Process & Workflow

Business Process Mapping: A Complete Guide

Jul 28, 2021
Post Masthead

Every business runs according to processes. From sales to the mailroom, each department follows a certain sequence of tasks or events to get things done. Some processes are specific to certain departments; others have been created from frequent practice.

However, while processes are at the core of business operations, chances are, many business owners and executive members are unaware of how all the different processes and procedures roll up to meet the end goals.

For some large-scale companies processes are more like scribbles that exist within the organization, without structure or system. Many executives, project managers, employees, and other organizational members are unable to pinpoint the exact process flow.

In order for processes to be efficient and effective, they need to be mapped out in a blueprint with every part working together as a whole to meet corporate goals. And this is where business process mapping comes in...

What is Business Process Mapping?

Business process mapping, an aspect of business process management, is a technique that helps businesses create a visual depiction of their processes and procedures. It’s similar to a blueprint that helps give an introspective or top-down view of a process, outlining the course events involved and how they function from start to finish. This is usually done with the use of common techniques such as:

  • Flowcharts
  • Charts
  • Diagrams
  • Symbols

A business process map answers the key questions that will help the sequence of events move forward, including:

  • What are the tasks involved in the process?
  • Who does each task?
  • When does each task occur?

The blueprint or map helps to clearly define every step involved in the process, who is responsible for completing it, and the prerequisites needed for it to occur. It also reveals the important details about each task, including the who, when, where, how, and why.

With a bird’s eye view of a process and the exact steps involved, businesses become better equipped to understand how everything works and adhere to proper functioning. Further, they can get a good glimpse of potential issues and pitfalls and make decisions to avoid them.

The overall goal of process mapping is to provide more detailed insight into the processes that help run the company and how they contribute to business goals. It allows them to adopt a more efficient, effective, and agile approach to their operations.

Ultimately, a business with a clear idea of how their operations run can conduct strategies to simplify their processes and reduce costs, save time, and gain other significant advantages.

Benefits of Business Process Mapping for Organizations

Every business aims for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and success. Process mapping puts businesses in a better position to achieve these in their operations.

With a visual representation of how things work in the organization, they are more equipped to identify and adhere in the best manner.

On the other hand, business operations can get chaotic without process mapping because employees are not aware of their roles, thereby creating their own interpretations and running an individual sequence that may not align well with the process’s purpose or business goals.

Process mapping helps eliminate that confusion by creating clarity not only for management but for every member of the organization. It reduces the risk of mistakes, making processes run smoother and leading to efficiency and success.

Other benefits of business process mapping include:

Defined Roles

If you conduct a survey within your organization, you’ll likely discover that many employees have no idea what’s going on or don’t have the best interpretation of their roles and responsibilities, and how their roles fit into a process.

If employees are not clear on the exact steps they need to take, they tend to create their own sequences, which leads to confusion, chaos, and blame — not to mention an increased risk of mistakes.

With a good process map, employees can find clarity in their roles and answer their uncertainties about the specifics of a certain process. It allows them to visualize exactly what is expected from them and makes them well aware of the purpose behind each step.

Clear and Standardized Processes

Creating new processes and improving old ones is difficult without a fully effective model to use as a basis.

After optimizing and introducting a business process map, best practices become evident an serve as a basis for improving existing processes or creating new ones.

Not only does this help create uniformity, but it also guarantees the success of future endeavors by setting a benchmark of quality that should be applied across the board.

Compliance with ISO and SOX

A business has certain compliance responsibilities and obligations, such as legal or health aspects of corporate practices. And it’s easy to miss out on government regulations, especially with a chaotic and messy process.

When this happens, it can make the business vulnerable to fines, lawsuits, and even hazards to its employees. However, a business process map can avoid all these and ensure that compliance standards are met consistently across the board.

Companies make use of processing maps to conduct ISO 9001 audits and comply with government regulations, particularly the International Organization for Standardization. It helps ensure that they meet customer needs through their systems and operations.

Business process mapping also helps with compliance with SOX, or the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires businesses to disclose their compliance issues in order to help protect the shareholders and general public from fraudulent business practices or accounting errors.

Systematic and Uniform Training

With all the steps of a process laid out in a structured and organized manner, it yields a systematic approach to training new hires or onboarding new team members. This reduces the risk of confusion or incorrect interpretations because the visual representation allows team members to see where their roles “live” in the larger process.

Training new staff or team members on company processes will become easier, more effective, and less time-consuming with a clear and precise business process map.

Better Problem Solving

Performing root-cause analyses are headaches for businesses. In many cases, teams end up having to redo their work and conduct trial and error strategies to find and fix whatever went wrong.

A business process map that outlines the specific step-by-step process makes it easier to pinpoint the issue and what caused it. Bottlenecks are easier to identify and teams can better turn their focus and attention to the exact causes of problems.

Effective Risk Management

A process may seem viable at first glance, but without a clear picture of every step involved, it’s difficult to determine its overall level of effetiveness. Pitfalls can arise anywhere and at any time, but a business process map makes it easier to identify potential risks and issues.

A bird’s eye view of an entire process makes spotting potential problems a breeze, which equips you with the information you need to address them — before they even occur.

What’s the Difference Between Mapping and Modeling?

Business process mapping and business process modeling are often used interchangeably, but they have different functions and serve different purposes.

Business process mapping focuses on identifying and documenting activities within a business process and aids in supporting the creation of a business process model. The latter turns more attention to maximizing each task to achieve goals and boost efficiency.

A business process map can be done on any medium, whether it be digital or simply on a piece of paper to outline a process. On the other hand, a business process model is more formal in nature and usually requires the use of software to initiate and automate.

Types of Business Process Maps

There are several types of business process maps to choose from. For example, a simple process flowchart is the most common type of map or try out the other types. Ultimately, it’s best to choose the type that best fits a business’ structure and compexity.

Process Flowcharts

The most common types of process maps, flowcharts can be further classified into three subtypes: basic, deployment, and detailed.

  • Basic Top-Down Process Flowchart: This is the simplest type of process map. It outlines activities as they occur and creates a flowing sequence of tasks. This is suited for basic processes with limited activities and involvement.
  • Deployment Flowchart: This type of process map is best used when a process involves multiple departments throughout the sequence. It makes use of swim-lane charts that show when, where, and how each department and point person is involved in the process.
  • Detailed Flowchart: This type of process map expands the basic or deployment flowcharts with additional details about activities in the process.

Process flowcharts are easier to create and implement. They can be drawn on paper or with computer software and analyzed immediately. However, these flowcharts only work well with simple and basic processes.

They are not suited for advanced processes that require a lot of detail and involvement with many team members or stakeholders. By nature, they lack flexibility and adaptability. If processes require a high level of involvement, then it may be best to opt for other options.

Value Stream Map

A value stream map may be better for complicated processes. They are much less straightforward than flowcharts and look confusing at first glance. However, after analyzing a value stream map, they provide a lot of information about the flow of the sequence.

This type of business process map is most commonly used in lean six sigma applications that require an in-depth look at a process.

They are flexible enough to allow information regarding the task, who is responsible, additional details, timeline, and the involvement of one department to another. But because of their more complex nature, value stream maps are not commonly used in traditional business settings.

Data Flow Diagram

Rather than providing a mere top-down view of an entire process sequence, a data flow diagram shows different paths, often taking the data from unprocessed to processed.

The biggest blocks outline the main tasks that need to be accomplished and these are connected to arrows that lead to the next action, linking tasks in order to achieve the desired end result.

SIPOC Diagram

The SIPOC diagram breaks down the process into the most essential aspects:

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Processes
  • Outputs
  • Customers

By dividing the process into these essential parts, it simplifies the sequence and strips away all the unnecessary information. SIPOC diagrams focus only on the most important parts of a process and the people involved to complete each activity.

7 Steps to Create a Business Process Map

Business process mapping is beneficial regardless of the nature of your business and the structure of your operations.

Regardless of your business needs, you can find a process map that will give you a visual representation of your current processes to help you make more informed decisions moving forward and achieve efficiency in your operations.

If you want to get started on business process mapping, here are the steps you need to take:

Step 1: Identify the Process

Many overly-eager businesses begin process mapping by compiling all their processes and work on them collectively. However, it’s important to have a starting point before you decide to apply it to your entire business model.

Further, identifying one process to start with is also more efficient because you don’t have to do everything from square one for every process in your organization. Instead, you can use your first process map as a basis or model to create the next one.

So, first and foremost, pick a process in your organization. Our advice is to start with something that’s critical for your business and something that’s easy to track quantitatively. You can choose the right process by going about it in one of three ways:

  • Reactive: This involves choosing an underperforming or ineffective project caused by a bottleneck. A business process map can help you identify and fix the problem.
  • Strategic: You can also choose a process that’s part of a strategic overhaul in your business and is integral to your business goals.
  • Customer-focused: Another process you can start with is one that is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. A business process map can help you identify inefficiencies that are affecting customer experience.

Step 2: Gather the Information

Once you’ve selected a process to map out, you then have to compile your information about that particular process, which includes:

  • All the steps and tasked involved
  • The people responsible for carrying out each task
  • The specifics of what the people involved do
  • When the process is used
  • The flow of the process and its triggers

Gathering all these details is necessary so that you can plot them into your process map and create a comprehensive output. Get as much information as you can and filter out the unnecessary data as you create your process map.

Step 3: Assemble the Team

A process map may look so simple that business owners think they can handle it on their own. However, an integral part of process mapping is allocating the right team of people helping you work through it.

Get people involved in the different activities of the process and make sure you get their input and feedback through your process mapping journey.

Step 4: Interview Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people who will be affected by the process change or improvement. These include your employees who are heavily involved in the process you are mapping out. Get their thoughts on the current problems they are experiencing, and for some suggestions and recommendations on how to improve current processes.

Remember that no matter how much you know about your company, your employees might have a different impression or experience that could lead to better ideas.

After all, those who make use of the process on a daily basis know it better than you do.

Step 5: Create the Baseline Map

Before you start creating a new and improved process and eliminating steps in your current procedures, you need to first create a baseline map. This maps out your current process and includes everything you are doing — including the flaws and bottlenecks that may be present.

Creating a baseline map allows you to better understand why your current process is inefficient, what’s not working, and what you need to change or redesign to streamline it.

Your business process map should include the following basic components:

  • Process: a.k.a the overall workflow.
  • Tasks: These are the particular steps involved in the workflow.
  • Flows: How each task leads to another and how the process flows from one activity to the next.
  • Events: Also known as triggers or gateways, events are the activities or actions that begin, end, or redirect the process.
  • Participants: These comprise the key people involved in the process.

Step 6: Analyze and Identify the Gaps

Now that you have a visual representation of what your process looks like and how each step functions to contribute to the end goal, you are in a much better position to identify areas of improvement.

Look at your map and identify the gaps, bottlenecks, and areas that need improvement. You might even find that you need to restructure your process in order to achieve efficiency and get to the end goal more effectively.

After your analysis and once you have a better understanding of how to improve your current process, you can start implementing changes on a small scale. If your new strategy works, then you can apply it to the rest of your operational aspects.

Step 7: Monitor, Optimize, and Improve

Your work is not done after you have launched your new and improved process on a large scale. You don’t really know how well it will work until it’s up and running. So make sure that you continue to monitor how it functions.

Over time, you may identify some more issues that weren’t initially apparent or come up with new strategies that can further improve your processes. Continue optimizing and improving them so that you can move further ahead of your business goals.

Tips for Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping is beneficial for all businesses — regardless of their size, nature, or industry. It helps you achieve efficiency, reduce costs, save time, and even keep your employees motivated and happy, among other advantages.

To make the most out of your business process map, take these best practices into consideration:

  • Keep your process map as simple as possible so that everyone can follow it.
  • Revisit your process map regularly and continue to make improvements.
  • Identify your main purpose for creating a process map and keep it in mind as you work through it.

Using software can help you further improve your business process mapping efforts. Rindle is a no-code platform that can simplify process mapping and help you increase your operational efficiency.

Watch this video to learn how we can add value to your business or get started with a 14-day FREE trial today.