Skip to Main Content

What is Business Process Mapping?

For years, primarily large enterprises have used process mapping, in conjunction with process mapping tools to identify gaps in existing workflows, regulatory or compliance issues, or just missed opportunities altogether, but the term “process mapping” isn’t necessarily familiar to everyone.

If process mapping is new to you, or you just want to know more about what’s involved in process mapping and how it can help your company, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s the foundation of process mapping to help your business improve internal processes, achieve greater operational efficiency, and prepare for workflow automation.


What is process mapping?

The idea of process mapping, through the use of flow process charts, was introduced to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1921 by an engineer named Frank Bunker Gilbreth. It was further expanded on between the 1930’s and 1940’s, before a symbol system to chart the flow of information was finally adopted by the ASME in 1947.

Process mapping is a powerful business process technique that uses symbols, as seen in the chart below, to get a visual depiction of a business activity from start to finish. This technique traces each step in a process and identifies not only what is being done, but also by whom, where, when, how and even why. For example, process mapping can help accounting departments identify and document how they process payments, while an HR department may use it to identify how they hire candidates.


What is the goal of process mapping?

Executives might use process mapping to gain more detailed insights into all operational processes and how each may be impacting company-wide goals and other factors like compliance. Overall, process mapping can ultimately help companies become more effective, efficient, and agile by providing a clear and comprehensive view into any or all workflows and potential problems.

Process map components

Process maps are fairly straightforward and easy to follow; maps use symbols for basic input, output, and step-related components, such as these key symbols.

Note: there are additional workflow symbols.


What types of process maps are there?

  • The basic top-down process flowchart is the simplest type of process map that outlines activities in sequence as they occur, and is best suited for basic processes with more limited activity levels and involvement.

  • The deployment flowchart makes use of swim-lane charts to represent involvement from multiple departments in order to complete an end-to-end process. Each swim-lane shows how, when and where each person within each department or area is involved throughout a process.

  • A detailed flowchart can be used to augment either the basic or deployment flowcharts and provides additional detail within a process and its associated activities.
  • A value stream map, an alternative to a flowchart, is often used in Lean Six Sigma and can be more complicated than a flowchart.
  • An SIPOC diagram is a simplified process map that takes processes down to the essentials — suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers.


What’s the difference between process mapping and process modeling?

Process mapping is often confused with process modeling. Although they work in conjunction with each other, they are different and serve separate purposes. Process mapping is the first key step aimed at identifying and documenting tasks or activities within a business process.  It details an end-to-end process, including what is being done, who is involved, as well as when and where.

Process mapping aids in supporting business process modeling, which is intended to be a tool to maximize efficiencies within the business process. Business process modeling involves looking at the processes from a strategic view to ensure alignment with company-wide goals, where processes can then be re-engineered and optimized for improved efficiency.


Basic Process Mapping Steps

Step 1: Identify the Process

Determine the precise process that needs to be mapped (from start to finish) to avoid overlapping with other processes. While you may have a lot of processes that need to be mapped, choosing one that’s critical for your business to function is a good place to start as you prioritize. Selecting a process that can be tracked with numbers is also important so that you can measure improvement. 

Step 2: Involve the Right People

Take time to walk through the process and discuss with all participants to get additional input. You’ll want people on the ground floor — those who do the day-to-day work — to be involved so that no step gets missed. Senior management should also have their say so that you can get buy-in for the final product. 

As you discuss the process and interview all of these key stakeholders, you’ll want to make sure that you gather all pertinent information. All steps need to be identified — determine who does what, when and how, recording as much detail as you can. It’s better to get more data in this step than less. You can always filter out later.

Step 3: Create the Baseline 

After you’ve gathered all the details, you can sequence each activity within the process as it occurs. This will show the process as it currently is, before any improvements are made. You will need to identify the following in this step: 

  • The overall workflow
  • Each task in each step of the workflow
  • The flow of how each task and step connects in the workflow
  • The events that trigger the tasks and steps to progress, such as an input or an approval
  • The participants — people or systems — that are involved in each step of the workflow

Step 4: Visualize

Now that you have the essential components down, you can use the relevant flowchart symbols to create a process map.

Step 5: Verify

Before you can finish your process map, it’s essential to make sure that the process map is accurate with applicable participants. Get approval from all parties involved so that you can ensure the process map will be implemented once finalized.

Step 6: Finish

Finalize, document and share the process map and any additional information.

Step 7: Improve

With your process mapped out, now is the time — if you haven’t done so already — to identify areas of improvement. Read our article on how to improve your company’s workflow for some tips that can help you optimize your processes after they have been mapped out. 


How to Build Processes in OnTask

After you have your process mapped, it’s quick and easy to build it in OnTask. Watch the video to see how you can build your processes in OnTask once you have completed your business process mapping.


Business Process Mapping Tips

As you go through the steps described above, here are a few key words of advice that can help you create an efficient workflow

  • Define the scope ahead of time so you don’t add on extra things or go beyond what the process entails
  • Take a look at the purpose of the process itself — the big picture
  • Make sure you get feedback from everyone involved
  • Design processes to be customer-centric when possible and applicable
  • Don’t fix your processes until they are fully mapped out so that you can make informed changes
  • Keep it as simple as possible — the point is to reduce complexity and make it so that anyone can follow the process map


Benefits of Business Process Mapping

There are many benefits to mapping your business processes. Process mapping can help you: 

  • Solve problems: You can spot issues in the process via visualization and determine bottlenecks, identifying what will go wrong and how to fix it. 
  • Set roles: Creating a business process map helps show what everyone is responsible for throughout the process.
  • Identify & manage risks: Visualizing your process can reveal potential legal and security risks. It can also help you comply with regulatory agencies.
  • Standardize processes: Once you have your business process mapping complete, it’s easy to duplicate and use for future processes. That way, you can standardize your processes and use best practices for new ones. 
  • Foster collaboration: Identifying who participates in what parts of a process can provide areas for collaboration and improve understanding between cross-functional teams.
  • Improve onboarding: Having document processes to show new employees helps ease the transition and allows them to get started on work faster.


Business Process Mapping & OnTask

Before you get started with OnTask, a process automation platform, it’s essential to map out your processes. Once you have completed your business process mapping, then you can build your workflow with our no-code, easy to use tool. Digitizing and automating workflows through OnTask allows you to identify improvements and automate tasks. You may find efficiencies as you transform your workflow in OnTask that you didn’t realize were possible.

Saurabh Gupta, CTO of TalentBoost, was able to streamline the hiring process significantly with OnTask:

“Once I built out the workflows, OnTask reduced our 25 templates down to two. We were able to build everything we need into two templates and two links, and it enabled us to get simplified reporting.”

Are you interested in streamlining your processes? Contact us today to see how workflows can work for you with OnTask.