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The Hidden Usefulness of Process Mapping and Workflow Diagramming
Best Practices, Digital Transformation, Process Automation

The Hidden Usefulness of Process Mapping and Workflow Diagramming

Phil Ray
September 11, 2017

Workflow automation makes it easier and faster to carry out your business processes. But before you jump straight into automating all your workflows, you probably want to map out your process and build your workflow diagram.

Here’s how these two initial steps will make your workflows more successful:

Workflow Process Mapping

Workflow process mapping is the initial step of creating a workflow, where users take a careful look at the business process before building the actual workflow.

In this step, users analyze the targeted business process, study its current state and define the people involved and what actions are needed to automate the manual process. In a way, process mapping to a workflow is like a floor plan to a house – users need it in order to build a strong and reliable workflow.

To map out workflows for new processes:

  • Have a clear definition of where you need the workflow to start and the goals that it needs to meet
  • Identify who will be involved in the business process
  • Recognize the actions that each person/department need to take for the process to flow
  • Define the resources that will go into the workflow: documents, applications, location, other processes involved, etc.
  • Define the relationships between each action: sequential, simultaneous, recurrence, etc.
  • Provide deadlines, if needed
  • Identify parts that could contribute to bottlenecks and flaws

To map out workflows for outdated processes:

  • Map out the current process that needs to be updated. In this step, users map out what the process actually looks like in real life, not how you want it to look
  • Identify existing flaws and bottlenecks
  • Analyze possible solutions to the issues
  • Apply changes to the map, or start a new one

The Benefits of Process Mapping

When you map out a process on paper you develop a broad vision of the business process from start to finish.

You also gain a detailed understanding of who and what is involved in the process and a get clearly communicated set of values, goals and expectations. A visual, systematic look at a process allows you to pinpoint troublesome areas that need further human involvement. Often, you don’t know what the end result of a business process can actually be, so a process map provides you with the possible options.

Overall, if your process is complex, process mapping helps you save time and resources when building the actual workflow.

How to effectively map workflow processes:

  • Gather a team of people who would use the workflow
  • Encourage open communication and discussion
  • Map the biggest processes first, and then the smaller processes within

Workflow Diagramming

Workflow diagramming is the actual process of using software to create a workflow from start to finish.

Workflows are usually built in the form of flowcharts that are easy to visualize and navigate. Once you have your business process mapped out, you can get into your workflow designer and assign tasks or notification alerts to each step of the process.

With simple business processes, you might want to skip the step of process mapping and start diagramming your workflow using your automation software right away. With complex business processes, it’s helpful to build your workflow diagram in tandem with the process map.

To create a workflow diagram, keep your business process in mind and:

  • Understand what triggers the start of your workflow
  • Understand what the result will be
  • Understand the steps that need to take place from start to finish
  • Use your process map to build your flow chart with these components in the designer

The Benefits of Workflow Diagramming

Sometimes, you might think that a business process needs to be mapped in one way, but when you actually start building the diagram you find that inefficiencies in the process make the workflow more complicated than necessary.

A workflow diagram helps you view the steps and elements in your process distinctively. Plus, it translates your business process into an outline that makes problem-solving easy.

How to effectively build a workflow diagram:

  • Keep in mind that your workflow is always evolving, so your diagram will change with it
  • Make your first workflow diagram as basic as getting an approval and build on it later
  • Automate as little of the work as possible, and focus more on the process – keep it simple
  • If you find that the workflow is taking too much time, revisit your process map and consider splitting it

The principle “measure twice, cut once” is important in any task, including workflow building. By carefully inspecting your business process before building a workflow diagram, you not only save time and effort, but also gain a better understanding of the process and your business.

Mapping and diagraming your workflow is not just prep-work, but the foundation of true digital transformation.

 

To learn more about the ways in which workflow automation can optimize your business processes, visit our website

 

Phil Ray has been with Nintex for 5 years as the Business Applications Manager in our IT department. Phil is responsible for implementing and enhancing our internal business applications. He also leads our in-house Nintex practice, using the Nintex Workflow Platform to improve our own internal business processes.