Why does nobody read my beautiful process maps? Because they are bloody boring.

Marielle Howitt

We all recognise and understand the value of clear and consistent documented processes. At the same time, we must also recognise as much as we put our blood, sweat and tears into their creation, they are not the most exciting or engaging things to read.

Too often it feels like the need to capture process documentation is more of a tick in the box exercise to satisfy the auditors than it is an imperative to ensure the business understand and is enabled to do their jobs in the right way. 

Clients spend oodles of time (and cost) mapping processes. But after hours of passionate discussion, spirited debate, and refinement they sit in a drawer until the next scheduled review, new system or project lead wants to review them. While some organisations are better than others about keeping them “live”, but many use them as a backup for compliance/auditing rather than as an ongoing tool for learning and day to day reference. 

With the current pandemic exposing organisations to unknown risks and areas that are in dire need of some TLC, it is time to see how we can use technology to help us through these tough times. Creating efficiencies and savings are critical to success and organisations are recognising that they need to be more competitive during these challenging times.

As a career process geek this situation challenges my sensibilities. I love a process map however the time has come for me to recognise that for my beautiful process maps to deliver their true value, outlooks and the approach has got to change. It is time to reimagine the process map.

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So, I have given this a lot of thought and I would love to hear what you think, so here it goes …

The problem in my mind is about the consumption of process maps when presented in their “train spotter view”. We need to understand that not everybody cares about an aesthetically pleasing, academically perfect, process map.

In my experience the highest levels of engagement and understanding of processes has come from when they have been visualised in a contextual, meaningful way. For example, with one of our automotive clients we visualised the end to end landscape as a series of roads and intersections. This allowed us to show the high-level end to end flow for multiple process areas and the touchpoints between them, providing a compelling visual interface to drill down to further detail.  

What I think we need to do is data enable the consumption of process information and do this in a way that provides a dynamic visualisation of process that does away with the traditional academic view.

Taking this approach enables us to provide a highly personalised view focusing in on the specific activities an individual or role needs to perform, whilst still being able to provide the broader context of the end to end process view.

It also allows us to present process information in the context of other pertinent data sources. For example, risk or compliance data.

This enables the individual to do things they couldn’t do before such as focus on things that are high risk, for example; my personalised dashboard is showing me the key processes and activities that need to be completed today however, incorporating some risk data has identified that I actually need to prioritise one specific task.

We all know that its not the happy path processes that we need to focus on, it is when things go wrong. Again, using complimentary data sources, we can enable individuals to manage by exception, with them just receiving notifications letting them know when the process activities have been completed successfully. All these data sources combined improve agility, confidence and assurance of decision making.

Another essential component of a process is measuring adherence and performance. If we also harvest data around the execution of processes it provides a rich set of metrics and analytics around process performance. Identifying lack of adherence, levels of compliance, bottle necks and swivel chair activities amongst others. This improved measurement and tracking provides an evidence base that informs your continuous improvement agenda.

To conclude, imagine what we could do if we deconstructed what a process map really is and shift our mindset to look at new innovative ways of ensuring adherence and adoption whilst not needing to compromise on productivity and efficiency. Sysdoc realised long before this global pandemic that the future of work was evolving. Behind the scenes, demands and priorities have been changing. 

At the beginning of February, it could have been argued that these alterations were a temporary means to an end while we waited out Covid-19. However, it is now evident that these revelations surrounding how the way we work can, not only be improved, but add value to a company. We need to leverage on the digitalisation of the world and the way in which remote working has become a thing of the future, and very much the present. 

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