Business processes define how work gets done in any organization. This definition is best communicated through the development of business process maps, which provide a graphical representation of the workflow within a business process. While immensely valuable, most process maps are built at a minimum level of detail, which actually prevents them from being useful to employees who execute the processes. While this high level makes for maps that are easily read, cataloged and stored, it doesn't benefit the organization in any meaningful way. A good process map captures an organization’s most important business process knowledge such that it builds the organization’s investment in intellectual property.
Process knowledge is integral to every business process and should be built into every process map. Knowledge adds the detail that allows a process map to stand alone as the sole source of process documentation, eliminating the need for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Good process maps capture and organize process knowledge, catalog critical parameters and controls, provide links to source information, and firmly establish the process definition in meaningful detail. Good maps are used by anyone critical to the process, including Process Owners, System Owners, and Subject Matter Experts, and are a valuable learning source for newcomers.
Key process knowledge sources include the following task elements:
Task information provides the “how to” instructions for performing a task. This includes the identification of all information needed by the business process to execute the business process. It is required for consistency and seamless execution of a process. All required information should be evaluated for proper referencing, condition, format, integrity, relevance and ownership. We typically see many process knowledge gaps including obsolescence, duplication, and conflicting policies and procedures.
Transaction analysis identifies the type of task (manual/automated) and the hardware/software utilized to execute each task within a process. This can be an eye-opening analysis, as we find the application software is often substantially underutilized relative to managements desire and understanding.
RACI defines which roles need to be involved at what level in a process. For each task, process roles include Responsible, Approver, Consulted or Informed. Task responsibilities quickly illustrate gaps, overlaps and duplication that can lead to simplification opportunities, as well as identifying who is responsible for every process task.
Regulatory Analysis determines the regulator, type of regulation and location of application by task within the process. This is often combined with Risk Analysis to assess the relative risk of the business process to the organization.
Process knowledge can include additional important characteristics, such as safety, tools and equipment, training, environmental, and quality specifications.
Process knowledge is a critical component of any good process map
In summary, most process maps are built at a level of detail that leaves out important process knowledge that operators and process users need to do their jobs. Because of this, process maps are often treated as disposable work products used for project purposes only. We have seen that good process maps are far more valuable and, in fact, can become a most valuable component of an organization’s intellectual property, if developed right and actively maintained.
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