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Blog featured image: How to seamlessly weave automations into your process mapping

A process map is a visual representation of a workflow; they’re useful for helping you identify issues and areas of improvement in your procedures. Process mapping also allows you to share and teach procedures across an organisation. Our previous post goes into more detail on How to document your processes and procedures, and covers how to think about your processes to make sure that you capture everything that you need. This post builds on that by describing how you can plan and document automations and add them into your process maps.

 

Process mapping

First, a quick refresher on how to start mapping processes. The first stage of any process mapping is always the same: make a list of all the steps in the process and arrange them in the correct order. You can do this with a pen and paper, on a whiteboard or in a Word document. Personally, I prefer to write each step of the process on a Post-it note and arrange them on a wall or whiteboard. If you’re a visual thinker or struggle to picture abstract concepts, physically arranging each step in the right order is a great way to get an accurate picture of the process and catch any steps you may have missed.
 

When you make this list, include apps you use, places where manual input is required, and, of course, any automations. Again, if you want more information on what to include and how to start, check out our previous blog post. And if you’re looking for advice on an app that can help you visualise your process maps, check out Zapier’s blog post: The best flowchart software and diagram tools in 2023.

 

Adding automations to your process map

Adding automations to your process flowchart is best done when you have a good idea of the process, but before it’s finalised. You need to know what information flows between each step to start building the automation, but you may need to make some changes to the process map based on what you find when you start to build your automation. Let’s use Zapier as an example. You know that you want to add a Zap to your process, but you’re not sure what the Zap will look like. Referring to a draft process map, you’ll know what action starts the Zap (the step before it) and what the outcome of the Zap should be (the step after it), giving you a good framework to start planning your Zap. When you’ve built the Zap, you can check that the steps after it in the process map are still accurate and update the map as necessary.

 

Planning automations

Starting with a pencil and paper is a quick way to map out your automation. For example, when I’m planning a new Zap, I write down the apps, triggers and actions I think I need and in roughly what order. This gives me a great starting point before I open Zapier. If you’ve not used an app in an automation before, take time to do a little research about what’s possible with that app. If you’re using Zapier, what triggers and actions does the app integration have? And can you use the API action or App extension actions? With this information, you can start building your automations.

 

How should you add automations to your process map?

Once your automation is built and ready to go, go back to your process map to check that all of the steps are still accurate. For example, do you need to have someone perform a task earlier in the workflow so you have the information that you need in the automation?

 

When the steps are finalised, you need to decide how you’ll represent automation in your process map. Taking Zapier as an example, one option is to include all of the steps from the Zap in the process flowchart; to add each Zap action as an action on the chart. The other approach is adding only one step in the process flowchart, representing the whole Zap. If you do this, it’s a good idea to include a link to the Zap, or add a footnote on the flowchart describing what the Zap does so it’s clear what happens at that step.

 

A key factor in deciding how to approach this question is the number of steps in the automation. If you have a forty-five step Zap and include each Zap action in the flowchart, that’s going to make your process map harder to follow. On the other hand, if your Zap does a lot of things that later steps in the process rely on, it may be worth including all of that in the process map. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what will make the process map clear and complete, but also concise.

 

Using Zapier Canvas to add automations to your process maps

Canvas is a brand new tool in Zapier’s arsenal of time-saving tricks. It’s currently in alpha, so be aware that some features may change and may not always work as intended. You’ll also need to request early access to use it in your account.

 

Canvas is a game changer for anyone who uses Zapier because it allows you to link directly to Zaps, Tables and Interfaces. This saves you the dilemma of whether or not to include lengthy Zaps in your process workflow. Not only can you quickly add Zaps into the diagram, the diagram provides a link to that Zap, making it easy for you or anyone else to look at it in more detail.

 

The video below gives a quick walkthrough of how Canvas integrates Zapier’s existing features

 

Summary

Including automation planning when building process maps allows you to build faster and document processes more efficiently. You can choose to include automations like Zaps in detail in your flowcharts, or you can add a single step and refer to a different piece of documentation to detail the Zap.
 
If you’d like to learn more about using Zapier in your business process automations, including best practices for building and organising Zaps, our founder, Kelly’s book Automate it with Zapier and Generative AI (Second edition) is available on Amazon UK and US now.

 

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business. It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too! Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate. Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘.  Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency. Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors.  Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

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