Do You REALLY Need Process Mapping Software?
Process maps are usually one of the first steps in any process improvement project. Designed to get down how a process operates in a visual form, process maps depict exactly how a process works, step by step, so that it becomes easy to identify opportunities for improvement.
Anybody with a pencil, sticky notes and some paper can create a perfectly good process map. And the advantages of this approach are obvious: no IT required, immediate engagement with people in a workshop, and you can get as creative as you like with your drawings.
So do you REALLY need a process mapping software?
As with all good consultants’ responses, the answer is "it depends". If you’re wondering whether you need to invest in process mapping software for your process improvement team, here are a few questions to help you decide.
Question #1: How do you plan to use the process maps?
For some organizations, the answer is: "we’ll stick it in a binder with all our other process maps." If this is the ultimate "plan" for your process map you could probably get away with a picture of that hand drawn map or cobble together a basic drawing in a Microsoft tool (like Powerpoint or Visio). Equally, if the map represents a "one time" improvement event, you’ll probably have a hard time convincing management to invest in a fancy mapping software.
On the other hand, if you want the map to be something that can evolve over time and can be useful to employees as they execute their processes, you might find that a more advanced process mapping tool is useful. For instance, some process mapping software has links with document management systems so that people have access to any documents they might require to carry out a process. Still other process mapping software, can help in process improvement itself by helping to assign and track what needs to be changed to individuals or teams. As such, some software vendors position themselves as helping to facilitate an "improvement culture" or Kaizen by acting as a communication platform to make the process transparent to everyone and facilitate its improvement.
Question #2: Who needs to see the process maps? And how?
This will be obvious based on your previous answer. Do you want all employees to be able to quickly log on and access how to do something? Is this something that only senior management needs to see? Or will it be gathering dust in a dark corner of your organization?
The type of software you’ll want to use will vary significantly depending on who needs to have access to the information. If it’s something that you want all employees to be able to see and access, a more robust process mapping platform with collaboration features could be what you’re looking for. On the other hand, if the purpose is to have pictures for senior management, a simple drawing tool will do. And if you just want a map that gathers dust….well….
Question #3: Do you want to be able to automate processes from your process maps?
Imagine being able to draw pretty pictures and then have them come to life. While we may not be talking a fantasy world of unicorns and endless ice cream, many of the process mapping tools out there are integrated with more advanced Business Process Management software systems. This makes it possible to actually automate processes directly from the process maps. How’s that for cool?
If you want to find out more about different process mapping software or decide which one might be right for you, PEX Network will be running a special Process Mapping online series May 9-10. See this software in action, hear from companies that have implemented it, and grill the makers to get your answers. It's free to attend. Find out more at http://www.processmappingmodeling.com/.