The issues of business process mapping

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This project proposal highlights in brief the general background of the subject of the research - 'Business Process Mapping'. This is to be conducted in Suttons International, a logistics firm. It aims to describe the intended area of study while outlining its objectives which include the actual mapping of business processes and the subsequent knowledge transfer of this skill. Furthermore it clearly spells out the process of information (and data) gathering and the analytic methodology used. The projected timeline and itinerant requirements are also clearly outlined.

Background of Study

Business process mapping is considered the most important and fundamental element of business process re-engineering as it makes it easier to determine where and how to improve business processes (Soliman, 1998). Aguiar and Weston (1993), suggest that the elimination of non-value added activities, reduction of process complexity and improving the customer focus of the process can be achieved by process mapping. To understand Business process mapping there must be a clear comprehension of a business process.

This study is to be carried out at Suttons International, a logistic firm that specialises in the movement of bulk liquid and gas on a global scale. Supported by the 'state of the art' management system, they provide customers with safe, high quality and cost effective services. Their services also include the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) in the tracking of tank movements and monitor sensitive temperature controlled products.

What is a Business Process?

Business process according to Davenport and Short (1990) is described as a structured set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. According to them, processes have two important characteristics:

They have customers (either internal or external)

They cross organisational boundaries

Malone et al (1994), suggests that business processes are a collection of interdependent activities or tasks organised to achieve specific business goals. Activities within the process are required to be coordinated to achieve the business goals effectively as these business processes often cut across multiple functional organisation and hierarchies within and outside the organisation (Malone, 1988). Another definition by Hammer and Champy (1993) views business process as a collection of activities that takes one or more input and creates an output that is of value to the customer. These definitions build on the perspective where every activity ideally is seen to contribute more value for the customer as proposed by Michael Porter's 'Value chain' framework (Porter, 1985). A business process describes what a system does, how it works, how it is controlled, and what it produces (Galloway, 2000). Aguilar-Saven (2004), states that a business process is linked to a company in such a way that it defines the way in which it achieves its objectives. Peppard and Rowland (1995) classify business processes as strategic, operational and enabling. Hunt (1996) suggests a different view in the classification of business process, categorising it into three:

Management processes - encompassing actions taken by managers to support business processes.

Administrative processes - which are deemed essential for effective business management and unseen by the external customer.

Customer processes - which has an end result of a product or service that is received by an organisation's external customer.

Melao and Pidd (2000) describe business processes alternatively by categorising them into four perspectives: Business processes as deterministic machines; Business processes as complex dynamic systems; Business processes as interacting feedback loops and Business processes as social constructs. Melao and Pidd go on to say these perspectives are inter-related making it difficult to identify their boundaries. Jacka and Keller (2002), suggest that business processes are broken down into four substructures in a systematic way of 'drilling down' which together support the overall business process, these include: 'Units' which is the major subsection and can be based on location, type of work or any logical break-point; 'Tasks' which is a breakdown or sub-component of the unit and are less dependent on location and other tasks in the same unit but more likely focused on the actual work; These tasks can further be broken down to 'Actions' which are considered very minor processes with its own inputs, transformation and outputs, having a stronger focus to the individual; and finally 'Procedures' which are written descriptions of how each action is completed.

Business Process Mapping

Soliman (1998) describes business process mapping is a technique used to detail business processes by focusing on the important elements that influence their actual behaviour. Soliman (1998) also suggests management uses business process mapping to view the business at a glance and the process map varies from an overview 'macro-map' to a very detailed 'micro-map'. Pojasek (2005) suggests process mapping offers an organised way to record all the activities performed by an organisation; presenting a process in a top-to-bottom structure or 'hierarchy', showing more detail as you descend through its levels. Mapping business process is fundamental to understanding not only isolated processes but also the flow of information and resources through operational and supporting processes of the internal value chain (Carpinetti et al, 2000). According to Okrent and Vokurka (2004), process mapping is similar to flow-charting for a traditional computer program, except the participants in the processes are usually identified as well using a more hierarchical approach and a perspective for the model that is not found in the computer program flow chart. Process mapping according to Okrent and Vokurka is categorised into three: creating the 'As-Is' model, creating the 'To-Be' model and 'Bridging the Chasm', alternatively described as getting from current state to a future state. Hines and Rich (1997), suggest process mapping as an excellent process management tool which mainly aims at reducing waste and identifies, eliminates irrationalities and inconsistencies in processes. Jacka and Keller (2002) describe process mapping as way to graphically represent 'actions' and 'stories' that make up a business, viewing process mapping as not a complete analysis but a tool that helps complete the final analysis of the process under review. Process Mapping, is a very holistic system when applied correctly and four concepts revolve round process mapping, which include: 'Triggers' which is an action that occurs and starts the process, often may be the same as the input to process, this is important as usually the customer gets involved at this point; 'Time Analysis' - two time factors namely: cycle time - time taken to complete a task and holding time - time an individual item sits in a hold-file, are analysed as part of process maps, as a result timing issues that may exist are easily exposed; 'Error Rate' is another considered concept as its evaluation may also show where a process is breaking down, decision items in a process are probable locations for error rate evaluation. The final concept 'Focusing the Lens', where business processes are thought of as lenses and as each customer's interaction passes through it and one of three things can occur: the lens defract the interaction, resulting in an elongated interaction time with the company and trouble for the customer; the lens can focus the interaction, resulting in the speeding up customer service; nothing happens as the process is totally transparent, the customer never realises anything happened, but the process was necessary to complete the interaction (Jacka and Keller, 2002). Peppard et al (1995) suggests that there are advantages and disadvantages to process mapping: Maps explain better the processes; better understanding of the tasks and the problems that face the organisation can be gained. However process maps can prove to be distracting and slow down actions to ensure the integrity of the maps; the maps cannot be relied always as a good means of communications between layers of management. Jacka and Keller (2002), however views the benefits of process mapping as:

A holistic approach that helps explores the interrelationships of processes.

It is accomplished in a way that allows all employees to have a buy-in to the finished product

Helps employees understand how their work adds value and instils additional pride in their work

It focuses on the customer and how he sees the company

Jacka and Keller (2002) also suggest that it is the steps that go into changing the map to reflect reality that make the map effective and these steps include process identification, information gathering, interviewing and map generation, map analysis and presentation.

Project Objectives

The objectives planned to be achieved in the project:

Present an understanding of business process which forms the fundamentals and framework in which business process mapping is positioned

Explain the need for business process mapping as a tool used for eliminating non-value added activities within business processes

Understanding the implementation of business process mapping through a case study review of a real world company

Build business process maps from the business processes of Suttons International

Transfer of knowledge - business process mapping skill to staff of Suttons International


Literature Review

A comprehensive review of the relevant literature including a computer assisted search will be undertaken in order to develop an understanding of previous work in the field of Business Process Mapping.

Collection of Data

The primary data will be collected through the 'observer as participant' method and semi structured interviews. Secondary data from company organisational chart, policies, manuals and other relevant sources will extensively be used.

Problem-solving Approach

The problem-solving approach or action research will be adopted throughout the project. This approach encompasses the researcher reviewing current situation, identifying problems and getting involved in introducing some changes to improve the situation (Naoum, 2007) and has three common themes: Emphasis on the purpose of the research; the involvement of the practitioners and, results could inform other context (Saunders et al, 2000).

Case Study

The researcher will use Suttons International as a case study to study the implementation of Business process mapping.

Project Time Schedule