Overcome Limitations of Manual Business Process Mapping


Process mapping. If you’ve done it, you know the manual procedure can be difficult. And if you haven’t, well...the manual procedure can be difficult. Find out about some of the pitfalls and limitations you may encounter when compiling a process map manually and how to avoid them with process mining.

At the most basic level, a process map is a workflow diagram that shows the steps of any particular business process. Ideally, it will connect to any corollary processes as well. The relational nature of a process map is what makes it such a powerful tool for understanding how your business runs.

Why map a process in the first place?

Process maps give you a visual manifestation of your business processes in their “as-is” state. Your specific requirements may differ, but in a general sense these maps are useful for the following:

  • Accountability: Discover who is responsible for each stage of a process to establish chains of command.
  • Accuracy: Is the process output quality on target? Process mapping allows everybody to see the end-to-end process in the same way.
  • Documentation: Process maps are useful as documentation for stakeholder meetings, as a baseline to check for changes in the future, or for training purposes.
  • Metrics: Use the map to develop metrics to measure success of the process, and then compare these metrics to the map in the future to check progress on improvements, find new gaps, etc.

Manual process mapping, outlined

Here is a general outline of the process of creating a map for any given business process. Details will vary as widely as the processes being mapped, as will the degree to which each of these steps will apply, so don’t worry if you use a slightly different process. Making it your own is part of learning.

  • The sponsoring stakeholder approaches your team with a process they need analyzed.
  • You compile information on the process, the parties involved, and the proposed outcome of the mapping project.
  • Your team produces an initial,high-level map of the process that summarizes it in five to eight steps.
  • Your team and the sponsor analyze the initial map and compile the resultant data into the final version.
  • Your team produces the final, end-to-end process map.
  • Improvements are suggested, implemented, and analyzed for outcomes.

Process mapping is not a “one-and-done” event. It’s an iterative process. The real power becomes evident after you begin implementing changes and recommendations and analyzing the resulting impact on outcomes. As with any business project, you will encounter limitations and pitfalls along the way, many of which can be effectively addressed with process mining.

Limitations of manual process mapping

Manually mapping an entire business process involves a lot of moving parts. Any time you wrangle people, processes, and assets there are bound to be some pitfalls. Some of the major ones to watch out for include:

  • Cost: Manual process mapping takes resources in the form of money and time--ot only from the team directly responsible for producing the map, but also the employees being pulled away from their work to be contribute their knowledge to the project. ringing in outside BPM consultants drives the costs up even further.
  • The human factor: People don’t always remember everything during an interview. These lapses in memory can translate into perceived gaps in the process, when in reality it is simply missing information.

  • Sheer quantity of data: For every step of every process, you need to know:
    • Internal stakeholders
    • Responsible party
    • Input
    • Output
    • Activity performed
    • Customer
    • KPIs
    • Internal and external risks and any other influencing factors

Automation is key to avoiding limitations

With recent developments in the areas of AI, IoT, machine learning, and especially process mining, automating process mapping is more possible than ever. Using process mining software eliminates the errors inherent in human recollection by using event logs left behind by most IT-based systems and compiling the steps of the process from them. Then AI can be used, in the form of BPM software, to make recommendations for improvements to the mapped process.

Process mining can help you avoid the most common pitfalls of manual process mapping:

  • Cost: Once the automation system is deployed, your cost is only what it takes for someone to run the collection process, analyze the results, and generate the map you need. No more disruptive interviews or production slowdowns.
  • Human factor: When you rely on process mining, you no longer have to worry about whether someone’s memory is accurate. The software combs your IT systems for event logs, and uses them to compile the necessary information on who does what, and how.
  • Sheer quantity of data: The algorithms used in process mining and mapping software were built for one thing: to parse massive amounts of data. They scale, too. This means that as your company grows and the amount of data grows, your process mapping solution will be there to keep you and your processes moving smoothly.

Business process mapping is an important step to gaining a full understanding of how a business runs. It’s also how you discover ways to make it run better. If you’re using a manual process for your mapping projects, avoiding these pitfalls will make your project go much smoother. And when you’re able to automate, you’ll already have a solid handle on the processes involved and how to best use your automation for even better results.

Jana Gregusova Process Consulting Leader at Minit

24. 04. 2019