Business Process Mapping: A Guide for Business Professionals

Content

Process mapping, a cornerstone of business process management (BPM), is an indispensable tool for organisations aiming to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and foster continuous improvement. 

 

Business process mapping goes beyond merely charting out tasks. It’s about capturing the broader picture of how different business operations interlink and interact. 

 

Our guide is intended for business professionals to help them understand the benefits of mapping business processes, why to choose a process-based approach, and how to implement best practices for process mapping.

What is Business Process Mapping?

At its core, business process mapping is about visualising the steps involved in a business process. 

 

Whether looking at a straightforward flowchart or a multifaceted diagram, the objective remains: to map processes that offer clarity and actionable insights to your workforce.

Example of a Visio process map within the Agility System
Process maps help visualise your core workflows.

The Benefits of Mapping Processes

  • Clarity and Understanding: Mapping processes allows stakeholders to grasp the intricacies of a process, pinpointing bottlenecks, redundancies, and areas of inefficiency.

 

  • Standardisation: Organisations can minimise variability and reduce errors by ensuring everyone adheres to the mapped processes.

 

  • Continuous Improvement: A well-mapped process is a foundation for spotting areas ripe for optimisation, propelling efficiency and effectiveness.

Business Process Mapping and the Process-Based Approach

Business process mapping goes beyond merely charting out tasks. It’s about capturing the broader picture of how different business operations interlink and interact. 

 

This technique is closely tied to the process-based approach, which emphasises understanding and improving processes as interconnected webs rather than isolated silos

 

Adopting a process-based approach when you map processes ensures a holistic view of organisational workflows, leading to more informed decision-making.

Types of Process Maps

Swim-lane Process Maps

 

When organisations map processes using swim-lane process maps, they employ a tool that categorises processes based on responsibility.

 

Each ‘lane’ signifies a different department or individual, making it an invaluable tool for delineating responsibilities and pinpointing potential communication gaps.

A swim-lane process map from the Agility System showing the steps of a recruitment process
An example of a swim-lane process map for recruitment

Other types of process maps include:

 

  • Top-down Flowcharts: These charts focus on major steps and their subsequent actions, offering a panoramic view of processes.
  • Detailed Flowcharts: Delve deeper, providing a granular perspective of every step in the process.
  • Workflow Diagrams: Emphasise the flow of tasks and information, highlighting interactions between individuals or departments.

Essential Elements of Process Mapping

Tasks

 

Tasks are the fundamental actions or steps in a process. They form the backbone of any effort to map processes.

 

Flows

 

Flows dictate the direction or sequence of tasks. They are the guiding paths that navigate the reader through the mapped process.

 

Decision Points

 

These critical junctures in the process necessitate a decision, leading to varied paths or outcomes based on the choices made.

 

Inputs and Outputs

 

Inputs kick-start the process, while outputs signify the result. Recognising these ensures that all resources are in place and that the process yields the desired outcome.

Steps to Map Processes Effectively

 

  • Gather Pertinent Information: Amass all essential data, tools, and resources.

 

  • Draft the Map: Start with primary tasks, then integrate flows and decision points.

 

  • Review and Refine: Solicit feedback from stakeholders and implement necessary modifications.

 

  • Finalise and Implement: Once the map meets approval, ensure it’s accessible to all relevant parties.

Further resources: Process Mapping Guide: How to Create a Process Map

Best Practices for Process Mapping

Prioritise Simplicity

 

While thoroughness is crucial, over-complicating a map can deter its usage. Strive for clarity when you map processes.

 

Adopt Standardised Symbols

 

Utilise universally accepted symbols for tasks, flows, and decision points, ensuring the map resonates with all viewers.

 

Update the Map Regularly

 

Processes evolve, and so should their maps. Periodic reviews and updates guarantee the map’s continued relevance.

Implementing Process Maps in Organisations

Once a process map is created, it’s crucial to integrate it into the organisation’s operations. This involves:

 

  • Training: Ensure all relevant personnel understand the map and its implications.

 

  • Monitoring: Regularly review the process’s performance against the map.

 

  • Updating: As business needs evolve, so should the process map.

The Next Steps

Mapping processes are more than mere administrative tasks; they are strategic endeavours that can redefine an organisation’s trajectory. 

 

By visually charting processes and adopting a process-based approach, businesses can unlock unparalleled clarity, drive standardisation, and lay the groundwork for perpetual improvement.

More insights

Picture of Peter Shields
Peter Shields
Peter is a Quality, Risk & Compliance expert with extensive experience working with process-based management systems in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence sectors since 1979.
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