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Process Mapping Lessons (Part I)

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Having done some process mapping over the 10 years and there are several key lessons I’ve learned during this process. Typically during this exercise, you have a certain area to focus on. You need to outline all aspects into understandable flows in order to review where the controls are and if there are any improvements that can be made.

This might involve how credit card complaints are handled at the call center or how online bill payments are handled. In addition, this process requires several aspects of project management. While it’s important to ask the right questions with the right partners in the room, it’s just as important to manage this project to deliver a valuable product within the designated time-frame. I’ve included some valuable input based on my actual mapping experience.

RESOURCE COMMITMENT – Getting key players who are typically the subject matter experts (SMEs) to commit ahead of time – no long absences or job switches helps increase the chances the project is completed on time. Along these lines, it’s important for the project manager to outline how he or she operates. In other words, for the first week or two, we may need to meet every day or other day for 1-2 hours. This will help gather all the data and key information. As time passes and certain SMEs are consulted on the project, the meeting may be twice weekly for 1 hour. Setting the expectation for the key contributors and consultants helps these individuals to know what is involved with this project.

KEY COMMITTED CONTACTS – Finding one or two key people who are committed to this exercise to work in smaller groups to ensure the project maintains it's momentum and focus. The small group may review the progress of the process mapping to ensure it's progressing as designed and in the right direction. The small group may also meet to brainstorm to address any other potential ongoing challenges.

Example of a process map. In this example, the Backtesting process map is used. This will help determine what went wrong and apply "lesson's learned" to the particular process.

COMPILE AND ORGANIZE THE OUTLINE THROUGH NOTES IN WORD – Early on in the process, it might be useful if your focus is not on mapping out the process using a flowchart. I’ve found it useful to develop an outline in Word with key items and aspects of the process before moving forward. Once having a solid outline, the project manager/process mapping expert will add the necessary steps and information to this outline. It’s a work in progress. Once the Word document or outline is 90% complete, it’s then time to map these various sections of the outline on a process map. In my situation, the process mapping software is Microsoft Visio.

ADD NOTES, CONTROLS AND GAPS ONCE KEY AREAS ARE MAPPED OUT – There were situations in the past where I began to map out things as we started to define key areas. This typically didn’t work that well. Contributors had to jump from map to map to see what was still needed. In addition, by jumping into the mapping exercise right away, the group may miss the brainstorming process that ensure we’ve captured all key areas of this process. Therefore, diving into the structure and completeness of the map works best waiting until the majority of the information is gathered. At this point, the mapper can begin adding notes or additional context to the applicable map. Gaps and controls can be called out once maps capture all key parts of the process being targeted. Typically, I create a appendix for the notes, gaps, acronyms and additional information.

ANTICIPATE INVOLVEMENT OF OTHERS – When doing process mapping, you frequently will not know all of those critical subject matter experts needed to make this project a success. I’ve found some situations where key subject matter experts will not respond to your meeting invite or project outline. To anticipate this, it’s critical to have several participants who can help reach out to ensure those who need to participate do.

TIME FRAME CHALLENGES – As much as you plan, things don’t always transpire according to the plan. If you plan for the project will take 4 weeks, consider adding at least 2 more weeks — extenuating circumstances and often resource constraints often come into play. You may find key contributors not always available when needed or it may be necessary for new contributors to be brought in to answer questions or help fill in the gaps. I’ve found it wise not to necessarily communicate this to the entire group although you may want to communicate this to your key drivers of this project.

PROJECT SPONSORS & STAKEHOLDERS UPDATED – Keep SMEs in the loop with weekly or bi-weekly updates. Know whom you can consult with issues, questions or unexpected challenges.

CALENDAR UPDATES/ACCEPT OR REJECT MEETINGS – When scheduling meetings, you need to confirm that key attendees need to respond (hopefully no later than 1 day prior). Each meeting may be different with different SMEs and participants. So you need to get a commitment by all attendees before you move forward. If not careful, you could be wasting your time as well as those who participate in a meeting that don’t include the key participants.

THANK THOSE PARTICIPANTS – It's always a good idea to be thankful and appreciative of everyone's time. Thanking everyone after each meeting is a win-win. Thanking those who helped out recently through email is a can’t miss too. Kindness is not foolproof, however, it helps to keep the project on schedule and improves your chances of success.

FULL COMMITMENT BY THE PROJECT SPONSOR AND STAKEHOLDERS – The project begins and everyone is on board. You have the green light from the project sponsor to review online billing or reviewing how call centers handle extremely irate customers. You reach out to the project sponsor to understand the objectives and who may need to be involved in reviewing this process end to end. Things go well at first where you do information gathering and then begin to map out all the key aspects of the project. However, when you reach out to the project sponsor and/or some stakeholders you get an indifferent reception. It’s important to understand if the stakeholders and key sponsor is still committed to the completion of this project. This may be out of one’s control but as the project manager, you must ensure their commitments are still there. In some situations, urgent tasks come to the forefront and the immediacy of this project needs to be delayed or postponed. It may be frustrating when this occurs, however, as the manager of the project, once you get this news, you must not delay communicating the news to all contributors. Because of the uncertainly of resuming the work, you may want to consider sending the group the news with all the documentation and work that has occurred so far. It's wise to thank them for their contributions and and commit to keeping them abreast of the possibility of resuming the project at some point in the future.


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