Process mapping can be one of the first steps you take when developing a marketing plan or other business initiatives. Using these tools can help you prepare for each step of a specific process. They can also help prepare your team members and multiple company departments to work together efficiently and produce quality output.
A process map is a visual diagram that shows the individual steps of business activities. It also includes information about the people involved in executing each step. When creating a process map, you use universal symbols to denote the steps in your process. You often add text inside your symbols to further explain the steps and connect each one with lines or arrows to show the flow of the process from start to finish.
There are many types of process maps to use, depending on the process itself and the desired goal. Some of these maps and their uses include:
A basic flowchart is the simplest map that allows you to visualize process steps. Use this map to plan new projects, model and document a process, or solve problems. You can also use a basic flowchart to improve team communication and analyze and manage workflows.
A cross-functional flowchart, also called a deployment flowchart, shows the relationship between process steps and the teams or departments responsible for them. They use a feature called swimlanes that explains who does what in a process. You separate the lanes with horizontal or vertical lines to form rows, columns, or a grid. The placement of the symbols shows which steps in the process pass through each department.
Use the cross-functional flowchart to identify the roles responsible for each step in a process and how they relate to one another. You can also use it to highlight process flows throughout the company and identify potential delays or redundancies among groups.
Detailed process maps show all the attributes of a process, including specifics about each subprocess. Use this type of map to give details about inputs and outputs for each item in your workflow. You can also use it to document decision points within a workflow. When creating a detailed process map, define the process boundaries, the triggers for each one, and the immediate outcome for each step.
A high-level process map shows the primary activities of a process with scant detail about things like roles and decision points. It also goes by the names “value chain map” or “top-down map.” Use this type to define business processes and identify the key steps or details of a process. This type rarely includes more than five or six of the most basic steps in a process. You may also add up to six substeps for more detailed workflows.
Though not the conventional idea for a process map, you can turn an infographic into a flowchart. This may be a helpful option if you plan to use your process map for marketing materials or an external company presentation. Creating a flowchart infographic can make the map easier to understand and deviate from the traditional symbols and text boxes of other, more traditional, types of maps.
The acronym SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers. As the name suggests, this type shows all the key elements of a process. Use it to identify those items before creating a more detailed map or to define the scope of a complex process. When drawing this type, create a table with five columns, one for each element. You can also develop a high-level process map for guidance.
Value stream maps show the flow of information and materials necessary to bring a product or service to a customer. Use this type to record and measure inputs and outputs of a process step or identify waste within or among processes. You can also use a value stream map to gain insights into decision-making and process flow and to identify where to focus future projects and subprojects.
Each step in a process map has its own symbol, called a flowchart shape. There are nearly 30 standard shapes. Some are basic, while others are for very specific technical workflows, such as programming processes. It’s helpful to use a guide to understand what each symbol stands for, especially if you collaborate with other teams or departments that may use some of the specialized shapes. The guide includes:
|Activity or Process||Represents a step within the process|
|Represents a decision to make within the process|
Start and End
|Represents the starting and ending point of a process|
|Represents the connections between steps and the direction of the process flow|
|Represents a step that generates a report or file within the process|
|Shows actions that relate to a task that’s part of a larger process or a process within another process on its own flowchart|
|An alternative to the original process step that you can use in its place|
|Represents a stall or waiting period in the process|
|Shows a preparation step that’s necessary to complete before another step in the process|
|A sequence of steps or commands that repeat until someone stops them manually|
|Shows the point where the loop stops|
|Connects one or more page or section in the chart that you can’t connect by an arrow or line|
|Shows that a process continues off the current page, and includes a letter or number within the shape to direct to the next step elsewhere in the document|
|Shows a step where subprocesses combine into one|
|Shows where a process splits into two parallel directions|
|Shows where a process diverges in two or more branches|
|Shows where two or more|
subprocesses merge into one
Input and Output Data
|Shows where materials or information enter and leave a process|
|Shows a step that generates more than one report or file|
|Indicates a step that makes an information display to an audience|
|Shows a step where users must input information manually|
|Represents a step where collected data becomes stored|
|Represents the introduction or creation of a database within the process|
Direct Access Storage
|Represents the introduction of a hard drive into the process|
|Used in programming to show information stored in memory instead of a file|
|Represents part of the process that organizes data into a standard format|
|Represents data, information, and materials sorting into a predetermined order|
Process mapping can make communication and understanding easier among team members, stakeholders, and customers. They can also serve as a testing and hypothesizing tool to determine what happens if you change the steps of a particular process. Flowcharts may serve as marketing tools to provide investors and customers with a reliable timeline and business plan for production. Maps can make process documentation more reader-friendly and spread awareness of the responsibilities of each person involved.
Having a plan can help reduce the costs associated with the development of products and services. You can also use process maps to train new employees and measure the efficiency of work processes.
Use these steps to learn how to develop a process map:
What process do you want to illustrate? Choose a process that could benefit from a visual representation. Consider those that are underperforming, a new process you want to introduce, or one that makes a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Name your process, too. You can use this name as the title for your process map.
Make a list of everyone involved or expected to be involved. Get everyone’s input about their work, how the process currently operates, and any potential steps you may not know about. Your team should include managers and those who do the direct work on each project or process.
Besides interviewing team members about their experience with the process, there are other questions and methods to consider, too. Determine where the process starts and ends and the steps between those two points. Find the inputs and outputs for every step of the process and when, where, and how to complete each step before moving to the next.
With your team’s help, organize the steps from beginning to end. Depending on the type of map you’re making, you may use multiple pages or sections within a page. This can help you show subprocesses or parallel ones.
Draw or create your map. You may use tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or another word processing program. Other options for drawing your map include creating one by hand, using an image creation tool like Canva or Adobe Photoshop, or using a pre-made template to fill in the correct information.
Review the map you’ve created. Look for bottlenecks, delays, and inefficiencies within the process. Can you eliminate any steps to solve these problems? Are there ways to make it more efficient or logical? Make the changes to streamline the process.
If you changed the original process or you’re implementing a brand new one, roll out the changes. Start with smaller improvements first to make sure they work and then advance to more complex changes. Monitor the changes you make to determine if they’ve improved the process and if there are further changes you can make.
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When creating process maps, you can follow these tips to make sure the design and implementation go well:
There are many sources around the internet where you can find process map templates. Some include:
You can also contact a content marketing service like CopyPress to receive a custom infographic of your process map.
Here are links to 20 process map templates you can find around the internet to get started creating a process map:
Process maps can help you organize and streamline workflows throughout your company. Understanding the composition and design can make it easier to create one that fits your needs or find the right process map templates to save you time.
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