A crucial step for any business looking to improve productivity and efficiency is identifying inefficiencies in its workflows or business processes and improving upon them. This is made possible with a process we call workflow analysis.
However, workflow analysis is, in turn, only possible after we’ve adequately visualized the business process into a proper workflow diagram, a process we call workflow mapping.
What Is Workflow Mapping?
Workflow mapping is a method to visualize a business process into a comprehensible graphic diagram. The diagram should wholly and accurately diagram the entire process from start to finish while including all the steps and tasks required to complete the workflow.
We can use various techniques to perform the workflow mapping, but the most common way is to use an ANSI standard flowchart, where we’ll use multiple symbols to represent different process tasks and actions.
Workflow mapping is essential for business because only after the workflow has adequately been visualized will you get a clearer view of the whole process, enabling us to analyze and optimize the process.
Workflow mapping is essential for visualizing lengthy and complex processes into easy-to-understand steps. As we know, we tend to process visual information faster than text and audio information, and a detailed workflow diagram will help us understand:
- Where the process starts and ends
- All the tasks that need to be done to complete the process
- Different roles and responsibilities of those working in the process
- When the process is due (deadline)
- The requirements of a successful process
Benefits of Workflow Mapping
Workflow mapping (and workflow analysis) can provide various benefits for your business, including:
1. A clearer view of business processes
By mapping the business process in a visual form, we’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of the workflow either in an as-is condition (how the process is executed) or in a to-be form (the ideal form of the process that we’d prefer).
Everyone involved in the process can use the workflow map to understand better the process requirements, steps, required resources, and objectives.
2. Identifying inefficiencies
One of the critical purposes of performing a workflow mapping is to accurately identify redundancies, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies in the workflow to develop an improvement plan.
Without a workflow map, finding the root cause of the workflow’s problem can be more complex, and a workflow diagram can make it a lot easier to spot bottlenecks by visualizing the entire process.
3. Transparent roles and responsibilities
A common issue to virtually all processes is team members not knowing what’s going on in the process: who’s working on which tasks? Why hasn’t the new deliverable been approved? And so on.
A workflow diagram will allow all team members and stakeholders to quickly identify who’s in charge of what, improving transparency and accountability of the process, which will, in turn, lead to better productivity.
4. Risk management and ensuring compliance
Workflow mapping is also an excellent tool for identifying potential risks and hazards associated with the process, which can help the organization comply with legal regulations related to health and safety.
In legal disputes, a workflow map can also get used as evidence for regulatory standards.
5. Standardizing process
The workflow map can be used to accompany the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the process, bringing uniformity of how different team members execute the process, which will also allow more consistent results. The workflow map can be used as evidence of best practices to show that the process has been optimized accordingly.
How To Perform Workflow Mapping
Step 1: Identify the workflow to be mapped
Although the end goal might be to map all the processes in the organization, remember that your time and resources are finite, so it’s best to pick the process you’d want to optimize first.
How should you select the workflow? In general, there are three main approaches:
- Picking a process that is underperforming with evident inefficiencies. Mapping is done to identify and fix the problem.
- Picking a process that is considered crucial in achieving the organization’s objectives.
- Picking a process closely related to customer satisfaction and improvement can produce an immediate boost to customer experience.
Step 2: Collect data
Gathering as much information as possible about the chosen process. Observe the process’s execution and interview as many team members/stakeholders involved in the process as possible.
Also, ask critical stakeholders about how the process could be improved and the issues they typically face.
Step 3: Develop a draft
Based on the data you’ve gathered, it’s time to develop a draft for the workflow map. You can start with a pen and paper, but using a workflow builder in workflow management software would provide you with an easier, more consistent way to draw the workflow map.
Your draft should include:
- The start and end states of the workflow
- Each step and task of the workflow
- The connecting arrows that describe how the process flows from one task to another
- The people involved in the process (it’s best to use roles rather than names, so you don’t have to modify the map when someone leaves the team)
Step 4: Analysis and monitoring
The next step is to analyze the workflow diagram to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Based on this investigation, you should develop an improvement plan and implement the improvements.
It’s crucial to remember that workflow mapping is not a one-off process, but we should continuously monitor and refine the workflow map.
Monitor how improvements are implemented, whether the process is actually improved with the changes, or whether you’ll need to make further adjustments. Again, having a workflow management tool like Aproove can help you monitor the changes and modify the workflow diagram as required.