How We Improved Operations with Business Process Mapping (and Developed an Internal Product Along the Way)

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      16 May 2024 (updated: 17 May 2024) by  Marta Kuśnierz Marta Kuśnierz

      Learn how business process mapping led to the development of an internal time-tracking tool that later became our first digital product, EL Chrono.

      Have you ever felt like you're swimming against the current, trying to keep up with an unwinding spool of tasks? The tasks themselves are simple, and when handing them over, your co-worker told you it should take less than an hour. And being a good colleague, you said, "Yeah, of course, I'll help!". 

      And there you are, 4 hours later, trying to match the time reports with invoicing sheets. Your coworker didn't lie - it does take them 45 minutes to complete this job. The time reports are the same as always and you are invoicing the same clients. So what happened?

      Identifying the problem

      Part of the problem is that you are juggling a mishmash of tools – Excel spreadsheets, Slack messages, emails flying back and forth. You need to collect data and make sure everyone logged in their time. Then, you move to another spreadsheet where data is analyzed, and you still have to generate some summary charts to show in the management meetings. You’ll get it done eventually, but it will be chaotic, and you probably won't get any of your actual work done. It’s the longest-standing issue in all kinds of agencies: be it software, legal, or marketing, where time reporting and invoicing processes look pretty similar. 

      For us, at EL Passion, it was the same. And we had thought we had all the issues nailed down and conquered. The problem was that the quick and painless deployment of those processes only succeeded due to the experience of our senior account manager. When handing over the process, she never managed to transfer all the know-how to substitute, only the basics. When problems occurred in less obvious places, there was no map to help us through.

      And here is where the main character of this story comes in - those three little words nerds like you and me love to hear: BUSINESS PROCESS MAPPING.

      Don't be afraid of business process mapping

      Seeing the word “process”, some of you will feel the urge to run. It's your choice, but know that you'll be missing out on a pretty simple yet important lesson. Hear me out.

      The aspect where a process relies on one specific person in an organization is called a "bus factor." Think about the most crucial operations around the office and imagine if the person usually doing it is hit (lightly) by a bus and takes sick leave to recover. Will your company still run smoothly? Will a process, task, or meeting be missed because "Bob is on sick leave"? If that's the case with even one crucial process, you should follow our example.

      Business process mapping - how to start?

      The first thing we've done is to roll up our sleeves and dive deep into what was happening internally. We extrapolated 3 main functions in the company (sales, recruitment, and project management) and identified auxiliary processes like operations, finances, strategy planning, etc. Then, instead of focusing on all of them, we chose billing and invoicing as the ones to tackle. 

      We spent a few meetings mapping out every step, from logging hours to sending out invoices, and boy, did we uncover some eye-opening insights! While talking to all players involved, we discovered bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies lurking in the shadows, holding us back from reaching our full potential. Each of those problems became a pin on our to-do list. One of the main blockers was that our previous time-tracking tool needed to be more user-friendly. Even though it worked, it wasn't flexible enough and barely had any UI. Administrators also flagged that extracting data from it was cumbersome.

      The outcome - a brand new shiny tool

      So, as an action point, we put together a brief, convinced the CEO to invest in an internal project, mobilized our team, and set out to build our own internal tool - EL Chrono. Fast forward to today (2 months after the launch), and let me tell you the difference is night and day. With our shiny new tool in hand, we've slashed the time it takes to report hours and send invoices. We improved the time logging regularity by 87%. No more chasing down missing data or wading through endless spreadsheets – everything we need is right at our fingertips, neatly organized, and ready to go. 

      Business process mapping impact

      The impact of process mapping continues beyond just one new tool. Having a clear path ahead, predictable process steps, and instructions, our team members are happier, more motivated, and more engaged than ever. They know that despite more areas to improve, we have found a great way to get there, freeing up time and energy to focus on what we do best – delivering top-notch work for our clients.

      And you know what? Our clients have noticed, too. With smoother processes and faster turnaround times, we've strengthened our relationships and earned their trust in ways we never thought possible. It just goes to show that when you prioritize your team's happiness and well-being, everyone wins – customers included.

      There is another upside to learning process mapping. Now that we have more experience, we use it to recommend best practices. For example, we currently work with a startup that came to us for technical recommendations and left with a mapped-out process and written advice on what to improve. We are always happy to support our clients and deliver the tools they need to make their businesses operate smoothly.


      chrono (1)

      Check out also:

      EL Chrono: ditch the spreadsheets and hello to effortless time tracking.

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      There are many books, podcasts, and videos about process mapping. I'm not here to teach you how to do it. I'm here to tell you that you should go and learn. If you start today, in a couple of months, you will have at least three processes mapped and improved. 

      If you think it's not for you because you have a five-person team and you all work seamlessly together, that's fine. But just in case, double-check if the person with access to your invoice builder travels to work by car or bus… 

      Most importantly, if you dream about scaling up someday, you must prepare now. I can not emphasize enough that when you start expanding, you won't have time to go back to basics - your team will grow, but some people will move on. You'll have more clients but no standard processes to keep them manageable. And suddenly, you'll have people asking you for guidance in random steps of processes. How great would it be to have a map ready and walk them through the process seamlessly? 

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