Business process mapping

4 Types of Business Process Mapping

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Business process mapping is an excellent way to optimize business process efficiency, improve business outcomes, and enhance financials. 

When used properly, business process mapping can generate significant advantages, both for the organization itself and for other stakeholders, including employees, customers, and business partners.


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Well-defined business processes are, after all, more efficient, visible, compliant, adjustable, and performant. All of these advantages, in turn, make the organization’s operations more effective and profitable. 

To take full advantage of business process mapping, though, it is important to understand what process mapping is, how it works, and the differences between types of process maps.

4 Types of Business Process Mapping

Below we’ll look at several types of process mapping techniques, their differences, and their advantages. 

Different process maps will identify different elements in a process, such as roles, responsibilities, goals, and resources. Here are a few examples. 

1. Flowcharts

Flowcharts are the most basic type of process map. They consist of a series of shapes, connected by arrows and lines.

Processes can be linear, though they often include decision points and are designed to map out specific elements, such as tasks, activities, and decision points. 

Since flowcharts are so easy to understand, they are among the most widely used business process mapping techniques.

While flowcharts are useful for developing a clear understanding of a business process, they do not address other elements such as roles and responsibilities. For this, it is best to use different types of process mapping tools, such as those covered below.

2. Swim Lanes

Swim lanes are another type of process map that look much like flowcharts, except that they are divided into columns. Each column is assigned to a job function or role. 

Like flowcharts, the workflow is broken down into tasks, activities, and decision points.

Yet since swim lanes also assign those tasks to job roles, they can help managers and employees know who is responsible for each task in the workflow.

3. Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)

An approach that goes into further detail is called a Business Process Model and Notation, or BPMN.

This is a notation that helps to standardize business processes and establish a common language within visual process maps, such as flowcharts. 

Since it is a common language, or notation, it can be understood and used to more effectively standardize business processes

4. Value Stream Mapping 

Value stream mapping is an example of a business process map that goes into far more detail than those covered above.

These diagrams focus on the value chain, or the process of transforming raw materials into an end product or service. 

A value stream map displays more detail about each step in a process, such as the time and the resources needed for each task.

The purpose is to assess the costs, time, resources, and efficiency of an end-to-end workflow, which can help managers, better calculate the overall costs of a process.

Key Takeaways

Process mapping helps leaders solve problems, manage risks, increase efficiency, and improve performance across the organization. 

As we can see, however, not all process maps serve the same purpose – there are clearly different types of process maps, each with a different focus and a different set of benefits.

Business process mapping, it should be noted, goes hand-in-hand with other disciplines and methodologies aimed at enhancing process efficiency and outcomes. 

Beyond Business Process Mapping

Let’s look at a few other tools and frameworks that can be used improve business process performance and outcomes. 

  • Process mining is a technique that uses digital software to extract data from back end business processes. This can be useful for optimizing digital workflows, identifying deficiencies, and improving employee productivity. Like business process mapping, process mining can help managers diagram and understand a process. Unlike business process mapping however, process mining is aimed at identifying what a process looks like in the real world, as opposed to what it should look like.
  • Process improvement methodologies are business frameworks designed to, unsurprisingly, improve business processes. These are management tools or models that identify best practices for driving quality improvement within processes. Lean is one example. This process improvement methodology aims at reducing waste within processes. That waste reduction in turn can improve efficiency, enhance quality, and improve process outcomes. 
  • Business process management software is an essential tool for designing optimizing and redesigning business processes. The exact features of these tools will vary depending on the software application. But features can include the ability to create flowcharts and business process maps, the ability to mine data from processes, task automation, workflow analytics, business process modeling, and more. These tools are becoming more essential, especially in today’s digital workplace, which involves the use of multiple software applications in a distributed work environment. 

These are just three examples of tools that can be used in conjunction with business process mapping, and in some cases, they include business process maps or include features that complement and enhance business process mapping. For more information see our articles on some of the topics covered in this post, such as process mapping and BPMS.

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