What Is Process Mapping and How Can It Help?.

Process Mapping is an operations management tool used to create a graphic representation of how things get done in a certain situation. It helps interested parties to visualise the details of a process and to determine the “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “Why”, “When” and “How” aspects of the process. The main objectives of process mapping are to bring transparency over the process, to identify its strengths and weaknesses, and to point to potential improvements.

Even though seldom used in legal departments, Process Mapping is a simple and useful tool to bring transparency to legal operations, and to guide decision making when determining future changes. Why? Because it allows anyone not familiar with the process – or even familiar with it - to get a simple grasp of the whole process at a glance. A process map can help assess the current situation and help to define and design future expectations.

A simple example of the usefulness of process mapping can be seen in a case in the following business case:

We need more lawyers!

Korum was approached by a large multinational company (“MNC”) customer, who was planning to increase its headcount due to an increase of workload in the legal department mainly supporting contracting with suppliers. In order to support these changes, this MNC requested a Health Check and Optimisation – an accelerated audit of the existing processes and structures to confirm the challenges and determine possible courses of action.

The “Health Check” was a diagnostic of existing policies, procedures, and workflows to understand current modus operandi. It included 8 interviews with key internal stakeholders and then produced a process map of the internal contracting with suppliers. The whole process is reflected in the chart, with its 4 different actors, 11 steps and 3 decision trees. More importantly, the map also revealed that contracting was facing delays, not only in the triage of the contracts, but also in the routing inside the company and in the contract administration and showed that the bottlenecks also involved the administrative team.

Process Mapping of the Contracting with Suppliers before the Audit

Fig. 1 - Process Mapping of the Contracting with Suppliers before the Audit

Do we need more lawyers?

After a careful analysis and interviews with key stakeholders, Korum completed the “Health Check and Optimisation” and suggested several recommendations. The audit revealed that most problems existed in the triage, routing and administration of contracts, tasks which could be done differently in order to reduce the burden on lawyers. So what the customer thought was a headcount and resource issue, turned out to be something different.

Therefore, recommendations were specifically created to address these problems:

  • The triage of contracts should be handled by administrative staff instead of lawyers – the triage of contracts is not a complex task (as long as the triage criteria is previously defined) and may be done by the administrative staff.
  • Lawyers will only be involved in certain contracts – most transactions with suppliers were for small amounts and therefore was limited no need to involve the legal department. The commercial department may use contract templates previously created.
  • The administration of contracts could be allocated to the administrative team.

These recommendations were discussed with the management and the stakeholders, and the MNC decided to adopt most of them. The recommendations enabled lawyers to focus on higher value tasks, and increased the efficiency of the whole department and the company, as a whole.

Process Mapping of Contracting with Suppliers after the adoption of recommendations

Fig. 2 – Process Mapping of Contracting with Suppliers after the adoption of recommendations

The value of Process Mapping

Process Mapping is a powerful tool to illustrate complex process flows with multiple phases, tasks and stakeholders. This technique is extremely useful for legal departments who are looking to optimise their operations and to increase efficiencies, since it allows for the identification of unexpected complexity, problem areas, redundancies and potential areas of improvement. Process mapping is also simple and cost effective and any company trying to optimise its legal operations should first create process maps of its operations in order to revel existing problems and identify potential solutions, before resorting to other management or technology tools.

To find out more about how you can get started, get in touch with me at joao.costa@korumlegal.com. 

Joao Costa