What is process mapping?
Process mapping can help create a business process or a process flow diagram that defines a sequence of events in the workflow ahead and is often a visual representation. Subsequently, process maps allow leaders and project managers to bring teams together, help people understand where they fit into a project, and how their work impacts others—ultimately driving toward an end result.
Process maps typically define a new process, document or improve an existing one. With process mapping software, anyone can create a visual representation of a project.
Benefits of process mapping
With the power to visually see and understand a process from start to finish, areas for improved efficiency will quickly appear. In addition, a process flow chart can help you:
- Provide process documentation
- Show a visual project from beginning to end
- Share details visually that can be understood at a glance by leadership
- Highlight unknown unknowns like complexities and redundancies
- Break processes into steps using easy-to-understand symbols
- Show how team members are interconnected, which can help facilitate more meaningful interactions
- Give your team a frame of reference
- Highlight potential problems and solutions
- Empower you (and your team) to make more informed decisions
- Create a library of flow charts that you can use, reuse and repurpose as new projects arise
- Ask and answer more strategic questions
- Deliver better products and services to clients
- Provide documentation compliance and audit
- Quality management systems (QMS)
Ways of using process mapping
Whether you work in an industrial setting, an office, a warehouse or a healthcare facility, process mapping can help your team better understand how things work and where they fit in. The benefits will help everyone feel more connected to their jobs and valued. Let’s take a look at the two ways of using process mapping, so you can decide which is right for your project.
A process flow diagram shows the relationships between the major components of a project or industry. It can help you establish standards and procedures and used as a guide for tasks. Moreover, it can help ensure that your teams follow the steps of a workflow in the prescribed order.
Process flow diagrams document a process, improve a process, or model a new one. When process flow diagrams are created with process mapping software, they can contain clickable symbols that expand and provide additional detail on each phase of the process. So, before you set up a workflow or business flow chart that includes tasks, you might want to outline your overall process in a flow diagram.
Business process mapping gets down to the details of your process. It shows, from start to finish, what needs to happen to reach the end of a process. The procedure includes who needs to be involved, what they need to do, when they need to do it and how their tasks go to completion. It gives your team members a why, a reason to believe and insight into the greater goals. It shows them their role, why they’re essential to the process and how your team will work together to complete the project.
Like all process mapping diagrams, business process mapping uses symbols to indicate touchpoints along the way, and those symbols can expand for additional details.
Types of process mapping
Because different businesses and different projects have their own unique needs, using the same style of process flow chart over and again probably isn’t the best use of the tool. Thus, there are several types of process mapping for more specialized needs. Let’s take a look at the different types of process mapping, so you can decide which is right for your project.
Detailed process mapping
Detailed process mapping delivers the minutiae of a project in the form of a process map. By providing a technical look at the exact steps, including the inputs, outputs, metrics and people needed to complete the process, you can mitigate confusion, show dependencies and help your team prepare for what lies ahead (and stay focused after the project begins). Detailed process maps usually link to the high-level, main, or primary process map.
Document process mapping
Document process mapping defines the inputs and outputs of a project. By outlining the information that you need at each stage, as well as the outputs (or tangible items or services) connected to the project, you can better understand what your team needs to do their jobs and what the final result should look like. Adding a document process map to a detailed process map can help you be clear on the variables and decisions that may impact your work.
High-level process mapping
A high-level process map offers an overview of an organization’s processes and objectives. For a project, it allows you to simply specify the departments and roles within those departments that you’ll need representation from. If you’re using process mapping software, each department or role can be made clickable to provide a more detailed look at the needs of the project.
Rendered process mapping
By outlining your current and future processes, you can get a bird’ s-eye view of how your organization or your project will work. This overview can help you find new ways to streamline your work, identify important stakeholders and connection points, improve working relationships and create a process that makes the most of your team’s time and talents.
Swimlane / cross-functional process mapping
With a swimlane or cross-functional process flow diagram, you can identify departments involved in the project, then break the process into steps and place those steps in the lane of the department responsible for them. It’s a great way to see the process in a new way, find areas for improvement and pinpoint real or potential gaps, or overlaps in the process so you can plan in advance.
Value-add chain process mapping
When you want to give your team a quick look at a process, value-add chain process mapping can help. It’s a fast and simple map of unconnected boxes that allow you to visualize a process at a glance. By doing so, you can see which major stakeholders you need to include in a project and get a rough idea of how a project will flow.
Value stream process mapping
Value stream mapping is a method used to illustrate, analyze and improve the steps required to deliver a product or service. The procedure is especially useful at finding and eliminating waste. A key part of lean methodology, VSM reviews the flow of process steps and information from origin to delivery to the customer. It’s usually used by companies that produce tangible goods for consumers.
Activity process mapping
Activity process mapping is a value stream mapping tool that shows the value-added and non-value-added activities in a process. It helps show where these activities occur and can help you identify synergies between stakeholders that can add value where none existed before.
Workflow process mapping
When you create a process diagram in “flow” format, it won’t include Unified Modeling Language (UML) symbols. Instead, it will use informational notations or words. It’s a great solution when communicating with people who don’t understand the UML symbols or who prefer words to symbols.
Business process mapping takes time, but it’s worth it. By providing everyone on your team with a vision, a process and tasks, or just a deeper understanding of how things work, you can establish clear boundaries, outline roles and responsibilities, and help everyone know what needs to be done and when. And if you think process mapping is only suited for a business that produces tangible deliverables, think again.
In 2018, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health published an article on the importance of process mapping in healthcare. According to the report, process mapping benefitted healthcare professionals by helping them:
- Gain a shared understanding
- Identify improvement opportunities
- Engage project stakeholders
- Define a project’s objectives
- Monitor project progress
- Increase empathy
- Gain a simple method for planning
So, regardless of what type of business you manage, whether it’s software development or healthcare, construction projects or marketing, process mapping can help you work smarter and stay on track. Plus, it can help your team work together under a shared vision, which can help everyone do their best for your company and your clients. To learn more, check out this step-by-step guide for creating diagrams with process mapping software.