In today’s world of supply chain disruption, worker shortages, and higher costs, effective process discovery is a vital tool for businesses navigating an unpredictable landscape.
So, what exactly is process discovery and how can you put it into practice?
What is effective process discovery?
Process discovery is about creating a detailed ‘as-is’ picture of your organization’s processes. By mapping out all the steps involved in your workflows, you can then find ways to make them more efficient.
Effective process discovery is as much an art as it is a science. Very often, processes which at first appear simple are anything but. Therefore, process discovery requires an experienced leader to elicit all the information needed to describe tasks accurately.
In detail: What is process mapping?
Organizations undertake this mapping activity for various reasons, but common process discovery goals include:
- Preparing for process automation
- Identifying key players in a process
- Categorizing and prioritizing processes
- Improving efficiency, saving time, and reducing costs
- Finding ways to make the business more resilient
6 steps for process discovery
If your organization is looking to improve its processes, the following six steps outline how to manage an effective process discovery project:
- Determine your process discovery goals
The first step in process discovery is to define your goals. Each organization is unique, but typical process discovery goals include things like:
- Improving the order-to-cash process
- Improving manufacturing processes
- Reducing redundancy in back-office tasks
- Understanding marketing activities and their impact
- Improving operations processes
- Cutting waste from accounts processes
- Reviewing priority processes
Most organizations have tens or even hundreds of processes running at any time – from big things like paying invoices on time, through to small things like cash requests to buy a coworker a birthday cake. It’s therefore essential to prioritize which processes need your time and attention.
As the Pareto Principle would have it: 80% of business processes offer only limited value to your business, while 20% could be described as core processes that are genuinely vital to your organization’s survival.
You know your business best and may already have an idea of which core processes could be improved. Process discover often starts in the following departments:
- Customer support
- Staff onboarding and HR
Once you have decided on your priority processes, select one in particular that you wish to focus on. If this is the first time you have conducted process discovery, then it might be most helpful to focus on a simpler process to begin with.
- Map out processes
The next step for process discovery is simply to map out each process. The recommended approach is to set up a workshop with employees who are involved in the process, then ask them to describe how it works.
For example, if you are mapping out your sales process, then effective process discovery would benefit from the input of sales managers, individual sales staff, as well as related departments such as marketing and customer care.
When mapping out processes it’s helpful to take a visual approach – literally drawing the process, whether with pen and paper or process mapping software. With a visual representation of the process in front of you, it’s much easier to explain what’s happening and why and then identify where you can improve the workflow.
- Critique processes
Process discovery is most effective when team members feel free to critique the workflow. Working collaboratively, team members can pinpoint redundant steps, remove unnecessarily approvals then discover ways to streamline tasks.
- Categorize processes
As your process discovery workshops continue, you will learn more about how many processes your business is currently running and how many people are involved in each. Over time, it is useful to categorize these processes, defining:
- Which is high priority when it comes to process improvement (i.e., processes that generate money for the company, or those which are unnecessarily complex).
- Which are low category processes (i.e., processes that are already efficient or which would deliver little value even if they were improved).
- Which processes can be eliminated since they are redundant.
- Identify long and short-term improvements
Effective process discovery is fundamentally about business improvement. To begin with, it’s valuable to focus on short term improvements, picking the ‘low hanging fruit’ which will have a serious impact for your business.
But effective process discovery is also about the bigger picture. Sometimes, this means reviewing entire workflows and finding ways to completely reorganize them to make the company more productive in the long term.
Make process discovery simpler with Nintex
Effective process discovery is a complex activity, which requires time, patience, and teamwork. Traditionally, businesses used whiteboards or pen and paper to map out processes, yet this could quickly become time-consuming and confusing for workshop participants. Fortunately, with process mapping software from Nintex, effective process discovery becomes much easier.
The technology allows you to build out process maps quickly and collaboratively, add in stages as you go, and also use smart technology to highlight potential redundancies or ways to improve the map.
Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive