Business process mapping helps you and your customers understand the steps involved in ordering and how to streamline things. There are many steps involved in serving customers. The most successful companies look at each minute detail and make the adjustments necessary to be the best they can be.
Experts predict business process management (BPM) will grow 28% by 2025 or by $19.56 billion. Visualizing the details and tweaking them works to increase revenue and conversions. Entrepreneurs everywhere are seeing the benefits of BPM.
What if you’re on a tight budget and can’t hire an outside firm to study your processes? Fortunately, you can repeat many of the steps they conduct on your own. Here are ways to visualize your business process and make improvements on the fly.
1. Identify the Process
Decide what process you’ll map. It can be an existing feature of your business or a new one. One example is the shipping methods used when a customer places an order. What happens in the minutes after the sale? How quickly does the product make it from the warehouse to the shipping provider?
There are specific symbols you can use to help show the trajectory of your process. They include task/activity, flow, event, and gateway. LucidChart offers a visual showing how the symbols work together and additional options.
UPS lays out the different types of shipping they offer. You might go through a different process, depending on whether you’re shipping within the continental United States or outside the country. You can also view the process based on speed and size of your box.
2. Capture Information
Figure out the who, what, when, and where of each process. If you want to improve your customer service approach, layout the steps involved from marketing to first in-person or phone contact to follow-up.
Look for weak areas needing shoring up. Talk to your customers about how you might improve the experience for them. This is also an excellent opportunity to enlist the help of secret shoppers to identify unknown issues.
Ideally, more than one person gathers data during the information stage. The more input you have, the clearer you’ll be able to see how your business process works.
Once you have identified the steps in any process, write them out using the symbols mentioned above. Make sure you have good visual cues for each element.
3. Improve Collaboration
Don’t forget the ways you work with third parties, clients, and even within your own structure. Collaboration is one of the areas where many businesses fail to have good flow and communication. Look at each aspect of the collaboration process.
Do you have people who work remotely? How are they kept apprised of what’s going on and completed elements? How do you inform clients along the way? Good project management can mean the difference between a one-time client and one who returns repeatedly to your business.
USA Shade lays out its collaboration process from beginning to end. They explain the way they work on the design, how they estimate the needs for the project, and the engineering and prototype part of the equation.
4. Interview Others and Draw Maps
Look at your stakeholders, such as project leaders, clients, and employees. Talk to them about the process you plan to use or have used in the past and what works and doesn’t work.
One person can’t see every issue or predict potential problems. When you work with others, you open up communication and can avoid big problems before they occur.
With a firm view of what works and doesn’t work, take the time to draw out the processes with maps and symbols. Take another look and get input from stakeholders to see what final improvements should be made.
5. Automate Processes
Look at the visualization of your business processes. What steps can you automate to be more productive? Perhaps you can enlist the help of robots or machine learning.
The type of business you run dictates what elements can be streamlined. Look for those tasks you repeat most frequently for places to add machines.
Kroger is offering a pilot program where their Nuro vehicles deliver groceries to a person’s doorstep. You use a code to open the delivery portal and collect your food. By automating the delivery part of the process, Kroger saves time and can utilize its employees to serve more customers faster.
6. Refine the Process
Mapping out the process allows you to visualize what works and what doesn’t for your business. However, once you begin to actually implement it, you will quickly see areas needing refinement.
As you run into problem areas, take note of them and fix whatever isn’t working. A solid business process visualization allows for flexibility. The environment might change, technology could shift or you could grow beyond initial routines. Be open to mixing things up.
How Do You Make a Business Process Flow Chart?
One of the simplest methods of creating a visualization is writing it out on paper. You can also use a program such as Microsoft Word or an online flow chart creator.
It doesn’t really matter what tool you use to create your flow chart. What’s vital is getting it down in writing so you can repeat success and fix issues. You may not even be aware of problem areas until you see them in hard copy. Once you have a deeper understanding, it’s much easier to overcome challenges.
Eleanor is editor of Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.
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