Have you ever been working with a business system that just seems broken? Something that makes your job harder, or doesn’t really accomplish what it’s supposed to?
If so, you might consider exploring business process mapping and re-engineering. In this article, we cover what exactly business process mapping is, and how it can be put to work for organizations that strive to be more efficient.
Get the facts straight
Business process mapping and re-engineering (or BPR) is essentially laying out some, or all, of the processes of a business, connecting how they fit together, and identifying what you can do to improve them. The goal is to approach a business as a single, holistic process designed to provide a product or service. Each process within it works towards that objective, and our job as business process mapping and re-engineering experts is to see where you can save time and money within that process.
In short, find a better, more efficient way of working.
Today, business process mapping is closely tied to software applications, and in many ways, business process mapping mirrors the requirements gathering stage for a major software implementation project.
In general, a business process mapping and re-engineering project may take the following steps:
Go in and gather information
Learn as much as possible about the process you’re reengineering. Whether you’re brought in from the outside or you’re re-mapping your own internal company processes, this is a critical stage to help you understand the processes you’re changing and what you want to change them to.
Map the processes you find
Next, you need to map the processes you find. Even if you work in an organization, it’s unlikely there are robust maps for each and every process for how a business operates. Oftentimes, maps are segmented by department, even if they work together.
For example, the marketing department might be raising purchase orders for suppliers, and map that part of the process, but have no idea how finance sees those purchase orders paid.
This is the guts of the exercise. With a good idea of the process and the ecosystem that it lives in, it’s time to start identifying weak points, strong points, and areas of concern. Your aim is to uncover structural system problems like:
- Inefficient systems - are people doubling up on work?
- Needless complexity - can steps be removed?
- Error-prone processes - are there any areas that make mistakes more common?
- Non-automated processes - can we automate any of this work?
Process re-engineering and implementation
Solve the problems you identified, and put those solutions into place. Implementation usually involves a software solution, but it doesn’t have to.
No process is perfect. What problems does the new system create, and how can we solve them? (It’s a very iterative approach).
The key with BPR and mapping is that it doesn’t focus on the task, the person, or even the job. It focuses on a bird's eye view of the process – start to finish – and identifies areas where there is room for improvement. BPR is best focused on how to fundamentally change the way a company does business, rather than grafting solutions onto existing (but faulty) processes.
Why bother with process improvements?
That’s the basic layout of a business process mapping project. However, it can be a struggle to explain the value of remapping to some businesses, because the problems are not always visible to most people.
Not many people in a company will see or understand a process end to end. Most work within one part of it, focusing on the micro improvements of their domain, rather than taking a macro view of the way a business works.
Remember the example above about marketing and financing being part of the same process but not seeing each other’s sides of it?
That happens a lot.
Marketing might be fine with a process, but finance isn’t. Unfortunately, marketing isn’t going to push for a process rework since their side works fine and they’re unaware of other problems down the pipe.
And that’s where business process reengineering can be of tremendous benefit. By looking at the entire process from start to finish (especially a third party looking at it fresh), you gain a better understanding of where the problems are, and what solutions might exist.
Those processes that you hate don’t have to hang around like a bad smell.
By looking at the high-level goals businesses are trying to achieve, such as making a product or providing a service, business process mapping and re-engineering can find where there are areas to improves across the business for maximum impact.
You don’t need to live with bad processes. And the longer you do, the more money you burn.