Process Mapping As-is or Not To As-is That is the Question

Does your company have detailed process maps for all of their business processes?  If your company is like most my guess is that the as-is process maps are nonexistent or very outdated.  I have heard it time and time again – “we don’t have time”, “we don’t have the resources,” etc. Companies that are starting process improvement or business process automation projects will many times skip the as-is step and move right into the to-be design. If you don’t truly understand your process how can you improve it?

A personal case study

My first taste of as-is process mapping came with a Fortune 25 health insurance company where I was Director of the new business department. The COO of the company asked me to help find areas for process improvement– to shave time off our very manual and very paper-heavy processes.  Immediately I came up with several ideas, and with a background in technology, of course all of them centered on using new technology or making system changes. However, the IT priorities were set months ahead of time and the COO wanted improvements made in the next 3 to 6 months.  Fortunately for me, the COO mentored me and helped guide me in creating very detailed process maps to get the job done. Here is some of what I learned:

Visual representation of the process

  • It is much easier to talk about a process when you can literally see the steps. Steps and details can be missed if you don’t have a map to see the process. How do you know where you are or where you are going if you don’t have a map?

See interdependencies

  • Hand-offs between departments or processes can clearly be seen. Interdependencies may be where some of the “black holes” in a process reside. Manual hand-offs to other departments could be where work is sent and many times disappears!

Find the gaps

  • With a documented process map you can start to visualize the problems. Gaps or disconnects in a process can normally be clearly seen in a process map. This could be where the process becomes convoluted because it was never mapped out. 

The “ah ha” moment

  • “Are we really doing it that way?” There is management’s perception of how the process functions and then the reality of how it is truly being executed.  It is important when creating a map to get input from the people doing the work; otherwise you will end up with a map of how management “thinks” the process works.


  • Especially when you have processes that span multiple departments or locations a documented process will make sure all areas see the process and perform it consistently. It is very possible without documented processes that different locations doing the same work will have very different ways of performing the same tasks.

My question is how can you not afford to document your as-is processes today? 

I would be interested to hear from others on their experiences with as-is process mapping within your organizations. How many of you have gone through this process? Any ROI stories?

Patrick Patton

Patrick Patton

Patrick Patton

I started with Interactive Intelligence in October 2011 as a Pre-Sales Consultant for the Strategic Initiatives Group. In this role I work with companies who are looking for opportunities to utilize process automation tools, and review their current business processes to find those opportunities. Previously, I spent ten years with a Fortune 25 health insurance company and that is where I first encountered Interactive Intelligence in 2008. As the technology Director for an internal sales contact center, I led a team that implemented the Interactive telephony solution. Over the next three years I became very familiar with Interactive Intelligence as a company, their products and many of the employees. I was so impressed with what I had seen that I set a personal goal to find a position within the company. I have over 15 years’ experience in continuous/process improvement, project management, and operations. I am always interested in learning about new technologies and the creative ways companies and people are using them. On a personal note I am a car enthusiast (gearhead), enjoy travelling, and recently have taken up photography as a hobby.

2 comments to Process Mapping As-is or Not To As-is That is the Question

  • Hi Patrick,

    I’ve been doing process improvement work for over 30 years and I am amazed that the question of mapping the as-is process still comes up. Your article is right on point. I think a big reason for the cursory attention to mapping as-is processes can be attributed poor process maps prepared by folks with limited process mapping experience. Search on process map images and you will find a plethora of single page process maps that provide little or no value for analysis. Most use tools they have available — Visio…even powerpoint — tools that were never intended for detailed process mapping. Most settle on some variation of high-level box and arrow flowcharting — designed for laying out computer program flow and really unsuitable for business process mapping. The BPM community pushes the BPMN mapping language (another program development/documentation language) that is foreign to business users.
    It is refreshing to read articles like yours. It reminds me that there are folks out there who understand the value of a good detailed process map.

  • Abhishek Sharan

    The best way to draw a process map is on a chart paper. Capture the creativity without a restriction on format. See the problem or creativity for yourself after all losing on employee creativity is also one of the lean wastes

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