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What is business process mapping?

Just like navigators use maps to get through vast seas, businesses can use process maps as a key step in process analysis to navigate complex processes and relationships.

Businesses map processes to gain a better understanding of their operations. Mapping processes helps businesses visualize the flow of work, identify bottlenecks, and identify opportunities for improvement. Process mapping can also help businesses identify risks and compliance issues, optimize resources and workflows, and improve customer experience Additionally, process mapping can be used to develop process improvement initiatives and identify potential areas for intelligent automation.

What exactly is process mapping?

Business process mapping is a technique used to visually display how work is done in workflow steps from start to finish. A process map can also be called by different names, such as a flowchart, functional process chart or a workflow diagram.

Process mapping helps organizations understand and improve their work processes by displaying a visual representation of their workflow. By mapping out processes, teams easily communicate priorities issues and identify where time and resources are wasted.

With a detailed process map, teams must identify and understand individual steps, devise precise timelines and identify task owners. Process mapping brings lots of helpful insights but is just one step in the overall goal of a business process analysis. 

Process mapping steps

1. Process identification

During the process identification phase, organizations define their business process. It's about identifying company objectives, players, and work areas. 

2. Information gathering

As the name suggests, information gathering is about gaining relevant process information from the people who do the work. It's about answering the how, what, and why to develop an accurate and informed process map. 

3. Process mapping

After getting the correct information from the right people, it's time to start process mapping. Process mapping can be done simply on paper, as part of a presentation, or with dedicated process mapping software.

4. Analysis 

The analysis phase is about working through the map to identify opportunities for improvement. Good questions to ask in analysis: can steps be eliminated? Can tasks be completed more efficiently? Are there potential bottlenecks slowing down the throughput time? 

5. Develop new methods of work 

Once you have worked out the areas for improvement in work processes, it's time to eliminate unnecessary actions, rearrange or automate process steps, and develop more effective workflows.

6. Process management

This final phase is about maintaining effective processes with regular reviews and progress monitoring. The most effective process map is one that is kept fresh and used actively.  

The biggest benefits of process mapping

  • Share visual information, data, and ideas. 
  • Provides digestible information for effective problem-solving. 
  • Breaks complex processes down into universally understood symbols. 
  • Provides a visual representation of the process from start to finish. 
  • Builds alignment and prioritization between various individuals and teams.

Invoice payment process flowchart
Invoice payment process flowchart

Process Mapping vs. Process Modeling

Process mapping is about understanding established processes with visual diagrams of each activity that create the overall business process landscape.

Process modeling enables teams to view the desired state of processes in their entire organization to support workflow lifecycles and continuous improvement. 

In simple terms, process mapping shows the current state of processes while process modelling can help optimize or even simulate how processes should be.

6 typical process map types 

  1. Flowcharts:

Start with the basics. Flowcharts are easy-to-follow visual maps that almost everyone can understand. Flowcharts provide basic process details such as inputs and outputs. 

  1. Deployment maps:

Deployment maps (or cross-functional flowcharts) are ideal for finding those pesky bottlenecks. Deployment maps display relationships between different teams and use swimlane diagrams to illustrate how a process flows through your organization. 

  1. Detailed process maps: 

As the name suggests, detailed process maps show a deeper version of a process and contain information about sub-processes. 

  1. High-level process maps:

High-level process maps are all about seeing the bigger picture. Otherwise known as value-chain or top-down maps, high-level process maps include the key process elements such as a supplier, process, output, input, or customer.   

  1. Rendered process maps

Rendered process maps show current and/ or future state processes. This information highlights areas for improvement. 

  1. A value stream map 

The final step is documenting the steps needed to develop products and services for an end user.

Process mapping symbols and their meanings 

Process symbols are a representation of individual elements in a process map. Otherwise known as flowchart symbols, flowchart shapes, or flow diagram symbols, process symbols have specific meanings. Like the musical notes printed on piano sheet music, process symbols are universal and have specific meanings.

process mapping symbols meanings
Common process mapping symbols

  

 

5 popular process mapping tools

There are many process mapping tools to choose from, but five of the most popular tools are: 

Microsoft Visio 

Now part of the Microsoft Office pack, Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application initially released in 1992. Microsoft Visio is widely used to create flowcharts and process maps.

Lucidchart 

A popular web-based diagramming application for visual collaboration and drawing. Users can revise and share charts and diagrams to improve processes, systems, and organizational structures. 

Diagrams.net

This freeware design tool can integrate with Google Documents and other online based tools providing flexible diagram visualization options. While it does not offer as advanced collaboration functionality it’s ease of use and no cost make it a popular choice for beginners.

process mapping steps
Example created in Diagrams.net - useful for explaining process mining to friends and family

Gliffy

Users diagram via an HTML5 cloud-based app and can create UML diagrams, floor plans, Venn diagrams, flowcharts, and more. Users can share and edit diagrams in real-time.

Cacoo 

Launched in 2009, the web-based software is for designing and drawing diagrams. The tool creates flowcharts, wireframes, organizational charts, and more. 

SmartDraw 

Teams use this collaborative web-based diagramming tool to work on flowcharts, mind maps, and many other business visuals.  

Bottom line

Process mapping helps companies become more efficient with clear insights and defined goals to save time, money, and staffing. But process mapping was often a time-consuming and complex endeavor. Thankfully, things have changed.

With Workfellow, you can automatically track processes without the hassle of slow, manual work. What's more, you'll get real-time actionable insights from day one thanks to AI-powered process intelligence software. 

So steer your company in the right direction today by booking a free Workfellow trial, and make business process mapping a breeze. 

Written by

Josef Konderla

Content Marketing Manager
joe@workfellow.ai0452033256

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