Process Mapping Guide: How to Create a Process Map

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Understanding the sequential nature of tasks, activities, and operations within an organisation is of paramount importance for optimising performance. One of the most effective techniques for accomplishing this is process mapping.

 

This guide provides a detailed approach to creating a comprehensive and effective business process map.

What is Process Mapping?

Process mapping is a visual representation technique that illustrates the sequential steps involved in the execution of a task, an operation, or a process.

 

It’s a visual technique that lays out all the steps involved in carrying out a task from start to finish. Basically, it’s your roadmap to a more streamlined business.

Example of a Visio process map within the Agility System
Example process map within the Agility System

Why Should You Use Process Maps?

Process mapping isn’t just drawing pretty diagrams and pictures. You’re unearthing bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies that lurk beneath the surface.

 

Better visibility? Check. Improved decision-making? Absolutely. Enhanced efficiency? You bet.

Different Types of Process Maps

Not all process maps are created equal. Depending on the level of detail and the purpose of your mapping exercise, you might choose to use a different style of process map. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types:

Top-Down Flowcharts

These are the bread and butter of process mapping. They provide a high-level view of the main steps in a process, using a simple format that’s easy to understand at a glance. Top-down flowcharts are perfect for getting a quick snapshot of a process without going too deep into the details.

Detailed Flowcharts

Think of detailed flowcharts as top-down flowcharts with a bit of extra oomph. They include more information, such as the roles or individuals responsible for each step, documents used, and decision points. When you need a little more detail, but not too much, detailed flowcharts are the way to go.

Swim Lane Process Maps

Now we’re getting a bit more complex. Swim Lane process maps, or Swim Lane diagrams, are used when you need to show who does what in a process. Each ‘swim lane’ represents a different role or department, clearly showing responsibilities and interactions. If you’ve got a more complex process involving multiple players, a swim lane process map could be just the ticket.

 

Further reading: Swim Lane Process Maps: Your Secret Weapon in Process Mapping

An example of a swim lane process map

Value Stream Maps

Last but definitely not least, value stream maps are all about the big picture. They not only map out the process but also show the flow of information and materials, as well as the time and resources needed at each step. If you’re looking to improve efficiency and reduce waste, value stream mapping is your best friend.

 

Each of these types of process maps serves a different purpose and provides a different level of detail. Choose the right one for your needs, and you’ll be well on your way to more efficient, streamlined processes. 

6 Steps to Designing a Process Map

Feeling ready to dive in and make your own process map? Here’s your step-by-step guide:

The steps to creating a process map.

Step 1: Pick Your Process

First things first, decide on the process you want to map. It could be anything from a full-blown business procedure to a simple task.

Step 2: Gather Information

Now, put on your detective hat and gather all the information you can. The more details you have about each step, the sequence, and the resources involved, the better.

Step 3: Define the Start and End Points

Clearly define the start and end points of the process. The start point initiates the process, while the end point signifies the completion of all tasks involved.

Step 4: Document the Process

In this step, record each action, decision point, and output of the process in sequential order. Documentation should be thorough and accurate to ensure the map effectively represents the process.

Step 5: Draw the Map

Draw the process map using appropriate symbols to represent each step, decision point, and output. Ensure that the map is easy to understand and visually appealing.

Step 6: Review and Refine

Finally, review the process map and make necessary refinements. Engage all stakeholders in this review to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the map.

Symbols Used in Process Mapping

Several symbols are commonly used in process mapping to represent various process elements. The four most common:

  • Ovals: Used to depict start and end points.
  • Rectangles: Used to represent tasks or activities.
  • Diamonds: Used to indicate decision points.
  • Arrows: Used to show process direction or flow.

Implementing a Process Map in Your Organisation

Feeling ready to implement process mapping in your organisation? Here’s how:

Step 1: Set the Goal

Kick things off by setting your goal. What do you want to achieve with your process map? Let everyone know.

Step 2: Get the Team Together

Next, gather your dream team. These are the folks who will help you design, implement, and maintain the map.

Step 3: Develop the Map

Develop the process map, keeping in mind the purpose established in Step 1. Ensure the map is detailed, accurate, and easy to understand.

Step 4: Analyse and Improve

Once the map is developed, analyse it to identify areas of improvement. Implement changes as necessary and monitor results for effectiveness.

Tools for Making a Process Map

Creating an effective process map necessitates the use of certain tools that simplify the task and optimise the results. These tools can be classified into two categories: manual tools and software tools.

Manual Tools

  • Pencil and Paper: The simplest tool for process mapping, pencil and paper allows for easy drafting and revision of a process map. It’s ideal for small-scale processes or initial draft versions.

 

  • Whiteboard and Markers: For larger teams or more complex processes, using a whiteboard and markers can be beneficial. This method facilitates real-time collaboration and modifications.

Software Tools

  • The Agility System:  The Agility System process mapping tool helps map processes more quickly and therefore more cost-effectively. It has multiple features and benefits, including, encouraging collaboration with team members to engage in process improvement and simplifying complex procedures to increase understanding.

  • Microsoft Visio: This is a versatile diagramming tool that provides a wide array of symbols and templates for process mapping. It supports collaboration and enables easy modification and updating of process maps.

The 'As-Is' and 'To-Be' of Process Mapping

Here’s something else to consider: are you looking at how things are right now, or how you’d like them to be? That’s the difference between ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ process mapping.

'As-Is' Process Mapping

This is your magnifying glass on the here and now. It helps spot areas for improvement in the way things are done currently.

'To-Be' Process Mapping

This is more like a crystal ball, showing you how your processes will look after you’ve made some changes. It’s a roadmap to a better future.

 

So, whether you’re looking at today or tomorrow, the method remains the same. The key is to know what you’re working with now and what you’d like to achieve.

 

Further reading: A Complete Guide to AS IS and TO BE Process Mapping

The Next Steps

Using this guide alongside a process mapping tool will help you effectively begin mapping your processes. The Agility System’s integrated management methods revolve around the use of easily built visual swim lane diagrams.

 

Book your demo today and one of our business analysts will provide a no-obligation visual demonstration of the functionality and how it can benefit your organisation.

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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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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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