If your organization has some employees in a central office and others spread out across different project sites, it’s easy for seemingly straightforward processes to become slow and inefficient.
Let’s say you’re running a construction company that’s based in San Francisco, but working on a building site in New York City. Your vendors and subcontractors probably mail invoices and payments to your main office, while the engineers who need to check and approve them are on-site in New York. As a result of this back-and-forth process, coordinating approvals takes additional time and effort.
Process mapping is a type of business process analysis that identifies opportunities for streamlining and automating workflows. In the construction company example, mapping out that invoice process would allow you to pinpoint bottlenecks in the document workflow and then find the best solutions. By implementing a digital document management system, you’d be able to scan an invoice when it arrives at your headquarters, store the electronic invoice in a centralized document repository and automatically route it for approval.
Now, instead of mailing invoices back and forth and trying to track the approval, the process is much more efficient. An engineer on-site in New York could pull up the approval on a mobile device and review it in seconds.
As organizations move from paper-based processes to digital document management, this type of business process analysis is an important step in getting the most from your technology investments.
Here are three key benefits of going through this exercise:
- Greater transparency: Process mapping gives you greater insight into how a process is moving along and who’s working on it. This transparency is critical to eliminating inefficiencies.
- Improved coordination: A common bottleneck in business processes is when an individual is out of the office or unavailable. If you send a paper document to someone who’s out of the office, it probably sits in an inbox until that person returns. Streamlining and automating your processes includes identifying tasks that could run in parallel (rather than waiting on a single preceding task) and defining replacements.In a digital workflow, defining replacements or alternates means your system automatically reacts when the normal approver is out of the office, rerouting the electronic invoice to a replacement approver.
- Time savings: Streamlining your processes and automating steps allows employees to spend less time on basic actions like searching for and assembling information.
Within the context of document management, process mapping consists of identifying the ways information flows through your organization in order to refine that workflow structure and increase efficiency. Essentially, you’re making a functional model of your organization to use in business process analysis. This model helps you define two aspects of the process: one, the information flow through the company, and two, the kinds of electronic or paper documents and where that information is stored.
Once you’ve defined those aspects, you’re able to determine the most effective arrangement of components. Perhaps a simple, inexpensive solution suits one business process, while another requires a more complex or more expensive solution.
In the end, going through the process mapping exercise and setting up efficient workflow management does take effort. You may want to consider working with consultants or a professional services company to help evaluate and improve your systems.