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Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping accounts for all workflows, processes, subprocesses and tasks so you can identify areas for improvement, reduce inefficiencies and ensure alignment with larger business needs. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of the scope and purpose of business process mapping, and of the tools that can help you implement it within your organization.

What Is Business Process Mapping?

Business process mapping (BPM) is an approach used to visually represent and analyze the steps and activities involved in a business process.

Its goal is to create a clear and detailed visualization of how a particular process works from start to finish. This can be done using various graphical tools and symbols to illustrate the flow of information, materials, and actions within the process.

Business process mapping originated in the early 20th century and has been refined over decades, initially in terms of methodology and later in regard to technology. 

Flow process charts in mechanical engineering were the first structured approach to process mapping, as documented in the 1921 book “Process Charts – First Steps In Finding the One Best Way” published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The business world started replicating these methods by the middle of the 20th century. Almost any modern industry can benefit from process mapping, but this strategy is most commonly used in the manufacturing, industrial, information technology and human resources sectors.

Common terms you’ll hear as you embark on process mapping include:

  • Tasks: Designated actions completed by a person or system either once or repeatedly
  • Process: A set of tasks completed in a specific order by people and/or systems
  • Participant: The system or person who performs actions to complete a task
  • Flow: The order of process events
  • Gateway: The part of the process where a system or person makes a decision that can change the flow 
  • Event: An item that begins, ends or reroutes the process

In addition to common terms, your maps will use common process symbols to generate a shared operational understanding. 

During a process mapping initiative, you’ll break down each stage of the operational process in each of your business departments. For example, a manufacturing firm would create maps that cover everything from material acquisition or supply to storage, production, distribution and sale. 

Other types of enterprises have different process maps types and unique objectives, but all share the scope of documenting all business activities in a logical, visual format.

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Theories Behind Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping (BPM) fits within the larger theoretical framework of business process management. 

BPM advocates for continual analysis and improvement of organizational workflows, and involves documenting these workflows for replication with tools such as process maps. Through BPM, your company can codify and develop the institutional knowledge that often resides with a few individuals.

Current theories that intersect with a BPM-driven approach include:

  • Activity-Based Management: An operational system that applies activity-based costing, which strives to reduce overhead and optimizing pricing by assigning resources to specific work tasks
  • Human-Centered Design: A problem-solving framework that creates solutions tailored to the specific audience
  • Process Improvement: An optimization theory that advocates for continual assessment and iteration of workflows and systems
  • Six Sigma: One common process improvement approach used to reduce variability and increase productivity for better products and enhanced employee morale
  • System Theory: The view of an organization as a set of interconnected systems working together toward common objectives
  • Total Quality Management: A process improvement strategy that uses ongoing improvement of the customer experience to drive success and sustainability

State-of-the-art tech fuels current BPM approaches, providing the tools you need to apply these theories in your workplace. In addition to process mapping, BPM theories incorporate machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation.

Scope and Purpose of Business Process Mapping

Process maps connect with large-scale process models to provide an in-depth view of the steps your teams take to achieve organizational goals. 

Both maps and models work within a larger business process management strategy designed to facilitate ongoing improvement and support scalability.

You can access a comprehensive guide on how to create a process map in this article, and here are the basics steps involved into business process mapping initiatives:

  • Breaking down business processes: Identify each and every action, task and sub-process that unite to form the processes in a workflow.
  • Gathering accurate workflow data: Account for the what, who, where and when of discrete and collective processes.
  • Mapping out business processes: Convert observations into your selected process map format.
  • Analyzing business process maps: Challenge each step of a process map with a what-why, who-why, where-why, when-why and how-why approach.
  • Developing and implementing changes: Find ways to optimize productivity by combining or rearranging steps, making improvements or re-engineering.
  • Managing ongoing business processes: Update a map as you implement changes and monitor productivity levels for individual processes and end-to-end workflows.

These six measures still form the basis for business process improvement, but they’ve moved from paper and pencil to the digital space. 

Why You Need Business Process Mapping

Strong process maps create the foundation for a cutting-edge workflow management system that improves performance and reduces waste. When you have maps in place, software can analyze and fine-tune the process to achieve key performance indicators. 

According to data reported by Solutions Review, business process management strategies, including mapping, can generate productivity gains of up to 50% by encouraging collaboration, reducing redundant tasks and matching team members with the appropriate roles.

Your business can also use large-scale process mapping to:

  • Simplify big business ideas into actionable steps
  • Develop materials to enhance employee, client and stakeholder comprehension and engagement
  • Plan for worst-case scenarios and guide choices when solving workplace issues
  • Organize team responsibilities and delegate workflows appropriately
  • Clearly communicate your business operations
  • Support fast, accurate decision-making
  • Evaluate business performance and make adjustments as needed
  • Define the company’s policies and procedures
  • Identify the competitive advantage that can serve as your unique selling proposition
  • Build consensus among employees, teams, departments and stakeholders

With process maps in place, managers and stakeholders can easily replicate processes that work well and reengineer areas that create inefficiencies, bottlenecks and delays. You can pragmatically assess cost-effectiveness and efficiency and make informed decisions about business practices and opportunities.

Choosing a Process Mapping Tool

The best process mapping tools allow you to build digital workflows and automate routine tasks without compromising security. They gather the data you need to develop a competitive edge and refine operations to scale and expand your business.

For the best possible results, look for these key characteristics when you select a process mapping tool.

  • User-friendly platform

An effective process mapping tool should have an intuitive interface that allows users to easily create, edit and navigate through process maps, even without technical expertise. 

  • Flexible features

Look for a mapping tool that supports various types of process notations, such as flowcharts or swimlane diagrams. It should also allow you to customize components such as symbols and labels. This flexibility enables users to align the available resources with their unique process steps and terminology.

  • Integration capabilities

The most useful process mapping tools seamlessly integrate with common software and systems, such as project management tools and data analytics platforms. Integration streamlines data exchange, enhances accuracy and facilitates comprehensive analysis by incorporating information from various sources.

How Fluix Can Help You

Fluix is workflow automation software that can assist businesses with process mapping in several ways, primarily focusing on document workflow automation and collaboration. 

It enables you to map out and automate document workflows. Each step in the workflow can be defined, assigned to specific individuals or teams, and tracked as documents progress through the process.

Aside from this, the task assignment features Fluix has let you assign specific tasks to individuals or teams within your process. This facilitates the mapping of responsibilities and helps in visualizing the flow of tasks through the organization.

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