There are a lot of different ways to get started with process mapping, but I have found one of the easiest, and most useful is in developing user stories versus the old SIPOC method of Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Output-Customer. Though I am a big believer in a SIPOC, it just I not the right tool for everyone. Especially for people that have not done process mapping or value stream mapping beforehand. Few people will take the time to dwell on the current state. They want to know where everything is headed before determining where they are at. It’s about the future, not the present.
Process people understand the fallacy of that judgment, but the truth is it is somewhat the world especially sales and marketing folk live in. For example, we talk about measuring or testing but without knowing where you are at, you end up making most measurements surrounding individual events, single point incidents and as a result inaccurate sample sizes. A system-wide view of the process lacks in most instances.
Creating a system-wide view can be started by what I might say of using a takeoff of the SIPOC and creating what in the process world is known as a drill-down map. A drill-down map first defines the process and separates the process into units, then to tasks and eventually to actions (See diagram below). In the traditional use of drill-down map, we will define the process and construct each sub-process below it, in a hierarchical arrangement. Each process and sub-process are defined by an input-change (transformation)-output, very SIPOC like.
Seldom is any Process/Unit/Task/Action drilled all the way down. It is a matter of priorities, time and resources that you have allocated that determines the depth of an individual process. However, what I think is unique about utilizing the drill-down map is that it gives you more of a system-wide perspective. For example, when you have drilled down in the task sections if the adjacent sub-processes are at least determined for one level above, it is often obvious what that change may do that adjacent area.
Different groups working on different task can easily identify or ask how the deliverable will change the input for the other party. In fact, when building teams for improvement, I like to draw a circle, depicted below and makes sure we pollinate the teams accordingly or at least have an idea of the perspectives that we will get. Starting to look like a SIPOC?
Breaking away from tradition, instead of thinking about Input-Change-Output or even the SIPOC I like to create a story of the process or sub-process. I still will usually create a card listing the ICO or SIPOC but on the same card, we tell the story. This way both left and right brain personalities can participate.
This is a lot of work, and we are still at current state. We have done little other than to create a SIPOC. It is true, however, in this world of customer journeys and other mapping techniques I see few organizations that are willing to drill down into a real process map. In lieu of a SIPOC, many like the idea of user stories, but few do a great job of creating them with the needed details, especially in early-stage or smaller companies.
What I like to do is to create ICO stories or SIPOC stories. As we collect the stories can we define actions, tasks, or is the story at a higher level. What I end up doing is capturing thoughts and building, grouping and clustering these stories into a drill-down map. I have even done this through interviews of different individuals to include at times, customers and suppliers. When bringing people together, you create an instant dialogue about the processes and sub-processes. Different points of views, levels of perspectives are already and harmlessly included for discussion points.
Think of all the blocks in the diagram as cards or a cluster of cards. If you can determine current state and map the process in this way, gaps or deficiencies become very obvious. It also allows us to work on specific areas with some sense of awareness of how it will affect the overall process.
This is not revolutionary nor a replacement for people that are doing it another way. It is simply a way that I have used to gather and collect information quickly at the beginning of an engagement.
If you would like more information on this process, I recommend the Business Process Mapping Workbook: Improving Customer Satisfaction.