Process mapping is a tried and true way to visually see how your procurement process actually works. The Swimlane technique is flowchart format used by many procurement engineers to help clients define their current as is processes as well as develop more efficient procure to ay approval processes.
A flowchart is a sequence of graphical symbols and shapes that create a visual diagram to document a procedure or set of steps that is shared by one or more individuals or departments. Procurement engineers develop these flowcharts as part of the change management process when deploying tools such as e-procurement.
A flowchart can help a team mindshare their processes and procedures into maps of lines and shapes that create a clear and concise diagram that can easily be traced through from end to end. The Swimlane format helps breakdown the various parts of a complex process into organized “lanes” that allow anyone to track the entire process. Analyzing a flowchart using a Swimlane configuration enables the reader to logically follow the sequence of steps, specific rules and paths they should take when certain situations are encountered even if they are not intimate with the procure to pay process.
E-procurement type projects incorporate these activities into the project plan to ensure the new systems mimic the current approval process or make them more efficient if they can. Some departmental approval process can be consolidated down to 2 or 3 different approval processes based on business rules that exist today and not 10 years ago when they were first established.
There are many tools that can be used to develop Swimlane flowchart diagrams. You can use basic presentation, spreadsheet or word processing applications to create basic flows. For more complex diagrams and maps most procurement contractors will use more specialized tools designed to create comprehensive maps and diagrams.
In summary, when learning how to draw flowcharts, it is imperative to develop a standard methodology that helps organize information in a concise manner. Mastering the Swimlane format as part of your flowchart toolbox will allow high level information to be broken down into the basic parts and pieces that can be read by anyone.
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