What Is Business Process Mapping and How Can It Help My Business?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover business process mapping. Learn how this important informational tool might benefit your business.

[Featured image] An entrepreneur practices business process mapping for her start-up.

When companies seek to make improvements, many turn to business process mapping. In this article, learn about business process mapping and who uses it. Find out about different types of process maps, explore how companies benefit from them, and get tips for creating a process map.

What is business process mapping?

Business process mapping involves using diagrams, maps, and charts to inform viewers about a particular business process. In addition to showing steps, process maps might identify the people responsible for particular tasks and designate a timeline for completion. 

Read more: What Is Business Process Mapping and How Can It Help My Business?

Who uses business process mapping and why?

Any member of an organization needing to explain a process might use process mapping. Examples of users might include:

  • A CEO advising stakeholders about company processes

  • An employee in charge of developing a process

  • A trainer explaining processes to a new employee

  • A team of staff members trying to work through problems with a process

Types of process maps

Organizations use various types of process maps for different reasons. Knowing about process map types can help you decide which ones might work for your business.

1. Basic flowchart

Companies use flowcharts to describe processes or plans visually in a simple way. This type of process map uses common shapes to indicate various phases of a process. 

Examples include:

  • Oval: Represents the beginning and end of a process

  • Arrow: Indicates direction and connects process steps 

  • Rectangle: Used to display an action in a process

  • Diamond: Represents a question or decision in a process

  • Parallelogram: Depicts an input or output

You might use a flowchart when describing a process or when two or more people have trouble understanding a particular process.  

2. Cross-functional map

A cross-functional map defines who performs what action in a process or when a process takes place. Also called a swim lane diagram, the map displays rows or "lanes" designated for each participant. 

You might use a cross-functional map in the following ways: 

  • When identifying the various departments involved in a process

  • When designating the participants of a process and what action they should take

  • When looking for obstacles in a process

3. Detailed process map

As its name implies, a detailed process map shows the details of one or all steps of a process. Details can include participants, subprocesses, inputs, outputs, and decision points.

You might use a detailed process map to:

  • Clear up confusion about a particular process step

  • Ensure participants have a thorough grasp of all steps in a process

4. Rendered process map

A rendered process map displays current and potential processes. You might use a rendered process map for:

  • Identifying key participants in a process

  • Making process improvements

  • Maximizing team member skills and talents

  • Increasing cooperation among process participants

5. SIPOC diagram

SIPOC is an acronym for this type of mapping. A SIPOC diagram features columns with the following headings:

  • Supplier: The provider of resources for the process

  • Inputs: The types of resources provided

  • Process: Key process steps

  • Outputs: The process results

  • Customer: A person who benefits from the results

You might use a SIPOC diagram to:

  • Identify the main components of a process

  • Understand how a process has improved

6. Value stream map

A value stream map displays the steps involved in a process from start to finish, like creating a product or delivering a service. You might use a value stream map to:

  • Reduce waste within a process

  • Identify and eliminate unnecessary process steps

  • Make the most of available resources

Benefits of business process mapping

Process mapping serves businesses in a variety of ways. Learn more to see if your business can benefit from this informational tool.

Employee training

Process mapping helps make training new employees easier. When new employees know about the work processes and see them in a map, diagram, or chart, they get a clearer idea of how to operate in the workplace. 

Centralized information

A collection of process maps and diagrams offers businesses a valuable source of centralized information. Company stakeholders, supervisors, and employees can refer to and use the maps and diagrams as they are or adapt them as needed for various projects. Process maps provide clear direction for work within teams and between departments.   

Worker compliance

Sometimes, workers need to follow a certain safety protocol, detailed assembly guidelines, or strict government regulations. Process maps can help ensure worker and business compliance in the following ways:

  • Educate employees about proper procedures

  • Help boost quality control and reduce risk

  • Show proof of compliance in the event of a company audit

Continual improvement

Process maps can help ensure continual improvement in business. When managers and stakeholders have the opportunity to view and evaluate business processes regularly, they can identify areas for improvement and make changes.

How to create a process map in 5 steps 

Tools for process mapping include pencil and paper, a dry-erase board, or process-mapping software. To create a process map, follow these five steps:

1. Identify your goal: Do you want to create a new process or improve an existing one?

2. List your process steps in order: Include department names, participants, actions, inputs, outputs, and decision points where needed.

3. Diagram (or map) the process: Use the proper format and shapes to diagram the process steps.

4. Assess and get feedback: Look for inconsistencies, bottlenecks, and steps you can eliminate. Ask stakeholders and process participants to provide feedback.

5. Test the process map: Go through the steps to see if they work and flow properly and make adjustments as needed.

 Getting started on Coursera

To learn more about creating process maps, it helps to get some experience. You can practice creating process maps on Coursera with a short Guided Project offered by Coursera Project Network. In less than two hours, you'll learn how to create a Canva account, locate Canva templates, use the toolbar, and more.

If you want to learn more about optimizing business processes, consider taking Data-Driven Process Improvement on Coursera. This course focuses on process improvement strategies like data collection, gap assessment, and process mapping. Upon completion of wither program, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile.

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