Essential Guide to Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping can be simply defined as those activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a business process should be completed and how the success of a business process can be determined.

The following are tips gleaned from around the web followed by expert opinions and tips on business process mapping.

  • Apply business process mapping to the right types of processes. Processes that reflect how decisions are made may not be the best processes to map because they are limited in steps, and may not offer the most impact for your time.
  • Be clear about the focus of your process mapping. Sometimes the inefficiencies in your processes are outside of the process itself. It then becomes critical that you review any intersecting (secondary) processes as well.
  • Aim for good. There is no perfect. Enough said.
  • Use care in cross-party responsibility process maps. These types of process maps are not the ideal, as the leading party is difficult to show graphically. Take care in the analysis to differentiate the leader when the process crosses boundaries.
  • Get someone skilled to map your processes. Consider outside help if you do not have someone currently trained in mapping.
  • Validate your maps. Right after you draw them, review them with the process participants so that you ensure they are correct.
  • Be constantly aware of your assumptions. Your assumptions and those of your staff can get you into trouble. Keep asking the questions that reveal your biases.
  • Don’t fix your processes until they are fully mapped. Define your ‘as-is’ state completely, ensuring that you see the whole picture and changes are then better informed.
  • Remember that there are always exceptions and errors. Capture these, but remember that they may not be the norm and may not reflect the real as-is situation.
  • The people who use the processes are the experts. It is critical that you have an appropriate overview because some people may be too close to change the processes, but they will be able to tell you whether the postulated changes have a chance of working.
  • Collect all the documents from your improvement process. Improvement projects are not just about the map. Sure, it is important, but you may have to create it again.

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Guide to Business Process Mapping from other Great Entrepreneurs

According to some great entrepreneur (s) / business owners, here are their experiences on how business process mapping:

According to Sean Martin, Marketing Manager:

“We are actually in the process of BP Mapping for our sales and marketing teams right now. It’s important that we tie these different reports into a singular goal: Growth.

To do that, we’ve employed some strict metrics in what we call a 5×3 Growth Plan. But the most important piece of advice I have for companies looking to invest in BPM is to RECORD AND MAP ALL OF YOUR PROCESSES BEFORE YOU START CHANGING THEM.

Today’s marketing world is in a flux of constant innovation and optimization. Because of this, we marketers are often hustling to implement, report, and optimize our tests all at one time.

This simply doesn’t work. I advise agencies employing business process modeling to slow down and make sure you get a complete and accurate picture of your business process before you start making changes. Crawl before you walk – and walk before you crawl – otherwise you’ll end up tripping over your own optimization goals.”

According to Ray McKenzie, Founder and Principal of Red Beach Advisors:

“Companies that decide to map their processes should evaluate the top three to five processes to map first.  Every company has several processes and they all need to be addressed.

However, every process cannot be a top priority. It is best for companies to evaluate the top company-impacting pain points, evaluate which points need process definition, and structure a process to solve that pain point.

If there is a process that is revenue generating or negative impacting, those should rise to the top of the priority list. As a company is able to develop more and more process, the company injects more stability and growth potential.

“The first process selected to be mapped should be the largest pain point in the business which restricts revenue generation. Every business is going to have obstacles and pain points to have growth.

An efficiently run business is a successful business and successful businesses have significant revenue. Revenue generation keeps the business moving forward so a company should want to remove all obstacles slowing the acquisition of revenue.”

According to Robby Slaughter, Principal at AccelaWork:

“The technical capacity of BPM has dramatically outpaced the level of adoption or even awareness of the field. Most companies have never done any process mapping — not even informally — and they suffer from poorly-defined procedures, minimal staff engagement, and significant rework and duplication.

“Your time is the most important investment, and purchasing software or hiring consultants won’t help if your team isn’t truly committed to process mapping. Learn one or two of the UML forms. I suggest using case diagrams and activity diagrams.

Practice these extensively with fun, non-work processes like planning a party or scoring a frame of bowling. Once you learn the technology of process mapping, you’ve got a fighting chance of implementing it in your organization.

“We’ve done process mapping for all kinds of organizations, from marketing firms to factories to logistics companies. In most cases, the experience requires sitting down with staff directly and watching them work to learn about the procedures.

This is the only accurate method to document the as-is state of the organization. Training materials, manuals, and even what management says is usually outdated or flat wrong.

“It’s good to select a low-impact, high-visibility process to highlight the capacity and utility of mapping. From there, the next step is to develop a lexicon for the organization. This is the terminology that people use to describe activities and work product. Then, we’re most interested in processes that cross teams or departments. That’s usually the area where there is the biggest disconnect and the most challenges.”

According to Mike Hammontree, CEO of WundrMedia:

“Business process mapping is a very important part of setting up a new business or just a new part of a business. You have to know who is going to do what and at what level of efficiency and quality because if they aren’t meeting those needs your business could fail right out of the gate.

“My best advice is make sure you have every little thing mapped out, even to who will be getting the coffee for the office, you want your office to be moving as smoothly as possible to make sure there are no kinks. Especially when starting something new, it has to move quickly and effectively to be successful.

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“We just recently finished recruiting our teams for our new magazine, Wundr Magazine, which is an entity of Wundr Media. When doing so we had to map out every single thing from editors to journalists and content creators along with managing trips and photoshoots to make sure everyone is doing their job to the highest level possible.

The way I chose to map my processes was to decide on which is the most important and what would fail if we didn’t get it exactly right from the start. For us it was marketing, of course. If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Or if a magazine launches and no one knows about it, does it even exist?”

According to Jitesh Keswani, CEO at e-Intelligence:

“Business process mapping has been high on most lists of important business sustainable growth plans throughout the last year. It is a logical continuation of deliberate investment into the improvement of business processes. The demand for business process mapping is slowly and steadily picking up.

Essential Guide to Business Process Mapping

The business owners and leaders have understood the value of optimized business processes as an essential part of their overall success. According to a recent study by AIIM, most businesses see business process mapping as a systematic approach to improving their processes.

However, less than half of the business owners really know all they need to about business process mapping. While they show a positive attitude toward adopting business process mapping for their businesses, most of them cite stuck-in-process as the biggest reason for failing to implement business process mapping.

Increasing awareness about business automation however increases the scope of adoption of business process mapping among the business and technology leaders.”

In the field of marketing, business process maps are called journey maps. These journey maps are based on the customer’s perspective and transform complex data into a one-page visual diagram.

According to Kevin Sides, Chief Marketing Officer at ShipMonk, who uses journey maps as business process maps, “Journey maps are our key to business. My specialty is mapping out the standard growth or marketing funnel. It looks like this:

  • Acquisition – How do we get customers to our site?
  • Activation – How do we get them to sign up?
  • Retention – How do we get them to stay?
  • Revenue – How do we make money?
  • Referral – How do we use those customers to get more customers?

“Starting with the gap from customers visiting our site and signup up for our service, we utilize a few different tools to enter them into a journey. Our live chat and eBook are at the forefront of the mix.

We use these to get more information on who they are and what pain points they are having. Once we get their contact information, we enter them into a journey decided upon by the sales person or the lead form they filled out.

For example, if they are fulfilling orders in-house, we’ll send them information on how to transition to outsourcing and the benefits associated, free consultations, signs to outsource, etc. If they are using another fulfillment center, we’ll sell them on what ShipMonk specifically does better.

If they are just getting started we’ll give them information on how to get started themselves and when to consider outsourcing.

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“Once we get customers to sign up, our focus is solely on retaining them. It costs five to seven times more to gain a new customer than to retain a current customer so this is very important.

We send milestone emails and rewards each time a customer reaches a certain number of packages shipped and we check it every few months to make sure everything is going as they’ve hoped.

We proactively try to stay ahead of issues before they boil out of control. This is all done through marketing automation and timed in a behavioral journey.

“Revenue – We have partners who have services that benefit our customers and if we see an opportunity that would benefit our customers first, we’ll enter them into another journey to promote a partner service.

If they aren’t interested, we remove them from the journey immediately and move on. Our goal is to help our customers sell and ship more packages. If they sell more we ship more.

“Referral – It’s pretty simple, if you have a good product or service people will be willing to let others know and write a review. The problem is most people are extremely busy and don’t think to write a review unless they are unhappy. We use journeys to remind customers of the review and what it would mean to our business.”

According to Ted Hessing, Owner at Charlotte Web Development and

“Business process modeling and mapping can seem daunting at first. Which process should you start with? The answer is: Which process needs the most attention?

Company or initiative strategies comes into play, but that may only tell you the general direction to go. In that case, or in the case of initiatives containing multiple processes, it’s a good idea to refine your search.

There are tools that I like to achieve focus: the SIPOC and the Process Performance & Process Capability calculations. A SIPOC can give you a high-level end-to-end view of your process.

Often by examining the interactions on the ends, the suppliers and consumers, it’s obvious which process to begin to model. Process Capability and Process Performance calculations give us common language to measure processes against each other – even if they are wildly different.

Once we have a way to quantitatively measure processes, we can then choose to model the worst-performing process in order to begin to see how we might improve it, which would then improve the whole.”

According to Kimberly Watson-Hemphill, Founder and CEO of Firefly Consulting, and Co-Author of Innovating Lean Six Sigma:

“Business Process Mapping is an excellent way to get started on a journey of continuous improvement. How can we improve if we don’t know our starting point? We can’t! So, the first step is understanding our current level of performance. To this end, we need to know what our current processes are and how to measure their performance.

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“Each company has core processes that are essential for achieving the company’s strategy. For example, in an insurance company, the claims process is absolutely critical, and could be a good starting point for process mapping.

In a manufacturing company, planning and scheduling is essential, and could be an excellent starting point. Pick something that is important, so that the time spent on documenting and evaluating the process is viewed as beneficial.

“To map the process, work with a team of individuals who do the work on a daily basis. They’re the ones who know how the process is really working, and what are the potential issues. Some key questions to ask include:

  • What are the process steps from beginning to end?
  • What function is responsible for each step in the process?
  • How do we measure the performance of each process?

“No investment is needed to get started. The team can begin with just a stack of sticky notes on a white board, and once the process is determined, document it for future reference in a software program that the company is already using.

Through the exercise of working with the team on business process mapping, many process improvement ideas will surface. You’ll be amazed at all of the good ideas that team members have on how things could be done better. Now is the perfect time to get started!”


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