Process mapping. While this term might sound a bit vague or waffly, process maps are surprisingly straightforward to create, and a good way to share concise information in a universally recognized format.

It can also help you revise your procedures, use your process map to train recruits, and show them to potential investors to demonstrate that you’re a serious business with carefully organized methods.

And with 40% of folks feeling that “time constraints” are the main barrier to increased productivity, process mapping can help with making processes more efficient and increasing productivity.

The biggest limitation to increasing productivity


What is a process map?

A process map is a way to visually lay out the different steps of an activity or project, along with each person responsible for the different steps in the process/activity. A flow chart is one example of a process map, where every step is coded with different shapes, and connected with arrows.

When are they used?

Process maps can be used at multiple points within your work, and are typically used for the following:

What are the benefits of Process Mapping?

Benefits of process mapping


Some of the benefits of process mapping include:

As you can see, there are quite a few different but interrelated benefits to mapping your processes.

The steps

So how do you go about creating a process map?

1: Decide which process (or problem) you want to map out

If there’s something that is currently residing solely in the brain of your most experienced project manager, it’s perhaps time to put that process on paper - map it out. Do you want to make it easier for new recruits to learn your processes? Is something taking longer than it should in the office and you want to automate? Maybe you need to create a process map to meet an industry standard.

Whatever the reason for making a map, the first step is to clearly identify exactly what you want to untangle, whether it’s a process or a problem.

2: Make a list

Make a list


The second thing you need to do is list every single step of the process. You can write it as a brain dump on a page and rearrange it as you go. You could write each step on a post-it note or magnet and then move those around as required. Sometimes old(er) school is best, though you could just use a collaborative software tool to do this part electronically and cooperatively with your team.

Make sure that whichever method you choose, you involve any relevant team members and stakeholders, and that for each step of the process, you include the individual or individuals responsible for that stage.

3: Find your start and endpoints

Once you have listed all of the steps, make sure that you have clarified your start and finish points. It can be easy to let a process go on and on, merging with other, related processes. However, you need to keep individual processes clear and easy to follow, so just keep that in mind when deciding where to end the process.

Just as important is deciding where your process begins. It can be tempting to keep tracing a process further and further back. One way to decide where your process begins is by identifying a trigger. When X happens, that initiates process Y. This way you can identify the first logical course of action or step in that particular situation.

4: Flesh out the details

You need to have enough detail in your process map for it to be complete in and of itself. If you could give your map to a new recruit and they understand it, you’re on the right track. A fresh set of eyes can help you to determine whether it makes sense or not. If you’ve been in an organization a long time and you’re mapping an old process, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of omitting essential details.

5: Order your steps

Order your steps


At this point, you should get your ducks in a row. Finalize the order of the steps, and get everyone involved to check that they’re happy with it. This will help you in identifying any gaps or missing information.

6: Chart it up

Now that you know what your steps are and which order they go in, it’s time to assign symbols to each part, add in the arrows to show the flow direction, and choose the appropriate map type.

7: Make any finishing touches

At this stage, you want to review the map again with everyone involved and make sure that everyone is happy with how it looks.

8: Look for areas of improvement

Now that you have your map (yay! Well done! We know it’s time-consuming), you can clearly look at each step and decide whether, or how, to change up your process to make it more efficient. If you just wanted to map your process to make it easier for others to follow the steps, then you might not need this step.

But if you wanted to do this in order to improve your processes, then you will now have a great visual tool that you can edit and play around with.

What you’ll need

The symbols

Process mapping symbols

Image Created by Writer

These are some of the most commonly used symbols for process mapping, but they’re far from exhaustive. There are plenty of others you can use for more specific work processes.

The symbols are also connected by arrows to show the flow direction of the processes and activities.

Map types

Flow-chart: also known as the classic, this is the simplest kind of process map with clear inputs and outputs. It’s the vanilla scoop of ice cream flavors.

The high-level process map: a top-down map that shows the essential elements of the process without any fluff. The frozen water version of ice cream “flavors”.

SIPOC map: it stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. This is more of a chart than a process map and includes key information that can later be used in the creation of a more detailed process map. This is the lazy susan, with all ice cream flavors and sprinkle options on display.

Value stream map: value stream mapping essentially focuses on how a service is delivered to the client. This is the Magnum of ice creams - straightforward and practical.

Deployment flowchart: aka the swimlane. It illustrates the connection between the steps in the process and the teams responsible for completing them using "swim lanes". This is the multipack of mini ice creams that you share out with your friends at the park.

Detailed process map: The opposite of the high-level process map, this one is hyper-detailed at each step and also includes subprocesses. This is the most thorough process map and is very useful for revealing weak areas in the process. Behold, the banana split sundae of process maps.

Process mapping is a key component of workflow productivity

Process mapping creates clarity which creates the room to make useful changes and communicate more effectively with your team. The time it takes to make a map is definitely worth it because, in the long run, it’ll save you a lot of time with training new hires, involving teammates on projects, and streamlining your work. It also looks and feels professional.

About the author:

Grace Lau Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud PBX system and cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.

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