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11 August 2023

Why Process Mapping is Key to Successful Business Process Automation

Businesses are continually seeking ways to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve productivity. Enter Business Process Automation (BPA) – a transformative approach that leverages software and applications to execute repetitive business tasks.

Before we dive into automating processes, it’s crucial to understand the heart of this: effective process mapping.

Introduction: The Digital Revolution of Business Processes

In business history, few eras have been as transformative as the digital revolution of the 21st century. Today, we stand at the intersection of innovation and transformation, where digital technologies are not just adjuncts but central cogs in the machinery of modern business processes.

As the first dot-com boom heralded the profound potential of the internet, businesses have been in a perpetual state of evolution. The rapid proliferation of digital technologies and platforms, from cloud computing to artificial intelligence, has transcended beyond the realm of IT departments and into the core of business operations.

But what does this digital revolution truly mean for businesses? At its core, it embodies the transition from manual, paper-based, and often cumbersome processes to streamlined, efficient, and automated ones. Businesses, regardless of their size or industry, are recognising the imperative to adopt digital tools not just as a means to an end but as an intrinsic part of their value chain.

However, with such massive shifts come challenges. As organisations seek to digitise and automate their processes, the complexity of these operations can often become a stumbling block. This is where the importance of process mapping emerges, shining a light on the intricate maze of operations, ensuring that businesses don’t merely adopt technology but leverage it to its fullest potential.

Let’s delve into the crux of process mapping and its pivotal role in the realm of Business Process Automation (BPA), illustrating how it acts as the keystone for businesses looking to truly capitalise on the promises of the digital revolution.

What is Process Mapping?

At its essence, process mapping serves as a cartographer’s tool for the intricate landscape of business operations. But rather than charting physical terrains, it traces the intricate web of tasks, decisions, and interactions that bring a business process to life.

Process mapping is the art and science of visually representing the flow of a business process. Think of it as creating a comprehensive roadmap, one that doesn’t just show destinations but also the myriad paths, intersections, and potential detours along the way. This map provides a bird’s-eye view of the entire process, showcasing every step from its initiation to conclusion.

But what does a process map capture? At its simplest, it might detail the sequence of tasks that need to be completed, much like a checklist. But in its more complex and informative forms, a process map can show:

  • Roles and Responsibilities: Who is accountable for each step? Who needs to be informed? By defining roles, we eliminate ambiguity and enhance accountability.
  • Inputs and Outputs: Each step in a process requires certain inputs to begin and then produces outputs once completed. Identifying these can help businesses ensure that all necessary resources are available and that outcomes are as expected.
  • Decision Points: Most processes aren’t linear. They have junctures where decisions are made, leading to different potential paths. Mapping these decision trees helps in visualising possible scenarios and outcomes.
  • Interdependencies: How does one step in the process affect another? Recognising these connections ensures that changes or issues in one area don’t inadvertently disrupt another.

The utility of process mapping goes beyond just visualisation. In creating these maps, businesses embark on a journey of introspection and discovery. They often uncover redundancies, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies that might have remained hidden in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Moreover, by establishing a clear and shared understanding of a process, businesses can ensure that all stakeholders, from top-tier management to frontline workers, are aligned in their efforts and objectives.

Why is Process Mapping Integral to BPA?

In Business Process Automation (BPA), one thread emerges as indispensable: process mapping. It is akin to the architectural blueprint before constructing a skyscraper or the script before shooting a film. Without this crucial groundwork, BPA efforts can become misdirected, ineffective, or even detrimental. Let’s delve deeper into why process mapping stands as a cornerstone in the realm of BPA.

  • Visibility and Clarity: Imagine trying to navigate a complex maze without a map. The chances of getting lost or missing key paths are high. Process maps offer a clear visual guide to the intricacies of business operations. Such clarity ensures that everyone, from top management to frontline workers, is aligned in understanding and expectations, reducing errors and inconsistencies in execution.
  • Identifying Improvement Points: A thorough process map doesn’t just display the sequence of tasks; it shines a spotlight on areas of waste, redundancy, or inefficiency. Through this illumination, businesses can more readily pinpoint which aspects of their operations are ripe for automation. It’s the difference between randomly applying technology and using it with surgical precision to address specific pain points.
  • Ensuring Successful Automation: BPA isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Without an accurate process map, automation efforts can inadvertently magnify existing issues or create unforeseen challenges. A detailed process map serves as a guide, ensuring that automation is applied where it can offer genuine benefits, enhancing productivity, and reducing costs.
  • Facilitating Change Management: Implementing BPA often implies significant changes to existing workflows and employee roles. Process maps, by providing a comprehensive view of the current state, allow stakeholders to envision the desired future state more clearly. This visualisation aids in smoothing the transition, helping teams adapt more readily to the new automated environment.
  • Monitoring and Measurement: BPA’s success isn’t determined at implementation but in its ongoing results. Process maps serve as a baseline, enabling businesses to measure the impact of automation. By comparing pre-automation workflows with post-automation results, organisations can assess the tangible benefits and areas for further optimisation.

Steps to Create an Effective Process Map

Crafting an effective process map is akin to charting a course for a voyage: the clarity and precision with which you define the journey significantly influence the outcomes. An intricately designed map can make the difference between a smooth transition to automation and a turbulent, inefficient implementation. Below are the detailed steps to ensure your process map is not only accurate but also insightful.

  • Define the Scope: Before diving into the specifics, establish the boundaries of your process map. Are you focusing on a specific department, a particular task, or an overarching organisational function? Clearly delineating the process’s start and end points will ensure the mapping remains focused and manageable.
  • Gather the Right Team: Process mapping is a collaborative endeavour. Assemble a cross-functional team encompassing individuals directly involved in the process. Their first hand knowledge and diverse perspectives will ensure the map is both comprehensive and nuanced.
  • List Steps Sequentially: Start at the beginning of the process and document every action, decision, and transition till the very end. Aim for a balance: too granular, and the map may become overwhelming; too vague, and critical nuances might be missed.
  • Determine Inputs and Outputs: Each step in your process operates on certain inputs and produces outputs. Clearly identifying these for each stage can aid in understanding dependencies and ensure resources are optimally allocated.
  • Identify Decision Points and Potential Variabilities: Not all processes are straightforward. Some stages might have multiple potential outcomes based on certain decisions or conditions. Clearly mapping these decision trees and variabilities ensures that all potential scenarios are considered.
  • Establish Roles and Responsibilities: For every step, define who is responsible for execution, who needs to be consulted, and who should be informed. This RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) approach can be instrumental in reducing ambiguities and ensuring accountability.
  • Validate with Real-world Scenarios: Once your initial draft is ready, run through several real-world scenarios to test its accuracy and comprehensiveness. This will help you identify gaps, ambiguities, or redundancies that might need addressing.
  • Review and Refine: Process mapping isn’t a one-and-done task. Once your initial map has been drafted, engage with your team to review and refine. Seek feedback, address concerns, and iterate until there’s consensus that the map accurately represents the process.
  • Choose Suitable Mapping Tools: While hand-drawn diagrams can be a starting point, leveraging professional process mapping tools can provide scalability, clarity, and the ability to easily modify and share maps. Tools like Microsoft Visio, Lucid chart, Skore, or Bizagi can be particularly beneficial.
  • Maintain and Update: As businesses evolve, processes change. Ensure that your process map remains a living document, regularly updated to reflect any modifications or optimisations to the process.

In essence, an effective process map is a blend of thoroughness, clarity, and adaptability. As the foundational step towards Business Process Automation, its accuracy and depth will significantly influence the subsequent phases of digitisation and automation. Investing time and effort in this stage ensures smoother transitions and more successful outcomes down the line.

Transitioning from Process Mapping to Automation

The journey from conceptualising processes to activating automation is a crucial one, often defining the trajectory of a business’s digital evolution. An accurate and insightful process map is your compass, guiding you seamlessly through the terrains of Business Process Automation (BPA). Here’s a more in-depth look into the transition from process mapping to effective automation.

  • Gap Analysis: With a detailed process map in hand, the first step is to perform a gap analysis. This entails comparing the current state (as illustrated by your map) with the desired, optimal state. This comparison will shed light on inefficiencies, redundancies, and areas ripe for automation.
  • Prioritise Processes for Automation: Not all processes are equally suited for automation, nor do they all yield the same ROI when automated. Use criteria like volume of tasks, frequency, potential time saved, and error reduction to prioritise which processes to automate first.
  • Choose the Right Automation Tools: The market is flush with BPA tools, ranging from Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platforms to workflow automation solutions. Based on the complexity, scale, and nature of the processes you’re looking to automate, select tools that align with your needs.
  • Pilot Testing: Before a full-scale rollout, opt for a pilot test. Automate a subset of your process or run the automation in a controlled environment to gather feedback, observe potential issues, and understand its impact.
  • Engage Stakeholders: As you transition, it’s crucial to ensure that all stakeholders— from those executing the processes to those affected by the changes— are onboarded. This involves training sessions, feedback loops, and perhaps even change management strategies to ease any anxieties or resistance.
  • Iterative Implementation: Instead of a sweeping, all-encompassing rollout, consider an iterative approach. Automate one process, monitor its success, make necessary adjustments, and then move on to the next. This gradual implementation allows for better adaptability and course correction.
  • Monitor & Optimise: Once a process is automated, the journey doesn’t end. Regularly monitor the automated workflows to ensure they’re yielding the desired results. Collect data on performance metrics, and be ready to tweak and optimise as necessary.
  • Scale Up and Expand: After successfully automating specific processes and ironing out any kinks, look towards scaling up the automation. This could involve expanding the scope within a department or replicating successes across different units or even geographically dispersed branches.
  • Regularly Review Process Maps: Just as businesses evolve, so do their processes. What was once an accurate representation of a workflow might become outdated with time. Periodically return to your process maps, updating them to reflect current realities and reassessing automation needs.
  • Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement: Lastly, strive to embed a mindset of continuous improvement within the organisation. Encourage teams to always be on the lookout for optimisation opportunities, whether that’s refining an existing automated process or identifying new candidates for automation.

Transitioning from process mapping to automation is a transformative journey, one that has the potential to redefine a business’s operational efficiency, agility, and responsiveness. By meticulously bridging the gap between these two realms, organisations set themselves up for success, harnessing the full power of digital tools in harmony with their strategic goals.


Process mapping stands as a cornerstone for Business Process Automation (BPA), offering a clear depiction of workflows, pinpointing areas primed for automation, and setting the stage for triumphant BPA deployment. Its potency is magnified when underpinned by a meticulously strategised approach and inclusive stakeholder participation.

In this digital era, BPA isn’t merely advantageous—it’s essential. Process mapping is at the heart of this transformational expedition. Embrace the prowess of process mapping, lay the foundations for BPA excellence, and embark on a path to amplified efficiency, heightened productivity, and superior business outcomes.

Discover the advantages of process mapping today.

Are you ready to redefine and optimise your business processes? Contact our team of experts today to begin mapping out your processes.