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Map it out!

So far in this series on business process, we've looked at why reviewing your approaches is important and who to speak to to get the ball rolling. Next up, we're focusing on documenting your existing processes. And this is one of our favourite steps. So grab your compass and join us as we map it out!

It's really important when you're tackling any kind of improvement or review to know the existing state of that activity. In our series on strategy, we looked at how understanding your current performance created a foundation for the entire project. And it's the same with business process. Before you can start looking for improvements, you need to understand in detail what your process is.

To do this mapping, you'll need three things:

  1. People who understand and deliver/ use the process at all stages - identified at stage one

  2. A big sheet of blank paper or white board

  3. A nose for sniffing out the detail!

Once you have these three elements in place, you can begin. Simply start at the beginning of the process and work your way through to the end, noting down each individual activity, who does it and who it's for. Remember to define the start and end points of the process you're reviewing in advance.

You'll no doubt have seen some complex process diagrams with 'swim lanes' and different shapes and colours for different types of activity and user. This can be helpful with really big, complicated processes, but we've found that most processes can be broken down into simple blocks, and then each block can be documented in a set of steps. This means you have a document that can be easily understood and followed by anyone, even if they have no prior knowledge or diagram key. If you find it's getting too complicated, step back, look at the process and think about whether you can break it down into smaller units. Then, treat each unit as an individual process.

An example might help! We looked last time at the people involved in the event management process. Taking this same activity, you could tackle this as one process - from developing ideas for events to gathering feedback after the event - OR you could break it down into separate parts and look in detail at each one. Our advice is to do the latter! This means, you'll be looking at a number of different stages, but in a good level of detail. And you'll be able to keep the stages clear in your mind. Different parts of the overall process might include:

  • Ideas generation and decision making

  • Speaker identification and management

  • Event logistics: venue, catering, services

  • Event marketing

  • Customer experience

Although this sounds like more work to begin with, the time you'll save by avoiding getting caught up in circles will be worth it! If you're detailing the event marketing phase, your documentation should include the specific activities involved - like gathering content (copy and images), developing materials, uploading to the website or getting printed, and sharing on social media, etc. It should also draw on the work you've already done on identifying the right people, and include who is involved in making each step happen and who each step is for, be it colleagues (developing copy) or external customers (social media posts).

I know we said it was going to get trickier, but that's all you have to do for this step. You should by now have a detailed list of individual actions for your process and a good idea of who is involved. If you have, you're making excellent progress! Come back next time to find out how to identify improvements. And as always, we've got your back! Just get in touch if we can help.


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