Business workflow mapping is a methodology for understanding, improving, automating, and managing how an organization conducts its business. It enables organizations to standardize the way processes work across functional lines.
It creates clear visibility of all activities within a process by enabling cross-functional team members to collaborate more efficiently and effectively than previously possible. A key aspect of business workflow mapping is that it helps an organization “go beyond just the running of individual processes” to look at overall business performance.
Thus, improvement in one area can positively impact another area of the company without direct involvement from that area’s managers or employees. This enables businesses to increase quality, reduce costs, improve service levels, and reduce response time, leading to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Identify Your Organization’s Best Practices
Business workflow mapping is the process management discipline that enables organizations to design, execute, measure, analyze, and improve their business processes. Typically organizations have an “as-is” process map/diagram of what they are currently doing – this will be different for each organization.
You must create an “as-is” process map/diagram because it identifies the current state of the entire process flow for your area(s) of responsibility (e.g., sales order processing). This “as-is” process should include information on key performance indicators (KPI) such as cost, time, quality, etc., that can be used to measure your current performance against desired performance.
Once you have completed the “as-is” process map/diagram, you will then proceed to create a “to-be” process map/diagram of what should be happening for the same area(s) of responsibility using best practices within your industry as well as across organizations in general.
As-Is in Process Design
The responsibilities section identifies the owners of each significant activity within your process design. For example, if order processing involves more than one department (e.g., sales and customer service), it is crucial to identify who is responsible for each significant activity.
This will help you ensure effective communication between departments and improve the overall customer experience.
The objectives section should include a list of key performance indicators (KPI) used to measure your current performance against desired performance and short-term and long-term goals that need to be met for this area of responsibility within your company.
Once again, KPIs that indicate better quality, reduced costs, improved response times, etc., are essential for successful process design and implementation. If you do not have any KPIs in place at this time, you must define them now because they will play an integral role in guiding future process improvements.
The activities section will identify the significant steps that need to be taken to achieve your objectives. In addition, each activity should have a list of its inputs and outputs so it can be easily linked back to the “as-is” process map/diagram you created earlier.
For example, if the input for a particular activity within a process is a sales order generated by the sales department, this information should be documented in this section as other relevant information such as the source and destination(s) for that input.
To execute any activity within your process design, you must consider all necessary inputs from other departments or suppliers in advance. The “inputs” section should list all required information for each activity to complete it successfully.
For example, if you have a process to handle customer returns and the expected completion time is two days, it may be beneficial for you to require a “forecast” of customer returns in advance so you can proactively plan accordingly.
To complete any business-related task, there needs to be an output generated from that activity. The “outputs” section links back to the associated activities within your “to-be” process map/diagram because it lists all outputs that flow from each activity within your process design going forward.
This ensures clear communication between departments and enhances understanding of the overall process flow.
In addition to using internal customers to complete activities along your process, it is also essential to identify any external customers involved in this area of responsibility within your organization.
In the “as-is” process map/diagram, you can list all external customers by name and indicate whether they have a direct or indirect relationship with your department(s) going forward.
The steps taken in this section allow for an easy transition from the “as-is” to the “to-be” processes because any changes that need to be implemented can easily be communicated across departments and externally with no confusion on either side due to clear communication between all parties involved.
Risks and Controls
Risk management is a continuous cycle that starts with identifying potential risks early on in the process. The “risks” section lists all risks associated with each activity within your “to-be” process map/diagram to ensure they are addressed before moving forward.
There may be risks that cannot be controlled, such as inclement weather conditions during a specific season. Still, you need to identify these areas because they can significantly impact your process design going forward.
In addition, you should also list any controls or mitigations in place to help prevent failure along the way if any of these possible risk scenarios do occur. For example, if sales orders need to be approved by multiple managers before they can be considered “official,” this should be noted in the risks and controls section.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are a critical step toward business process improvement because it allows you to monitor and measure various elements of your process design as it is being executed. These indicators need to align with all of your core objectives, so you can quickly identify whether or not they are being achieved as expected.
In addition, if there is an issue with any specific KPIs, such as a significant increase in cycle time for customer returns, you will know exactly which area needs to be improved upon to avoid performance issues going forward.
Analyze and Evaluate
Rethink: Before beginning, ask yourself what needs improvement or change in your workflow.
“Can we [or “can you”] rethink this area? Do we need a new approach? Could we do it better?”
Reconfigure: With the answer from step one in mind, consider alternative ways of completing this step.
Conflicts among values and goals within an organization often indicate that a reconfiguration is necessary. Ask yourself: “Do we have the right people doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time?”
Resequence: When thinking about a step’s position in your workflow, consider whether it matters what order things happen in or if it can be rearranged for efficiency or ease of use.
You may also want to ask yourself: “Does this need to come first? Where does this belong?”
Relocate: Consider either moving a step completely (and possibly adding/subtracting steps and other factors as well) or simply shifting its location within your process map.
Consider asking yourself questions such as: “Could we do this step better if it were performed before/after another step?”
Reduce: Look for ways to make your workflow more efficient or effective. You can focus on goals such as “produce the same results with reduced resources” or “accomplish the goal in less time.”
Additional questions to ask include: “Can we do this faster? How much value would that add?”
Re-assign: If there are too many steps or an unneeded amount of resource allocation, re-assign people and tasks accordingly.
Ask yourself questions like: Should different people play specific roles? Do we need this much help? Would delegating responsibilities reduce costs?
Retool: Eventually, you may have to reevaluate your workflow. Sometimes steps need to be deleted, additional steps added, or the same step performed differently.
Ask questions like: “Can we eliminate this step? What would that look like?”
These are just some of the ways of approaching each step of the framework. It’s essential to try to get through it and take the time to think about the best method for completing each step.