Benefits of process mapping for SMEs
In the world of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), making continual improvements to the way you do things is essential. But first we need to establish where things could be bettered, where the inefficiencies lie and how best to improve them.
Process mapping, a key quality improvement tool used in Lean Six Sigma and other improvement frameworks, involves defining what a business does, who are responsible, the required standard desired and how we measure success.
As opposed to a business plan, process mapping puts a particular focus on the visuals, so we can see inputs, interactions, deliverables and parties in the particular process, department or organisation.
But why bother? What makes this approach better than any other – what are the benefits of process mapping for SMEs?
Benefits of process mapping
We know that process mapping reduces costs, eliminates waste, improves productivity and simplifies production. But what about tangible examples for the SME owner to apply in his business? Here are three process mapping benefits we’ve found from our work.
Solve Known Problems
For the SME owner, it’s highly likely that any potential inefficiencies are even vaguely understood. A sales report may identify a backlog in fulfilled orders, or a financial report could show costs in one department spiralling. But it’s a lot harder to really get to the bottom of why these inefficiencies are happening in the first place, which means solving them is not going to happen.
By laying bare the entire process from end to end, process mapping can help the SME owner to really pinpoint the root cause of the problem. This creates the benchmark for solving the problem, meaning we are acting on concrete data rather than assumptions about what ought to work.
Process mapping, by presenting a detailed, visual representation of a process, can also help the SME cut out steps that are unnecessary. For example, it’s not uncommon for an employee to fulfil their role and send off a project to another worker for their input, only for it to come back to the original employee for checking/sign-off etc. What the employees and owner may not realise is that the fire-and-forget nature of some work can lead to duplication of effort. So a project could be sent off for checking but go through multiple stages of edits, amends and discussion unbeknown to the original employee, who has already performed many or all of these tasks.
Because process mapping creates a clear visual picture of the process from end to end, it’s easy to see where a particular step is unnecessarily duplicated.
Training & Communication
An underrated and often-ignored benefit of process mapping is its usefulness in training employees. By setting out the process in complete detail, a process map is a great tool for training staff. This means it’s also a strong tool for the SME owner to better understand his business processes – what we call visibility – as he’s not performing all the day-to-day tasks (processes) that are mapped. In this sense, training could mean communication – it’s a good method for each part of the business to see precisely how other parts, or employees, operate and their interrelationships.