The Evolution of Business Process Mapping: Past, Present, and Future

What is Business Process Mapping

What is Business Process Mapping? Business process management is incomplete without process mapping. This initiative helps businesses to assess, enhance and automate their operations in an organized manner. In the last few years process mapping has transformed from simple flowcharts to digital blueprints with the inclusion advanced technologies. This mirrors with the changing business needs and technological advancements.

Here in this post, we are going to have detailed look on the evolution of the world of Business Process Mapping. We are going to discuss early principles to automation to what lies ahead. So, let’s get started and jump into the world of BPM methodologies.

Let’s Understanding What is Business Process Mapping and its Past to Future Insight

Past: Early Days of Process Mapping

One of the earliest accounts of systematizing work dates back to Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory proposed in 1911. Taylor emphasized applying scientific method to improve workplace efficiency. He advocated for breaking down jobs into simple optimized steps and standardizing work processes. Though not explicitly called ‘process mapping’, Taylor’s principles laid the foundation for viewing work as interconnected standardized processes.

In the 1960s, the Kaizen movement from Japan brought the concept of continuous incremental process improvements. Japanese companies applied visualization techniques like value stream mapping to identify waste and bottlenecks. Other notable developments included Gantt charts for project scheduling and flow process charts for depicting workflows—two of the earliest forms of process maps.

In the 1980s, workflow management systems emerged, enabled by increasing computerization. FileNet developed one of the first digital workflow management applications allowing routing of scanned documents through predefined steps. This helped automate manual paper-based workflows, consider by many as the precursor to current BPM systems. Standard flowchart symbols were also developed during this time, establishing basic process mapping conventions still used today.

Standardization of Process Mapping

The need for standardization became imperative as BPM gained prominence in the 1990s. This led to some of the most important developments in establishing Business Process Mapping as a discipline:

IDEF0 (1993)

Published by the US Air Force, IDEF0 provided a functional modeling language to depict organizational activities, inputs/outputs in a hierarchical manner.

UML Activity Diagrams (1997)

Included in Unified Modeling Language specifications, it defined standard notations for workflows and business processes.

Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) (2004)

Developed jointly by Business Process Management Initiative and Object Management Group, it established a common language for process modeling across organizations and BPM tools. BPMN has now become the de-facto global standard for process mapping.

These specifications unified process mapping conventions, supporting collaboration and mapping re-use across industries. They also enabled integration with emerging BPM suites and modeling tools.

Present: Advanced Process Mapping

Contemporary BPM embraces a host of technologies that have elevated process mapping to a new level:

  • Digital workflows: Modern BPM platforms allow building end-to-end interactive digital workflows with built-in automation capabilities. It goes beyond traditional flowcharts to resemble real workflow executions.
  • Low-code mapping: Most BPMS today need little to no coding, empowering business users to autonomously model processes. Advanced mapping tools use intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces for rapid design and changes.
  • Integration with multi-systems: Process maps are integrated with various enterprise applications and data sources. This fosters automation, real-time validations and dynamic process adaptations.
  • Advanced modeling: Techniques like swimlane diagrams clearly depict stakeholder responsibilities in maps. Collaboration capabilities enable simultaneous joint modeling.
  • Process mining: Techniques like process discovery extract processes from event logs, aiding automatic baseline mapping from transactions. Conformance checking gauges process deviations.
  • Process intelligence: Insights on performance bottlenecks, compliance deviations and optimization opportunities are surfaced using advanced analytics on event data. This drives continuous improvement.
  • Model repositories: Centralized repositories support centralized governance, version control, reusable maps sharing and process portfolios for entire BPM lifecycles.
  • Standards adoption: Organizations leverage BPMN, Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN) for specific areas, addressing industry specific needs.
  • Robotic Process Automation: Maps are increasingly integrated with RPA robots to add tactical process automation capabilities using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Thus, modern mapping embraces digital transformation by visualizing processes in their native operational context for automation and continuous enhancement. It has become a critical decision making and planning tool for organizations.

Future Directions

While the present offers enormous capabilities, emerging technologies will likely transform process mapping even further:

Blockchain for mapping

Immutable, distributed ledgers can securely record process versions and modifications, validating changes. This fosters true transparency. Smart contracts may automate certain steps based on pre-defined conditions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI will help augment human mappings. Process discovery and mining can suggest optimization insights and recommend plausible maps with predictive accuracy. As AI infusion increases through technologies like intelligent BPM, maps may dynamically adapt to contextual conditions.

Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

Immersive technologies can be leveraged to simulate ‘what-if’ scenarios of mapped processes in an interactive 3D environment. Gamification can motivate participations in collaborative simulations.

Internet of Things (IoT)

As operational technologies become ‘smart’, process steps may automatically track resource/machine states and optimally route workflows. Dynamic maps will factor real-time constraints from connected devices.

Modeling as Code

Envisioned advances like declarative modeling languages will generate maps algorithmically from code specifications, enhancing re-usability, scalability and integrating mapping with DevOps workflows seamlessly

Continuous Mapping

Machine led mapping techniques will thrive as processes become more dynamic. AI/ML patterns recognition continuously senses processes to intelligently self-map/optimize based on execution patterns with minimal human intervention.

Ultimately, blurring of physical and digital operations coupled with pervasive connectivity will reinvent the way processes are mapped, managed and improved. Mapping will transform into a truly autonomous, context-aware, real-time decision making platform for adaptive next generation enterprises.

Final Thoughts

From its inception as flowcharts and Gantt charts, process mapping has come a long way in its evolution. By continually aligning with emerging technologies and management methodologies, it has become a far more powerful digital enabler of process excellence across industries today. While recent innovations have profoundly enhanced mapping capabilities, technologies on the horizon will potentially revolutionize it like never before. Process mapping’s exciting journey of continually reinventing itself thereby strengthening the BPM discipline is certainly set to carry forward. With organizational processes becoming increasingly complex in today’s VUCA world, mapping’s role as a competitive differentiator for businesses will only grow multi-fold in the future.