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Before you can improve a process, you need to understand it. One of the best ways to understand a process is to draw or map it. Mapping a process provides several benefits.

  • Process maps can be used to show how work gets done in an organization. These maps are commonly referred to as As-Is maps.
  • Maps can be used to show how you want work to be done in an organization. These maps are commonly referred to as To-Be maps.

Cross- Functional Mapping

EPS utilizes a process mapping technique called cross-functional process maps. These maps show how work is done or could be done between different functional areas within an organization. The maps not only detail the sequence of events they also identify handoffs and help define roles within a process.

How to Create a Cross-Functional Process Map

  • Place a large piece of paper on a wall or flat surface.
  • Draw a horizontal band (aka swim lane) for each functional area involved in the process. Bands or swim lanes may also be used to represent different roles in a process or a key piece of software. Typically the end customer of the process is placed in the topmost band.
  • Have each group member write on a Post-It each step that makes up their functional area's portion of the process and place it on the draft process map.
  • Move the Post-It notes around until the group is satisfied that all the steps are identified and that each step is in the correct order. Add labels, flow arrows, input descriptors, output descriptors, and decisions to complete the map.

Mapping Conventions

It is helpful to use the following mapping conventions to improve the legibility of your process map.

  • Use a box to show the steps that make up the process.
  • Draw a line with an arrowhead to show an input or an output associated with each step. If possible label the inputs and outputs so that when you analyze the process you can see the transformation or value of each step.
  • As best as possible try to keep the flow or sequence of steps moving from left to right.
  • Avoid confusing intersections of flow lines by using over/under lines.
  • Use a diamond shaped box to indicate when a decision is made in the process. Be sure to label the decision and the decision outcomes from the diamond.
  • In a cross-functional process map you draw horizontal bands (aka swim lanes) to represent the different functional areas that participate in the process. Be sure to label each band. Put the end customer of the process in the top most band.
  • If several areas jointly perform the same step draw the step box so that it includes (i.e. crosses over) all the areas involved.

Questions for Evaluating the Map and Identifying Areas for Improvement

The following questions come from Designing Cross-Functional Business Processes by Bernard Johann, p. 96

  • Is this map comprehensive?
  • What are other key outputs not captured on this map?
  • What activities lead to this output?
  • What are the major inputs into these activities? (Think of inputs as both physical entities and information.)
  • How is information tracked? On written specs? Paper invoices? What percentage of this information is automated?
  • What technology is used to convert a particular input into an output? What equipment or job aids are used? Is a computer used?
  • What are the major decisions made with the process? Where and when within the process are these decisions made? Who makes the decisions? How many people is part of the decision-making process? Who are they? Are their signatures required? When?
  • How long does this step take? Why does it take this long? Is there a range? Why is there a range? Why does it sometimes take longer to perform a step?
  • What is the cost of performing these activities? Can you give me an estimate?
  • What are the problems you encounter in performing this step? What causes these problems?
  • What are the roadblocks in this process?
  • What are the strengths of this process? Why are we better at x (developing new products, getting orders to customers, etc.) than our competitors? What works? When we redesign, we want to make sure we build on our strengths.
  • How do we know when this process is successful?
  • Is this process successful as it currently exists? How do you know?
  • If we said we had to be five or twenty times faster in performing this process, with the same level of quality or better, what are the critical items we should eliminate or retain?
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