Whether you are undertaking a specific project like an ERP implementation, or are generally looking to cut costs or increase efficiency and productivity, business process mapping is an incredibly useful exercise that can help you get valuable insight into the core processes that drive your organisation and help you define your goals.
What is business process mapping?
Before we begin, let’s go back to basics. Process mapping involves capturing your business processes – typically in a diagram like a flow chart – detailing inputs, outputs, flow of materials, information and documents and interdependence between tasks and process steps. Depending on the size of your business and the complexity of your processes, you might be able to take a manual approach to this (drawing it out on a whiteboard for example) or you may have to utilise some specialist software such as XSOL. Note that if you do use the manual approach, it is necessary to document the process somewhere and somehow.
Business process mapping and ERP
Business process mapping is a useful exercise for any business – for the reasons we will cover shortly. Where it proves particularly useful though, is in an ERP implementation project. We start each and every ERP project with a process review exercise, which helps us and the business identify goals, challenges, opportunities and inefficiencies which can be addressed through ERP usage.
Now we have got the basics down, let’s get to the nitty gritty – why should you undertake business process mapping? Here are 4 benefits of a process mapping exercise.
Get the whole story
Sometimes in business, the devil is in the detai. But then again, a lot of the time, in order to address problems, identify opportunities for streamlining and drive improvement, you have to go up a level. Business process mapping allows you to lay everything out, take a helicopter view and hone in on the smaller details should you need to. Complete visibility of all of your core processes gives you insight you just cannot achieve during the day-to-day. While you can consult with your team about a process and what it involves, you cannot be entirely sure this information is accurate. Different departments or different individuals may have a different understanding of a process and describe it differently. One department may perceive what another brings to a process, and the reality is somewhat different. Focus on nailing exactly what happens at the moment, document, and review.
A good business process review usually starts with defining the goal for that process. What should this process help you achieve? What is the desired outcome? This might seem really obvious on the face of it – but actually going back to the proverbial drawing board and saying “this is the end-goal” can really help you re-focus your efforts and identify priorities. This is particularly useful for ERP implementation, as it allows you to quickly identify areas which are prime candidates for automation and streamlining, which can be addressed through the right ERP configuration.
It can save you money
Particularly when it comes to an ERP implementation project, not having a clear direction to head in can be costly – literally. Undertaking a business process mapping exercise helps you to get a complete picture of your business and its goals, enabling you to build your implementation plan around this to ensure the software meets your needs from the get-go. Process mapping enables you to implement faster and with greater accuracy – reducing the need for endless revisions, customisations and re-mapping further down the line. All of this additional activity not only costs valuable time, but will also lead to a significant budget overspend. It also means you get more value out of your investment in the long-term as you can be sure it’s helping to drive efficiencies where you need them the most.
Get an outside perspective
This won’t apply in all cases, but as part of a wider process review or ERP implementation project, a business will often bring in a third party consultancy to assist with or carry out the project. Bringing in a business process specialist who is not involved in the day-to-day and the internal politics of your organisation gives you a valuable fresh perspective on things. This perspective, coupled with their experience and knowledge, will enable them to identify opportunities and inefficiencies you might have missed or just not have thought of before. This comes back to our point around different individuals within a business reflecting on things differently – bringing in an outside perspective allows you to get to the reality of what happens, rather than what everyone thinks happens.
No matter the size or complexity of your organisation, business process mapping is a valuable exercise that gives you vital insight into the inner workings of your business, both at macro and micro level. If you would like more advice on business process mapping, or would like to discuss a specific project with us, get in touch.