12 Oct 2017

How Business Mapping Helped Improve Our Processes and Client Work

October 12, 2017VM News

Working alongside Business Enterprise Mapping (BEM) has been an eye-opening experience for us at Vertical Measures, and what’s more, extremely beneficial for our business!

A while back, our company engaged with Satrix Solutions, and began sending out the Net Promoter Score survey to our clients. We received feedback that our processes were overly-complex and hard to understand, and our onboarding process was dissatisfying to clients.

Naturally, this feedback was alarming to us and we knew we needed to invest some time in our business to fix the issues. Enter BEM.

Who is Business Enterprise Mapping?

Business Enterprise Mapping builds process and system maps to define, improve, and align business processes to enhance customer value, improve profitability, and reduce risk. To put it simply, BEM transforms how clients create value, solve problems and manage work.

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Because BEM was already a client of ours, we reached out and asked if they would help us improve our internal processes. We started with our content process; the most complex of all our deliverables. From there, they helped map our sales and marketing processes, and then mapped the rest of our operations processes.

Adopting a Process Improvement Mentality

From the beginning, the folks at Business Enterprise Mapping instilled the importance of good, solid, working processes. They laid out a plan that was daunting at first – but with their 25+ years of expertise and knowledge accumulated from working with over 300 enterprise companies – we followed their lead.

We believe the #support from our consultant and our investment in certifications had a direct impact on our #success. Click To Tweet

We went all in with their recommendations, starting with bringing in one of their in-house process mapping consultants, who was with us every day for several weeks during our mapping sessions. We also certified some internal team members so they could offer additional help. We believe the support from our consultant and our investment in certifications had a direct impact on our success.

Mapping our Processes

We began by identifying our processes, and then went through the extensive task of mapping each one individually. This was the most time intensive part for us. Being a smaller company, most of our team members wear multiple hats. In addition to that, part of the mapping process involves bringing in both process users and process customers, which are those who receive something from the process.

For example, our SEO team would be a customer of our project management process, because the project management process supplies work assignments to our SEO team.

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Example of our process map "Backbone" from BEM

Identifying Problems and Pain Points

During the mapping process, the team would identify pain points, challenges, or opportunities for improvement as we walked through each step in the process (from operations, to sales, to marketing).

We called the identified problems “red clouds”. Each red cloud would have an owner assigned to it that would be held accountable for finding a solution. After all the processes were mapped, we identified where the processes came together, or where they were disconnected.

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The Vertical Measures team during War Room

Finding the disconnects was an interesting and entertaining experience for us. Referred to as the War Room, we lined a wall with large print outs of our process maps and began taping strings together. Any time we could not connect a string from one map to another, the string would just hang down to the ground, visually representing a disconnect between departments.

We added the disconnects to our list of red clouds uncovered during the mapping sessions, and then prioritized which items we would fix.

Identifying Baselines and Setting Goals

With our processes mapped and our issues identified, the next step was to create goals and metrics for each process that were tracked monthly. After identifying a baseline, it was easy to see what it would take to accomplish them.

Throughout the mapping sessions, we learned a great deal, not only about how to properly map our processes, but about ourselves as a company.

  • We knew our processes weren’t optimized, but going through the plan BEM laid out for us, we realized how far off we really were, and more importantly, why! We discovered that our processes had far too many steps, causing our work quality and efficiency to suffer.
  • The mapping sessions also revealed that our individual teams were very siloed from each other. A common pain point was communication and collaboration. No one really communicated efficiently on projects from one department to the next.
  • Efficiency wasn’t just a problem in our processes. On many of our projects, the teams were spending more time on the work than we had planned.

Like the saying goes, “You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken,” and BEM helped us learn what was broken in our processes and why, so that we could put a plan in place to fix them.

Our New Way of Thinking

While working with BEM, we adopted a new way of thinking and a new approach to our work.

When there are problems, the cause is almost never the people doing the work, but rather people who are having to work with a broken process. If you fix the process – 9 times of out 10 – most of the problems will be resolved.

BEM reinforced our belief in continuous improvement. There will never be a time when we stop looking for ways to get better, and even when we accomplish fixing the red clouds and disconnects identified during our initial mapping sessions, we can reevaluate the processes and our goals.

If you fix the #process – 9 times of out 10 – most of the problems will be resolved. Click To Tweet

We now have 3 people at our company certified in process mapping so that we can keep moving forward, as Arnie Kuenn always says, “Onward and upward!”

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Onward and Upward in the VM Offices

BEM really showed us how connected we all are and how each of us contributes to more than just process we work within.

And now for the results…

So, how have we improved since beginning our engagement with BEM?

  • Collaboration: Teamwork and communication have greatly improved since working with BEM. In the 5 years I’ve been with Vertical Measures, I have never seen our team work together the way they do today!
  • Better Deliverables: We have streamlined our deliverables, recreating them based on current standards and have ensured that they all have uniformed branding.
  • Efficiency: Before BEM, about half of our projects were going over planned hours, today we are averaging 75% of projects being completed within the planned hours. We are well on our way to meeting our goal of 90%.
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  • Client Onboarding: In April of 2016, 40% of our client base was dissatisfied with the onboarding process. Today, according to the most recent survey analysis we’ve received from Satrix Solutions, “Vertical Measures continues to create solid first impressions with newly onboarded clients. Of newer clients asked to rate the onboarding experience, 83% indicated they were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘extremely satisfied’ with their onboarding experience.”
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  • Happy Clients: In 2016, our client retention rate was at 78%, but today, we are retaining 92% of our client base.

These are just some of the highlights, but all are a true testament to the improvements we’ve made in our processes.

Our Takeaway

It’s interesting to think about, but the most surprising thing we learned from BEM was how to change from a reactive team, to a proactive team. It’s hard to step away from the day to day and focus on the long-term picture. It takes time and dedication for it to work. But the paramount truth we learned is: hard work and dedication really does pay off, and we are certainly reaping the benefits!