A Quick Guide to Business Process Mapping


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Work in the dark and eventually you’re going to hit a wall. While the myth of the entrepreneur who comes up with a million-dollar idea and then just sits back and watches the money roll in might be persuasive, it’s a fiction.

Ideas are scattered across the business landscape like seeds. Without creating a nutritious soil for those seeds to take root and grow, they die unseen. An organization must tend to the garden of industry and care for the growth and prosperity of those great ideas.

That begins with defining the business, how it does business and who is doing what in the business. In a sense you’re creating a map with which to guide the business and those employed there in order to lead all to success. That guide is called business process mapping.

An Overview of Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping means defining what a business does, who is responsible for what, what the standard is for completing that process, what tools will be used and how the success of the business is determined. The reason for this is simple, to increase a business’ effectiveness.

With a clear diagram or detailed business process map, it is easy to see where improvements in the business process can be made to increase efficiencies and productivity. This is also a way to take a specific objective and measure it in order to compare against the overall objectives of the business, ensuring that they’re in alignment.

History of Business Process Mapping

A process approach to quality management, and how each process relates to the other processes in a business, is at the heart of business process mapping. This goes back to the first structured method for documenting process flow, the flow chart, which was introduced by engineer Frank Gilbreth in 1921.

These tools were then picked up by industrial engineering, and in the early 1930s industrial engineer Allan H. Mogensen started training others in this method. Art Spinanger, who graduated from one of Mogensen’s classes, took the discipline to Procter and Gamble and developed a work simplification program called Deliberate Methods Change Program.

Another one of Mogensen’s graduates, organizational theorist Ben. S. Graham adopted the flow process chart to information processing with his development of the multi-flow process chart, which displays multiple documents and their relationships.

business process mapping steps

What’s the Importance of Business Process Mapping?

Having a visual representation of how a business works, what people’s roles are, and the responsibilities and standards of the business is necessary for several reasons.

Maintain Compliance

It helps keep a company ISO 9001 compliant. This is a set of standards that are geared towards making sure a business meets the needs of its customers and complies with related regulations.

There’s also compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002. This federal law requires a transparency and proper disclosure for all publicly traded companies. Process documentation is a key component of this act.

Helps with Onboarding

Business process mapping is also critical for onboarding new employees. With a set of documented processes for the new employee to follow, their transition is shortened and doesn’t take as much time away from other employees for training and other things. It also creates a consistent process and continuity between new hires.

Bolsters Communication

Business process mapping is also a great way to effectively communicate to others in the business and outside of it. Because business process mapping is a visualization of process, it is easier to digest than a long block for everyone in the business.

Simplifies Audits

Internal audits can be done more efficiently with business process mapping. They can make sure that the work is always aligned with the business’ standards and practices. This also leads to process improvement. Once a process is documented and understood, it can be studied to see how to improve it.

Related: Using Operational Excellence to Be More Productive

Improves Problem Solving

Business process mapping can also help with general problem solving. It creates a visual of the process, and in so doing, makes it easier to discover conflicts. If there’s a block somewhere in the process, the visual map will make it clear what lead up to that bottleneck and offer paths to resolve it.

Additionally, business process mapping helps identify risks that are caused by process that might open the business to legal or health and safety issues. By showing the big picture, it can also help a business with best practices.

The Major Steps of Process Improvement with Process Mapping

Process mapping can help with many business goals from improving process to training and workflow clarification, but also regulatory compliance, internal auditing and clarifying roles in the business. The steps to supporting these goals from business process mapping are as follows.

  • Process Identification: Identify the objectives, scope, players and work areas you want to focus on. This can be done on three levels: reactive, when addressing a process that failed or underperformed; strategic, as in high-level overhaul; customer-focused, such as seeking better customer satisfaction.
  • Assemble a Team: Get a group of people who work with the process, though it helps to have a senior management person on board, too, as they can help with approvals when changes are requested.
  • Information Gathering: Once you’ve identified the process, then you must gather the facts, such as the who, what, where and when. This is done by gathering information and conducting interviews with the people who do the work you’re mapping.
  • Process Mapping: Take all the information you’ve collected and turn it into a process map. This will likely include the process or overall workflow. This includes tasks, or each step of the workflow; flows, which are the connections between the tasks indicating how the tasks flow; events, these are triggers or gateways that begin, redirect or end a process; and participants, or those who are involved in the process.
  • Analysis: Study the map and challenge each of the steps by questioning the why of each.
  • Develop and Install New Methods: After analysis has identified unnecessary work, see how steps might be combined, rearranged or new steps added to improve efficiency.
  • Manage Process: Now the process must be maintained and stored, but also reviewed routinely as well as monitoring the process for changes.

Types of Business Process Maps

Business process mapping can be done in several ways. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Process Flowchart

The process flowchart is the most common. They can be hand drawn or created in software. The ease of use and familiarity are an advantage, but the disadvantage is that these types of business process mapping lack the flexibility to adapt and change the flowchart.

Related: 3 Free Tools for Making Network Diagrams

Swimlane Diagram

A swimlane diagram acts like a classic flowchart, except in a swimlane diagram each step is divided between different teams or individuals who are responsible for them. Thus the name swimlane, as the diagram looks like lanes in a pool for swimming laps. The advantages and disadvantages are about the same as with a flowchart.

Value Stream Map

A value stream map is often used in lean six sigma applications. It’s not as easy to analyze at a glance. Therefore, this is more of a benefit to those looking for a more in-depth view of process. It is not recommended for giving people an easy-to-read summary of the processes.

SIPOC Diagram

A Supplier Inputs Process Outputs Customer, or SIPOC, is a simplified process map. It removes most of the information and focuses solely on the essentials of the process and the people involved. Naturally, this is going to provide a overview that can be quickly understood, but it’s not going to offer any deep understanding of process and how processes interact.


There is software available for business process mapping. These tools help to track the processes after the mapping has been done, so you can see how it performs and where it’s underperforming because of bottlenecks, missed deadlines and other blocks. The advantages of using a business process management software is that there are other features that employees can use to manage their tasks and to-do lists. It also allows for management to easily monitor what’s going on.

Business process mapping is best with a software that is accessible by everyone in the business, updating their status in real-time and giving manager a portal to monitor and track progress. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that has a real-time dashboard to track and report on process, with a collaborative platform that everyone can use to facilitate work and communications, as well as Kanban boards to create process maps. See how it can help you streamline your business processes today with this free 30-day trial.

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