The Business Owners Guide to Process Mapping

The Business Owners Guide to Process Mapping

Learning about process mapping might not sound that interesting but the impacts from mapping a process are definitely worth understanding.

Processes are at the heart of the way that businesses operate, the more you understand your processes and the effect they have, the better you are able to manage and grow your business.


What is a process map?

A process map is a planning method that visually illustrates the flow of work. A process map shows a series of events that produce an end result. Process mapping is also referred to as a flowchart and Business Process Mapping (BPM).


Types of Process maps

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


A basic process map


Process map with swim lanes

What information should be included in a process map?

A process map will define what the event or activity is, 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 to’s of a process (known as the procedure) is best addressed in separate documentation.


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


What is the purpose of process mapping?

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

  • Clearly identify opportunities for improvement and standardisation
  • Clearly identify risk and compliance in the process
  • Helps when identifying steps in the process that are required to be replicated using software. I.E will a new piece of software be able to do what you want it to do.
  • Shows how steps in the process by roles and how the roles relate to the workflow
  • Visuals help to explain a workflow often clearer than in a written format
  • Allows a team to understand the big picture by examining the activities in a process and how these activities impact performance


When should you map a process?

Process maps should be used for high-level processes as they provide an overview rather than detailed instructions. For more complex workflows, it’s a good option to map the process initially before drilling into the detail by combining the map with detailed instructions. Most process mapping software will allow you to link directly from your process map to a document or resource on your computer or server.

If you are trying to draft 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.


What are the process mapping software options?

If you have never drawn a process map before, you can simply start by drawing on paper and then replicating your workflow onto software. If process mapping is something you don’t plan to do regularly, you can start by using a tool such as Microsoft Word.

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

If however you want to use a Process Mapping application, I suggest the following online programs:
Lucid Chart


How to make a process map

1. Identify the process that you want to map. You may want to start with something straightforward until you get the hang of it or you may want to jump in and start to map a process that is problematic.

2. Determine the level of detail to be shown on the map to clearly understand the process. Only add detail if it adds value.

3. Identify all the steps in the process in sequential order. Always start with an input, another way to describe an input is what triggers the process to start. Always end with on output, this is the result you desire.

Here is an example:

How to Follow up a Sales Prospect
Input – All prospects are followed up every 3 months

Step 1 – create a filtered report of all prospects that have not been contacted in the last 3 months
Step 2 – work through each prospect in the list and make follow up calls using the sales scripts
Step 3 – record notes against each prospect record in the CRM
Step 4 – add a date for the next follow up call

Output – prospects have been contacted and the CRM is updated

4. Using process mapping software, draw the basic workflow.

Related: A guide to the BPM diagram symbols from LucidChart


Simple Process Map




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


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



How to Review and Improve your process

Bring the team together to review the process, get feedback and decide on any changes. Consider collaborating with not only the main process stakeholder but also other team members that have some indirect involvement. The more eyes on the process, the more opportunity to improve the efficiency and the team are able to contribute.

Process review checklist:

  • Ensure that all the step in the workflow have been included
  • Look for opportunities
  • Look for possible risks
  • 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?

If you would like to dive deeper into Business Process Mapping, check out the BPM Tutorial from Process Street.


Get Sign off

Once the process has been reviewed and improvement changes made, it’s time to get a final set of eyes to approve the final draft process that is to be implemented in the business. Approval should be sought from a senior manager and a System Manager if you have one.


What next?

Documented processes whether they are mapped or documented in some other way are not a one-time thing that is expected to fix all the problems. Improvement changes that you have made need to be properly monitored to ensure the process is still working effectively after some the initial implementation. When your business evolves, changes naturally happen. Your processes will need to be regularly reviewed and re-mapped as needed, this is the process of continuous improvement.

Now you understand the basics of process mapping, it’s your turn to select some key process for mapping.

If you are looking for ways to document or map your processes and need assistance with process management, you may like to schedule a free consultation with me and find out the right way for you to systemise your business.