At a LinkedIn discussion group an overwhelming number of participants favored process mapping using whiteboards/Post-Its relative to using an e-mapping approach.
Before we try to list advantages/disadvantage, it is important to define “process mapping”. Process mapping means different things to different people.
The attractiveness of Post-Its / e-mapping will vary according to objectives (i.e. discovering processes, designing processes, documenting processes, improving processes, modeling/simulation, putting processes in-line, carrying out “continuous” process improvement).
For process discovery, mapping is likely to be highly automated – software carries out data mining on run-time data and reverse engineers the data to generate a process map.
For process development, stakeholders are likely to spend a lot of time brainstorming and the expectation is stakeholders would be indifferent, all things being equal, to Post-Its versus e-mapping.
For process documentation, it would seem that e-mapping would be the preferred approach, given that users typically know all of the steps in a process, how these are interconnected, what skill sets are needed to perform steps, what forms/certificates are needed at steps for data collection purposes/proof of completion. Accordingly, a reasonable requirement would be to have a facilitator be able to map as fast as stakeholders are able to say ‘ .. and then we do this”.
For process improvement, depending on the extent of the improvement exercise, having the entire process map at a single whiteboard is initially attractive, except that as and when multiple steps need to be inserted, a facilitator could end up spending a lot of time relocating steps to create space.
As the maturity of a process advances to where process modeling/simulation is desired, e-mapping has distinct advantages. One click at a mapped process puts that process in-line. Individual instances of the soon-to-be debugged/improved process can be launched to “piano-play” the sequencing of steps, to different workstations representing different skill sets, specific forms will post at steps.
Later on, multiple instances of a process template can be launched to discover resource bottlenecks. If durations have been pre-assigned to process steps, the simulations can capture time delays between steps as well as actual start/end times for steps themselves.
Production release of a “best practice” process template in an e-mapping environment involves nothing more than deploying the template in a production environment instead of a test environment. The Post-It approach requires re-working the process within an e-mapping environment.
Over time, production processes are likely to be subjected to “continuous improvement”, with the understanding that change gives rise to temporary instability. Accordingly, it would seem best to inventory proposed changes and then implement these a few at a time, test,and then add other changes, test these and then make one production update.
Resistance to Change is a key factor
Consultants who have used whiteboards/Post-Its and have had good experiences with this approach are likely to resist “high tech” options.
Given a large enough whiteboard, a supply of different-colored Post-Its, felt pen markers or strings, the clear advantage of whiteboards/Post-Its is to be able view an entire process. Stakeholders can approach the whiteboard, “walk through the process”, and add notes to the Post-Its.
If the consultant has not seen drag-and-drop e-mapping in action e-mapping becomes a “hard sell”.
Comparative Attributes (Post-Its versus e-mapping)
High Level Process Mapping vs Low Level Process Mapping
|Well suited for high level mapping.Not well suited for mapping out detailed processes.||Well suited for either high level mapping or mapping of detailed processes.|
Real Estate Use
|Requires physical space.The space must be persistent while mapping is being done (initial or “continuous”).||Uses virtual space.|
|Stakeholders congregate at the whiteboard or, if the display, is large enough, from their sitting positions.Remote participation via video camera/video conferencing links is an option.||Stakeholders view mapping on a projector screen.Stakeholders at remote locations log in to a GoToMeeting session.|
|“Walk” the process unless stakeholders are able to view the entire process from their fixed positions.||Scroll facilities allow horizontal/vertical scrolling (somewhat awkward).A more refined approach uses a “hand” (the process map compiles to a bitmap).“Roadmap” sections allow rapid navigation to known locations along process.A zoom in/out capability probably is an improvement over
Collaboration at Process Mapping
|Brainstorming at the whiteboard is easy with small groups at the main venue, it’s not impossible to do the same thing using a video camera/video conferencing when stakeholders are at a distance||The facilitator “gives the mouse /pen” to a stakeholder.Stakeholders can be at multiple physical locations.|
Time/Cost to Map
|No difference for conceptual process mapping.Significantly more time consuming/expensive for detail process mapping.||Significantly less expensive once the software acquisition cost has been written off.||Some vendors provide mapping software at no charge.|
|–||Requires a compiler to carve up the e-map, requires a run-time environment to run instances of process templates.|
Transition to Production (Run-Time) Mode
|100% rework needed.||Single mouse click.||Not all e-mapping environments provide straight-through connectivity to run-time process instance environments.|
|–||Requires a generic data exchanger.||In a production environment, run-time resource allocation, leveling and balancing requires links to/from multiple internal and external systems and applications.|
“Continuous” Process Improvement
|100% rework, unless process whiteboard is permanent.||Any number of processes can be stored in an e-library.||Important that process designers return to the process mapping environment as and when changes to processes are needed. This is essential to keep “templates” in synch with run- time instances of templates.|