Documenting a business process is essential for maintaining consistency, improving efficiency, and ensuring that employees understand how to perform their roles effectively.
Where to Start
Clearly define the scope and objectives of the process you want to document. In other words, identify the inputs to the process, and the desired outputs.
The recording of the results of this work is called Process Mapping.
You may find later that you have not identified all the required inputs to your process at this stage, but this does not matter, as you document a process, you start to understand the detail of the process, known as Process Discovery.
How to Document
In this article will explain four ways to document a process:
Use a graphical drawing package such as Visio
Use Post-it notes or a white board
Using A Graphical Editor
Visio or one of its competitors allows a user to draw flowchart like drawings on a PC.
This method seems to be a logical place to start, as you can quickly create an outline of a process to visualize the steps. It tends to result in simplistic views of a process.
While it can be quite quick for an individual to use, it is more difficult to work with a team.
In reality more than one person is involved in a process step (or task), perhaps doing different things. This is difficult to capture in a drawing, and the result is only a 2D representation of the process.
Trying to capture the interactions between different people or teams means that you really need a stack of 2D flowcharts, with hyperlinks between, to capture the detail of interactions.
Using Post-it notes or a Whiteboard.
This involves documenting a process and the individual tasks either drawing on a whiteboard or more effectively on Post-it notes temporarily stuck on the whiteboard.
Both are efficient ways of getting a team of individuals to work together to identify how the process works or should work.
These techniques are particularly effective if one person facilitates the meeting, allowing all individuals to express their point of view, challenging assumptions, and resolving conflicts when individuals have different understanding of elements of the process. This greatly improves the quality of Process Discovery.
In both methods the results can be photographed and shared between the team.
The disadvantages of these methods are that it is difficult to undertake with a remote team and having completed it you have a record of the process, but you have no link to implementation.
Using a standard spreadsheet Column 1 is a sequential number from starting at 1, Column 2 is headed Input. The next Columns are given the names of all the individuals (or departments) involved in the business process, the following Column is headed Output, and the final column is headed Resources.
Each row is then a step (task) in the process.
Row 1 has the inputs to the process entered and the desired output is entered in the same row under the Outputs heading.
The involvement of each of the individuals in that particular step (task row) is described in the cell in that row under their column heading. Finally, any resources needed by the team to complete that step of the process is entered into the cell under the final column.
The process analysis flows sequentially down the spreadsheet row by row. Branches in a process flow can be captured by a blank row with GoTo the relevant task number as identified by column 1.
It is possible to work remotely with a team using a shared spreadsheet. Again, this method benefits by having someone facilitate the remote meeting
This deceptively effective, easy to use software package has the appearance of a Graphical Editor but contains hidden depths that allow you to rapidly capture everything you need to fully document detail of any business process.
As well as documenting the task detail, the individuals involved, the resources required and ownership of each task, it can be using Process Analysis to model different ways of implementing a process or at least a sub-selection of tasks.
Skore can be used remotely with all those involved in analyzing a process, with or without a facilitator, as everyone can see the process as it is mapped in real-time.
Intelligent Process Mapping - SKORE+
This is the method used by us and our partner Intelligent Actions.
We start by creating an outline or flowchart of the process in Skore to visualize its steps and components.
Skore allows the user to push down a level of an outline step and add more graphical detail. If necessary, items can be opened, and a further level of detail added.
Eventually the process is defined to the level required for implementation.
We can then add links from the Skore Process Map into Intelligent Actions Workflow system which enables a real time implementation of your mapped process.
You can even do this while capturing the process enabling live testing of your Process as you Discover and Map it.
Input forms and output forms can be defined and linked directly to the Skore Map.
This makes your Skore Map a complete specification of your Process.
To add a workflow engine link to an exisiting Skore diagram can cost as little as £500.
What is the benefit of using Intelligent Process Mapping
Intelligent Actions has linked their workflow system into Skore.
As a user builds their Skore Map defining their process, Intelligent Actions interactively creates a fully operational custom workflow which allows the user to test the logic of their process capture in real time.
This quickly can reveal logic or operational flaws in Process Mapping, providing a rigorous form of Process Discovery.
When the Skore Diagram is complete the user can take their documented process to a third party for development, or license Intelligent Actions ready built workflow for around £10 per user per month e.g 15 user system - £150 per month.