By Katrin Freeh on October 26 2018 04:53:34
Many departments have established business rules based on guiding principles and philosophies that may have been created years before. Because there has been no initiative in documenting these procedures, chances are that there are many rules still in place that are causing unnecessary barriers and redundancies that add to the purchase order cycle time.A flowchart is a sequence of graphical symbols and shapes that can be used to help subject matter experts visually walk through their processes and validate those rules for accuracy and relevancy based on current business needs.
Such drawings basically consist of boxes and arrows. Boxes (be it squares, rectangles, polygons, circles, etc.) represent tangible objects and lines represent relationships between such objects. Flowcharts are similar; here, boxes represent specific types of processes or decisions or objects such as inputs/outputs/files, and lines represent dependencies between them (comes from/goes to).
Usually, this exercise takes place during an e-procurement project as part of the analysis phase, but can be done at any time. As long as there is a resource who has the proper skills and knows how to draw a flowchart to help the various departments identify their current procedures and potential problem areas within the purchase order approval process.
Flowcharts can be quickly created in many computer software programs; even recent versions of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint contain Smart Shapes that allow users to rapidly insert a flowchart into a document of presentation. Specialist Flowchart Diagramming software also exists but for sheer versatility and the ability to connect data to shapes I would put my money on Microsoft Visio. It has a huge range of ready-made stencils containing all the shapes you could possibly need (and the ability to create your own if you wish), and very slick automatic connection features. Visio also allow a flowchart that dexcribes one process to become part of a larger process and to integrate with it via a hyperlink from a button on the drawing page.
This is where simple process mapping can be used as an effective tool. Developing sample flowcharts that focus on specific areas or duties can help each subject matter expert define their areas of knowledge and communicate to others in the room. Linking each area together with inter-dependencies and business rules is where the real power of this technique comes in.
If your organization is looking for ways to reduce costs, the purchase order chain is one area that can be made more efficient. If the purchasing department learns how to draw a flowchart depicting the as is for each department, the overall effort could help reduce costs by eliminating redundant approval processes and mistakes.