The Basics of Process Mapping: Benefits, Tools & Steps

There might not seem much appeal to learning about process mapping; however, understanding how it impacts a process is valuable.

Processes are at the heart of how businesses operate; the more you understand your processes and the effect they have, the better you can manage and grow your business.


What is a process map?

A process map, otherwise known as a top-down process map, is a planning method that visually illustrates the flow of work. A process map outlines the steps within a process that produces a result.

A process map is also referred to as a flowchart, process model, business process flow or business process mapping (BPM).

The purpose of process mapping is to illustrate how a process works visually. It allows teams to easily understand how to carry out a process and identify inefficiencies. Process mapping is very helpful for process analysis and process improvement.


Types of Process maps

There are many types of process maps; the most common are flowcharts or workflows, which use symbols to represent the flow and actions. A flowchart with a swim lane identifies different roles in the process. There are many more technical process maps; however, the flowchart is the easiest to create and most widely used for general process visualisation.


A basic process map

sdfy basicprocessmap The Basics of Process Mapping: Benefits, Tools & Steps

Process map with swim lanes

Typical Sales Order Process The Basics of Process Mapping: Benefits, Tools & Steps


What information should be included in a process map?

Process mapping will define the event or activity, who is responsible (role), what application or resource is required and the outcome of the process. Additional information can be added, such as context and timelines; however, only add additional information if it is critical to the overall process. Technical details and the how-tos of a process (known as the procedure) are best addressed in separate documentation.


Process maps should be easy to follow and not overly complicated.


What are the benefits of process mapping?

Mapping a process will clearly show a process’s steps in sequential order. The main benefits of business process mapping are:

  • Identify opportunities for improvement
  • Identify risk and compliance in the process
  • Identify opportunities for streamlining and automation of steps
  • Identify the people who carry out each step
  • Provide process documentation
  • Makes complex processes easier to understand
  • Use as a training tool to illustrate a high-level process to new employees.

If you are drafting a workflow for the purpose of replicating that workflow into software, a process map will speed up the process of finding the right tool for the job.


Process mapping software

In case you’ve never drawn a workflow before, you can simply start by drawing on paper or a whiteboard and then replicating it in the software. If process mapping is something you don’t plan to do regularly, you can start by using a tool such as Microsoft Word before using more advanced tools.

Create a flowchart with SmartArt in Microsoft Word
How to create stunning flowcharts in Microsoft Word

To create more detailed and advanced maps, there are plenty of online solutions that offer collaboration for teams. Here are some process mapping tools:

A guide to process mapping

Step 1: Identify a problem or a process to map

Consider starting with something straightforward until you get the hang of it, or you may want to jump in and map a problematic process that needs improvement. Once you have decided on a process to map, name it.

Step 2: List the activities in the process

Write down every task in the process from where the process begins and ends. Determine the level of detail required to achieve the end result; initially, don’t include all the variables; these can be added later if they are helpful and add value.

Step 3: Arrange the tasks in sequence

Arrange the task in order until all the tasks follow the workflow from start to finish.

Tip: Use a sticky note for each task and stick them onto a whiteboard; this makes it easy to move them around until you get the right order. It also helps to collaborate with stakeholders who can assist and agree on the tasks and the sequence.

Always start with an input; another way to describe an input is what triggers the process. Always end with an output; this is the result you desire.

Process map sticky notes

Source: Gravityflow

Step 4: Create your flowchart

Process mapping has a set of standard symbols representing different process elements. To draft a simple process map, you only need to use the basic symbols; see the map below.


Related: A guide to the BPM diagram symbols from LucidChart


Simple Process Map


BPMN Graphs 12 The Basics of Process Mapping: Benefits, Tools & Steps

Source: Process Street BPMN Tutorial


Your first attempt at process mapping will likely involve mapping the baseline process, including all the current flaws. Gather input from other stakeholders; one way to do this is to meet with everyone involved in the process and list everyone’s role. Once the draft process has been drawn up, it will be easier for all involved to visualise how the process is currently being performed.

Step 5: Review the process map

After you’ve created your process map, review it with other stakeholders involved in the process to ensure everyone understands and agrees with it. Ensure that no steps are missed and that there are no redundancies or ambiguities.


Draft the process as it is now, make improvements then re-map the new improved process.

Step 6: Look for risks and improvements

When you have agreement on the process steps, you can now analyse potential risks and opportunities for improvement.

Get your team together, and identify where there are delays and inefficiencies in the process. What steps can be automated? Which tasks could be delegated? Which steps can be eliminated? By identifying these improvements, decide how they can be fixed and re-map the process to reflect them.

Process improvement checklist:

  • Ensure that all the steps in the workflow have been included
  • Look for opportunities for improvement
  • Look for opportunities to mitigate risk
  • Is there any automation that can be added?
  • Are there any steps that can be eliminated?
  • Are there opportunities to speed up the process?
  • Are there other process stakeholders that can provide feedback?
  • Are resources being used efficiently?

Process Map Examples

Mind Manager Process Map

Source: Mindmanager


Creately Process Map

Source: creately


Gravityflow Process Map

Source: Gravityflow



Process mapping is an effective tool for documenting and improving your processes. Using the right tools, you can begin mapping and managing processes to achieve clear communication and improved efficiency.

Start with something simple and collaborate with a team using sticky notes on a wall before documenting the process using process mapping software. 

Not every process needs to be mapped; focus on the inefficient processes. Use swimlanes to show the roles of who is responsible for each step in the process.

When a process is presented visually, it increases understanding and collaboration between roles and departments. Process maps have many uses, including training new employees and customers to illustrate a process from beginning to end. 

When your business evolves, changes naturally happen. Your processes will need to be regularly reviewed and updated; this is the process of continuous improvement.

Business process mapping is just one way we help clients streamline and document their processes. If you need some help and would like to know if we can help you, schedule a call today.



business systemisation, Documenting Business Processes, organisation, process map, process mapping, productivity, systemise your business

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