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Process Mapping

Building a high-quality business process map is an essential element to a successful process improvement program.  A wide variety of process mapping approaches are in use and the quality of the output produced by each varies greatly.  Because we are often asked to map business processes where previous efforts have been unsatisfactory, we counsel clients on the fundamentals of process mapping and the essential elements of a useful process map.  Out of this need, we have developed the following questions that a user should be able to answer when reading a process map.

Thirteen Questions a Business Process Map Should Answer


1. Who owns the process?

Most organizations are managed vertically, where the organization chart lays out a hierarchical structure of management responsibilities and accountabilities.  In contrast, workflows horizontally, through business processes crossing those vertical boundaries.  The effective management of work is defined by the individual ownership of those processes. The Process Owner is assigned a specific process and is responsible for developing, analyzing and continuously improving the process.

2. What is the SIPOC of the process?

Every process should create something of value to serve a customer. The SIPOC defines its main supplier, input, purpose, output, and customer. Best practice organizations understand and align customers with their internal processes to ultimately meet the needs of their external customers.

3. Who is the main customer of the process?

Every process has a value proposition to serve its main customer. The value proposition should clearly state the customer, what problem the process solves, the solution provided by the process and the net benefit as perceived by the customer. The basic goal of any process is to deliver a superior value proposition using the most efficient method.

4. What work takes place within the process?

Good process management begins by first defining a process, its customer, supplier, inputs, outputs and conversion activities.   This definition is best accomplished using a map that is unconstrained by organization boundaries.  Best practice process maps build three-dimensional views that identify the knowledge necessary to own, manage, and continuously improve a process. A process map should communicate the who, what, where, when, and how of a process, including supporting information, such as task instructions, reports, and procedures.

5. Who contributes to the process?

It is valuable to know who is involved in the process and how different people affect the performance of a process.  This is typically accomplished through the use of a RACI (Responsible, Approval, Consulted, Informed) matrix. At BEM we substitute Approval for the more traditionally used Accountable. We often find that Approvers are more involved in processes than are necessary.

6. How does technology fit in the process?

How a process uses technology is a key consideration in both the efficiency and effectiveness of a process.  Dramatic process improvement is often led by an upgrade to better technology.

7. To what standards must the process comply?

Virtually every process has some regulatory or industry standard to which it must comply.  These requirements should be embedded directly within a process map and understood by the process owner.

8. What activities of the process are wasteful?

Value-added tasks are tasks the customer is willing to pay for.  Essential process analysis identifying the value added, limited-value added, and non-value added tasks within the process.  Typically, the beginning value-added ratio is less than 10%.

9. How is the process measured & monitored?

Most organizations measure high-level KPIs according to the organization chart’s view of responsibility and accountability.  These measures tend to be reactive versus predictive.  Best-in-class measurement systems are built from the ground up, beginning with business process measures that align with business system measures, which feed key performance indicators (KPI’s).

10. What are the effectiveness and efficiency?

Process effectiveness is the extent to which the process serves its customer well by providing what the customer wants.  Process efficiency is the extent to which the process uses the minimum resources necessary to achieve its purpose.  Both effectiveness and efficiency must be pursued to achieve best in class.

11. What is the process potential?

Process potential is represented by the gap in performance as measured by effectiveness and efficiency.  It is typically driven by the most critical leverage points of the process based upon the wants and needs of the customer and relative use of resources to accomplish its purpose.

12. Where does the process fit?

Processes do not perform in isolation relative to other surrounding processes.  They always fit together in a larger value stream of some worth.   The larger the target scope toward system improvement, the greater the overall benefit in performance improvement for the organization.

13. What is the improvement plan?

The process improvement plan identifies the process improvement opportunities, the relative importance, and priority, along with actions, timeline and responsibility.

The Best Practice Business Process Map

Process-based management provides a powerful paradigm for improving organizational performance.   The underlying foundation to successful process-based management is a BUSINESS process map that answers the essential questions to define, manage and improve processes within defined business systems.  When building your next process map, try answering these thirteen essential questions.

See how the Perigon Method helps you create valuable process maps