Each organization deals with loads of work that can be split into two main categories – projects and processes.
Projects are delivering unique results, they are temporary and they are progressively elaborated which means that you learn more about the needs and requirements of the project as it progresses. Projects have their own processes to follow to sustain good project management practice.
Example: Building a bridge, rearranging an office
Processes on the other hand are the opposite of the projects- they deliver similar outcomes, they are performed periodically or continuously and it is known in advance what steps need to be involved and their dependencies to bring desired result.
Example: Manufacturing cars, maintaining office
Process mapping is a project in which an organization takes its time to think what they are doing in process scenario, what should be targeted as a process who is responsible for certain steps in such a process, what are dependencies of individual steps and departments, how long it should take to complete the involved steps, when a process starts and when it ends.
Mapping Process may be a result of company needs caused by external factors such as client requirement or internal ones, like a business goal. It may also be induced by a growing need for independence from one individual who has the exclusive and essential knowledge in the company. When there are many ways of performing an activity by many people it is usually beneficial to find one – the most effective way and define it as a process. For the company the overall goal is to become more efficient.
At some point a company may be approached by a major investor or client who would get involved based on product he likes or his knowledge about the company. However, the client needs to be assured that the company he wants to work with, has sufficient means to deliver repeatable products and has sustainable structure. After all he expects return on his investment not a charity contribution. Usually audits are arranged to build customer’s confidence. During an audit the customer may learn about specific processes he may evaluate their compliance to his needs and sometimes he may request a change in some of the processes which matter to him the most.
When an organization grows to the point that it becomes concerned not only about profit and survival on tough market but also about the quality outcome of the invested work in product or service, it recognizes the need to organize gained knowledge, experience and practice into some patterns. Process definition offers that pattern and it is a practice that provides work transparency and points right pathways to preferred outcome.
Some organizations have professionals who are the focal point for entire operations, without them the company is on hold. To avoid such a situation it is good to map at least the most essential processes so anyone in the organization appointed to the work could follow the process and succeed in their undertaking.
There are many ways and techniques bringing about the same result but in many cases companies have their preferred ways of dealing with certain activities and they would like all employees to follow the best practice. Defining a process followed by training seems like a bullet proof solution that just waits to be implemented.
Processes are created to reflect applicable policies and standards in mind, they present “what happens” during specific task within organization to deliver wanted product. Processes are supported by procedures which point “how to” perform specific activities using particular tools or set of skills.
For some reason people tend to confuse processes and procedures using them interchangeably. There is however a difference in the two terms.
Assuming that one may want to make a chicken salad he has to consider policy and standards governing his decisions and actions in buying the right produce and then making a tasty salad out of them.
While there are only two steps representing process below a clear difference is visible between process and procedures. When process points out what should be done, procedure takes care of how it should be done in detail.
This diagram does not present a process, it presents correlation between policies, standards, processes and procedures.