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Process Mapping 101

Hi y’all! My name is Katie and I’m the Business Process Lead for the Student Information System (SIS) project. My day job is in the Division of Biological Sciences where I am a Technical Project Manager with a background in user experience design.

As part of the Biology Computer Services business unit, I lead a great team of developers who are building a campuswide web application in support of class scheduling. Our work has brought us into partnership with dozens of folks from every division on campus, and I count myself lucky to have the opportunity to delve into business processes and come up with technical solutions to enable our staff to do their critical work.

Now, as part of the ESR SIS team, I am putting my process mapping skills to good use as we examine what our current student system contains and envision what it could look like in the future. We've been doing this work since September 2019, with involvement from 140 people so far. 

What Is Process Mapping?  

Process mapping is a collaborative activity during which a facilitator brings together a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) and asks open-ended questions in order to learn about all the steps involved in a process, why they’re important, who's involved and what the effects are. Typically, this understanding is translated into a workflow diagram that indicates the order of the steps and who is responsible for which part. 

Why Is Process Mapping Important? 

It can be really helpful to clarify the process, determine how much consistency there is across groups of SMEs, open up new conversations about why differences occur and gain clarity around purpose and intent. Process mapping can also allow us to ask questions about whether the outcome is fulfilling the purpose and identify opportunities for improvement.

Such exercises bring people together in conversation who might normally be working in silos hidden from one another, and allows a non-judgmental space where individuals can question the status quo, contribute to shared understanding and allow work to evolve. We need to see clearly what we are doing now in order to move to a new and better way of working.

Why Is SME Input so Important?  

SMEs are critical because they are the people actually doing the work! They have first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of the process under discussion and are able to bring their expertise and experience to bear, whether it be on the technical, business process, policy or just plain human level. All the theory in the world is useless if it isn’t grounded in real-world applications. SMEs help us understand that real-world context and we couldn’t do it without them!

How Will We Use What We Learn?

It's important to reiterate that process improvement is a major component of SIS work. So, we need to understand that what we learn during process mapping will be applied far beyond simply configuring a new technology solution. 

By gathering a firm and comprehensive knowledge of the day-to-day business of the university, we are first able to identify some quick efficiency wins at the outset as we build toward the heavy analysis that will happen through the conference room pilots later this year. That analysis will help us pick the vendor whose product will best support our complex business processes and provide the starting point for the configuration decisions we will need to make.

From now until we move into the implementation phase, we will be transforming our knowledge of the current state into system-agnostic ideal state maps that will heavily inform the implementation plan. Once the new SIS is in place, we can look back and see how much we’ve grown! Our university has never before undertaken business process mapping on such a grand scale and we hope that it will provide transparency and accountability to help keep our business processes up-to-date and allow us to rapidly and nimbly react when new business needs arise.

Category: Student & Faculty, News, ESR Behind the Scenes