Processes (or procedures) are a series of steps taken to accomplish a specific end. They can be standalone, interconnected or be part of something bigger (e.g., governance). They can be Business Processes, Information Technology (IT) processes, Systems Processes and Business Processes within IT. In organizations, there are many processes that happen sequentially and/or in parallel with other processes.
Basically, the idea of representing a process (or procedure) through a map (or diagram) is so that people can visually see what is happening. This visual representation also helps in identifying what can be improved within (and sometimes outside) the organization. Since the purpose of these maps is to convey what is going, you have to be cognizant that these maps should (1) be simple to understand, (2) help your audience connect with what they do daily to the big picture of the organization and (3) serve as a guide to what is (currently) happening and what would happen (tomorrow).
There are many ways and tools to depict a process but I have found that for most audiences the basic form of Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) works best to just get the conversation started. In regards to a free tool to draw a process, draw.io can be used which saves your process maps in your google drive or any other location that you specify.
The following is just a simplified example to illustrate how a customer may interact with Amazon.com and how this customer interaction is handled. As you would see that visually representing this process can open up a door to start discussion for improvements. If this whole process was written and not visually represented then it would required a lot of wording and the danger that the audience might get bored or would loose interest.
Note that the process map:
- Has numbered rectangular activity boxes so that your audience can easily follow
- Numbered rectangular activity boxed need does not need to be in sequence
- Is a hybrid which shows interaction between a human (customer) and Amazon.com (online system)
- Uses BPMN basics to convey a story
To start the process of creating a process map, it would be prudent to ask these questions. Keep in mind that the purpose of the mapping a process is not to show how talented you are in creating complex process maps but rather as a starting point and even a collaboration point where you can actually provide these maps to the audience to “fix”. Lastly, have a repository to save these process maps so that they can be used a reference of (1) what is happening, (2) what should not happen and (3) what could happen.