Spare a thought for one Microsoft engineer who, in 2014, brought the Azure cloud platform to a standstill. The platform was down for 10.5 hours, affecting 425 million customers worldwide. The cause? A failure to follow the company’s processes. As the technology giant explained at the time, the engineer had decided to take a shortcut which led to the failure.
Processes are vital to the successful running of any business. They make companies efficient, reduce friction, and minimize the risk of mistakes. From financial management to human resources, onboarding, and all kinds of operations, businesses rely on efficient processes every day. It is therefore surprising that most businesses only occasionally document their processes, and many lack any kind of standardization.
Process mapping is the method that companies can use to draw out their processes, document them, and make them more efficient. If you haven’t started at your organization yet, this “process mapping for beginners” guide will tell you what you need to know.
What is process mapping?
Process mapping is a planning and management activity which involves the description, documentation, and visualization of a business’s processes. People who know the process come together and describe each of the steps involved, then map them out visually. It is a documenting activity which brings information out of people’s heads and makes it accessible to anyone. It is also the first stage of process automation.
What is the purpose of process mapping?
If you already know how a process works—whether it’s paying invoices, approving leave requests, or upgrading company IT—you might not see the point in visually mapping the activity out. Nonetheless, businesses that do rigorously map out their processes often notice serious benefits. There are many examples of successful firms that have been transformed by this activity.
Benefits of process mapping include:
- Helps you improve processes by being able to pinpoint inefficiencies
- Reduces the risks of mistakes and errors when people don’t understand the process
- Can discourage people from taking shortcuts that could prove costly
- Helps everyone at different stages of the process understand what other colleagues are responsible for
- Invaluable for training new employees who don’t understand your organization’s processes yet
- Can make your processes more reliable
- Is the first step to process automation and the benefits it brings
Process mapping for beginners: How to start
In our recent webinar, we went into more detail about how to conduct a process mapping session – you can watch it on-demand here.
That said, the fundamentals of process mapping are reasonably straightforward:
- Identify the process or problem you’re trying to map out
Many businesses become interested in process mapping after they have experienced a costly mistake or noticed bottlenecks. Get employees together in a room who genuinely understands the process. They can then identify what went wrong and how it could be improved.
- Brainstorm the process
It’s really useful to discuss this process in detail, describing how it works, who is responsible for what, and ways it could be improved.
- Set boundaries for the process
Most processes in a business are interlinked with many others, so it can be difficult to identify exactly where each process begins and ends. For example, does the supplier invoice payment process begin when you send them a purchase order, or does it begin when the supplier sends an invoice? Each business needs to identify the specific start and end of each of its processes.
- Determine the sequence of steps in the process
At this stage you start to get more granular, describing every single step in the process and all possible variations. Many businesses begin mapping processes out on paper or a whiteboard, but it becomes a lot more flexible and efficient to use a digital interface like Nintex Promapp®. You can add or remove steps at the click of a button and save yourself a lot of time.
- Verify the process map is correct
Everyone involved in the process mapping should step back and verify if the process does in fact line up with what you do. This is also the stage where you can begin identifying improvements and eliminating any unnecessary steps.
- Start automating the process
Now you can start automating your processes. With technology like Nintex, you can set up your processes so the software handles many of the tasks which people previously did manually – from sending emails to entering data into spreadsheets, creating documents, or even collecting signatures.
Get started with process mapping
Are you ready to begin your process mapping journey? Watch our on-demand webinar now and learn how to run a successful process mapping session. Or to learn more about our process mapping software, read about Nintex Promapp® here.
Now that you have read this “process mapping for beginners” guide, why not learn more about how Nintex can help you begin mapping processes at your organization with a free trial of Nintex Promapp®.