Companies invest lot of time and money implementing “Advanced Planning systems” like SAP APO. Due to inherent complexity of these systems, it is important to have clear and detailed linkages of the business processes which get enabled by them. Having business process maps which can start at a business domain level and end at a detailed transaction in SAP APO would help the planners in understanding it better and aid in faster adoption.
Business process maps if done correctly can not only be used for training the planners but also could be very handy during any business transformation programs. They also help represent processes visually, provide common understanding of the entire process, specific roles of the process participants and the systems used to enable those processes.
Here are my top five tips to ensure your business process mapping exercise is fruitful, yield results as expected and enable planners to use and adopt SAP APO with ease.
Tip 1: Finalize the scope of business process mapping exercise
It is very important to clearly define the business processes which should be mapped to ensure time and effort involved is utilized optimally. During implementation of SAP APO, you should focus your process mapping effort to various planning processes ( like demand planning, supply planning etc.) which are getting enabled and not spend time discussing and mapping the execution and transaction oriented processes.
Resources required to do this exercise need to be clearly identified with their roles defined. Business process owners, IT team and consultants implementing SAP APO are all required to be involved so that processes could be mapped correctly, completely and are agreed by everybody.
Tip 2: Select the right software to create and deliver the process maps
Process Mapping will not be effective if the software used to create the process maps is not right for your organization. PowerPoint and Visio are very commonly used softwares to develop process maps and are generally available in almost all the organizations. Advanced tools like ARIS have lot of features and are very popular whenever large scale process mapping exercise is carried out.
There are also products like ProcessesNOW which not only provides prebuilt library of process maps based on the Supply Chain Operations reference (SCOR) model but also enables delivery of these process maps via a portal which can be installed directly on the intranet. All the process maps directly open in the portal and the user can drill up and down right from the portal making it much easier to navigate. It also provides options to link various documents like training presentations, business blueprint, functional specifications etc.with the process map directly thereby creating a knowledge repository for the users which serves as a single stop shop for all the training needs.
Tip 3: Keep process maps simple, readable and consistent
Process maps should be as simple as possible so that people reading it have no difficulty in understanding it. There should be enough detail for the user to comprehend the process easily but it shouldn't be so intense and dense that the user gets overwhelmed.
Golden rule for Business Process Mapping is “Less is More”.
It is a good practice to create swimlanes to organizes activities into groups based on who is responsible for the different steps within a process flow. Using swimlanes, it is easy to map out the complete process, roles, responsibilities and the interdependencies between various groups.
Another important aspect is to select and finalize the symbols which would be used in creating process maps. Its better to limit the number of symbols so that the process maps are easily readable and understood. In order to refer the processes clearly, it is important to have a standard naming convention so that various processes/activities and tasks are named according to the level at which they are.
Tip 4: Jump Start your process mapping initiative by using prebuilt process maps
Process mapping initiative could be a very time consuming exercise depending on number of processes selected and process participants involved. This act as a deterrent for the top management to have such initiatives and lot of times advanced planning solutions are implemented without any process mapping exercise. This results in poor adoption of the system by the users since they are lost and have no means to understand how a process is enabled by the new system.
One way to jumpstart your process mapping initiatives is to buy prebuilt process maps which can drastically reduce your process mapping time and cost. Products like “ProcessesNOW” have prebuilt library of process maps for the supply chain planning processes for SAP APO which could reduce the time to develop the process maps by up to 70%. This would also ensure that all the process maps are consistent, follow same naming convention and look very similar.
Tip 5: Clearly map the linkage between the business processes and SAP APO
The main objective of a process mapping initiative should be to document the process in such a way that it captures all the important details but still could be viewed at a higher level. Business Processes could be mapped with 4-5 levels of abstraction with increasing level of detail and last level should link the business process with SAP APO.
Level 1 could represent a business domain for which the processes will be mapped. For example, Planning, Sourcing, Manufacturing etc. could be the level 1 process.
Level 2 could represent various group processes within a business domain. For example, under planning business domain, demand planning, supply planning, replenishment planning could be the level 2 processes.
Level 3 could represent a specific process for a group process. For example, under supply planning, capturing all the supply planning requirements could be the level 3 process.
Level 4 and Level 5 can represent sub processes and activity/task for a specific process.
Level 6 could represent how a particular activity or task will be performed in SAP APO.
Having these six levels will give clear visibility to the users to understand a business process and how it is enabled by implementation of SAP APO.
I hope you will benefit from these guidelines which were developed through various SAP APO projects I have been part of.