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What Is Process Mapping and Why Should You Care?

Process mapping

What is process mapping and why should you care? One of the biggest reasons is that process maps can significantly improve business performance.

With process maps, business professionals at any level can gain a deeper understanding of business processes, what resources they consume, how much time they take, how efficient they are, and what can be improved, among other things.

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Below, we’ll explore what process mapping is, how it can impact the business, and how you can begin using process maps to enhance your organization’s performance.

Process Mapping: A Definition

Process mapping creates visual diagrams, or maps, of workflows.

These process maps can be used to model virtually any business process, including:

  • Complex workflows
  • Day-to-day work tasks
  • High-level governance procedures

Process maps are not unlike journey maps or project roadmaps, in that they outline a complete business process from end to end.

Unlike journey maps and roadmaps, however, process maps tend to have a more standardized protocol. They often use a set notation system or mapping “language,” unlike journey maps or roadmaps, which can vary greatly in style and content.

Types of Process Maps

Process maps, for example, will often use approaches such as:

  • Flowcharts. Flowcharts are probably recognizable to most people. These are basic diagrams that consist of geometric shapes, representing events or activities, connected by arrows or lines, which indicate the direction of action. These are useful for visualizing a process.
  • Value stream maps. A value stream map focuses on the delivery of end products to consumers. Like supply chains, value streams examine the efficiency and effectiveness of product development and delivery from end-to-end.
  • Swim lane diagrams. These maps connect the different roles, or functions, required to perform a process. Swim lanes can be useful for understanding the relationships and interdependencies between separate business units, teams, or functions.
  • SIPOC. This acronym stands for: Supplies, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. Sometimes called a value chain map, this examines a business process from the top down and aims to show a high-level overview of a process.

Each of these maps has a different use case and offers a different perspective on business processes. 

Why Use Process Maps

There are several ways to use process maps in a business context.

As alluded to earlier, for instance:

  • Having a visual diagram allows viewers to quickly understand the process. Business processes can be quite complex and they often involve many individuals. A process map simplifies that process and makes it easy to understand by anyone. 
  • A common language enables different parties to offer input and make adjustments. Business process maps that use standardized notation, such as Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN), can be easily modified and discussed by those who understand that same notation. 
  • Process maps offer insight into business processes. When used in conjunction with other data, such as process performance metrics, process maps can be used as a tool for analysis and performance improvement.
  • Improvement is only possible when processes can be understood. Without a means of analyzing and measuring business processes, improvement and systematization is difficult, if not impossible. Process maps are a standard tool that enable measurement, analysis, insight, and improvement, as mentioned.
  • The costs of poor process improvement methods can be high. Poorly designed processes can result in inefficiencies, errors, poor employee productivity, waste, and more. Process maps are one essential way of preventing these types of problems.
  • The benefits of process mapping outweighs the cost of learning and implementation. Notation systems such as BPMN are not difficult to learn – and training employees on process mapping techniques will almost always pay for itself many times over. Benefits of improved business processes can, after all, include everything from improved organizational agility to increased customer satisfaction to cost savings.

These are a few of the biggest reasons why process mapping has become so popular and so widely used in the modern organization. 

How to Get Started with Process Mapping

Here are a few steps to follow if you’d like to start using process maps to improve organizational performance:

  • Understand the basics of process mapping. This article offers a good introduction to process mapping, what it does, and why it’s useful. 
  • Learn BPMN. As mentioned, BPMN is not difficult to learn or use – and the return on your learning investment will be well worth it.
  • Use a process mapping tool. There are several process mapping apps available online, many of which are free. Organizations that want more feature-rich tools, however, should consider investing in platforms that offer more functionality.
  • Implement a digital adoption platform (DAP). A DAP is a business platform that can be used for a wide range of purposes, including business process mapping, automation, employee training, and more.

Once you understand the value of process mapping and can articulate it clearly to business leaders – and when you have a plan of action in place – it will be far easier to make a business case for process mapping.

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