Business Analyst Interview Question: What is business process mapping and how do you do it?
Business process mapping is the method by which a Business Analyst captures and documents what a business does. It may capture what exists now (“current state”), or how the process will exist in the future (“future state.”)
Why is it important to do business process mapping?
Business process mapping helps an organization to better understand what it does, and how it does it. Without business process mapping, it is difficult to explain to anyone the sequence of activities, the expected inputs and outputs, or much of anything else about a process. However, by documenting a business process it’s easier to tell whether that process should be changed, and how.
Additionally, when you conduct business process mapping, it becomes easier to tell what to expect out of that process. That allows you to figure out what you want to measure to confirm that the process works well–or doesn’t. If your process turns a stone into a widget, you can figure out where and at what step in the process you can measure how many stones per hour you use, or how many widgets you produce per day. By performing business process mapping you can identify where you could add a new machine, for example, or more people.
You can also meet a lot of other business needs by having well-documented business processes. For example, it’s easier to train new people when they can see a clear, step-by-step process. If external consultants or auditors need to quickly understand the process, that becomes easier with a well-mapped business process too.
How do you do business process mapping?
You undertake a series of steps to successfully complete business process mapping.
1) Identify your requirements. As with many other Business Analyst activities, it all starts with requirements. What process are you supposed to be capturing? Why is it important? What are you trying to do to the process? You must answer these questions first.
2) Obtain information. You need to understand the process you will be mapping, inside and out. That often involves interviewing stakeholders and people involved with the process. It can also mean reviewing documentation and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), if you’re lucky enough for them to exist in the first place.
3) Map the process. You then take the information you gathered and create a drawing that represents the business process mapping. The drawing generally contains the major steps in the process, connected by arrows to show sequence. It also shows important inputs into the process, and the expected outputs.
4) Validate the process mapping. Once you turn the process into a drawing, it’s time to validate that it’s accurate. You have to go back to the people who know the process, probably the ones you interviewed originally. You then walk them step by step through every part of the mapping to get their feedback.
5) Analyze the process. Once you know it’s accurate, it’s time to apply your brainpower. If your task involves changing the business process to improve it, you need to figure out what’s wrong with it. You may already have some idea based on your interviews and information-gathering. But also, take a good hard look at the process you mapped and see whether you can figure out additional details. Maybe something doesn’t work as well as it should, and should change? If so, how should it change? Sometimes the people who do the process day in and day out tend to miss the forest for the trees. They may not realize something is wrong, or that it could be better. That’s all part of your job.
6) Update and re-validate the process. If part of your task includes mapping the “future state” of the process, it’s time to do that once your analysis is complete. You may need to draw a second process map, this time one that shows how it will work in the future.
7) Maintain the process. Once the process mapping is complete, you need to think about how to maintain it in the future. Process mappings become useless if the business doesn’t update them regularly to reflect process changes. Also consider where you will store the process map, who will access it, and who will know about it for future use.
How do you draw a business process mapping?
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Your employer will probably tell you what they expect. If not, it’s fine to start with simple boxes to indicate major steps, with sequence arrows connecting them. You can use diamonds to indicate major “yes/no” decision points, and ovals to depict major outputs. You can use something as simple as PowerPoint or Visio.
Once your mapping needs get more complicated, we’re talking doing business process modeling using business process modeling notation or BPMN. This is a “language” of sorts, using an industry standard maintained by The Open Group. It’s a good skill for a Business Analyst to pick up.
With BPMN, you can use a Business Process Management Suite to create and manage your process mappings. These suites make it easier to standardize everything, and spread good process management practices throughout your organization. Some of them also allow you to convert BPMN directly into software code automatically, although other technical platforms need to be in place for that to work properly.
Can you summarize an answer about what business process mapping is and how you do it?
Business process mapping is the method by which you document a business process in a standard way. It is a drawing that shows the step by step sequence of important process steps, as well as showing decision points and outputs from the process. You create a business process mapping by obtaining a full understanding of the process, usually by interviewing people and reviewing documentation. The next step is to draw the mapping and validate it with others to make sure it’s correct. You can then analyze it to figure out how to make it better in the future. Or you can just maintain it so that the business can easily explain what it does to whoever needs to know.
How would you explain what a business process mapping is, and how to do it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!