Process mapping is a technique to create visual, graphical representations of a process flow. It illustrates the start point, in-between steps and the outcome of an operating procedure. Process maps mainly come in the form of flowcharts, and are often constructed using common symbols.
Planning and mapping a process may seem redundant. But you can be surprised as to how many companies are actually willing to spend time on process maps for the following uses:
“Show, don’t tell.”
Being highly visual, process maps can make complicated processes a lot simpler for your employees to understand. Employees will also be able to visualise how their roles relate to one another.
Once your map is completed, it helps define the standard protocol for your process. This ensures that everyone follows the same work flow to avoid inconsistencies, overlapping work or confusions during task executions.
A better visualisation of the whole process would also make it easier for you to identify problems or weak links between steps. Therefore, process maps also facilitate businesses to resolve inefficiencies in their processes.
In short, the benefits of process mapping for your organisation can include:
Depending on your use case and purpose, the process map that best suits your needs can vary. Here’re the common types of process maps used in business:
This is a basic flowchart that outlines all the tasks needed to finish a process. By default, there isn’t a strict set of symbols to follow when constructing workflow diagrams. They are pretty versatile and flexible, which is why they can be used for most business processes.
You can use workflow diagrams to:
Here’s an example of a hiring workflow diagram:
If your process involves multiple departments and external vendors, swimlane diagrams or cross-functional flowcharts can be a good alternative.
As the term suggests, a swimlane diagram will consist of different “lanes”. Each lane represents different individual roles, team departments or organisations. This provides a clearer view of how the tasks of different stakeholders relate to one another.
You can use swimlane diagrams when:
The BPMN diagram is an example of a workflow chart. However, it distinguishes itself by specifically using Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) symbols.
BPMN symbols are standardised across all industries and organisations. They specify different types of events, activities, gateways, swim lanes, connections in the process flow, and more. For the full list of symbols and notations, you can refer to the official BPMN website here.
Image: Business Process Incubator
With this, BPMN diagrams are probably best used when you need to share a piece of process map idea with external stakeholders, such as vendors and partners.
A SIPOC diagram, also known as a high-level process map, focuses on the main tasks of a process. You can think of it as a summary of only the key highlights of your process.
SIPOC diagrams are based on the SIPOC model – Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, Customers. Typically, you should only list 5 to 6 key activities under each SIPOC component.
Image: Six Sigma Study
You can use SIPOC maps when:
Data flow charts primarily focus on the flow of information in a process.
Image: Visual Paradigm
Depending on your preferences, you can choose to:
The next step you choose will also determine what type of process mapping tools you should adopt for your organisation.
Amongst the sea of process mapping tools out there, it can be a pain to figure out which type to use, much less which brand’s. So we’ve categorised the different process mapping software as follows:
We’ve also collated some process mapping software examples below:
Lucidchart is a visual collaboration software where teams can come together on the platform to edit, comment and collaborate via their process maps in real-time.
It also provides BPMN symbols for users to create BPMN diagrams.
Sketchboard is another visual collaboration software that prides itself for its informal flowchart styles.
The platform has a library of shapes and icons for users to create “fun” process maps, making it a nice tool for planning and drafting your process ideas.
Users can also make annotations and comments for real-time team collaborations.
Zen Flowchart is a flowchart maker with a simple, minimalistic interface. Users can build process maps with their library of symbols. They can also export flowcharts for sharing.
Image: Zen Flowchart
In a nutshell, process mapping is a useful technique for many businesses to plan, define and visualise their processes.