Process Mapping - A Great Technique to Streamline Admin Operations
Businesses often get tied up in hidden red tape. Staff members develop habits and create processes that over time cause delays and increase costs. Sometimes these unnecessary steps are an unforeseen result of company policy. They may be a holdover from a previous ownership. They could be the result of an imperfect amalgamation of companies, where managers adhere to old procedures while imposing the new. All these process kinks accumulate over time, creating inefficiencies that add nothing to customer value.
By mapping company processes, you can identify those hidden inefficiencies. Process mapping is a systematic way of documenting the steps and time required to complete a task. Why do it? Because your bottom line will improve. Customers will only pay for products and services that add value for them. By eliminating processes that provide no benefit to customers your profitability will improve.
Of course, eliminating inefficiencies has to be balanced with internal controls needed to govern the company. You can’t add value to customers if you find yourself out of business due to hosting a poor control environment.
Process mapping connects all parts of a company’s procedures. It is especially powerful when multiple people or work groups are involved.
Visual Flow Chart
Delivered as a flow chart, it becomes easy to see where bottlenecks, duplication and time create inefficient steps. The visual depiction of a process also helps the company balance a need for controls with the requirement for speed and efficiency.
The components of process mapping are:
These components allow the preparer to determine how much time is spent on each activity over a specific period and within the total process. This information is especially useful in determining the business impact of proposed process changes. A process mapping expert looks for hidden steps within the process they are mapping. These are typically created when employees seek to avoid repeating past mistakes or they are more comfortable with a past practice than the most recent one adopted by the company.
- Activities included in the specific process being reviewed;
- The number of times each activity is done;
- Who is performing each activity;
- The time it takes to do each activity;
- How often non-conformities occur during each activity;
- The difference between the time it takes to accomplish a task and the actual time spent performing it. This is known as takt time and is considered a form of waste.
For example, at one client we recently prepared a process map for, an employee retained a copy of all documents they received. We learned that this employee had been disciplined in the past for not having a document they had passed on. Their solution to this problem was to keep hard copies of all documents that crossed their desk. Imagine the waste of time and resources this took.
We have also come across multiple situations where an employee keeps a spreadsheet in Excel because they don’t trust the company’s own enterprise resource planning system (ERP). If company’s processes don’t give employees what they think they need, they develop separate, off-line, files. Eventually maintaining the “sanctioned” processes within the ERP system and the additional “off-line” processes in Excel creates a burden that crumbles under its own weight.
Process waste is defined as errors, anything done twice, dual record-keeping and unnecessary time between activities. In one company, administrative controls significantly increased time lags, errors and costs. A trusted advisor and process mapping expert captured key functions, including contract control and contract execution, in a process flow diagram. By applying best practices to the key processes, the company reduced takt time by over 50 percent, cut errors by 27 percent and sliced costs by more than 40 percent. The company grew more quickly and became more profitable.
A company can do process mapping internally. But employees are often too closely involved to spot the problems. Many times they are the architects of the current processes. Having a fresh set of eyes and a process mapping expert provides an independent view and deeper experience.
New employees or outside third parties with process mapping expertise can help transform processes that will improve the bottom line and prepare your business for growth.
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