Process mapping is an activity that assists in planning and organising processes. Mapping is particularly valuable when it comes to the processes that have a complex structure and involve many steps and stages. In organisations, many processes also may have a flexible and changeable nature that would make them have complicated cycles and operations within.
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Since each process may potentially involve many participants faced with a variety of different situations and scenarios, it is important to create process maps that would serve as the essential guidance for the process participants to see how to react in versatile environments and based on various circumstances. Moreover, process maps have graphic nature that ensures easier comprehension of its structure by the observers and allows them to follow the map clearly regardless of the situations.
For a process to be applicable to various scenarios, it needs to involve basic behaviour lines and take into consideration various situation scenarios and outcomes. A process map may look complicated and have multiple sections and parts; however, a user would be able to select their particular situation development path at every step and follow the process guidance provided via the map. In other words, process mapping is important because it carries out a number of essential functions such as the clarification of objectives, breaking down of the operations, guidance provision, consultation, prevention of errors and malpractice in the workplace. Practically, process mapping increases the efficiency of the processes, ensures their security, and creates a framework for safe and organised work.
Process mapping is applied in a variety of organisations and professional spheres for a purpose of planning processes step by step and thus, structuring the work in a clearer and more organised fashion. Bringing clarity to the workplace and organising the operations in order to optimise the performance of the company is one of the primary objectives of any organisation that attempts to reduce costs and increase efficiency (Biazzo 2002). Moreover, process mapping is a diverse activity with a multitude of applications.
For instance, some organisations employ process mapping with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) initiatives; and the others use it for the planning, preparation, and implementation of change (Okrent & Vokurka 2004). In addition, process mapping is a helpful technique for the organisations attempting to change their process design or reorganise their operations in a radical manner (Aldowaisan & Gaafar 1999). In the situations where the change is implemented to ensure a dramatic reengineering and improvement, the new process design is likely to be complicated and alien to the employees.
In such cases, mapping is an extremely helpful technique that allows the managers to control and measure the implementation of the process designs and the employees – to follow the steps properly without making mistakes. Overall, process mapping is a universal tool that is suitable for all types of processes from basic ones (such as giving a bath to a pet) to very complex ones (such as addressing extreme workplace situations that require fast reactions and involve a lot of responsibility). Mapping the potential working processes, an organisation ensures efficiency of operations, errorless working process, and measureable performance (Rath 2008).
Definition and Benefits
Process mapping is a technique that allows presenting a working process in a graphic manner and examining it for a purpose of the identification of existing and potential problems. That way an improvement and redesign of a process become possible. Process maps represent graphs or flowcharts that illustrate various tasks, roles, and choices within a process.
A process can be defined as a sequence of activities that is employed for a purpose to translate efforts into outputs. Any sequence of actions can be called a process. For instance, making breakfast is a process that includes selecting the suitable ingredients and products (that can be referred to as efforts and inputs) and performing a series of manipulations such as making a toast, putting butter on top, making tea, adding milk (these are activities and tasks within a process), in order to obtain a final result – hot and fresh breakfast (also recognised as output).
The processes that exist within an organisation are structured in the same way and thus, can be visually presented in a form of a flowchart or a diagram that can be used to see all the decisions that need to be made by the participants during the process implementation. A process may be mapped in a variety of ways – using graphs, charts, outlines, and schemes of different designs. Basically, the visual appearance of a map depends on the preference of the designer. The graphs usually are comprised of rectangular and diamond-shaped boxes connected by arrows to demonstrate the sequence of tasks. The activities may provide general descriptions or be very detailed involving the participants and the attributes of each task.
The most significant advantages of process mapping involve the opportunity to see a bigger picture and also the ability to identify smaller issues within a process and pinpoint them. Besides, maps increase the efficiency of problem-solving activities and help detect steps that are unnecessary. Finally, maps serve as perfect and easy to follow visual guidance for the employees in training and identify the best practices (Sempangi et al. 2005).
Aldowaisan, T & Gaafar, L 1999, ‘Business process reengineering: an approach for process mapping’, Omega, vol. 27, no. 50, pp. 515-524.
Biazzo, S 2002, ‘Process mapping techniques and organisational analysis: Lessons from sociotechnical system theory’, Business Process Management Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 42 – 52.
Okrent, MD & Vokurka, RJ 2004, ‘Process mapping in successful ERP implementations’, Industrial Management & Data Systems, vol. 104, no. 8, pp. 637 – 643.
Rath, F 2008, ‘Tools for Developing a Quality Management Program: Proactive Tools (Process Mapping, Value Stream Mapping, Fault Tree Analysis, and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis)’, International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, vol. 71, no. 1, pp. S187-S190.
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Sempangi, H, Cracknell, D, Moulick, M & Messan, H 2005, ‘Process Mapping in Practice’, MicroSave – Market-led solutions for financial services, pp. 1-21.