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How to Map an As-Is Process

Need to know how to map an As-Is process? In this blog we’ll provide the answers to:

  1. What question(s) should you be asking/ What is the purpose of your As Is mapping?
  2. What’s the scope?
  3. Who needs to be involved?
  4. How much detail you need?

Mapping an As-Is process is all about understanding and clarifying how things work today. We map the As-Is process to create a process manual or quality management system, to identify improvements or to gather information such as requirements for a new system.

Not sure if you need to be mapping As-Is or To-Be? Check out this article to help you decide which one you should be doing.

Purpose

Firstly, make sure you start at the beginning – you need to be clear on the purpose of the As-Is mapping exercise. As mentioned above, make sure everyone understands why you are doing this. 

Ensure you involve the people you need to get their input into the process.  Having an agreed purpose and objectives will make it much easier to explain why you need their help and time. Think carefully about how the objectives will also benefit the individuals involved as well as the company. This will help you to get support and engagement from them.

Then, before you start mapping the As-Is process, think about the specific question you are trying to answer. Having this question ready and visible during the process mapping will help keep everyone focused and help you reach your objective.

Need a reminder about Process Mapping? Read our handy guide here

Here’s an example, imagine you are implementing a new Customer Relationship Management platform. Your purpose may be to automate manual activities in order to improve customer experience and increase the volume of sales that can be handled at any one time.

The benefits to the company are increased sales and improved customer satisfaction. The benefits to the individuals in the process are; less time doing boring manual activities, less chance of mistakes happening and more sales (more commission). This is what you need to define and make clear to everyone involved.

The Key to How to Map an As-Is Process

Therefore the As-Is process mapping is all about understanding where these manual activities are, identifying common problems and exploring opportunities for improving the process through the new technology. So the question(s) to answer in the workshop could be:

  • What are the must have requirements for the new system? (i.e. what can we not do without?)
  • What are the main pain points today?
  • What are any potential solutions to these?

The questions are in order of importance so when the workshop reaches the end you can ask whether each question has been answered and if not what follow up work is required to complete it.

Try Mapping an As-Is Process for yourself – Free in Skore

Scope

Just as important as the Purpose is getting the Scope right. Determining the scope of your As-Is process is about being clear on what process it is, i.e. the title, where it starts and where it finishes.

Setting the scope will help you identify who you need to talk to and also keeps everyone focused on the most important area. The title of the process depends on which area you are looking at but if we continue with the previous example it would be the Sales Process.

When using Skore, for mapping and improving processes, we recommend that you also consider the level above the process you want to map. This helps to understand the context and also identifies any other potential processes that may impact the one you are mapping.

Therefore, in our example, the next level could include the following processes; Marketing, Sales, Order Processing, Delivery, Billing and Aftercare. 

Skore's Business on a Page for describing activities. Use this to understand how to map an As-Is Process
The Business on a Page Template from Skore which allows you to capture different processes in your organisation.

As a result, the team can see the Sales process but it allows them to also consider whether the new CRM needs to support other parts of the process where the company interacts with the customer.

Stakeholders and Influencers

Put simply, who do you need to involve when mapping the as-is process? Most obviously you need to include the subject matter experts, these are most likely to be the people that actually do the process. In addition it could also include the process owner as well as someone from IT with knowledge of the systems currently in use.

Depending on the process there could be a lot of potential stakeholders so you will need to consider which of those are best suited to take part. You can run focused workshops with a small number of people (read our guide on How to run a Process Mapping Workshop here) and then share the processes afterward. If using Skore you can use the commenting feature to gather feedback.

Consider who the champions and influencers are. These are the people that others will follow. They may not necessarily be in management or leadership positions but are often found bringing new ideas and getting colleagues bought in. They are often seen as experts and the ‘go to’ people. Getting these people involved early will really help bring everyone else along on the journey.

Additional Information

Capturing the As-Is process is one thing but what other, related information, do you need to capture. As-Is process mapping is all about looking at the current state, or how things work today. As well as the steps in the process you may also need to capture:

  • Roles
  • Systems
  • Issues and pains
  • Improvement ideas
  • Risks
  • Control points
  • Rules
  • Documents
  • Policies

And there could be many more. Remember that you will have limited time and you will have set a question that needs answering. Stay focused on your original objective. What additional information do you need to capture in order to answer the question?

Be prepared to capture that information in a structured way that is easy to refer back to. This could be a spreadsheet or database. If you’re using Skore you can capture this information directly against the process steps using Custom Fields which will then allow you to quickly report and share them at the end of the workshop.

How to map an As Is Process - capturing additional information in Skore
Capturing Additional Information in Skore
Insight based on Additional Information generated in Skore

Sharing and Feedback

After the workshop it’s important to share the processes and any related information. People will often remember important things afterward so it’s essential to have a way of capturing those and incorporating them into the process later on.

Again Skore makes this easy by using the commenting feature to capture additional information and feedback from others. This can easily be added to the process and everyone will instantly see the updates.

Conclusion

Capturing the As-Is process is an important first step for a variety of projects. It helps understand what’s happening today and identify the main problems that need to be addressed before making any changes and improvements. However, capturing an As-Is process involves collecting and making sense of a lot of information so it’s essential that you are prepared.

How to map an As-Is process successfully is based on having a good plan, being clear about the purpose and involving the right people with the right tools. There are many tools available to help you gather this information, we’d recommend taking a look at a platform like Skore. Skore was designed to be used by everyone in an organisation and its simple two shape system means you can get mapping quickly and bring all your information together in one place. 

Try Mapping an As-Is Process for yourself – Free in Skore

Using Skore to Deliver the People Side of Change Management.

If you’re implementing a new system, designing a new organisation or improving business processes, you need the right people in the right place with the right skills or your efforts are likely to be wasted. 

At Skore we’re passionate about making people the centre of everything related to process change. That’s why Skore has been simply designed to make people-led change a core part of process improvement. Whether you’re trying to build a case for change, get buy in, understand training needs and/or recruitment, there are a number of tools available to help you.

In this article we cover the following topics to show you how Skore’s simple software can help you deliver successful people-led change.

  1. Set clear objectives
  2. Get buy in early
  3. Roles and responsibilities (e.g. RACI / RATSI)
  4. Skills and competencies
  5. Job descriptions
  6. Org charts
  7. Make change stick (giving people confidence – landing pages and training aids)

Set Clear Objectives

Whatever change you’re making be clear about what you’re trying to achieve. Setting clear goals and objectives, that everyone understands, is key to ensuring you are aligned.

Having a clear objective from the start means that in a workshop or training session people understand why you are changing something. There will be a lot less resistance if individuals and the organisation understand why they need change in the first place. 

Then translate them into the specific questions you’re trying to answer during investigation (discovery) and design workshops. A really effective way of doing this is to present a question that needs answeringin the workshop.

For example, if you are embarking on a software implementation project you need to define why the system is required and the high level benefits for the individuals involved. As part of your investigations you’ll run As-Is workshops (read more about As Is vs To Be here) to understand the current issues in the process.

This can be framed as a few questions such as:

  • What things are slowing us down?
  • What is preventing us from improving quality?
  • What do we find frustrating?

Make this visible during the workshop to remind everyone what is important to focus on.

Try Skore for yourself for free

Get Buy In Early

Setting clear objectives is one thing but helping individuals build their own case for change is essential to getting buy in. A brilliant way to do this is to involve them in the work as early as possible. This gives them a stake in the change, an understanding of how it will impact them individually, both good and bad.

The Skore process approach is powerfully simple, meaning that everyone can get involved in process discovery sessions and really understand what’s going on. A great way to ensure buy in. Everyone can work together to:

  • Align on how things work today and what’s wrong with them
  • Collectively identify opportunities for improvement
  • Agree on the constraints that may impact success
A Simple Process Captured In Skore

A simple process captured in Skore

Create this process framework by involving the team. Then suddenly it’s not a group or consultants or analysts doing it to them, they all have a stake in what the potential solution will look like. The same framework is used for further communications as the project progresses and further changes are made. This ensures everyone is on the same page.

Roles & Responsibilities

Processes are essential for helping the team align around what happens, when and why. With Skore you also build a deep understanding of who is involved and to what extent. This is really important when you want to know whether you have the right roles to make your processes work as designed. 

By default a Skore What box asks the question “Who does it?” and by enabling the Responsibilities model you can extend this using RACI, RATSI, RAPID, or your own preferred model (find out more about RACI alternatives here).

With this enabled you can tag the roles on each step of the process according to their responsibility level. If you are using RATSI, for example, you can tag the Responsible role with R, the Authority role with A, the Task role with T and so on. You can add as many roles to a What box as you like but remember that too many can make your process look complicated. (Tip: hide roles tagged with Support or Inform so they are not visible on the page but are still tagged against the process step.)

People Led Change Management starts with understanding responsibilities in Skore.

Multiple roles tagged with responsibility levels

Once you’ve added all your roles to the process go to Roles > Insights tab and you can immediately see how your roles stack up.

Insights tab shows responsibility levels and helps improve People Led Change Management

Roles > Insights tab showing responsibility levels across different roles

This view shows you how often each role has been tagged by each responsibility level. In RATSI the A (for Authority) shows who is responsible for key decisions. In this example you can see that the Marketing Director is the only role by design. Key decisions are kept to a minimum in this process and therefore as few people as possible need to have that authority. You may wish to represent lots of decisions, in which case you could use this view to ensure that no single role has to make all the decisions.

We see that the Marketing Manager has both a large amount of Responsibilities and Tasks. Therefore we would recommend reviewing that role to determine whether it actually needs to be divided into two or more new roles.

Whatever you do with the insights provided, you can change the process immediately and your change will be instantly reflected here. If you need to review individual roles use the Role Description on the main Roles tab.

Skills and Competencies

When changing a process, adding new activities, or creating a whole new process it’s likely there are going to be gaps in the skills and competencies of the existing team. Use Skore to identify these gaps and create job descriptions later on.

In Skore we ask what competencies are required for an individual piece of work without having to consider the role involved. By focusing on the activities we can objectively agree what the right competencies are required to deliver the desired outcomes.

Screenshot shows the individual competencies that can be added to a what box in Skore

Individual competencies attached to an activity

Here we can see competencies have been added to the activity using Custom Field attachments. This activity has two competencies associated with it. You would review each activity in the process and add competencies as required.

Now we can go to the Roles tab and this time we select the Competency tab. The Competency tab is automatically generated as soon as you start adding competencies to the process.

Insights generated by Skore to show the number of Roles by number.

Roles by number of associated competencies

Here we can start to see how different competencies cluster around different roles. Fewer competencies generally means roles are much more specialised whereas large numbers of competencies indicate a more generalist role.

Again this view shows that the Marketing Manager has a large number of competencies compared with other roles so we can legitimately ask the question whether it’s feasible that one person could have such a broad skill set. This may be further evidence that the Marketing Manager role needs to be redesigned.

Note. This example does not include the minimum level of competency but this could be added to Skore if required.

Job Descriptions

With the information gathered so far it’s now possible to start creating accurate job descriptions. For this you will use the Role Manager in the Roles tab. The Role Manager lists all the roles in the process and shows how often they appear. Selecting a role will show you the detailed Role Description on the right hand side.

Skore Software generating role descriptions. In this case a Marketing Manager.

Role Manager View

The view above shows the role description for the Marketing Manager. Many roles will directly translate into a job description while other job descriptions may be made up of multiple roles. In the Marketing Manager example the description lists all the activities and their responsibility level.

The Custom Field section will show you the list of competencies that this role requires to carry out the activities it has been assigned. This should be the full list of competencies required for the job.

Image shows a competency list created in Skore.

Competency list for the selected role

The Collaborators section tells you which other roles the Marketing Manager is working closely with. This is determined by how often each role appears on the same activity as the Marketing Manager. The higher the count the more they will interact.

Other roles that collaborate with this one

Finally you can see how this role interacts with others through handovers. This is another form of interaction where the role is passing over finished work to another part of the process, often outside of their team or department.

Handover view of the Marketing Manager as shown in Skore

Handover view of the Marketing Manager

With this information it is now possible to create a job description that is directly connected to the work described by the process model.

Organisation Chart

The job descriptions created in the last step provide a basis for developing your org chart. They will give you a good sense of the level of responsibility, the level of skills and knowledge as well as the types of activity they are involved in. Assembling the org chart may require some work but is easily carried out in Skore using Note boxes and Icons.

A descriptive and colourful Org Chart in Skore using Notes functions.  Show how your people will be affected by Change.

Org Chart in Skore using Note boxes and Icons

Make Change Stick with People Led Change Management

Even after you assemble the team and start implementing your change things will still be new to everyone. Regardless of experience and skill level these are new ways of working and not everyone will remember everything from day one.

Set up training on the key process changes and any new technology. Using Skore, create User Manual versions of your new processes so that everyone has easy access to the new processes and any supporting material.

Processes need to be easy to find so that people aren’t left frustrated and not able to figure out how to do simple things. There will always be challenges during implementation but the aim is to make it as easy as possible.

Create landing pages in Skore that make it easy for people to find this information in a simple and friendly way. Landing pages are easy to make using images and links to the appropriate processes.

A landing page created in Skore to inspire people in your organisation to adopt change.

A simple landing page to make it easy for users to quickly access their processes

Add additional information to processes to make it as easy as possible for people to find the actual information they need. This could include links to documents, forms, policies, apps or even instructional videos.

How to add video links and extra details into a Skore map. This helps to encourage People Led Change Management in hour organisation.

Video tutorial embedded in a Skore attachment to support users through change

Finally you can use the collaboration features in Skore to gather issues in the process as users come across them. The Skore processes really become the communication medium between those doing the process and the support team helping them through the change.

Conclusion

Delivering change without spending enough time considering the impact on people is always going to be dangerous. Without the right people, and without getting them behind the change it’s unlikely to deliver the expected results. That’s why Skore has been designed to make it as easy as possible to engage with people and provide an unrivalled set of tools that allows you to align People, Process and Technology all in one view. Deliver change with your People on board and you’re on the route to success.

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How to map your Procure to Pay Process.

Understanding how to map your Procure to pay (P2P) process can seem somewhat daunting at first. Of course the steps already exist in your organisation, but being able to get it all down in one place can seem a difficult task. 

In this guide we will share with you some of the basic stages you should consider and the reasons why it is so important to have a clear understanding of your process. Our how to map the Procure to Pay process will outline the steps and we’ll even throw in a free Procure to Pay template to help you get started. Just read on to find out more.

What is the Procure to Pay Process?

Procure to pay is the end to end process from selecting and ordering from a supplier to receiving goods/services and making payments. Historically P2P, also known as Purchase to Pay, was a manual process involving numerous parties, different requirements and countless pieces of paper. Whilst the numerous stages remain, many organisations are taking great steps to automate the Procure to Pay process. Why is this so key? As a vital component of any business, an efficient P2P process results in a healthy financial outlook, competitive strength and not to mention a honourable reputation. 

You can break the P2P process down into different sections and there are different interpretations of this. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter how many stages you have as long as you’ve included the fundamentals. In this blog we group them into four main categories – to keep it simple. 

When you start to examine how your business runs its purchasing process you really need to consider the following aspects:

Want to learn more about Process Mapping? Read our definitive guide here.

Selection and Sourcing 

Before you even start raising purchase orders you need to detail the system in place to identify company needs. Plus how you find and select suppliers.

  • Who do you need to speak to in the company?
  • What are your criteria for selection?
  • Do you have existing relationships with suppliers and who manages them? 

Once suppliers are selected:

  • What contractual agreements are in place?
  • Who manages these relationships?

In addition this also our first glimpse into compliance requirements in the P2P process. It’s vital to get this right from the Selection and Sourcing stages. 

Purchasing and Ordering

Once you have selected a supplier and signed the relevant agreements consider how you raise your purchase orders. It can be a very simple process, but historical and manual involvement means that it is often convoluted, confusing and wastes time. This is often due to a delay in getting sign off or a lack of clarity around your company rules and policy.  Mapping out your P2P processes is a great opportunity to see the steps involved here and whether there is room for improvement.

  • Think about how you create a requisition?
  • Who decides how much money you will spend?
  • How do you get approval from the budget owner and who enters the details into your computer system so a purchase order can be raised?
  • Once a PO has been generated how do you send it off to the supplier ready to order your goods or services?

Receiving Goods and Services 

Next, your services or goods should arrive.

  • Whose responsibility is it to check on the quality of the goods/services?
  • How do you define if they are up to the standard you were expecting?
  • Have they arrived in a timely fashion?
  • Are there any credit notes or faulty items to return?
  • How has your purchasing experience measured up so far?
  • Most importantly who is responsible in your organisation for each part of this stage?

Remember these are the types of questions you should be asking your organisation as you work through the process. Consider what tools you use in your organisation to measure these questions. Make sure you document them as you capture the P2P Process. 

Invoices and Expenses 

Finally as soon as the goods/services are delivered the payment part of the process is in motion. Invoices will be raised and entered into your accounts system. Goods or services delivered are crossed off and compared to what was ordered. Payments are made and accounts settled. You want this to run smoothly, paying suppliers promptly and without mistakes of course makes for a smooth supply chain. Once again, consider who does what at these different stages:

  • What different departments are involved in releasing payments?
  • Have you also thought about the different methods of payment your business uses to pay back suppliers?

You also need to compare how much you forecast to spend at the requisition stage and check how much the actual amount is in the invoice. This is key to managing the company’s cash flow. This is another clear example of how learning how to map your P2P process will help with the financial management of your business and keep it healthy too. 

At this stage you can also include details of how you deal with internal expenses.

  • How do you pay back your employees?
  • How do you keep copies of receipts and proof of payment?
  • What do you ask to see and who needs to sign these off before payment can be made?

Expenses payments are a vital part of the P2P payment process. 

Risks in not having a well thought out P2P process

As highlighted in this article, the Procure to Pay process is fundamental to an effective business. Making sure you know how to map out the P2P process is key.  Not taking the time to clearly outline the process can result in many issues for any organisation including:

Slowing productivity

Customer satisfaction decreased because you couldn’t hire the temporary staff quick enough to satisfy demand? Products removed from your stock because you couldn’t get hold of the goods you needed to make them? All this relates back to your Purchase to Pay process. If you can’t get that right, your business can’t work quick enough. 

Hidden Costs

Do you really know how much you are spending on your suppliers vs the value it brings the organisation? Are you able to access this information at a touch of a button? A lack of clarity from your business means that you may not be able to track the flow of money around your organisation easily. 

Compliance

A purchase to pay process that has not been clearly mapped means it’s easy to fall into the trap of making mistakes or not adhering to regulations. If your organisation was audited tomorrow – could you relax knowing that everyone in your business understands the rules and regulations and has been following them?

Communications

Traditional approaches meant that P2P had a paper trail. How many lost purchase orders or requisitions entered incorrectly have you experienced? Do you truly know how many people are involved in the P2P process? Do they all understand the steps and requirements? If there was an issue with payment tomorrow – do you know who to speak to about it?

Reputation

Supplier disputes, late payments? All headaches you clearly don’t need. They aren’t great for your reputation, suppliers need paying and all of this can be avoided if you have a system in place that works well. You may not even be aware of the issues your suppliers and staff are experiencing until you take the time to map out the Procure to Pay process. 

Successful P2P leads to Successful Organisations 

When you look at the breakdown of the Procure to Pay Process, you begin to understand why it is such an integral part of any organisation. The delivery of goods and services are a component of every department. The success and smooth running of any P2P process is key to an efficient and profitable business. 

Yet we still see hesitation. For many the task itself seems overwhelming. P2P affects every part of your business and at Skore we see that some people just don’t know where to start. By mapping out your process you are opening up that discussion. You are discovering your key people in this process, learning about the limitations and uncovering where your bottlenecks are. 

A clearly defined Procure to Pay process means that:

  • You have better control of your business. 
  • The lines of communication are open within departments and everyone understands their roles. 
  • Efficient sourcing and payments will make your company more competitive in the marketplace and of course improves reputation.
  • More opportunities to uncover hidden costs and potentially save money
  • Saves time approving suppliers and creating orders
  • Safeguards your company from compliance and risk issues. 

And these are just some of the initial benefits.  As more companies move towards automation in the Procure to Pay process, the opportunities to reduce errors and streamline the process become even greater. 

How to map your Procure to Pay process – Free Template. 

At Skore we understand that for some it means just taking the first steps towards a healthy P2P process. That’s why we have made our Procure to Pay Process template available and free to use. Skore’s Process Improvement Software platform was designed to be used by everyone in the organisation. That means there are no complicated shapes or terminology to learn and from the moment you start mapping the software will begin to build your analytics dashboard to help you understand where the costs, risks and opportunities are in your business. 

The Procure to Pay process template will help you look at a standardised way of managing the process. It’s up to you to customise or change it to your own business requirements.

If you have a Skore workspace you can add it for free or you can always sign up for a free trial and try out the process template for yourself.

No Pains No Gains? Asking the painful questions in Change & Transformation

When working on any change, or transformation, programme we are all familiar with the activity of gathering and documenting the pain points through Process Mapping from across the business. We understand the value of this. 

However how much time have you spent thinking about how and, perhaps more importantly, when you capture them?

Of course talking about, and recording, pain points is useful for many reasons. It helps to focus in on where the issues are and how the issues are perceived. It brings a human perspective, giving participants a stake in the change and feeling like they’ve been listened to.

Starting your Process Workshops

However, the timing and the approach you use can have a significant impact on the overall programme. In a recent webinar, on ERP Implementation, one of the consultants highlighted the challenge of starting off process discovery interviews by asking about pain points.

“In times of change people can become suspicious, especially when an outside consultant has been brought in. We found that when we started asking about what was wrong with the current ways of working some people would become very defensive and close up.”

Another challenge with asking about pain points, in isolation, is that they tend to be subjective. Admittedly to some extent that’s OK, because you want to see how people feel. However consider that it also means that it’s much harder to size and prioritise a problem. Remember that, different people may articulate the same problems in very different ways, making your task of deciphering them way more complex.  

Getting the right Pain Points in Process Mapping

Daniel Kahneman, in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, describes the concept of ‘Substitution’. This is where you are asked a complex question but in the interests of answering quickly your intuition substitutes the complex question with a simpler one that has an immediate answer.

To put it into context, imagine you are asked: ‘what are the pains you experience in your job.’. There are probably many. Each have varying degrees of importance and impact to both you and / or the business. However, trying to first remember and then assess each of these is a complex exercise. 

Therefore you are likely to substitute this question in your mind with something easier to answer such as “what was the last pain you suffered in the course of doing your job?”. You then list the pains and importance by the order in which you remember them. It seems logical that the most important pain is the one that springs immediately to mind but actually as Kahneman points out, this is likely to be an incorrect assumption.

Want to learn more about Processes – read our Ultimate Guide to Process Mapping here

Using As Is Process Mapping as a Solution

You could consider instead running an As-Is process mapping workshop. This gives people the chance to first talk about how things actually work today. One of the most important benefits of running a live workshop is that people align on how they believe the process works. Very often people involved in a process have a different view of how it works. Therefore the problems or pains will be approached with a different set of assumptions.

This activity allows the individuals to think more objectively about the process and its problems. It will remind them of issues that hadn’t immediately come to mind and help them re-evaluate other pains in context. The participants  synthesise and analyse the shared knowledge in order to come up with a more accurate picture of the pain points.

Consider when to talk about Pain Points

The next time you are planning process discovery sessions for a change or transformation programme consider when you will raise the pain points. The key to success isn’t just recognising that that pain exists at the end of the day, it’s putting it in the right context. After all, a pain point by itself is nothing, the learning it brings is where the magic happens. 

Skore is the Process Improvement Software Platform that enables everyone to understand their processes. Our simple two shape systems means process mapping and management is even easier than ever before. Try for yourself with a free 14 day trial.

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How to Map Processes

Introduction

In our How to Map Processes blog we teach you how to quickly create powerful process diagrams that will help you to align your workforce understand your company’s constraints and identify vital improvement opportunities. What’s even better is that everything we show you in this how to map processes guide can be done with paper and pens. Why not have a go and see how simple it is? If you find it useful then consider using a software like Skore.  We built Skore specifically to make process mapping easier, faster and more fun for everyone in the organisation.

Why do we process map in the first place?

Business process mapping is used extensively across larger businesses throughout the world and more and more in small to medium sized businesses. Why? Well process mapping helps people make sense of patterns of work that involve different people and different tools. Generally you’ll see process mapping in projects such as introducing new software to a business, reducing costs, saving time, improving quality and creating a better customer experience.

However, with advances in technology and changes to how people create and consume products and services, now even the smallest businesses are complex. Therefore even the smallest business needs to clearly understand its most important and valuable processes and learn how to map processes. Even more importantly they should also have the opportunity to understand and access process mapping tools, just like any large organisation.

In the following how to map processes guide we’ll show you a simple, yet incredibly powerful, approach to process mapping that anyone can do no matter how large or small your business is. What’s more, if you’re scaling up a business, the sooner you and your team start learning this valuable skill the faster you’ll be on your way to success. 

Step 1 – Title and Scope

First things first, before you start any process mapping you must agree the title and scope of the process you are about to map. The title is generally the easy bit, what is the process that we are going to map? e.g.Sales Process, Marketing Process, or something even more specific like the Expenses Process. Whatever you decide, make sure you clearly indicate what the process is.

The slightly harder but very important part, is the Scope. By defining a Scope we are setting the boundaries for what we want to map. This helps to focus everyone and prevent the team talking about other areas that are not relevant… or ‘Out of Scope’.

To define the scope you need to think about what triggers this process to start in the first place and what is the final output of the process. The start and end points.

A pro tip here, you CANNOT simply write Start and End easy as that would be. This won’t tell you anything about the process and means it’s harder to stop people talking about areas out of scope.

Let’s look at an example 

Let’s take the Sales Process. It’s different for different companies but here the sales process starts when a new lead has been generated. So the trigger (Start) may be as simple as “New Lead”.

Remember, it’s not unusual to have multiple inputs, or triggers, to start a process. For example, leads may come from different sources so your inputs could be; “New Phone Lead”, “New Email Lead” and “New Web Form Lead”. This is especially useful if you manage them in different ways in the process. A New Phone Lead will probably start with a telephone conversation, where as an Email Lead may require you to arrange a call first.

The end of the process should deliver some sort of value, either to the customer or to the next process in the business. A good way to think about defining this final output is to think about what you would need to see in order to know, categorically, that the process was finished. So, if we continue with our  Sales Process example we may expect this to only finish once an order has been placed. In which case the final output would be “Order Placed”, or “Signed Contract”. Just like the start point, there may well be multiple end points. Don’t worry about this. We know that not all leads will convert into sales so an alternative end point might be “No Sale” or “Sale Abandoned”. 

These could be important outputs to know if in the future you want to investigate how you handle these leads. It will help you to understand how to map the process as well

Most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s better to put something that looks roughly correct to start with you can always change it as you map out more of the process.

Step 2 – What happens? The key steps in your process map

Now it’s time to start mapping out the main steps of the process. The key activities, or tasks, that make up the process. These steps describe the work that actually happens whether it’s done by a human or a machine.

Pro tip – Always describe the steps of a process using Verb + Noun. They are activities so they should be described as actions, you are doing something to something. Some simple examples include:

  • Create lead
  • Register opportunity
  • Raise invoice
  • Submit purchase request

These all start with a verb. Following this simple rule makes it much easier for anyone to read and understand the process afterward.

Then as you map out a new process call out all the activities you can think of and add them as boxes. Often people use sticky notes if doing this on a whiteboard. If you are using Skore these are called What Boxes because they describe what happens.

When working in a group, throw up all the activities people can think of and sort them into the correct order.

You may end up with lots and lots of boxes on the page and that’s OK. Just go with it. You will quickly find that some steps are details which sit underneath others. Here you have a choice.; Either put all the detailed boxes into the process and create something that is very large and potentially difficult to read. Or you may group detailed steps together and create separate processes for them. In Skore you can create sub-processes easily that link to your high level process. 

Want to learn more about process mapping styles and approaches? Read our guide here.

Step 3 – Why? / So That? The reason for doing the work

This may be one of the harder steps to master but is also the most valuable.

The purpose here is to think about the value that each step brings to the overall process. Every activity should deliver something,  either physical, data, or a change of state. 

This step helps you challenge thinking such as “we’ve always done it that way”. It helps people consider steps and suggest improvements.  For example if these outputs form the handover from one person to another it helps everyone agree what that handover looks like.

Start working through each activity from the previous step and ask one or more of the following questions:

  • Why do we do this activity?
  • What do we have at the end of it?
  • How do we know when it’s finished?
  • What could we measure to ensure it has been completed?
  • What do we need to start the next activity?

The output of each activity  should become the input to the next. Once you have been through all the activities and added all the outputs the order of the steps will become even clearer. You may need to rearrange them to make sure.

Skore Example Why and What box
Image taken from the Skore platform

Pro tip. Try to avoid using the past tense of the activity as your output. This is simply repeating the activity and adds little value to the diagram. If you really cannot think of a good output you can leave it blank, it’s telling you something about the step and might need more work to understand why there is no clear output. A really important part of understanding how to map a process is being clear about each step, input and output.

Step 4 – Who does it? The person that makes sure it happens

Now you should have a clear process with all the steps and outputs defined and in the correct order. The next step is to define who, or what, is doing each activity.

It’s recommended that you use roles or job titles to describe who does each step rather than individual’s names. This is because personnel may change or you may have multiple people working in the same role.

By this stage you will probably notice that you are repeating or iterating through the process. This is, in fact, deliberate. Every time you do this you’ll realise that someone will probably notice something missing or inaccurate. This part of process mapping means that your process becomes clearer and more accurate over time. 

Step 5 – What else? Any additional information you need to capture.

Finally you get to this stage and it seems like the end is in sight. It is, but before you finish remember why you started this in the first place. It is vital to understand what the issues are and the opportunities to improve it. What you must make sure you do is capture these and you’ve probably been discussing them all the way through. 

The trick here is to make a note of this information and make clear which part of the process it relates to. The simplest way is to annotate the process. You need to know how you will record this, it can quickly get messy and difficult to read. In Skore you can attach all these notes against the process in a clear and simple format. This allows you to capture information and report on them easily. 

Notes made against a Skore What Box
Image taken from a Skore Process Map

You also may want to reference other related information such as tools, documents, policies, templates and anything that’s relevant. Again annotate the process in your agreed format or use Skore to capture the relationship.

At last your process is complete. Remember however, that a process is a living and breathing thing and should be kept up to date as you make changes and improvements. The better documented the process the easier it will be to share with colleagues and get their feedback, thoughts and ideas.

How to map processes- which process do I start with?

So now you know how to map a process the question is which process do you start with? If you’re a growing business looking to build discipline around your processes so that you can scale effectively we recommend looking at our free Business on a Page template. This one page exercise helps you identify key processes and discuss which ones to start with. Once downloaded you can get going with your new found mapping skills.

And Finally

Remember – whatever anyone may tell you – you only need a pen and piece of paper to map out a simple process. You don’t need to be an expert in BPMN or a master of a drawing software tool. Anyone can learn how to map a process easily. Take back control and learn to how to map a process in your organisation, its a vital skill you won’t regret learning.

Skore is the Process Mapping and Improvement Software designed to be used and understood by everyone in any organisation. You can sign up for a free, no obligation trial here and start process mapping today.

Using the Business on a Page in App Advisory Software Projects

What is the Business on a Page – describing your business activities. 

A Business on a Page is a tool used extensively by users of Skore and similar business process and architecture software products. It’s a way to describe the key activities of a business all on one single page.

In its simplest form it allows business owners, directors and managers to have focused conversations about the business. This could be because things are not working as expected or they need to be improved. Often problems are misunderstood or span multiple areas in a business. The Business on a Page helps managers understand where the impact is on business activities. 

Mostly it forms the basis, or framework, for how all the different processes in a business fit together. It’s easy to read and allows the user to drill down into the component parts when they need more information.

For growing businesses it’s a fantastic tool for an owner or CEO to clarify who is responsible for what. Once they have this clarity they can start to organise business processes according to who owns them. This becomes the foundation for developing scalable processes essential to the success of any ambitious business.

The Business on a Page can be used as the starting point for many different types of project including:

  • Process improvement
  • New software implementation
  • Evaluate compliance to standards and regulations
  • Assess readiness to sell
  • Prepare for investment

Why use the Business on a Page in an App Advisory project?

As an app advisor you’re not just there to select apps for your client. You also need to make sure they are the right apps to help your client grow their business. Often you’re introducing an app to help a client solve a problem they have in their business. This could be preventing them from growing in the way they want.

The biggest challenges you face in this task is really understanding the client’s problem enough to provide the right solution. To further complicate this task your client probably doesn’t know how to articulate this problem themselves. They will certainly feel the symptoms of the problem and describe those clearly but the actual problem that causes these can be well hidden.

What’s more, even when you do eventually uncover the root cause of the problem it can be surprisingly difficult to explain this to the client. They may well have trouble accepting something they hadn’t previously considered.

Describe Business Activities with the Skore Business on a Page Template
Skore’s Business on a Page Template

Helping you with a simple framework.

The Business on a Page helps you in several ways. It provides a simple framework which you can use with the client as the basis for discussing the problem. A clear diagram that describes business activities. You can point to it when describing how a problem in one area is causing an issue elsewhere. If the conversation is difficult, using the framework of the business on a page helps clients to discuss issues impartially and without emotion. 

It also helps the client and their team organise their thoughts and group different issues based on where they happen in the business. Ultimately you’ll be trying to understand where money and the data flow in the business. Then you can show how different apps are going to make their life easier. The Business on a Page allows you to agree with the client which processes need to be captured and where in the business they are.

Finally, you may be looking to help the client uncover and solve other problems in the business beyond their immediate app requirements. Again the Business on a Page gives you the necessary overview of the business to discuss and agree with the client.

Need guidance on advising clients or identifying and implementing the right apps? Read our How To guide to App Advisory here.

How does it work?

The Business on a Page approach is best used in the first meeting you have with the client. Use it to help you organise your understanding of the client’s business as well as agreeing some key terminology with them. It will tell you which parts of the business you’ll need to look at in more detail and who you will need to work with to do so.

Start by sketching out the key activities performed by the business. You can use our Business on a Page template to get started and provide examples of those activities. Capture all the key activities including Marketing, Sales, Delivery, Support as well as the supporting activities such as Finance, HR and IT.

Next, identify who owns each of these areas and write this down against the activities. It’s best to do this with the client and members of their team so that everyone is in agreement. This will make it easier when you need to refer back to it later on.

Once you’ve captured these activities you can start to talk about the areas of the business you want to focus on. If you’re starting with Cloud Accounting then you’ll definitely be looking at the finance area. But you’ll also want to know about invoicing, where does that happen, is it the finance team that looks after this, or is it done in Sales?

Are you looking at a time tracking system to help billing? Then you’ll need to look at the Delivery section where projects get delivered to clients. Do expenses get captured here too? Where else does money get spent or collected? The Business on a Page will help you discuss that with the client team and agree where you need to look next for the extra detail. It will help you identify which processes you need to map and in which areas.

How to download our template

You can download our free template here to help you describe the business activities and get started today. Alternatively the interactive Business on a Page module is also available through our software platform. You can sign up for a free trial here and experience how easy it is to describe business activities online, gain instant analytics to share with clients and keep a permanent, easily updateable record of the business.

Skore's Business on a Page for describing activities
The interactive Business on a Page available on our Skore platform.

Barriers to Growth: The Owners Control Dilemma – How to Delegate

Introduction

For a business owner, the daily challenges faced don’t get any easier. Maybe they are frustrated by a team not stepping up to take responsibility. Fed up with problem solving that they really don’t have time for. Or despairing of critical projects not delivered unless they are personally involved. Many business owners have ambitions to grow but are slowed down by these obstacles. The answer may be that they need to learn how to delegate.

Whether you are a business owner or advisor, many organisations experience these problems. In this blog we delve into some of the reasons why this happens and provide not only a few tips but also tangible tools to solve your delegation issues.

The problem

Like any thorny issue in a business setting there’s always more than one point of view. Either the owner doesn’t know how to delegate properly and is struggling with a lack of control or they feel they’ve hired the wrong people. The reality is that actually it often comes down to a lack of clarity between what the owner and the team think is expected of them. 

Let’s look at this rationally, most employees want to do the right thing and follow direction. However, if they haven’t been presented with the correct boundaries or direction then how do they know what to do? As a business grows and leaders become busier they will delegate more tasks as needed. This haphazard approach however won’t work as tasks become bigger and more complex. If a business owner hasn’t figured out how to delegate by this stage then the team will lack authority in making the decisions they need to do.

How to delegate?

Learning how to delegate is easier said than done. Letting go of certain tasks is always going to be a struggle but first ensure there is clear direction and objectives for the business. It needn’t be complicated, owners should be able to describe their vision easily to everyone and have some measurables attached. A good example would be to double revenue every year by doing something better than all your competitors. Another might be to become the most trusted in your area among a certain demographic by a certain date. The clearer the business makes this, the easier it will be to measure progress and communicate to the team. 

The next step is to think about how to organise or architect the business to achieve the objective. Consider what the major components are and how they fit together. This isnt as daunting as it first seems. Most components are standard across businesses and include things such as Marketing, Sales, Delivery, Production, Finance etc. If a business owner isn’t sure where to start then we recommend our free Business on a Page template which includes the most common areas. It’s a great place to start and effective in engaging team members, especially those that will be the next level of management.

Once the components are defined it’s time to note down who is responsible for each area. This is often when the truth dawns for many business owners. In our experience many of them find themselves responsible for most, if not all, of the components. In this case, the Business on a Page exercise has really served its purpose. Business leaders can now start asking themselves questions such as:

  • Which of these areas they need to focus on to improve their new business objectives?
  • Where are they spending too much time where others could help?
  • Who has the best skills and experience to own the different components?
  • How does work in one component flow to the next?

As a result of this exercise, owners are not just asking staff to do things in different areas. They are giving them the responsibility to decide how things get done. This is a great first step but for many relinquishing that control doesn’t always happen that easily. Learning how to delegate takes a mind shift as well as practical application. 

team mapping process in skore

What if they don’t do it the right way? Or the way you want them to do it?

Business owners should be encouraged by being reminded of the original objectives for the business. Remember to measure objectives for each component to ensure that it is delivering in ways an owner would expect. If team members deliver on the measures defined by the leader, does the leader really need to be involved in the detail?

As a countermeasure we would always suggest that business owners have a view of what is working well in each area and where each member needs help. The best way to achieve this is to ask each member of the team to map out their own high level business processes. This not only clarifies the way they do things but also ensures that everyone in the team can see how they fit in with each other. It brings engagement and collaboration to the organisation, a win win for any business. 

This combination of the Business on a Page, the measures and high level processes is the architecture of a business and they can use it at regular status meetings. It becomes a common language where the team can clearly articulate problems they face and makes it easier for owners to help them.

Skore's Business on a Page Template
The Business on a Page Template

How the Business on a Page works.

If you’d like an online version of the Business On A Page Template, you can take a look at how it works here.

The Business on a Page template is a blank template that provides some of the most common activities commonly found across different businesses. Use those provided or specify your own components relevant to your business. The examples are exactly that, examples to help you find the right wording for individual activities.

There are two types of activities on the template, those that describe the work done to make money, such as marketing and sales. Then the activities that support these such as Finance, HR and IT.

There’s no limit to how many boxes are available but try to keep them all on one page. Its interesting to also fill in the template for how the business looks today and then create another one for where the business will be in the future. This helps when trying to prioritise what to do next. 

With the boxes defined, add the owners to each box. As mentioned above it’s better to do this with the team and encourage them to suggest which boxes they own, or think they should own.

Once the owners for each box are agreed, discuss how each will be measured and write this alongside each box. Remember that it’s unlikely you’ll get it exactly right on the first try. Revisit and tweak this over several weeks but in the meantime the whole team has a common framework in which to discuss the business, any problems and how to overcome them.

Finally, the team needs to start looking at processes. Check out our process mapping guide here as a good place to start. If you want to capture your processes and share them digitally, along with the business on a page then of course we highly recommend Skore, our process improvement platform that’s designed to be easy to use by everyone in the business. 

Skore is the process improvement platform designed to be used by everyone in your business. Map processes, gain insights instantly and share with everyone. Craig Willis is the CEO and Co-Founder of Skore.

App Advisor – Your How To Guide to Getting Started

In this How To guide we share our tips and tricks through a simple series of steps to follow. 

Plus you can download our Free Template to help you get started with Cloud Software Advisory today.

We’ll show you how to identify and implement the best apps for any growing business and build a long lasting relationship with your client. 

Introduction

For any modern business the Cloud has opened up all sorts of possibilities.

Cloud technology has given us the real potential to accelerate growth on a scale not seen before. Yet, moving to new apps and new software isn’t always as easy as it looks. It can be hard, complicated to organise and easy to get wrong.

In fact the amount of things to consider can be a little overwhelming. Follow the steps to our easy App Advisor How to Guide however and you can get started today.

Scoping

This is our first tip and its pretty important…. Without agreeing a clear scope your client will expect more without wanting to pay any extra. 

So let’s go back to the very beginning with Scoping. This is essentially about understanding and sizing the problem.

It’s a vital part for any app advisor and important to get right. 

Why do we spend so much time Scoping? Well this is your chance to really get to know the client, their business and agree clear boundaries.

Of course the scope of any app advisory project may change but if you have defined it up front then that’s a different conversation to have with your client.

For example – do they want to increase the scope to cover a bigger problem or bigger part of the business? And if yes, are they prepared to pay you for the extra time? Alternatively you may need to know if they want to reduce the scope to save money and time.

If that’s the case you can make clear the impact on the final benefits.

We recommend that you get something in writing and agree early on that you can both review throughout the project.

Sounds simple right?

However even agreeing the scope takes effort. As an app advisor you really need to understand your client’s business from the get go. Start preparing for your discovery phase by doing some research.

Review the website, try and understand what they do, investigate their business model and how they deliver their services.  You could even send them a questionnaire to fill in.

This is a great way of beginning to understand their business pains and how you can make the biggest impact or improvement.

You can create a simple template easily or (and this is the first of two freebies!) try this one that our cloud software advisor clients use. It’s a great idea to get your client to start filling this out before your first discovery session.

If you like that template then hold onto your hat, you’re going to love the Business on a Page free template available below!

Discovery

Now you have a basic understanding of the client’s business and their problems, the Discovery stage is all about getting into the details.

Clients may describe a problem in a certain way but it’s your job as the App Advisor to get to the root of the problem so you can solve it. 

So how do you get the ball rolling? The best way is to start mapping their processes. Of course you may find that some companies already have process documentation of some sort, this is helpful, but we recommend starting afresh. 

There are a number of reasons why. Firstly you need to understand these processes clearly – otherwise how will you be able to propose the best solution? This is the most crucial point.

In addition you need to make sure that the information provided is accurate and up to date, that nothing is missing and that your client understands where the issues are too. Finally mapping a process together is a great way to engage and build a relationship with a new client that will stand you in good stead for the rest of the project. 

To kick off this process mapping exercise, start by running a “Business on a Page” activity with your client. The Business on a Page template will list all the key activities a business does on one page.

As an app advisor this will help you to clarify which parts of the business touch on the processes you’re interested in.

Why is this key?

Let’s look at an example; imagine as an app advisor you are focusing on the accounting automation possibilities. You need to recognise that the flow of money through the business doesn’t only sit within Finance processes. Money also comes from Sales, or Service Delivery, and you need to account for expenses too.

Using the Business on a Page means that you can frame that conversation with a client. Then you can agree and understand who in the business needs to be involved in the Discovery sessions. 

Once you have agreed which processes need mapping you can get on with it.

We recommend a simple approach, you can use Skore to make this easy and recordable or you can use our approach on a whiteboard or even a paper and pen, then write it up later. Check out our process mapping guide here for more information.

As you map each process be sure to capture any problems the team describe and any ideas they express. This is vital information. We recommend that app advisors map what the business does today and record how the team would like it to work  in the future as notes.

This enables you to start quantifying the problems they have today and how any new solution will solve those in future. Make sure you think about how you will record this information – either through sticky notes or a software like Skore. 

Discovery sessions vary in length depending on how big the project is… i.e. the scope. The first session should be scheduled for between 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Set the expectation that you may need more time after this but typically you will know by the end of the session.

Keep a checklist and document if there any areas you are not clear about. You may need more information about them before moving on to a solution.

Many Cloud Software Advisors and Consultants will charge a fixed fee for the first discovery session and prepare a short report from this. Sometimes that’s enough to continue with the project.

Now at least, you will understand the scope and can agree that with the client before doing any more work.

Design

As you have gathered the information you should be able to start sketching out a draft design for the solution. It may be that you have already seen activities that the client does that can be automated, or where they are prone to mistakes or duplication.

As an App Advisor this is really your chance to show what extra value you can bring to the client.

Start by making a new version of these processes and experiment with different designs. This is the time to think about how these processes should really work, and your recommendations.

If you do think there are radical changes that could improve the client’s business then why not share them? It may be that they hadn’t considered that option before and it could make a tangible difference. 

Once you have created these designs you can put together a list of requirements and criteria to help you select the right apps. When completed, its time to start your research!

Need to know how to gather software requirements remotely? Read our blog here for some tips

Research and Selection

Start your research by reviewing App websites. Consider what features they offer and check if this matches with your criteria.

Make sure you make a note of it all. You could even create a scoreboard if you have time and give points for every criteria fulfilled. This should help you focus on the high scoring apps. It also means you won’t need to take trials and demos of everything. Take a look at what comparison websites can assist with your search.

We recommend App Advisory Plus for anyone working with Xero as a great place to start. 

With a shortlist of apps you can contact vendors to find out how closely they match the criteria. Share the processes and criteria with them.

Most app vendors don’t want to waste your time, nor their own time on a potential client that’s not a good fit for them. They will tell you pretty quickly whether they can meet the criteria or not and if not, how far short they fall. This is where your accurate and clearly mapped processes will come into their own!

You may want to arrange demonstrations for your client based on their processes. This will make it much easier for them to make a decision. Remember you might be making recommendations but it’s up to the client to decide which app to use.

Configuration and testing

With the apps selected you can move into configuration, or use an App Integrator to do this for you. Either way your processes will prove invaluable as reference material for how the app needs to work.

Next you should run tests with actual users of the apps. Make sure to brief them on the processes first, especially if they have changed.

Keep in mind that some users might not even know why they do something in the business. They’ve just always done it a certain way before without question. Your processes should explain why they do it and therefore why they have to do it differently now.

Test the new apps against the process and ensure they do what they are expected to do. Ensure the participants agree that things work as expected. You should also involve the main client representative in this stage and get them to sign off the tests before moving to the next step.

Implementation and training

So here we are, the big day has arrived and the client is going to switch over to their shiny new solution. Any app advisor should make sure all users have been trained on the process and are clear what they need to do. It is of great benefit if the users have access to the processes as training material. 

Be prepared to have some teething problems within the first few days, its totally normal.

In fact we’d recommend that App Advisors make some time to be available to support the client through these first few days. Agree with the client beforehand that you will be at the end of the phone, or even on site, for a given period until they are up and running.

Many App Advisors offer a chargeable ongoing support package on an annual basis or for a fixed term. This gives the client confidence that issues will be dealt with quickly and most will be happy to pay for that privilege!

Let’s not forget about Change Management

Lastly, but certainly not least, is Change Management. In our opinion this and the initial Discovery step are the most important topics in this guide.

Let us explain why, when you introduce a new app, or combination of apps, to a business it’s not just the software that changes. To get the real benefits from these new apps you need to get the people in the business to use them and to use them properly.

That means these people will need to change the way they work.

Training should be put in place to help people understand what the new ways of working are. However you also need to consider what motivates people to behave the way they do. People get used to the way they do things and can easily fall back to what they know if they don’t understand, or fear, a new change. This is especially easy if the old way of doing things was in a spreadsheet, or similar document.

If they hit a problem in the new app you’ve introduced then what’s to stop them falling back to their old safe spreadsheets?

This is why Change Management is so important. Change Management is about taking people along a journey. It ensures they understand the need for change and the benefits it brings.

It also warns them of the potential challenges they will face and what you’re doing to help them through. Any successful App Advisory business will need to consider this thoroughly.

Our future article about Change Management will be available soon but for now remember that any new apps you introduce will not work if you can’t convince the users to use them! It’s key to winning the hearts and minds of any client or users and well worth taking the time to consider.

Great Opportunities for App Advisors

The rapid rise and expansion of cloud technologies means every business needs to be thinking about how they can take full advantage of new ways of working and keeping up with the competition.

For App Advisors and Consultants there are ample opportunities to advise and help organisations reach their goals. A word of caution from us however, always remember that App Advisory is not just about new technology. Focus too much on the technology and not enough on the steps mentioned in this How To guide and you may just find that you’ve provided a solution that no one uses or really needs. 

Craig Willis is the Co-Founder and CEO of Skore, the Process Mapping and Improvement Software. With over 15 years of experience in Consultancy and Change Management, he’s on a mission to make sure that every business, large or small, has access to the tools needed to grow and improve their business.

A Visio Alternative that makes Business Process Mapping easy

Before considering Visio alternatives it’s important to decide what you and your organisation are really looking for. In this article we look specifically at business process mapping, analysis and continuous improvement. MS Visio is often the most used tool in this space but is it really fit for purpose?

Visio alternatives, such as Skore, are actually specifically designed for working with Business Processes unlike Visio itself.  This can make your life easier, accelerate your project and elevate you and your team to the role of trusted advisor in no time at all. 

Visio Overview

Let’s start by taking a look at Microsoft Visio, a diagramming software designed for business use. Having been around for a number of years, and part of the generic Microsoft Office suite, it is available to users in businesses across the world.

One of Visio’s strengths is the large library of shapes and palettes that can be dragged and dropped onto the drawing canvas. For this reason it is incredibly flexible and can be used for an extremely wide range of different applications. That flexibility is also a drawback and the reason why there are so many Visio Alternatives.

One of its common uses, of course, is in Business Process Mapping. There are shapes available for basic flowcharting right through to the Business Process Modelling and Notation standard. This, is the disadvantage, the flexibility and range of shapes. One of the criticisms leveled against Visio is that it’s hard to create consistent processes and stay consistent across a team of analysts.

If it’s part of a larger programme, these processes need to be analysed. Although  you can include some extra data in Visio it is generally easier to create a spreadsheet to capture process related information. This creates problems as there are multiple documents and tools to manage in order to perform any sort of analysis which leads to further inconsistency. .

Finally, some feel that the diagrams produced by Visio are not visually pleasing, to be fair this is normally down to the user rather than Visio itself. However Microsoft Visio’s unstructured approach means that a process can be displayed in a disorganised or illogical fashion. As a result teams using Visio will often transcribe processes into something like Powerpoint or Word before presenting to a wider audience. This means that once again more tools are required and the data is duplicated and retyped each time risking misinterpretation and error.

Finding the right tool for Business Process Mapping

P2P Process in Skore
Skore Process Map

The first thing to consider when looking for a Visio alternative for business process mapping is what your process maps will be used for.

In the first instance we map processes for three key reasons; to align people on how the process does / should work, to identify opportunities for improvement and finally to understand the constraints the process must operate under. You can read more about these in our article (why we map processes).

Most of this can be achieved through collaborative process mapping workshops, whether they are face-to-face or run remotely over desktop sharing software. This is one key area where Visio falls down however and a Visio alternative would be required.

All but the most experienced and adept analysts will find it impossible to map a process straight into Visio while it is being described by a group. At the very least there would be long pauses and waiting while boxes were placed on the page and lines joined up. This wouldn’t be acceptable behaviour in what you would hope would be an engaging and participative workshop! Therefore typically Analysts run this sort of session using pen and paper.  Afterwards they write it up, essentially double handling the data, creating multiple versions and running the risk of misinterpreting it.

Skore has been designed to map processes at the speed of conversation in live process workshops without slowing down the thought process of participants. In fact many users of Skore find they can actually speed up this exercise with participants finding it highly engaging.

“This is the first time I’ve seen people across the business get excited about taking part in a process workshop. Especially when it’s related to ISO 9001” Andrew de Bere, Quality Assurance Director at SERT.

This incredibly user friendly way of mapping process gets even the most resistant team members involved quickly. What’s more, the processes can be shared with a wider audience without any training on how to read it. It’s intuitive enough that someone looking at it completely fresh will be able to follow it and there is only one version and one document to worry about. 

Need Business Process Analysis?

Once a process has been documented, or mapped, it’s typical for some analysis to be conducted. While many improvement opportunities may have been identified during the process capture phase an Analyst may look for more using various techniques. Common types of analysis include:

Handover analysis

One of the most common problems in business processes happens at the interfaces between different people and teams. Traditionally an Analyst uses a swimlane view of a process to highlight these handovers and this is something supported in Visio.

The swimlane places each actor in the process in a lane and the handovers between them become clear. However, the more complex a process, and the more actors there are, the harder it becomes to see these handover.

Skore has built in handover analysis that automatically highlights this. In addition, the role view will show an individual role, how often, and with whom they handover, providing a deeper insight into handover problems.

Time and cost analysis

Most analysts will move straight to a spreadsheet for capturing and analysing time and cost information in a process. While some basic information may be captured in the Visio diagram it cannot provide the necessary calculations to complete any analysis. Again multiple documents and tools would be required to support the process. 

Again, Visio alternatives, such as Skore, have this capability built directly into the process maps. This means you can map a process and attach time and cost information and create an instant analysis of your process.

Skore automatically creates dashboards based on time and cost information

Roles and responsibilities

Again swimlanes in Visio provide some clarity of roles and their expected activities but this too is limited. A common tool for analysing roles and responsibilities is RACI. Just like time and cost analysis this information would be added to another spreadsheet and analysed there.

Skore supports RACI (and other types of roles and responsibility models) directly against the process. This keeps all the data in one place in one software and makes it easier to update. Furthermore, the built in dashboards provide insights into roles and responsibilities that wouldn’t be possible in a standard spreadsheet. Skore can be used to really drill into different roles and how they fit within a process.

Requirements analysis

Requirements tend to be captured outside of a tool like Visio and therefore analysed elsewhere. So if you are looking to reduce the number of different tools you use for analysis work then Skore could well be a good fit.

Requirements can be captured directly against activities in Skore and then quickly and easily reported on. Furthermore, it’s possible to group requirements as you capture them. Perhaps you want to use a prioritisation technique such as Kano or MoSCow to determine the must have, should have and could have requirements . Again this is a simple task in Skore with the added benefit that the requirements can be further analysed by grouping or role.

Now with Skore Connect it is possible to push these requirements directly into Microsoft Azure DevOps as epics and user stories. This provides a clear line of sight between your business requirements and your development tasks. Developers can review tasks in DevOps and refer directly to the process models for context and to answer questions.

Looking for Continuous Business Process Improvement?

Another area where you may be looking for a Visio alternative is in continuous business process improvement. There are a whole range of techniques for this type of activity but central to its success is the humble process map. For effective continuous improvement programmes it’s essential for processes to be easy to read, easy to find and easy to review.

With Visio this tends to be done via email, stored in a shared drive or uploaded to Sharepoint. Unfortunately this runs the risk of duplication and making it hard to find. When using Skore as a Visio alternative you save processes in a central workspace and share securely with everyone.

Skore diagrams are easy to read and users can leave feedback comments directly on the diagrams so that others can respond and collaborate. This makes it perfect for collaboration across diverse teams and processes. You can also control access rights and always rollback to an earlier version if needed. 

Other Visio Alternatives

Of course to complete this article we should also note various other Visio alternatives. These, with the exception of BizAgi, are more similar to the general purpose nature of Visio.

  • Lucidchart – an online Visio alternative with a user friendly interface and subscription license model
  • Draw.io – a free and open source Visio alternative with both a web and desktop interface
  • yEd – a desktop application which more focus on business architecture type diagrams
  • BizAgi – a desktop application specifically built to support BPMN and interface with the BizAgi automation platform

Summary

Microsoft Visio is a useful general purpose diagramming tool that can be used in a variety of scenarios. However, if you need to focus on business process mapping and work as efficiently and effectively as possible then you need to look for a Visio alternative that meets your requirements. Going down the general purpose road will only lead to additional costs in time and money and ultimately frustration later on.

In this article we have highlighted how Skore makes a perfect Visio alternative when you have to map processes, engage the business and share and improve processes on an ongoing basis. If you’d like to learn more about Skore start your free trial here.

The benefits of process improvement software

There are, broadly, three different types of business process improvement software, each with their own pros and cons. Process mapping and analysis software, such as Skore, process measurement software and automation software. In this article we will explore each of these as well as general purpose diagramming software.

By breaking process improvement software down into these groups we hope it will make it easier for you to understand the benefits of each type.

Process mapping and analysis software

For any process improvement initiative to take place it is essential for teams to clearly understand their processes. There’s no better way to do that than through creating process maps. Process maps allow you to visualise even the most complex of processes in order to understand how work flows. They help you clarify who is involved, when something must happen, what tools are required to do it and how.

Process maps give you a baseline for process improvement, a starting point that you can build on. The best way for you to create process maps is in live collaborative process workshops where you can quickly align everyone.

Check out our free guide to process mapping

Not only do they help get everyone on the same page but they also clearly highlight improvement opportunities. It is essential for any process improvement software to have some sort of process mapping embedded, or integrated, for it to be effective.

So what makes a good process improvement software in this category? Process improvement is a collaborative effort and should involve as many people as possible. That means any software you use needs to be easy to use and accessible, and therefore understandable, to the widest audience.

There are many process mapping and analysis tools available but many are very technical, or designed specifically for business architects. This puts them out of reach of the average user and not ideally suited to a company wide process improvement effort.

process improvement software - easy to read process
An example of an easy to read process in Skore

Skore makes processes easy for everyone in a business, not just the analysts and architects. The simple two shape system is easy to read and easy to follow. This process improvement software is used in live collaborative process workshops to capture processes maps at the speed of the conversation and creates instant analytical dashboards. Being web based, processes can be shared easily with anyone. The commenting feature allows all users to provide feedback and improvement suggestions.

Skore - process improvement software
Instantly identify improvements with analytics in Skore

If you’re looking for a complete solution for your process improvement software it’s worth looking at a process mapping and analysis tool that is easy to use, collaborative, web based and includes feedback and discussion features for capturing improvement ideas.

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Process measurement software

This is a fairly niche but growing area for process improvement software. These tools tend to focus on presenting dashboards that show the performance of the process. This allows teams to be able to see the effect of their improvement efforts. If they make a change to a process they can see whether it improves performance or not.

The software will also support collaboration features allowing teams to discuss improvement ideas before implementing them.

The data used in these dashboards typically comes from a variety of different sources and systems. Many companies use a simple spreadsheet or a more sophisticated visual analytics tool such as Power BI. These tools don’t generally support collaboration features for teams to discuss and implement improvements.

Processes can be measured and improved over time

Often teams use visual management techniques with whiteboards displayed in prominent places around the office or shop floor. Using kanban, or similar, teams can see how work flows. Key tasks are pinned to the board and they move through various stages until completion.

There are many software platforms today that mimic the whiteboard and allow teams to collaborate remotely around this idea of a kanban type board.

If you’re looking for process improvement software and already have an easy and accessible process visualisation tool then it may be worth looking at process measurement software to help bolster your process improvement efforts.

Process automation software

Probably the most common type of software in this area is process automation. As a process improvement software, automation software can be extremely focused. Processes are easy to measure and easy to implement improvements.

Process automation is a huge area from large heavy weight business process management platforms through to low-code and even robotics. Process automation isn’t really process improvement software but it can be used very effectively.

Before processes can be automated, it is important to understand the process, what it should look like in the future and how it is going to be automated. That generally requires you to do some process mapping, analysis and design work. Some automation platforms include process mapping tools but these tend to be more technical and not for general use.

However, once the process has been designed and implemented in the automation tool, it becomes very easy to improve. A good automation software will include dashboards and allow easy changes to the workflow allowing you to target improvements very carefully.

If you are looking for process improvement software that is focused on automation then this is a good area to look at. Remember, you will still need an effective process mapping and analysis platform to get started.

Diagramming software

We have included general purpose diagramming software here because of their prevalence in this space. As has been mentioned many times, creating some sort of process visualisation is essential to process improvement work.

The most common diagramming software is Microsoft Visio and it’s a very good tool with many different applications. Most diagramming tools are clones of MS Visio, with either more flexibility or an improved user interface.

This flexibility is also part of their challenge. These tools are not focused purely on process mapping. They do provide lots of options but they are not optimised for this type of work. Using a general purpose tool requires additional expertise to do it well. Work to visualise processes will require the constant attention of a small number of dedicated individuals, rather than broad input from the whole team.

Process improvement projects should be collaborative and engage the widest number of people possible. So starting with a tool that inherently excludes large parts of your team is perhaps not the best approach.

If you are looking for process improvement software, and have a dedicated team that can focus purely on process mapping, then a general purpose tool may well be the best option.

What type of process improvement software is best for you

The important things to consider when looking for process improvement software is to ensure you have all the necessary bases covered. To do process improvement well you need:

  • Process mapping – the ability to visualise processes and get everyone aligned on how they work and what can be improved. You also need to create a baseline against which you can measure process improvement. A good process visualisation is one that is easy for the widest possible audience to understand and engage with.
  • Central repository – any work you do needs to be accessible to everyone and not cause any confusion. Having a single source of truth for your documents and processes that can be accessed from anywhere is a must.
  • Collaboration – process improvement is about collaboration and everyone contributing ideas and suggestions. Any process improvement software you select should have the ability to collaborate and leave suggestions and improvements.
  • Measurement – it’s important to measure processes so you can see how effective your improvements are. Most measurements will come from existing systems so consider how you can extract this information into a dedicated system or to your existing management information dashboards.

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