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Process Mapping: Everything You Need to Know [+ Templates]

By Jennifer Gaskin, Feb 23, 2022

process mapping

Process mapping is a business and management tool organizations can use to create a visual depiction of internal or external business processes. Process maps can be used to train workers, identify bottlenecks in processes and improve communications.

While process mapping may seem complicated, it’s really not. With Venngage’s Process Flowcharts, it’s easy to visualize and organize your business processes into professional, easy-to-follow process flow maps. Let’s learn more about process mapping and explore some templates to get you started.

 

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What is process mapping & what is its purpose?

As we’ve touched on, process mapping is a technique used in many businesses and organizations to create a visual representation of a workflow or process.

This business process map, for example, describes the employee involuntary termination process:

process mapping
 

Related: How to Diagram a Business Process [Process Diagramming Templates]

Process mapping can apply to individual workers, departments or the business as a whole. Because it has such varied applications, its purpose can also vary from simply helping people understand how tasks get done to the complex work of overhauling processes that aren’t as efficient as they should be.

For example, this process map visualizes the entire process of troubleshooting slow servers. The arrows and lines give IT team members a clear set of steps to follow to make sure their customers’ systems are up and running.

process mapping
 

Instead of providing team members with specific tasks required to get their jobs done, this process map was built to visualize the proposal process. So, instead of detailed descriptions of actions an individual worker must take, it describes actions that may or may not be taken by entire teams or departments.

process mapping
 

In addition to visualizing the steps in a process, many organizations use process mapping to better understand how different departments might interact. In this example, each box is color-coded to a department; the effect is that it’s immediately apparent which team is responsible for which tasks.

process mapping
 

Another process map example is this swimlane flowchart that describes the customer service process as well as showing the interaction between different teams:

process map swimlane
 

Some process maps will flow in a progressive manner, meaning one task is done and then another and so on. But many businesses have operations that require many individual tasks to be done simultaneously, sometimes by separate departments, though not always. As this business process map shows, it’s still possible to create an effective process flowchart when tasks must be done at the same time.

process mapping
 

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What are the benefits of process mapping?

Business process mapping has a host of benefits, the most common ones include:

  • Insight into current processes and workflows
  • Potential to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies
  • Employee training and onboarding
  • Process improvement, including quality and consistency (learn more about process documentation)
  • Improving communication inside and among departments
  • Identifying opportunities for process automation
  • Showing compliance with applicable laws and regulations (e.g. visualize HR compliance checklists)

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What are types of process maps?

Depending on what you want to communicate, you can choose different types of process maps to visualize your business processes. The most common ones include:

Basic flowchart

The simplest form of a process map is a basic flowchart covering the inputs and outputs or the steps of a process, such as this example about the customer support process:

process mapping
 

For more examples of flowcharts, check out:

Swimlane (Cross-functional) map

A swimlane map (also called swimlane flowchart, swimlane diagram or cross-functional diagram) visualizes a process or a workflow that’s spanning across different departments.

Phases of the workflow are usually read from left to right or top to bottom, and distinct teams are displayed in rows or columns.

Here’s an example of a swimlane flowchart describing the labor contract process and how it stretches across different departments of a company:

process map swimlane
https://venngage.com/templates/diagrams/flowchart?preview=67c53f3c-00ee-4ee7-bd57-09d3916b8433

Detailed process map

As its name suggests, a detailed process map provides a closer look at each step of the process.

This process flowchart shows a more complex customer service process, but the use of the map goes a long way toward simplifying it. It’s easy to see at a glance how information or tasks flow and which areas of the business are responsible for each one.

process mapping
 

High-level process map

On the other hand, a high-level process map is a high-level visual representation of a process and often looks at the relationship or interactions between SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer).

This flowchart examines in more detail what SIPOC refers to:

process mapping sipoc
https://venngage.com/templates/mind-maps/lean-six-sigma-sipoc-diagram-f0227007-7834-4b60-b897-7734c2f9ffd5

Value stream map

A value stream map is a lean-management tool that visualizes the process of bringing a product to its customer. It often has a unique set of symbols to illustrate the flow of information:

value stream map
Source: Plutora

Workflow diagram/ Workflow map

A workflow diagram or a workflow map visualizes a process in a “flow” format:

process mapping workflow diagram
https://venngage.com/templates/diagrams/circles-workflow-diagram-4cac565a-e733-4328-a466-3042cf498ecd

What are some examples of process mapping?

Let’s take a look at some more process map examples to help illustrate the diversity of applications this management tool has.

This simple flowchart illustrates one of the biggest benefits of process mapping for businesses, which is training and onboarding. This process flowchart shows in detail every step involved in taking the order of a restaurant customer.

process mapping
 

Of course, process maps can get much more complicated than taking a diner’s order, as this process flowchart shows. In this case, a disciplinary process is being illustrated and explained, but it could apply to any process in which a series of decisions must be made.

Interested in using process maps to make your organization better? Check out our flowchart examples designed to improve processes.

process mapping
 

As we’ve explored, one of the major uses for process maps is to ensure consistency and quality of work. This particular example applies to a customer service help desk, but your company could use a template like this to ensure any process is standardized.

Flowcharts and process maps aren’t the only diagrams that could be useful for your business. Learn how to use some of the most popular ones.

process mapping
 

Process maps aren’t just good for decision-making in which multiple options are possible. They can also help organizations develop new tools and procedures, as this flowchart illustrates.

process mapping
 

The bigger the task, the more complex it’s likely to be. That’s why process mapping often covers a vast array of tasks and departments that all flow into one another until the process is complete. As this process map shows, it’s often common for tasks to be done simultaneously across the business.

process mapping
 

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How can I create process maps for a business?

Creating a process map for your business may seem like an intimidating prospect. But by following a few simple steps, you can create a tool for visualizing and understanding how your organization works.

Step 1: Identify the process to be mapped; in some cases, the process will cross over multiple departments. If so, it’s wise to note this before you begin actually creating the map in a later step.

Step 2: Break the process down into individual steps. How detailed you need to get depends on the process at hand.

Step 3: Use a template or create your process map from scratch using Venngage. Our smart process flowchart diagrams make it simple and easy to reorder steps, add or remove steps and apply colors and fonts to enhance understanding.

Looking for more examples of flowcharts you can use for your business? Here are 20-plus examples of flowcharts to get you started.

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Process mapping FAQs

Do you have more questions about process mapping, how it works and how it can be used in your business? We’ve got answers.

What is process mapping in operations management?

Operations management is one of the areas in business that can benefit the most from process mapping. That’s because one of this department’s most common tasks is improving how a business functions, which can be done with the visual help of a process map.

What is process mapping in Six Sigma?

There are many schools of thought in the business world that make use of process mapping; one of the most popular is Six Sigma, a process improvement method that is highly regarded in manufacturing and management. Six Sigma process maps can be quite simple, as this Lean Six Sigma (a type of Six Sigma program) process flowchart illustrates.

process mapping

How is process mapping used in business?

Process mapping has many applications in business, including training and onboarding, process improvement, communication and team building and much more.

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In summary: Gain valuable insights into your organization with an engaging and informative process map

Organizations big and small can benefit from the use of process maps to help them visualize what they’re doing right (and wrong), get new team members up to speed and boost internal communication, among other benefits. With Venngage’s Process Flowcharts, just a few clicks can have you on your way.

 
About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.

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