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 If your company is like most my guess is that the as-is process maps are nonexistent or very outdated.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?
- 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?