Map your current business processes

In this article
You will find out why  understanding and documenting your current business processes is a crucial step in starting an ecommerce systems project.

Mapping out the existing business processes in your online business is one of the best things that you can do before you get started on a new ecommerce systems initiative.

It might seem counter-intuitive to document processes that a new system may change or even eliminate. However by getting the relevant business teams into a room and carefully walking through each and every step in the process, information about processes and key considerations for your new system project may surface that can impact how a new system may be set-up.

5 reasons to walkthrough and map your current business process

1. Understand the activity steps and the order that they occur

Unless you are a one-man-band, a process is unlikely that one person will no the whole process, unless they do it themselves. In addition, by talking through the process, activities that no-one else knows about get brought to the surface.The activity steps may inform an additional business requirement.For example, a retailer’s warehouse implemented a shorter barcode label that was to be put on parcel for Collect from Store. However by not mapping through the current process, they did not realise that the new barcode could not be scanned by the in-store barcode reader.

2. Define the IT systems that may affect a new system

By highlighting the different systems and their roles in the process, it will identify additional requirements and also understand the roles (and limitations) of each of the systems.  A solid understanding of a process avoids assumptions being made about how a process works that will become a problem that may delay a project later.

3. Identify where the business process impacts upstream or downstream activities

This is important in two ways: Firstly it will identify employee roles that may maybe potentially impacted by a new system, along with changes to job and training needs. Secondly, the practice of walking through the process may highlight how others inside (or even outside of the process) may use the outputs of the process.

4. Discover what activities are required to define and implement a new system

Similarly to point above, the walkthrough process will highlight where integration points between systems exist or where specific data is maintained that can later become a consideration for the new system.For example, a retailer was looking to implement an expedited delivery option to enable next day delivery. The current order processing process had a customer card authorization review step (externally managed by the PSP) where all orders were processed. It highlighted the need to work with the finance team to implement new rules with the PSP to make sure that premium orders were reviewed faster.

5. A fit-gap analysis.

The current business process forms the basis of setting the scope for a new system and provides a list of potential gaps that may emerge where a new system does not cover that specific role.

Finally, a picture tells a thousand words: a detailed process map will later help any participants in the project and the wider business understand how things work and highlight any risks and requirements later.

Take action in your business

  • Get the right people in the room: members of the team, system owners (including external or 3rd parties) and members of upstream or downstream proceses.
  • Capture these 5 elements when describing steps within a business process.
    • each activity, e.g. receive new customer form, input details, click save.
    • the input or trigger for starting the activity.
    • the output is, e.g. report, email, automated file, saved record.
    • who does it.
    • what system they use and how, e.g. input into Excel, write on form..
  • Document the process. Its all very good getting people in the room but make sure that it is documented.

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