No,. I’m serious don’t fall asleep at the thought of process. Understanding, or at least writing down, what really goes on in your firm can be a big step to generating extra value in it. Process Mapping is just a posh name for the practice. Mapping what really happens; not assuming but thinking about it helps to really clarify things.
The process mapping notes in this `article recently helped one firm save themselves from employing a new part time employee. Another firm has redeployed people to improve client service as a result.
What is process mapping?
It’s looking at what goes on in a way that is simple enough to spot issues and detailed enough to spot the answers, then capturing that on paper so you can do something with it.
Process Mapping normally creates a visual record, being visual often makes it easier to identify issues. But, process mapping doesn’t have to be complex, use coded diagrams or software. In fact if it’s too complex, you’ve missed the point!
Some benefits of Process mapping
- See what’s missing and fix it. A classic output is the lack of a process to allow and handle customer feedback.
- See where things are going wrong, and fix them. Simply reviewing processes, or drawing them will help you to spot issues. When I realised one client was doing extra work with manual records, that never even got looked at – it was time to change things. Without that process mapping, they’d not have noticed.
- Is it always being done the same way? Who does it best and consistently – now adopt that way. If you’ve got three of four staff doing the same things different ways, it maybe time to learn and improve things.
- Allow you to create a firm that you can lead, not get stuck in. Working on the business, not in the business is a common mantra – but it’s hard when you can’t see what’s happening.
- It’s a critical step in outsourcing parts of the firm. Firms that outsource without understanding exactly what’s going on are asking for trouble, that’s normally when they end up spending far more than they intended and getting poor results. Did you read “Outsourcing: How should I go about it?”
- Improve what’s going on and focus on the value you generate. If each of the processes you’re doing had a cost attached to them and a benefit, it would soon help you on where to focus! If a process didn’t help a client, why would you do it?
- Reduce the costs in your firm. By spotting and ironing out inefficiencies you can reduce costs.
- Training. Training staff can become easier, as they can see what is going on and where they fit into the overall picture. This is often quicker and easier for new staff to take on board and may help existing staff
- Create focus. Good processes may lead you to being able to use KPIs more effectively.
9 tips for process mapping in your small firm
Process Mapping doesn’t have to be hard, take hours or involve complex diagrams. You can do something useful with some thought and some time (you could even get staff to do it for you!)
There are many ways to build maps and I’d normally start very high level and then make more detailed ones in specific (and relevant) areas, that are parts of the larger one. Getting your team involved in some of the detailed ones can be a great exercise.
- Start your mapping at a high level and get an overall picture of your processes. This might be as simple as CREATE NEW CLIENTS, COMPLETE WORK FOR CLIENTS, GET MONEY FROM CLIENTS, REVIEW CLIENT PROFITABILITY (which of course leads back to the first step). Each of these 4 areas may then have 6-7 areas in them and maybe some more below that.
- KISS: Keep it simple stupid. Don’t produce maps that are very complicated, with long winded processes or you’ll get lost.
- Start by mapping the processes that add or are likely to add the most value for your clients.
- Do it on a white-board initially and then copy them to paper.
- Always describe the process in simple words, along with what the objective of it is..
- Define the boundaries: starting / end point of the process.
- Who is involved in the different steps?
- Use consistent symbols, but don’t spend hours worrying about what universal symbols for things are – it’s for you and your team, nobody else.
- Something like Excel or PowerPoint is probably all you need, if you don’t want to just drawer it with a pen.
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Have you ever looked at what goes on inside your firm? What tips would you add?