You know company processes inside out. But what about new hires? They’re stuck in an endless cycle of reading manuals and quizzing colleagues to execute basic tasks. That said, even long-term employees waste time hunting for information on how certain processes function.
In fact, over 57 percent of employees say this is the reason for low productivity at work. They spend around two hours a day on average looking for relevant data, customer use cases and understanding hierarchies. Not only does this make the organization less effective, but it negatively affects its customer service and revenue generation.
Whether you’re training a new employee or conducting a small refresher for the company veterans, penning down business processes in one place—with user-friendly tools—can help streamline the process.
This is where documentation solutions like corporate wikis, knowledge bases and digital adoption platforms come in handy. In this article, we’re going to dive into one such tool that helps employees learn on the job quicker: business process flow diagrams.
Let’s get started!
What is process flow?
A process flow is the sequence of steps or activities involved in a particular process or workflow.
It outlines how inputs, activities and yields connect highlighting the stream of data or materials through different stages.
Defined process flows give a clear and organized depiction of the structure, reducing bottlenecks and clarifying steps. They're essential for training, optimization and communication inside an organization.
What is a process flow diagram?
A Process Flow Diagram (PFD) is a visual representation of the steps within a flow cycle. Most process flow diagrams use elements like arrows and shapes to show the progression of materials, data or activities through different phases.
A PFD outlines actions employees must take to achieve a particular outcome.
They first appeared way back in 1921. A husband and wife duo, Lillian and Frank Gillberth, were researching ways to improve workplace productivity. During this, they stumbled upon the concept of a process chart, which they pitched to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Here’s what a typical example looks like:
With flowcharts, documenting current business processes—and creating new ones — becomes a lot easier. This is because they provide an in-depth insight into each process and the people involved in it. This helps you find bottlenecks. And in turn, you can brainstorm solutions to make the process more efficient.
Business process flow diagrams can also help ensure your business processes are in-line with the company’s goals. When you connect inputs and outputs with in-between actions, you gain an insight into the company's workflow. This makes it easier to understand whether everything is running smoothly and efficiently.
Suppose the company’s goal is to decrease expenditure on inventory. Simply create a flowchart for the inventory management process. Analyze each step, find resource-intensive actions that cause financial drain. And finally, remove or automate them. This helps the business function more efficiently while saving money.
5 Benefits of business process flow diagrams
At first glance, your business processes may seem all hunky dory. But as you start process mapping, you’re bound to discover a few unexpected twists and turns. Business process flow diagrams let you take a step back and get a broader view of how the company functions.
This way, you’ll be able to identify big-picture problems that may be impacting your bottom line. Apart from this, here are five more benefits you stand to gain with flowcharts:
Helps in automation
You can’t automate SOPs or onboarding guides without understanding the whole process in depth. Flowcharts let you see each step of the process in sequence. This improved visibility helps you identify rule-based processes that can be automated.
Business process diagrams help ensure each process is carried out in a consistent way. It does this by breaking each task into bite-sized steps. This detailed approach helps employees understand each process better. Breaking these sequences into smaller parts also helps you see which actions are required for each step.
Once mapped, these process documents can be used for years—unless you encounter bottlenecks. The result? Your company processes are streamlined and carried out in the samy way, every time.
Companies spend big bucks while onboarding an employee. From orientation to the training period: it’s an expensive ride. One way to save on these costs is by implementing business flow diagrams. They contain step-by-step processes that help employees quickly understand action items.
It also gives everyone a resource to fall back on when they’re unsure of how to proceed in a work situation. You can store all your flowcharts in a centralized database like a corporate wiki, so all your business processes are laid out in one place for people to refer.
Tools like Scribe can help you create step-by-step guides to help employees learn business workflow as well. You can also add videos and screen recordings to explain a process. And the visual nature means it helps with memory retention. So, refresher courses can take a backseat.
With flowcharts, it gets easier to dissect complex business processes. You see how each process flows. This allows you to pinpoint room for improvement. The process of creating flowcharts also lets you engage with employees in various departments and find better solutions, faster.
While explaining a process to employees, text-based process mapping becomes very hard to follow. And let’s face it: people don’t enjoy reading large paragraphs either.
With flowcharts, you can quickly point out relevant processes and assign tasks quicker. Everyone on the team also gets more visibility on which tasks are assigned to whom. They can then reach out to the designated person faster, instead of asking around for information.
5 Steps to creating a business process diagram
Documenting business processes can be very time-consuming. Especially if you’re typing out step-by-step procedures on a Word file. To make things easier, create business process diagrams to visually map out each workflow. This makes it easier to streamline workflow and guide employees. Here’s how to do it:
Outline your current processes
Determine the chief elements of each process. These include inputs and their outputs, along with connectors. Inputs can be resources, data and other information that fuel a process. Their outputs can be new processes, decisions or permits. Say your input is a reimbursement form and the output is expense approval.
The steps to connect this process would be:
- Collect reimbursement form.
- Analyze expenditure.
- Match it with the receipt.
- Check for spend limits or terms and conditions.
- Confirm expenditure.
- Approve/deny the reimbursement request.
- Make payment.
The above example depicts a rough step-by-step process to approve a reimbursement claim. While this structure remains largely the same for most businesses, there may be some variations. So, while outlining each process, make sure you’re customizing it to suit your company’s policies.
Gather enough information
While creating the sequence of events, chances are you’ll run into doubts about structure at some point. This is why you should make it a point to collect enough information to help you create a flowchart with no gaps.
You can ask your colleagues for tips and best practices to understand the most efficient way to map the process. After this, tell them to list all the bottlenecks they face while executing it. Try to think of solutions and note them down. For instance, if a process is very lengthy, you could divide it into two halves and recruit one person to carry each one out simultaneously. This would help save on previous time.
Involve relevant stakeholders
Once you’ve collected enough data about each process, it’s time to create your business process diagrams. During this step, make sure you involve team members from the relevant department. After all, they’d have a better grasp on niche processes.
For example, employees in the marketing department would understand lead generation better. On the flip side, those from the development team will be able to offer more insights on technical processes. Take everyone’s feedback into account and tweak your flowcharts accordingly. Ask relevant questions like:
- Where do we encounter most problems?
- What can we do differently to speed up the process or save costs?
- What approach could be taken to solve each problem?
Don’t forget to include managers in the decision-making process. They supervise key departmental processes and understand day-to-day processes better. After creating your flowcharts, schedule a presentation with the senior management for approval.
Use a business process management tool
If you don’t have technical expertise, there are several code-free workflow builders to help out. Tools like Lucidchart or Canva are great for creating graphic flowcharts collaboratively. You can also use the features in your BPM tools to create or update business processes whenever required.
Several companies are adopting BPM tools into their process management. This is because they come with several benefits like:
- More control over business operations.
- Reduced chance of human error.
- Improves collaboration between employees and managers.
- Speeds up processes, leading to improvement in overall productivity.
Assign user roles
After your flowchart is ready, you’ll have to assign user roles. Assign responsibility for each step to an employee on the diagram. If you’re using a BPM tool, you’ll be able to assign roles through a dashboard. It’ll give you access to a scroll-down menu with relevant team members. Simply pick the right person and they’ll automatically be notified of the same.
Launch & test the process
You’ve launched the process. But is it perfect? Keep testing iteratively to see if this is the most effective version. Check if employees have all the required tools and resources to execute the process in the right way.
Get their take on what’s working and what isn’t. You may face some roadblocks in the beginning. But hang in there. The process gets better with each iteration.
Take your first step towards documentation — with Scribe!
Business process diagrams make it easier to improve and create business workflows. Always remember: process mapping is a continuous process. You’ll have to keep analyzing each process regularly to find bottlenecks. Then brainstorm for solutions, and start implementing.
Scribe makes business documentation easier for everyone. Employees have easier access to important resources and guides.
Sign up with Scribe today to automate your business documentation and improve productivity.