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Process mapping for accountants

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With the rise of outsourcing, being able to communicate processes to a globally dispersed workforce is becoming imperative for success and compliance.

9th Jun 2021
Consultant at Journey One and Mental Health Advocate
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Process mapping is the art of conveying a process as a story that anyone can understand by reading it, and assists in ensuring alignment to an organisation’s goals and strategy. 

In more detail, process mapping refers to the activities involved in what a business entity does. It outlines who is responsible for completing the activities, alongside the standard a business process should be completed to and how the success of a business process can be determined. 

Processes may be linked to previous or several previous processes and triggers, and one or many outputs may link to subsequent processes. 

Process design also takes into account the following factors; 

  • systems capabilities
  • user demand
  • volume 
  • compliance

 In some industries, process maps are required to meet audit requirements. 

Process mapping software

Process mapping software is easily accessible for accounting and bookkeeping practices, with the majority of software now being cloud-based. There are a number of free and paid products available, including Lucidchart, Miro, Promapp and Visio

My personal favourite free apps are Miro and Lucidchart. Miro has a good online collaborative whiteboard, so you can do a lot more with it than just create process maps. The best part about Miro is that multiple people can be logged in and make edits, providing feedback in real-time without having to save and send for review. 

An example of one of Miro’s flowchart templates:

Flowchart

From a paid software perspective, Promapp is a leading industry standard toolset used across a number of industries, which allows for continuous improvement of the detail and design using its feedback functionality.

The below is an example of a flowchart in Promapp. Promapp keeps the process structure flat and recommends only ten process steps (also known as activities) so that the process is not over complicated. It also does not recommend the use of decision boxes to make it easier to understand and read.

Promapp flowchart 

Fostering a culture of continuous improvement and the relevance to your firm

Given the rise of outsourcing, being able to communicate processes to a globally dispersed workforce is becoming imperative for success and compliance. Using process mapping software will assist in communicating these processes to offshore staff and ensure that they are trained in the processes the same way in which your local team are.

This will mean consistency for clients in how their work is completed and ensure that the firm is meeting the legislative requirements for lodgement. 

Process maps can also be used to foster a culture of continuous improvement, which is imperative for achieving an organisation's goals and executing strategy. It is important to pick software that will enable you to foster continuous improvement. 

Using software like Miro, Promapp or Lucidchart will enable you to provide your staff with the opportunity to provide live feedback and edit the process map easily. Something like Visio is more static and cannot be easily edited by multiple people. 

When staff are reviewing process maps, it is important they identify areas of waste, which are steps in the process that are now redundant and to make suggestions if the steps do not make sense. If the steps do not make sense, it provides an opportunity to rethink how you are communicating your process, and if you need to change the way in which steps are worded to make them more easily understood. 

Process maps will also help in identifying how productive your staff are when completing a process, and assist in the allocation of work. This will ensure that the workload is spread more evenly across your staff, and assist in mitigating the risks of staff burnout. 

I recommend checking out the different software available and starting to explore what process mapping can do for your firm.

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By Hugo Fair
09th Jun 2021 18:15

So 'process mapping' is a hybrid compromise between good old-fashioned flowcharts and excellent never-went-out-of-fashion project management?

Like most compromises it appears to dilute the benefits of both of its origins:
* based on the graphical examples, it's less easy to set-up or understand than a basic flowchart; but
* it's missing all the core advantages of proper project management (critical path analysis, resource levelling, quantifying slippage, target-driven re-allocation, etc).

It looks like a nice way to 'play' management, so long as you don't take it seriously.

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By BrianL
10th Jun 2021 10:06

No 'process mapping' ISN'T as described in Hugo Fair's first paragraph. Unfortunately, that's how it came across in the piece by Sammie Johannes. Nor does it, at the basic level, have anything to do with software.
Mapping of processes, especially using deployment flowcharts (who does what), is a powerful way of understanding what's going on in an organisation, department or business unit with the intention of identifying bottlenecks, waste (of time or materials), dead ends etc so that the process can be improved. That's the purpose.
Importantly, getting teams to draw how the processes within which they work is almost always an eyeopener for their managers, who believe that the work is done is some other way and are unaware of the work-arounds that staff have devised to compensate for impractical systems. Large sheets of paper on a wall will suffice: there's no need for software to achieve process improvements. OK, recording the findings will probably best done electronically but that's reporting not improvement. Improvements can happen without it.

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