Three things bad processes have in common (and three tips for avoiding them)

By Bob Spory

Most business leaders will admit they have at least one critical front- or back-office business process that’s unoptimized or outdated. These ineffective or bad processes typically have three things in common: 

  1. They’re not documented well.
  2. They’re difficult to understand.
  3. They’re inconsistent and sometimes just altogether incorrect.

To avoid second-rate processes, process mapping is something most companies should master and regularly evaluate. If you want to do things like deliver better customer or employee service, or increase operational efficiency, good process mapping (or modeling) will allow you to discover and document your critical processes to ensure they support business outcomes you want. 

But before jumping in, here are three tips to consider whether you’re just beginning to map your processes or trying to build on what’s been done before.

1. Use the right tool for the job. Know the difference between a drawing tool and a dedicated process modeling tool – because they’re different. Process modeling is more than a drawing exercise. Make sure whatever tool you choose is a tool where business analysts and subject matter experts can work together in an intuitive environment. An environment where they can capture "real-world" workflows (including exception paths), document process details, collaborate on improvements, view changes in real time and find the current version of any process in one place.

2. Ask your business people how they get work done, and listen to them.  The only way process modeling can truly be scalable and effective is if the business people who have deep knowledge of each process are directly involved in the documentation. This requirement will ensure that each process is as complete and accurate as possible. IT departments typically aren't sufficiently immersed in the day-to-day running of the business to understand processes in the same way as people who actually do the work and experience the consequences.

Dedicated process mapping tools can help here by allowing users to:

  • See all changes made to process models in real-time
  • “Follow" processes they’re interested in (just like on a social media site) 
  • Get notifications when any changes are made
  • Post questions, share ideas, and follow up using the built-in chat feature 

3. Get all your processes in one place and up to date. Some process modeling solutions only save models as point-in-time files rather than storing them in a central repository. Storing process models as files almost always results in version control and consistency issues. Have a central repository where people can put all their processes, including their desktop procedures, in one place. This feature ensures everyone is working from the same version.

Finally, this note isn’t really a tip but more a given: It’s a good idea to have a leader within the organization champion process mapping to help drive success. This advocacy can be done through periodic training sessions and workshops to keep process modeling a top priority.

To dig a little deeper into specific solutions, visit the Blueworks Live webpage.

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