Every business in the world relies on workflows, series of tasks that process data. Some businesses have carefully planned and managed workflows, while others follow more organic approaches. Workflow mapping is a powerful technique that can help you to better understand how data flows through your organization and impacts decisions.
Workflow Mapping Definition
A workflow is a series of tasks that involve processing data inputs resulting in data transformation, decisions or follow-up actions. Some processes are simple and easily predictable, and others can vary significantly depending on the inputs and decisions.
Workflow mapping is a method of tracing the steps and branching points in a workflow and representing the steps and actions using symbols. It is a major element of documenting workflows and is essential to effectively managing and improving them.
Typically, the most commonly mapped workflows are process workflows. These are the ones that are most predictable and repeatable. Therefore, they are easiest to understand and represent. Workflow process mapping using involves a series of symbols that guide viewers through the steps and branches of the process. In many cases, a map can communicate much more than a written description of the workflow.
Workflow Mapping Example
There are many different workflows that can exist in a given business. For those that have capital equipment that requires maintenance, inspections are a common occurrence. A simple example of an inspection workflow may be as follows:
- Technician opens checklist and begins inspection.
- Technician completes and submits an inspection report.
- Report is forwarded to the maintenance manager.
- Maintenance manager reviews the report.
- If the report is completed properly, the maintenance manager approved the report.
- If there are issues with the report, the maintenance manager sends it back to be corrected.
- If the report indicates no issues with the equipment, it is filed, and the workflow is complete.
- If the report indicates an issue with the equipment, a work order is created.
- The work order is scheduled with a technician
- The technician completes the work order and marks it done.
- The workflow is complete, and both the report and work order are filed.
Even this relatively simple workflow is somewhat cumbersome to think about when written out in steps. In the real world, it would likely be even more complex. For example, different types of repairs may be sent to different teams. Additionally, there may be follow-up steps such as aggregating the maintenance reports from all the similar pieces of equipment.
The solution is to visually map the workflow. If the above workflow was mapped using a process flow map, it might look like the following:
The Benefits of Mapping Business Processes and Workflows
The most obvious reason to map workflows is that they are much easier to read than a written-out version. However, there are plenty more reasons to love this method of representing workflows.
- Easier To Follow and Analyze: Trying to optimize your workflows is impossible if you don’t understand them fully. Even if you have a good sense of a workflow, it can be difficult to analyze unless you have a map to follow along with. You can quickly find better paths and opportunities for optimization.
- Useful for Identifying Redundancies: A lot of workflows include redundancies and unnecessary steps. This is a common symptom of workflows that emerged organically. However, it can be a problem even for managed workflows. Mapping them out will help you to find where steps are being functionally repeated or achieving nothing.
- Improved Transparency and Accountability: Documented workflows can greatly increase transparency in an organization. If data is passing around between team members without a clear understanding of how or why, it is easy for things to get lost or misunderstood. Simply spending the time to document your workflows will ensure that everyone is on the same page and accountable.
- Better for Knowledge Management: Knowledge management is a major challenge for many organizations. When someone new comes on board, they likely won’t understand the workflows well, especially if they remain unmapped and undocumented. Mapping business processes and workflows will improve your knowledge management and retention.
Optimizing Your Business By Mapping Workflows
When you want to examine your workflow, start by bringing your team together. This doesn’t need to be every person involved in the workflow, but it should be a good representation. It can also be helpful to have a workflow or process improvement expert involved. By bringing together a team, you can ensure that you have a more comprehensive view of the workflow.
Start by collecting information and data about the workflow. This should include identifying the key steps (don’t try to identify all of them yet) and the main people responsible for different stages. It is also helpful to capture important parameters such as deadlines and approval requirements.
Then, start mapping out your workflow. Ideally, this should be done with a standard modeling system such as UML. You can then analyze your mapped workflow. With the team that you assembled, consider where you are being inefficient.
Your workflows are central to your business operations. Therefore, mapping them out can be the key to significantly improving productivity and cutting costs.
Consider using your mapped processes to set up a workflow management tool. This will give you more control to optimize your workflows and increase your efficiency.
How a Workflow Mapping Tool Can Help
The right mapping tool will help you to map your workflows smoothly and efficiently. While you can draw everything by hand, this is slow and labor-intensive. Plus, you will have to remember all your symbols, which can be an extra, unnecessary chore.
Another advantage of the right software is that you will be able to make changes. In most cases, the process of mapping a workflow includes multiple revisions as you realize you forgot special circumstances or small steps. It is a good idea to periodically reviews your workflow maps to ensure that they are still accurate. You may find edge cases to include during your reviews. All this is much easier if you are using a purpose-built software tool.
Fluix Can Help Enhance Your Document Workflows
Improving your workflows is easier when you can automate them and use software to implement workflow rules. Fluix is a document workflow automation software. It includes powerful features such as form filling, e-signature, approvals and analytics. It will help you to optimize your workflow operations.
Start today by mapping your workflows then implementing them digitally using Fluix. Creating document workflows is easy. Plus, our mobile apps make creating, completing and approving documents even easier. Get started today with a free trial.