this year!
But just as you pop the cork on the champagne, you get an email.
Sarah from HR isn’t sticking around.
She’s decided she hates anything to do with eCommerce.
In fact, she can’t even stand to be in the office with your team a moment longer.
She’s just quit with no notice.
“That’s okay, we have a pretty solid HR team.
We’ll be fine!”
Famous last words.
Turns out Sarah was pretty important.
She did 40% of the work in HR.
But the real problem is no one is really sure how she did it.
She just found her own process along the way.
If you had documentation of how Sarah did her work, step by step, this wouldn’t be a problem.
You’d just hand over the documents to the nearest employee and they’d get up to speed.
It helps you comply with regulations.
Running a business is hard enough without having government rules floating above your head.
But process mapping can help you with this, as well.
You can map a process…
Log the changes that need to be made to comply with regulations…
And then redesign the map!
Plus, process maps can help auditors understand the company better and faster.
You can use the wrong information to draw process maps.
It happens to the best of us.
We get something mixed up or forget a crucial detail.
And when you have to rely on lots of different employees, lots of little mistakes add up.
That means your process maps could be misleading and therefore won’t be much help to anyone.
You need to have clear communication for process mapping.
All stakeholders have to be involved for process mapping to work.
Otherwise, you end up with a small sample size and big gaps to fill.
Both can lead to inaccuracy.
And we’ve already talked about where that can lead.
But have no fear-
You don’t need to be a process mapping pro to get it right.
You just need to know some who can lend a helping hand.
(HINT: that’s us.)
Talk to the Automation Experts!
There you have it.
Everything you need to get you started.
You should now know:
Which process map will work for you
The symbols you need to know
And the steps you need to take to draw your map
Ready to take the plunge?
Discover how your company can reach hyper growth with the power of automation.