Illustration versus Proposition

In the current scenario when businesses all around the globe are going through tough times, it is necessary to have a re-look into their businesses. They will have to shun the traditional approach of doing business as per the understanding of the management and instead switch to doing business as per the customers understanding.  Any actions or inputs in a business for which the customer is not willing to pay is a waste. Hence, the business model should be customer centric and not management centric.

In order to do so it is the call of the time to identify every process in the business including management processes, which includes corporate governance and strategic decisions; operational processes such as outsourcing, purchasing, manufacturing, sales & marketing and supporting processes. They also include hiring and recruitment, accounting, and tech support for the purpose of process mapping and identifying wastage and improving efficiency.

Process mapping helps in determining who is doing what, who is responsible for what action and how the standard of a process which is relative to the success of an organization is maintained. Process mapping clarifies and documents every step in a flow chart with specific shapes denoting specific process components.

Business Process CycleProcess mapping is accomplished in four steps. The first step is Process Identification in which full understanding of all steps of a process is identified. Second is Information Gathering in which goals and objectives of the process, risks to the process, key controls over those risks, and measures of success for the process is ascertained. With the help of process profile worksheet and work flow surveys, the third step of interviewing is made to understand the individual’s point of view in the process, followed by a mapping of the process. In the fourth step, analysis of processes is made based on the above information.

Business process modelling is a quality management tool which is very useful in change management. It focuses on processes, actions and activities. What people do, to what and when and for what reasons? It is cross functional and takes into account more than one department in an organization.

BPMA process model allows to measure performance metrics for example cycle time and throughput at each step in a process. This can be also used to measure yield or output, waste or defects. Whereas, process mapping illustrates inputs, process steps and outputs.

Process model is a closer illustration of the process whereas process mapping provides logical relationships between process components. It is limited to flow charts while most of the components are covered by the process modelling. Process modelling depicts much more information of the process and can be used for testing or simulation.

Process mapping documents the process at a particular level such as a process map with swimlanes and may represent the current or proposed state of the process design, whereas process modelling helps the business to stimulate resource requirements for operating a process.  Process modelling may be also helpful in highlighting teething trouble or bottlenecks in a process.

Therefore process mapping is all about documenting the “As Is” while process modelling is strategic act of illustrating “To Be”. The outcome of business modelling is value for the customer and reduced costs for the company leading to increased profit. 

Should every business go through process mapping to understand the way they do their business? Your valuable comments are solicited.

 Suman Saran Sinha

Certifed Management Consultant
and a member CMC-Canada.


I am a former banker, financial consultant, and an attorney before the High Court of Mumbai and Supreme Court of India. I have also managed several companies as their CEO and also as a management consultant in India, the Russian Federation, USA and Canada. I am a Certified Management Consultant and a member of CMC-Canada, having interest in writing articles on philosophy, trade & economy and project management.
This entry was posted in Business Management, Business Turnaround, Change Management, Management Consulting, Turnaround Management and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Hi Suman,
    You are absolutely right – every business should do process mapping periodically. More so because of the economic situation. Value Stream Mapping would help adding to the bottom line by understanding and removing waste in the processes, while Process modelling would throw up questions regarding why at all we do what we do – this is one approach to re-designing the strategy in response to the market situation and the changing needs of customers .
    It looks like there is no “one” tool to implement today – there are many different ones, and we have to choose the combination of those that would yield the best results for a given organization.

  2. process mapping is probably the most powerful tool available to a business to see what works and what doesn’t.

  3. It would be serious value add if that happened. I think it would make it clear to all in an organization what their contributions are to the success of the business. This generally should be a continuous process (Revisiting and rehashing), the next steps would have to be induction programs for new employees and refresher programs where people look at the processes and understand what waste looks like. This kind of exercise will have employees feeling engaged, like they own the processes. I like this concept!!

  4. It is absolutely important to perform process mapping. In my experience people are very competent in the processes that they perform but have very little understanding of what occurs by other people or other departments before and after the work gets to them. Process mapping helps to streamline and remove inefficiencies.

  5. Yes …. with the purpose of simply finding efficiency gains.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree and would also suggest that having a quality management system in place would allow the organization to focus on value-adding activity, better utlization of resources, and continual improvement.

  7. Only if they want to be successful…

  8. Yes, I believe that businesses should incorporate process mapping into their annual business planning and their long-term strategic planning to ensure that they are able to baseline areas of performance, processes and procedures to be reinforced and those in need of improvement. These identified strengths and weaknesses should be part of corporate and individual goals and objectives with measurable actions and ongoing monitoring and course corrections as needed. This is my recommendation.

  9. Who invents these high-sounding long words and phrases? It can’t just be consultants and management theorists. ! suppose they sound good and are designed to kid down-to earth managers.
    Of course every organization should regularly check-up on how they do business, and how they can serve their customers better, understand their customers real needs better, and how they improve their products and services so that they become the ‘supplier of choice’ That has to go on relentlessly at every level of the business for external and internal customers. Failure to do so inevitably ultimately leads to failure of the organization.. I thought everyone knew that.

  10. Process mapping and process improvement should be part of each Manager’s job description as it should be a standard part of the work that they do or make sure gets done. It should not be a discrete activity every few years but by keeping on top of the business processes which a Manager is responsible for, or owns, ensures continued efficiency on an organisation. Too many organisations view process mapping and process improvement as not necessarily part of their core responsibility when in fact it is their core responsibility. The tools and techniques of process mapping and process improvement are largely intuitive and will make the activity much easier to carry out and ultimately more successful, leading to tangible results for an organisation.

  11. Suman – In my humble opinion labeling the documenting of as-is processes as “mapping” and the to-be as “modeling” seems artificial. I do agree that “mapping” of yesteryears that involved drawing pictures in diagramming tools is not valuable as it does not position the organization to do any kind of analysis on the “information” behind the picture. They did create a shared understanding of the processes and perhaps helped to identify some improvements – the ‘low hanging fruit kind'( in some cases were were used to cover walls from end to end /top to bottom in conference rooms 🙂 )

    To your broader question of should organizations invest in modeling/mapping of the as-is processes:- My take is that an organization should catalog its processes along with basic information such as value chain/support categorization, process owners, stakeholders deriving value etc. as this is usually not a very effort intensive activity.
    When it comes to mapping/modeling the as-is processes the organizational strategy and goals should drive which as-is processes they actually discover/model. In my experience modeling without clearly defined goals is often counter productive not to mention wasteful. In some cases perhaps there are such disruptive changes in the environment (markets, customers,technology) that the organization can skip the as-is modeling completely and focus on the to-be design- only after they have clearly articulated the design goals for the to-be process though.

  12. Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining exactly what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a process should be completed and how the success of a business process can be determined. Once this is done, there can be no uncertainty as to the requirements of every internal business process. A business process illustration is produced. The first step in gaining control over an organization is to know and understand the basic processes (Deming, 1982; Juran, 1988; Taylor, 1911).
    ———–1982. hmmm I have been a small biz expert since 72- he is a large biz specialist. We don’t use the term process mapping; we just call it following the biz plan.
    –and it has numbers. I hope he uses maps to get to his major client’s offices.
    i use expert systems, much faster than PM–as he describes it.

  13. Efficiency in organisations comes through having streamlined and effective processes, driven by people who understand their role in the process, and how they can improve things if they see the opportunity.
    I have used PM a few times, mostly in manufacturing businesses to open people’s eyes to how inefficient their systems and processes were. In one case, 90% of process time was spent on non-value added activities, such as movement, interim storage or others. While the staff were not idle, factory resources were choked. The PM process identified the right steps to challenge, and enabled significant benefits to be gained.
    Done well, it is a powerful tool, and one that can be easily replicated by those involved.

  14. Yes, i definitely agree… But above all, business process redesign only could run effectively if there’s strong executive leadership endorsed it and also driven by appropriate strategic milestones.

  15. Your article lays out the justification for performing process mapping and also identifies your four-step process for developing a process. But I believe there’s a critical step missing: First asking whether the process is needed or if each step in the process is needed

    Waste is anything we do that costs something (time, material, etc.) without adding value to the product produced or service delivered. A process step that does not add value should be eliminated.

    That same test should be applied to the overall process. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. president, “We shouldn’t try to do something better until we first determine if we should do it at all.”

  16. Ian is bang on! When employees and management can SEE what is actually happening it makes them say “good grief, we’ve got to make this better!” Good mapping shows

    -how many times a person touches the “widget” before it is done
    -how many people where touch it – what value do they add?
    -how much each activity and clusters of activities costs
    -actual time – best, worst, average
    -elapsed time – best, worst, average
    -decision points with percentages, to determine how many “widgets” make it through to the end without getting kicked out for some reason
    -where the “widget” “sits” waiting for what, for how long

    It is all about the indisputable “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

  17. please allow a dissenting “vote.” If the “proper” manager is overseeing what is supposed to be “managed,” unnecessary handling is eliminated.
    —and efficiency should be reviewed at all time, daily! In too many cases,
    it is agreed, that efficiency is not even considered by those without the
    management experience to know of its potency. Management needs to be more
    concerned who touches and who supervises.

  18. We all as consultants surely like this idea but I doubt people executing these processes would do too.
    If a Company is serious about optimizing their processes – process mapping, modelling and changes thereof should be part of routine JD of each of the Employees in the Value chain (and others). That will help achieve truly streamlined and optimized processes along with people independence (or no over-dependence at the least).

  19. Working with a small client right now engaged in this. It has value, yes. The problem I see is that, like with all ‘techniques’ the emphasis begins to shift to how cool the software is and being sure you use the right symbols and forms and all that – this becomes a distractor and generates a life unto itself. The PURPOSE FOR DOING IT gets lost. Same thing happened often with quality and continuous improvement. If we can maintain focus on what we are doing this for and not get all hung up in the detail of mapping and such – very valuable. I think consultants can be very helpful keeping people focused on WHY WE ARE DOING THIS>this kind of reminder seems needed in so many areas. We get so far down the road people lose sight of what they were trying to do. It gets unwieldy, people get tired of the ‘extra work’ this puts on them….they need frequent connect the dots help to keep them goin…IMHO “)

  20. Innovate or die. You should always review your processes because there is always a better way to do anything.Try different methods: Cross-functional teams & brainstorming in Value Analysis really works!

  21. Agree with Chuck, organisations need to remain efficient and by doing so manage to retain their innovative edge. The devil’s in the detail – process mapping exposes unnecessary wastage, duplication and inefficiencies that could be detrimental to the advancement of any organisation. A necessity for positive organisational change.

  22. The reality is that 80% of BPM effort is in that modelling, optimising and sharing areas. The reason why many small to medium businesses never get into BPM is because they falsely believe that

    1. BPM has to cover the entire business to be useful
    2. Process execution and automation where the true benefits come from.

    As Prakash pointed out, consultants writing up reports using Word and Visio usually means a lot of expensive effort that ends up sitting in a drawer or filing cabinet, unused.

    Without going into too many details the first is to use BPM as a way to understanding, optimising but also sharing your business processes. There a number of tools that do this, including our own combination of authoring tool and publishing tools (

    There are a lot of tools out there, but ideally you want one that will allow you to progress from process mapping through to execution and monitoring. Which is what our tool does. In addition we also have a focus on integration, allowing other business systems such as risk and compliance to be integrated into the business processes.

    Finally, the rule for most business should be

    1. You have a lot of processes, so you need to identify which ones are worth mapping, optimising and sharing.
    2. Of those processes, you have to consider which ones do you want to take through to process execution. Now not every process is worth automating. However some need to be automated, particular in terms of customer service.

  23. Yes An organisation can be considered in terms of Strategy, People, Process and Product. Operationally, it is process that links all four and presents significant opportunity for performance improvement.

  24. It is a must. Knowing your processes will help your Company identify things that need to be improved.

  25. The writings by Alexander Osterwalder provide an excellent overview on the subject in this post. Please visit for details on EBMM which covers Business Processes too.

  26. Great way to clarify your business model, and squeeze out the sludgey parts.

  27. Hi Suman and Pankaj. I totally agree with you both. Value Stream Mapping is invaluable, especially when introducing change in an organisation and, as pointed out by Pankaj, there are a number of tools that can be used when mapping processes and also in the identification and evaluation of the findings. One thing that I would highlight though, when making changes in one area (such as operations or procurement) it is necessary to ensure that all processes are mapped – not just those in which the original change was undertaken. People tend to forget that, if you make changes in one department, it will normally have a knock-on affect throughout the organisation (ie affecting the interactions between different departments) and this needs to be taken into account.

  28. Very good topic. I would like to add, before processes are looked at, that with Business Model Generation, where the business model is posted on 9 building blocks called the canvas, will give exactly what you are looking for: Which customer segments will get what added value from which products or services.

  29. Very good topic. I would like to add, before processes are looked at, that with Business Model Generation, where the business model is posted on 9 building blocks called the canvas, will give exactly what you are looking for: Which customer segments will get what added value from which products or services.

  30. A few years ago I ran a small pilot with a small Dutch company, VisionWaves. Their software allows you to model you value chains. Starting from your Customers, via your products and markets into the processes that generate the added value (probably like Business Model Generation as mentioned by Marijn). Setting metrics on the chains allows to get quick insight in where (potential) issues are, and can help to direct attempts to solve those.

    To answer the question: I think it could better even start by Business Modeling – how do you want to do your Business, rather than to limit focus on the Processes.

  31. I have nothing to add that hasn’t already been said. YES, ABSOLUTELY, process mapping needs to be done for organizations, especially those that have sustainability and/or continuous growth goals.

  32. From a student’s perspective: In many of my supply chain classes, the professors emphasize a fair bit on process mapping. Business should know every little detail on what is going on in their company. Especially, if the company plans on expanding to other markets and for it to maintain efficiency. So yes, I do believe that organizations should go through process mapping.

  33. I can only agree to some colleagues such as Patrick and Marijn: only once the goals are clear (–>business modelling) it makes sense to start analyzing current processes and optimise them to achieve those goals (–>process modelling).

  34. Yes businesses should model their processes and data and put them in the context of their IT systems. As Dr Deming said “if you can’t say what you do you don’t know what you do.” Process mapping is how you say what you do.

  35. Boh, in my understanding, the need to use formal models to represent the company and its business is strictly related to the decisional capabilities of the
    The need of formal models grows with the level of complexity of the managed system and the level of “distribution” of the decisional processes.
    A privately owned small-medium company, that operates within a reasonably simple business ecosystem, probably does not have a specific need of formal representations of any kind: most of the decisional processes are performed in the mind of the entrepreneur, and he and his small and close-knit team of managers know the company so well that they do not need them to support decisional efficiency and effectiveness.
    Creating and maintaining formal models in time is expensive, and if they are not designed properly and rigorously they are almost useless; if the management team is capable of maintaing a common mental image of the company, they will not burden themselves with diagrams.
    If the company is huge, very complex, and operates into complex environments, probably there is no other option than to maintain models and representations to support communication and decision making.
    I may agree that, when facing significant change, also simplier organization may need good models to support the to be scenario design process, and that is way more difficult to manage without formal representations.
    Then, using formal models and using metrics are pretty different things. You may use formal representations of the business even if you don’t adopt quantitative managament practices. Let’s not make confusion.

  36. Absolutely, but like all projects the following needs to be considered:
    1. Be pragmatic about it – don’t let it take on a life of its own
    2. Know what you want to use the process maps for – is it for analysis, education, communication etc.
    3. Decide in advance whether, when good ideas arise during the process mapping, you will make any changes to how you plan to operate.

  37. Mauro, I share your point of view that you put forward very clearly. As respects the small business/entrepreneurial model, in early and mid stages of growth much of “how it works” is in the minds of founders which is fine. As they grow (and rate of growth) and require changes to processes and bring on more staff and complexity, then they need to make the shift as Marijn points out, or suffer unnecessary growing pains of a successful business.
    The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” remains true. Also, as Dan points out, be pragmatic. I have witnessed the exercise reach the point of diminishing returns where the mapping exercise takes on a life of its own, becoming a permanent organizational entity that like in nature, has as its first goal, survival.

  38. Undoubtedly… If you have mapped your organisation you will find it much easier to conduct compliance audits, and action efficiency improvement initiatives. You will be able to spot gaps in the process much easier and make your business practices far more fluid.

    For any business that takes continuous improvement seriously, this is a must; the foundation of any Quality minded business…

  39. The answer to your question is a resounding “yes”.

    Before the days of computers, you would not have to ask this question because Business Processes were documented in detail. The use of computers has become pervasive and has resulted in the automation of most business processes. As a result of this automation, businesses have stopped maintaining their business process documentation. When they need to know how a business process works, they call the person who supports their computer application to research the code and answer the question.

    It sounds rediculous when I put this in writing but that is eactly what happens. There are numerous consequences from the lack of documented business processes including role confusion, duplication/waste, process compliance challenges, and a general lack of understanding of the business processes by the very people who are responsible for them.

  40. Someone once said, ‘don’t outsource a problem’. Only too often do businesses decide that a particular process is not core business without first understanding what the process they are talking about is actually doing. A full end to end process may involve many internal departments at best and many partners and outsourced 3rd Parties at worst. It is imperative to not only map these processes end to end but to also review them regularly and own them irrespective of who carries out specific modules of the process. Don’t give away ownership as well as control and always regularly audit the process to ensure that you understand your business. Just because you might have understood your business before you outsourced it doesn’t mean to say that it hasn’t changed by the time you want to change supplier.

  41. I liked the discussion on the topic.

  42. I liked the topic and people’s comment.

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