Getting started with Process Mapping #34
Getting started with Process Mapping and Process Discovery
In this episode Arno and Sascha discuss several methods of Process Discovery and Process Mapping. Best practices are shared for getting started with your automation initiatives and mapping your processes.
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Do you have any questions? Would you like to give us feedback? Are you interested in workshops on the topic of automation? Are you an expert in the field of automation and would like to be on the podcast?
Connect with The Automation Guys: https://www.theautomationguys.net
And welcome back to another episode of the process and automation podcast. Today, we will look at process mapping and we will go through six methods. How you can actually look at your processes and map them out. And generally they are two really distinct aspects to process mapping. One is using process mapping software tools, to create a process map and provided that you pick the right software does this does is probably for most the easiest one.
And the other part is capturing the content of this processes. And we dive into this methods now one by one. Arno what six methods do we have for our listeners today? Yes, thanks Sascha. So as we discussed in our clubhouse session earlier, mapping out the processes is really key part to successful automation projects.
And, you know, from the actual ideation, To actual mapping the process out to the automation you want to have real clarity when you map your processes out. So we decided today to really touch on six main methods to create these process maps, which is, you know, obviously a combination of perhaps your workflow process, or it could be RPA processes as contained within sites.
Uh, the workflow maps it’s. And generally they are roughly six methods for, for prayer writing, these process maps. And, um, you know, one of them is obviously, um, through individual staff or, or small group interviews where it’s sort of a, a workshop setting. Now these days, this, this can be done online a lot.
And if there’s several tools that you can use, so are white boarding tool, digital white boarding tools, but it’s really just kind of getting a group of people together. Talk about the parts, this, and really, you know, the, the ma the main aim here is to really, to, you know, talk about the process, map it out step by step, um, and, and really get inputs from everybody that, um, is involved in the process.
And again, this is by using a technique that’s called group. The second method is, um, to facilitate the discovery workshop, to facilitate the discovery workshops. It’s more kind of structured where you have the workshops. Um, it’s more agenda driven and the, the, the it’s, it’s got the same aim as well as, as, as the group interviews.
Um, but, but again, with that, you know, you you’ll go in with a specific agenda on a specific topic. Um, cover and, you know, hopefully the output of that would be that, you know, we, we’ve got a process map that represents the process would want to automate. Um, the third method is really to analyze existing documentation.
Um, you know, so a lot of our customers, they, um, map out their processes themselves or to a degree they do. So, um, You know, and what we tend to then do is it’s really look at that documentation and do an analysis, a process analysis on that. Um, now this could be in various formats that received the documents.
So really our job is really to take that, um, and really translate it into a process map that we can then, you know, um, put in automation. Um, the fourth method is by direct works or observations. And it’s really what we call time and motion studies where you, you know, you physically try and understand what people do day to day.
Um, so, so that’s a very popular technique as well. They are tools to help you with that like task capture tools that you can put recorders on, on people’s desktops to understand, you know, what they do day to day. And then the fifth method we have is through, um, business analysis design. Um, so basically you go to work at a business problem.
Um, you know, you use some business analysis techniques to understand the process and you know, what the process should do, and really based on those findings, um, you, you, you, you map out, you know, it to be processed and you know, when you do that, you kind of look. You know, w w what this process, you know, by, by, by analyzing the business, what this process currently is, and, you know, how, how can we improve this process?
How can we map this out by, you know, deploying some optimization techniques to, to make the processes as pretty as possible. And then of course, we can also import existing process documentation. So. Um, somebody in an organization that has used, um, the BPMN, which is business process modeling, notation, maps, um, you know, that’s something you can easily import into a process mapping tool.
You can go to work on that. Um, so, so, so there’s. You know, broad set of techniques, um, that, that you can use. And I, I think it’s really, um, finding the right technique for, for, for particular scenarios of a particular customer apps that you deal with. Um, and it also, you know, that the approach you choose will depend heavily on the size of the organization, the team culture, the available resources, um, and you know, good personal preference.
You know, some people might like it. If, if you do discovery work, Um, and I think the key here is the fact that you can, you can choose one of the methods. We can choose a combination, um, of, of, of these sort of six methods that I’ve mentioned earlier. Um, you know, to obtain that required degree of accuracy.
When you, when you map out your processes, um, you know, again, each of these, um, different methods has got its own strengths and weaknesses as well. Um, you know, wearing one method works in one organization, um, you know, it might not work in another organization. So, so it’s really important to, to, to really understand, I guess, the audience understand the unit unique.
Um, circumstances of, you know, the actual, um, uh, job at hand, you know, when, when you, when you’re going into a process mapping session and, uh, really relative to try and pick the right method, you know, for, um, for your needs. Um, if you have, uh, perhaps an organization that where the resources are not readily available, people might be quite busy in your mind, you know, a resort.
Um, you know, uh, uh, business analysis, design approach, where we’d have to, you know, discover yourself how the process work and, um, You know, using, um, people’s time in, in short bursts, if you know what I mean, and, and, and go around different people and, and not necessarily get them in the same room, but, you know, talk to different people and, and sort of start to.
And sometimes he can break down a bigger, bigger process, a bigger problem into so lots of smaller ones. And then maybe it’s a bit more digestible, um, or manageable within the business. So that, that brings me actually to, to the first point you mentioned the, the, the method. Um, so maybe we should drill a bit deeper into that.
One by one. What do you think. Yeah, it sounds good. Okay. Great then. So maybe we did the first one. Um, you know, you mentioned was, um, staff and small group interviews. Um, there’s indeed. Yeah. From, from my experience, um, for most of our customers and when we may look at departments, um, is the most popular form of, um, of process mapping as a technique.
Um, so sitting down, uh, in this star, uh, small, small groups and. Yeah, get, get a whiteboard, um, or lots of whiteboards clip, erm, clipboards, that kind of stuff. Um, lots of good, good pens. And then, um, just, um, the, uh, discuss in this small group, um, yeah, basically bring everyone who’s who’s involved in that process.
Who I, when you think about. Purchase to pay process, very straightforward forward process or a client onboarding process. So if you have that, um, yeah, you will bring everyone into the room. Um, or these days into a virtual session, you mentioned you using mural as well. Arno I’m on our plop, our session.
And, um, yeah, so that works really well. You can map out very straightforward the process, um, how it should run, um, define sort of. All the scenarios and all the little details. So, and, uh, if, if there is a business analyst, uh, available in this little group in this small group, sometimes someone is just taking over that role.
But if you have the luxury of, uh, of a business analyst, um, Yeah. So, so you will, um, just gather that information, put it, put it structured into, into the, onto the white boards into Miro. Um, so that person who is sort of leading that session is, uh, is required to ask really, really direct questions, to every delegate, in this workshop.
Yeah. And then you can fill in all the details. Um, you map out all the activities, um, uh, in, in your process, all the deliverables, all the assets, everything would, what’s part of the process. And then, then you get to the, to the full picture of how a process should be, should be, um, put together going forward.
And yeah, so, um, there, there are some, some pro tips we have as well. Um, when, when you have a session like this, Yeah, I have ever really a prepared set of topics. Um, and, um, uh, you, you want to cover and a really good set of specific questions and don’t overdo it because everyone. In this room is quite focused on this process, but in one hour session is certainly enough to get, to get through a lot of stuff.
Um, two hours, at some point, you know, your brain is working. You, you, you can’t work efficiently anymore. So if you have a really focused session, one hour per session is enough. And, um, yeah. And if, if, if a discussion doesn’t go anywhere. So the discussion is getting blocked, um, park the problem and come back to the, to, to this problem and another session, um, because maybe at the end of a session, everyone is so, so, so focused in, in depth on a specific topic.
Yeah. You will not get. Maybe we’ll not get to a solution and be quite strict. Um, never overrun. You said one hour, so you doing one hour and then, um, people are more open to, to the next session, which is coming up because no one hates. So if, if it overruns like four hours and, um, suddenly, uh, or you can’t handle all the other work you have to do so yet, that’s how we do most of our sessions.
Um, uh, sometimes it goes into bigger, bigger ones and bigger workshops. Um, so Arno, you, you, you had a plant, a couple of them. Yes, quite recently. And you know, the technique we use there is, is really, um, you know, facilitated discovery workshops. And, you know, we use this technique, um, where, where it’s important to, to gain consensus from a larger group of people.
Um, you know, and it’s really appropriate for these type of sessions to be at a, a high level of abstraction suppose to. Detailed levels that, uh, that the, the group interviews, um, you know, is, is conducted in. Um, and again, with these, um, these, these workshops, um, the discovery type workshops, um, can be more productive over a longer period of time.
Um, so sometimes you, you would need, you know, several of these, um, to, to, to, to get through the process or the high level process. So really the trick is, is to retain energy and interests in the room. And you also need a very skilled and experienced facilitator, um, that that could facilitate the session.
And, um, also make sure that there, there are, um, engagement, you know, from, from, from the participants. Um, so you know that there’s, there’s a couple of tips when, when you do these, um, discovering workshop, Um, and again, you know, it is the job of the participants to, to, to define the process and to make the workshop successful, you know, not the facilitators.
So the facilitator really need to ensure that this, you know, he or she involves the people in the process discussion, um, you know, keep us as much in an energy, a variation and interest, uh, in workshops as possible. Um, you know, keep, keep to the. You know, make sure that we don’t overrun, um, and also make sure the participants are comfortable, you know, make sure that the facilities are really comfortable, um, you know, and, and stick, stick with your facilitation process.
And, you know, they’ve been engaging in sort of peripheral subject matter debate. Um, you know, leave that to the participants. I think that the thing that you want to do is you want to ensure that you kind of stay neutral. You want people to, um, start talking among, amongst each other, really. Um, and of course, you know, like, like you said, you need to have frequent breaks.
If you do have long sessions, you might not have that whole day scheduled for. Um, you know, don’t, don’t set people six hours on the room, um, you know, make, make sure you kind of give, give people time to, to have breaks, kind of be able to reflect on, um, what they just discussed. Um, so, so all of these are really, really, really good tips to make sure that the session is quite fluid and you make progress.
Um, with these things you could easily, if you’re a facilitator, like, you know, some of the workshops we had recently, you can easily, um, gauge the participation and engage the interest of people because naturally, sometimes they will be a bit of a, um, a quiet periods where people don’t participate. I think it’s really your job as a facilitator to, um, to spark up the interest again.
Um, maybe take a break. So go over, um, a process segment that you’ve just covered, um, and, you know, start with a new section. That’s great. Yeah, sort of the, the first two sessions, um, uh, or, uh, methods, our sessions was, was people. Um, but they, there could be also, like you mentioned earlier, a bit easier approach.
Um, the analysis of existing documentation, uh, is, uh, Yeah. It’s maybe not as, um, as obvious to many, um, um, but yeah, it is, it is, uh, I would say an underused technique. Um, but when you, when you ask, um, uh, people within the business, how does a process run already? Um, maybe they, they point you to this existing documentation.
Sometimes that’s documentation is very old, but still looking if you, um, A lot of, uh, insight into the, the, the process, how generally running in most, most organizations. Um, we, we, we come across as well. Um, um, it is very outdated, um, and that, that documentation and accurate sometimes it’s absolutely useless indeed.
Um, but if, if you come across, um, a document which is, uh, more up to date, uh, it could be a big time. Um, if, if you, if you, if you can actually derive the whole process, um, from that documentation alone, um, or maybe, maybe in combination and a bit of a documentation and then a really small session, um, a small group session may be filtered in the gaps and, um, brings it really up to date.
But, um, if you, if you have, um, A more established, uh, environment. Um, we already have a couple of processes. Um, so this technique could be useful. Um, you could, um, you know, take that documentation and then start mapping, mapping that process from, from the documentation. Sometimes you already have that ready to go process documentation within these documents.
You can, you can use, um, yeah, so. Uh, I guess a tip. Um, if you, if you have access to this existing documentation yeah. You have to really go through, um, and this in depths and, um, um, yeah, this is short for somebody who can hunker down and grind grind through, through this, uh, to these documents until the job is done.
So you really have to turn, uh, through, through, we’ll go through everything here, get all the documents, sources together, um, at the beginning. And. Keep that as a, as a defined scope. So it’s, uh, yeah, it’s very discouraging to manage. If the remote documentation pool is it’s allowed to grow, uh, mid analysis and, uh, yes, it was like a moving target, um, yeah, much better to complete, um, uh, the job was the first set of documentation.
And, um, and then repeat the whole process again, if, if new sources come, come, uh, you come across across new sources. Um, yeah, I think that. Sometimes this is the problem, especially in larger organizations, suddenly another department comes with a different variation of that process. Um, so we have a couple of those customers, uh, big finance institutes, um, lots of old documentation and plenty of places where documentation is stored, so that that could, could be a bit of a bummer.
But, um, I think, I think you buy the trained eye. It’s easy to discount documents. That’s perhaps not relevant or discount documents. That’s out of date. I think if you, if you have got a trained eye and you look at process documentation and you know what you look for, um, you know, it can sometimes be, you know, quite easy to understand, you know, how, how do I actually expect.
The, the actual process that we need to go and automate from this. And how do I sort of ignore some of the noise? Um, now, you know, it takes a bit of experience to get to that level, but I think the more you do it, the easier it gets and it sort of brings us to the fourth technique to, um, you know, to do process mapping is it’s really direct works or work observation.
And, you know, th this particular method is usually more efficient. Um, you know, in a highly manual business environment, you know, we’re processed steps can be overseen and you can observe the tasks in real time. And, uh, you know, of course he needs to have permission to do that. Um, uh, we, we call this a time and motion study, but that’s a very, very tried and trusted method.
Um, again, you need to prepare for this. Make sure that people, um, understand that, you know, your, um, particular, uh, process mapping exercise will involve direct work observation, ask the right questions, ask people why they do specific things. And I think you will soon realize, you know, how, how, how the, the process flows.
And if I just jumped into the fifth method and that’s how business analysis and design, and this is the one that I mentioned earlier, where you don’t particularly have access, um, to, to stakeholders or the process you’re trying to map doesn’t really exist. Um, so, you know, it’s one of those where you, you, you, you, you don’t really have access to those subject matter expertise because it’s.
To impractical, you know, you can’t just drag the, the CFO into a process discovery workshop, five hours. What’s very expensive to, to, to do so. And it’s quite typical in sort of clinical and academic environment where it’s really hard to, to, you know, to get those experts in the room. Um, so I think, you know, this is where this.
Um, business analyst element comes into play where, you know, your direct knowledge of the process or the process to be, um, is important. And, uh, you know, it, it will require you to, to, you know, to use a variety of methods to get to that point where you, where you could propose a proposal for a process that.
Um, you know, and it shouldn’t be a guesstimate, it should be something that you’ve analyzed. You’ve calculated it. And of course, you know, that’s something that you could put together and you need to present it back to the business. Um, you know, so, and, and, and again, with this technique, um, it’s, it’s not so invasive because you, you, you’re not really, um, asking too much of people’s time, but it can take a bit longer because behind the scenes you do.
Um, business analysis. And then from there on, you know, you need to create a process map. There’s a couple of tips there as well. Well, listen, this, if you do this approach, um, and the first one is it’s really not to make any assumptions. Um, it’s very easy to dive into, um, you know, this sort of business analysis or process analysis and, and make a lot of assumptions.
Um, and once you’ve got your process map, when you’re reviewing. With the stakeholders, um, you know, it’s full of holes. Um, so, so that’s very important that you, that you really understand. I think she worked with it is factual. You’ve got evidence to back that up. And again, that that’s part of, sort of the analysis that he will do with the insight that the problem you’re trying to.
So, um, the second tip is it’s really that you need to gain strong approval. Um, you know, from people wants to process this map. And, um, you know, if, if, if you don’t have the subject, matter of the business, subject matters, um, expertise, uh, involved with the. Um, you know, what you need to be able to do is involve them in the sign off of it.
So you need to have very practical ways and easy ways to explain to them what your idea is to solve this problem. Um, um, you know, the benefits it will bring, um, in, in automating this process, um, these people might be quite busy. So you, you know, you need to deploy really strong techniques to, to really use their time.
Uh, the, you know, the dead time quite, um, uh, efficiently. Um, so, so, you know, keep, keep your, um, you know, your presentation of what you think the process should be like and how it solved the problem, and really to the point. Um, and again, when you, when you employed that sort of business analysis, design technique, what you need to do is you need to time box yourself and not get too carried away.
Uh, You know, you need to look at a process and perhaps, um, you know, create, I don’t know, a couple of pages of it, map it out. Um, and you know, once you’re done with that, optimize it and make sure it’s as best as. And bite to get that sign off from, from, from, you know, from the process stakeholders. Um, so you could move forward.
Right? So I think that the whole idea here is that it is a bit of self discovery. Um, you need to have creativity in mind as well, because sometimes you’re not to, um, you know, have all of the answers, but I think that also provides an opportunity. Um, to create something quite new as perhaps not just automating an existing manual process, but it’s coming up with a really new idea that could, um, you know, make the process a lot better.
Hmm. Yeah. So that brings us to the, uh, to the last method. Um, and, uh, the last technique, um, Um, maybe, maybe on his good position, um, and you can import and use the existing process documentation. So that’s, uh, I guess in a perfect world, what do you, what you will have? Um, um, the perfect world know we would, um, import process documentation from, from existing sources and, um, you know, these days we probably would, would look at these sources in three different types.
So, um, what will be unstructured sources of process documentation? Some, some documents we covered that earlier. Um, maybe some slides from previous, um, workshops, um, some, some videos, spreadsheets, all sorts of stuff we could use to document our process. Um, I an import that stuff into our process mapping tools and, um, so what unstructured is quite difficult.
Um, as we know, so, um, so we need some, some really good understanding of what’s. What’s really part of it probably very manual to start with. Yeah. And otherwise, some day structured where we already have process maps and flow charts available. And. And the third type, um, we, we talk to talk about is interchangeable, um, um, content sources.
Um, so this could be models, um, UML BPMN, um, and different other other types. So when, when we look at the unstructured. Um, yeah, so, so there’s a lot of stuff happening at the moment. Um, so we as well after the, the conveyor intelligent capture cloud to make meaning out of unstructured information. So, so if we want to really import that, that information, we need some, some, some help, uh, I guess, was AI to, to extract that, that meaning otherwise.
If we have unstructured content, it goes back to, to the, um, uh, analysis of existing documentation, which is a very manual approach and tedious approach. But, um, then this in these documents and then spreadsheets and all that stuff, we find a lot of information potentially. Um, and we wouldn’t need so much BA time.
It wouldn’t need so much, um, workshop time. Um, so, so it’s definitely interesting to look at this and hopefully in the future, um, we can get even more out of unstructured information sort of automatically, but when we look at structured sources, Yeah, so that’s, uh, that’s information we can, um, we can import, um, uh, in, in, in sort of an original format that could be maybe a Visio diagram, uh, or could be, could be another one BPMN diagram from another tool.
So that’s, that’s very structured. Um, and that’s, that’s absolutely ideal if we have that, so we can import that straight away and then they are the other interchangeable format. Um, you, you might have come across already, um, BP ML or X PDL. So, so these, these four months, um, um, Or was there some tools out there which are writing these, um, these formats out sort of in a standard and compliant way, um, to, um, to define a real process.
And if you have a system out there who can import it, you have all the definition, everything in place, straight away. Yeah. I mean, I think ideally that’s the ideal place you want to be? You know, from a practical sense, you know, um, just looking back at, you know, the years with the process mapping we’ve done, I think, you know, interview style kind of group sessions, um, work pretty well.
I think that. The key is to, to have the right people in the room, represent representatives and stakeholders of the actual people that participate in the process, perhaps the process owner or owners, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities of, you know, how work flow between the different people that participate.
Um, clearly defined sort of, um, metrics on how long it should take for work to flow. You know, so these are things that’s quite subtle, but you know, it’s, it’s a good facilitator would, would be able to table these questions and challenge the people around the room to, to, you know, provide their input. Um, and really, I think the, the ultimate goal is really, as people’s.
It’s to solve these problems, you know, and to have the debates on, should it go to this departmental or should it go to that team member? What happens if somebody is out of office? Should we send a notification because we get so many notifications anyway, or should we send out daily summary of notifications to people to alert them that task?
You know, what happens in exceptions? How do we deal with, and et cetera, exceptions, for example, where can we block, uh, RPA robot? For example, um, you know, what type of reporting do we need to have a process that’s in flight. That’s very important to talk about when we interact with our processes, what type of user interfaces we require, if we design dashboards with SLA indicators, how that, that needs to look like.
Um, so, so there’s so many talking points that you can bring into these sessions. And I think the key is. Um, get the participants to engage. Um, I’m a firm believer that people tend to only talk about stuff that’s important. And this is really important because. People tend to, um, when they happen discussion, especially in process mapping exercises, the things that’s really relevant to them in terms of automation is the stuff they talk about and everything else is really what we could consider to be out of scope.
So it, so it’s really, really quite a focus thing. And hopefully if you conduct these sessions in the right way, And you asked the right questions. You know, you can walk away with, um, a well-defined process map that’s ready for, to mation. There hasn’t been too many areas of, uh, outstanding discussions upon discussion points and, um, you know, that’s ready to pass to, uh, automation developers to, to configure with insight automation tool.
Yeah, one thing we came across as well, sometimes when you, yeah, this is why, when it’s so important to get really the right people in every one of that process, part of the, part of this process in the room, because sometimes, um, if, if you have a good, good, uh, energetic group, um, and discussing one, one person is missing, um, yeah, they did definitely talk about the stuff.
They, they, they think it’s important. Uh, But then suddenly someone else comes, uh, comes along and looks at the output of that workshop said, but, well, what about this? And what about that? Um, so we have this department here. And what about this suddenly? Um, Zol thing falls apart, isn’t it? Soon as you, you mentioned that, that early on, um, and the clubhouse session and, um, that’s, that’s very important.
Yes to, to, to look at potentially if you, if you don’t have the right access, if you have already some other information, um, which can help in a workshop that’s, um, that’s, uh, that will be good. Otherwise, yeah, there’s always a bit of a risk, um, out an important point. And I think that, um, you know, assuming that the right people are in the room and.
Poster sessions in such a way that you make really good, meaningful progress. I think you, you energize people and if, if you, if your technique is refined and you do it the right way, um, people will more likely return to these sessions and contribute more. Uh, and I think it’s easy to gauge their interest, um, because if, if your sessions are boring, they’re long, long winded, um, you don’t get problems resolved and, and people.
Tend to have this kind of mindset of, well, this is pointless. We never gained getting anywhere. It’s it’s too hard. We can’t do this. There’s too many people in the room, you know, can’t we just write a document and, and give that to you. But of course, the danger with that is that people write in different styles.
People put too much details in a document it’s very hard to extract the MVP or minimal viable. Process from the documentation. So your technique really needs to be quite, quite good. So, so there’s, there’s meaningful flow. Um, there is solutions to problems. Um, if, if there’s blockers or points, people get stuck in, this is where experience is quite good, where you can perhaps on the fly suggest alternative ways of doing it.
Um, perhaps you you’ve got some experience of a similar process. You’ve. For another customer that that could help. So all of these, these things really help to, to make the sessions, um, you know, quite dynamic, quite enjoyable. And, you know, we find that at, at the end of these sessions, once you have mapped the process out and, you know, people can see.
Um, you know, there is a sense of pride that people feel well, I’ve actually participated in this. We have actually nailed this. We’ve we’ve, we’ve got the process map out, you know, we’re quite pleased with what we’ve achieved today. Um, you know, that’s a good start to project because once you get to that point and you’ve already got that sort of early success in just doing something.
Um, small but important like process mapping, you know, that the. You know, it’s a good start for, for a successful project delivery. And so, um, without, without that, um, how would you know, um, and what direction you have to go, isn’t that? So it’s absolutely important. Um, important to get that part right. That’s I think that’s it for today.
Some or six methods, how you can create your process maps. Um, so if you are keen to learn more about, um, creating your process maps, or you need more help with this one, uh, Arno and I are here for you and reach out to us via the social channels or visit our website, theautomationguys.net so we can help you to get started with your automation initiatives and yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much for listening. See you all. Let’s automate!
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