A process map is a planning tool that visualizes the workflow by breaking down each process step. There are several types of process mapping, but each method has similar goals: document the steps involved in a process and find efficiencies.
This article will examine process mapping, its purpose, how to create a process map, and how gaining a Lean Six Sigma certification can help you practice creating them.
The Purpose of Process Mapping
The purpose of process mapping is to understand the workflow within organizations better. By mapping any process, you can break down the steps and analyze each stage for greater efficiency.
Process mapping software can help create flowcharts that define the individual process mapping steps. By detailing each step, you can closely examine the workflow to identify any bottlenecks, duplication of effort, or other items that delay process completion. Creating additional process maps for steps within a larger map may be necessary depending on the complexity.
What Is Process Mapping? Understanding Processes
Understanding the process is essential in gaining insight into how tasks are performed and how they can be improved. A process mapping template can help provide insight into the inputs, outputs, tasks, and dependencies associated with a particle process.
The Benefits of Process Mapping
There are several key benefits to process mapping. You can visually communicate the step by creating a flowchart showing the events leading to outcomes. This helps to:
- Document steps in business processes
- Solve problems and impediments in the process
- Plan projects effectively
- Enable effective knowledge transfer to stakeholders
- Identify best practices
- Demonstrate compliance with quality standards
Process mapping also supports a culture of continuous improvement.
Process Mapping Examples
There are several types of process mapping, including:
- Activity Process Map. Focuses on value-added vs. non-value-added activities.
- Detailed Process Map. Provides a granular, step-by-step view of each process activity.
- Document Map. Highlights inputs and outputs, especially documents.
- High-Level Process Map. Shows big-picture workflow interactions (SIPOC).
- Rendered Process Map. Compares current vs. future state to identify improvements.
- Swimlane Map. Organizes activities by role/function.
- Value-Added Chain Diagram. Conveys the process at a glance with simplified boxes.
- Value Stream Map. Uses a Lean tool to analyze and enhance workflow.
- Work Flow Diagram. Visualizes process flows.
Process Mapping Symbols
When conducting process mapping, it’s essential to understand the basic symbols used to represent things within a process map. While different industries may have their own business process mapping tools, these are considered industry standards.
|Oval||Represents the start or end point of a process.|
|Rectangle||Denotes a task or activity within the process.|
|Diamond||Indicates a decision point or branching.|
|Arrow||Represents the flow of the process.|
|Parallel Lines||Indicates a document or report.|
|Circle||Represents a connection or input/output.|
|Triangle||Denotes a delay or waiting period.|
|Double Rectangle||Represents a sub-process.|
|Pentagon||Indicates a manual operation or user input.|
|Cylinder||Represents a data storage or database.|
Also Read: What is Lean Methodology?
How to Create a Process Map
While your process map will look slightly different depending on the type you choose, the basic process mapping steps are similar and follow a strategic path. That’s why process mapping templates are handy.
The process begins by identifying the process you want to examine or the problem you are trying to solve. You will also need to define the starting point and the endpoint of the process. It helps to know the outcomes you want as well.
Next, you need to do some intelligence gathering. This may require observing processes in action, interviewing the people involved, and reviewing any existing documentation.
Determine Sequential Steps
Working with key stakeholders, brainstorm the steps in the process. You must break each step down sequentially from start to finish, capturing the actions, decision points, inputs, and outputs. This may require multiple process maps for sub-steps. For example, final part assembly requires multiple parts, each with its own process.
With this information in hand, you can then design your flowchart. At each stage, you can identify critical steps and note who is responsible and accountable for actions. Using process mapping symbols, you can identify components impacting each step, such as sub-processes or dependencies.
Review and Analyze
During the process mapping and visualization stage, you often find areas where you can streamline processes. However, a final review and analysis are essential to find areas you may have missed during mapping or areas that can be improved.
In the final review process, focusing specifically on redundancies or bottlenecks for streamlining is effective.
Common Process Mapping Examples
Process mapping can be used in any organization. Here are a few examples of common process maps and how they apply in different industries or, in some cases, any industry:
- Order fulfillment. Mapping each step between when customers place an order and orders are received.
- Product development. Maps the steps to develop and launch new products.
- Loan processing. Identify the steps required to evaluate loan applications and determine risk.
- Claims processing. Map the workflow for submitting, evaluating, and settling insurance claims.
- Invoice handling. Detail the steps required to receive and process invoices, gain approvals, and pay vendors or suppliers.
- Manufacturing. Understanding the stages involved in production. This might include mapping the entire supply chain and specific production processes.
- Customer onboarding. Itemizing the steps in onboarding a new customer from setup and configuration, go-live, to customer support.
Best Practices for Business Process Mapping
Best practices for business process mapping include ensuring you capture every step. It’s easy to overlook steps, so it helps involve multiple people. Challenge assumptions at each step to identify missing steps and validate the accuracy of the map.
Other best practices include:
- Observation of the process in real-time
- Capturing every action and decision point in the process flow
- Quantifying process metrics and goals
- Standardizing symbols and notations across projects
- Using swim lanes to visualize handoffs between areas or departments
Also Read: What is Quality Control? A Beginners Guide
Avoid These Common Process Map Pitfalls
While you want to detail processes, it’s easy to get bogged down in too much detail. You are better off creating the overall process map, then reviewing individual steps for any needed sub-routines.
Other common mistakes include:
- Failing to involve process participants that have hands-on knowledge
- Not updating process maps as processes, inputs, or outputs change
- Not clearly establishing the start and end points for processes
- Mapping ideal processes without understanding the current state first
- Failing to understand the relationships between steps
Process Mapping Tools & Software
Process mapping tools can be software components used in other business areas or stand-alone process mapping software. Some of the more common tools used in project management include:
- Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Visio, and Microsoft PowerPoint
- Google Free Flowchart Maker
- Trello Kanban boards
- IBM BlueWorks
You can find several free or low-cost process mapping tools online.
Preparing For a Career in Project Management
Simplilearn, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, provides a post graduate program in Lean Six Sigma that is IASSC accredited. This 24-week online bootcamp teaches the basics of Lean Six Sigma to drive business value, eliminate waste, and prepare for the IASSC exam. You will learn process mapping meaning, DMAIC, and Lean methodologies for certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belts and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt concepts.
Get program details for the Lean Six Sigma course or apply online.