How to blueprint your business process (with Visio & SharePoint)

WebdesignerBusiness Process Management

Pre-requisite for successful change

Every successful business process improvement project starts with mapping current (As Is) and future (To Be) business processes. This helps in gaining common understanding how a process flows (often different than designed). And understanding how we work now, is the starting point for designing how we work tomorrow:

  • Departments involved in the same process often have a different understanding how the process flows.
  • Inefficiencies will be highlighted. Discussing a process flow triggers ideas and improvements.
  • Process flows help focus the discussion.
  • Your business process structure is the foundation for organising the next steps in your project: define the To Be process flows / describe requirements / clarify roles & responsibilities.

In this article, I will make a case for Integrated Process management. Besides mapping your processes, you are creating one overview of all information that further describes and supports a process. The goal is to get a complete understanding of the process you are designing: business requirements, transactions, roles & responsibilities, risks & controls. I will describe how to set this up and construct your business process blueprint.

"When embarking on a business process improvement or an ERP implementation, business process analysis is a necessary first step before diving in a process change"

How to get started?

Pen and paper is already a first step to start drawing your process flows. For readability and share-ability however, there are better tools to support you; Ranging from simple to complex, and low-cost to big investment. Have you ever considered using tools you already have and are straightforward to use? In this article I will describe how to use the combination of MS SharePoint and MS Visio to draw your business processes and enrich them with all kinds of data. Visio is excellent equipped to map your business process, define swim lanes, process steps and flows. In combination with SharePoint you can take business process management one step further and create an integrated process repository with all relevant information.

The end result

The end result is a Visio flow stored on SharePoint including links to related data; depending the shape you select, you see the corresponding attributes (department, title, description, business requirement, transaction code, etc).

Benefits of an integrated approach - why would I do this?

  • Use the same flow for various audiences (management, user, auditor, ….) and various purposes (work instruction, training, compliancy, risk management, ….).
  • Better understanding of how a process interacts with other processes.
  • Clear split in responsibilities between roles and departments.
  • Awareness of risks in a process and how these are mitigated by controls.

Use cases - when would I use this?

  • Implement a new system and create your business blueprint.

Know how current processes run and design the future processes. Define business requirements and link these to processes and process steps. In a later stage, link to system transactions/actions to perform a specific step in the system (e.g. Microsoft Dynamics or SAP). Depending on the application you could even display it as hyperlink and directly open the system in the required transaction.

  • Governance and compliance

Link risks & controls as part of your compliance framework (e.g. ISO or Sarbanes Oxley). Define roles & responsibilities. Show your auditor how you are actively managing risks.

  • Process documentation repository

One central repository to find your work instructions, policies, training material or other relevant information.

And now - how to set this up in 5 steps?

  1. Map your business processes in Visio and store your files in a SharePoint Document Library. This is step 1, where you discuss with process owners and participants to map out process steps, roles involved, sequence of steps and decision gateways. Processes are linked to subsequent processes to create an start-to-end process flows, i.e. Order to Cash, Source to Pay.
  2. Create a SharePoint list for each data object you want to link

  1. In Visio, import the data of the SharePoint lists
  2. You can define which columns of the SharePoint lists should be displayed in the Visio file (e.g. title, description, owner)
  3. Drag and drop list items to Visio shapes. You can assign multiple different objects to a shape – each with its own graphic- allowing you to create a rich multi-purpose process chart. Check out this link for tips & tricks

Take away

Above steps and setup I consider the basis of your process management system. Once you have this running, you can use it for multiple different purposes which is of added value to everyone in your organization! But even with fancy integration and nice features it is a lot of work, so you better get started ;-).