What Is a Process Map?

A process map is a planning and management tool that businesses use to provide a visual representation of a workflow. It shows a series of steps, instructions, or sequences of events to produce an end product or deliverable. A process map is also known as a flowchart, process flowchart, process chart, functional process chart, process model, workflow diagram, functional flowchart, process flow diagram, and business flow diagram. The document shows the people and the procedures involved in a work process that any business or organization can use while revealing areas for improvement. The purpose of process mapping is to disseminate how particular processes and procedures work concisely and clearly. It enables team members to understand the methods of completing a task or activity without long verbal instructions. By mapping a process from beginning to end, the organization and its employees possess a comprehension of how the entire procedure happens, so there is room to identify inefficiencies and make improvements. Companies can also utilize process mapping for any type of process. However, process maps are far more common in process analysis, training, process improvement, and integration. They are valuable for describing and communicating complex processes, addressing recurring problems, and coordinating the responsibilities of team members for a project, program, or event.

According to a 2015 BPTrends survey, about 96 percent of companies record some kind of documented process. However, processes and procedures are what make companies run. Therefore, all processes must have a record because employees perform these activities more than once, running them repeatedly. Setting up a process map also helps to disseminate the procedure efficiently and effectively.

Symbols Used In Process Mapping

Specific symbols represent each element of process mapping. These symbols go by many names, including flowchart symbols, flowchart shapes, and flow diagram symbols. The symbols that people observe in a process map stem from the Unified Modeling Language or UML. UML is an international standard for drawing or creating process maps. The process symbols that organizations use fall into different categories, including process or operation, branching and control of flow, input and output, file and information storage, and data processing. The section below describes the various symbols that are present in process maps.

Action/Process symbol: The action or process symbol is the most frequently used process mapping shape to show an action, or task, or operation that requires doing. Sub-routine symbol: The subroutine symbol represents a sequence of actions that relates to performing a specific task that is part of a larger process. It also symbolizes that there is another flowchart for the specific process that is a reference to the current procedure.Delay symbol: The delay symbol indicates a delay or a pause in the process.Preparation symbol: The preparation symbol represents a preparatory step for another step in the process flow.Manual loop symbol: The manual loop symbol is a sequence of commands that continually happens unless there is a manual stop.Loop limit symbol: The loop limit symbol indicates a certain point at which a loop must come to a stop.Arrow symbol: The arrow symbol is a line or connector that shows the direction in which the flowchart goes. It is a connector that shows the relationship between the representative shapes in the process map.Terminator symbol: The terminator symbol represents starting and ending points of a process map. Most flowcharts have one entry point but can have multiple exit points.Decision symbol: The decision symbol is a decision or branching point in the process map. The arrows that come from this symbol point to two choices that are usually yes or no, or true or false.Connector symbol: The connector symbol is a shape that indicates the continuation of a flow or process. It happens when a matching symbol with a similar letter connects a process on a different page or section.Merge symbol: The merge symbol shows a step wherein two or more sub-processes or sub-lists become one.Or symbol: The or symbol indicates that a process diverges in more than two branches.Summoning or junction symbol: The summoning or junction symbol is present in the process map when multiple sub-processes or sub-lists are merging into a singular process.Input/output symbol: The input or output symbol represents a material or information that enters or leaves the process flow. Receiving reports is an input, while submitting reports is an output. Document symbol: The document symbol indicates a step or process that produces a document or a report.Multiple documents symbol: The multiple documents symbol is a process step that results in multiple documents or reports.Display symbol: The display symbol is a step in the process map that displays information.Manual input symbol: The manual input symbol indicates a step where the individual inputs the necessary information manually.Data storage/stored data symbol: The data storage or stored data symbol represents a step of storing data or information.Database symbol: The database symbol contains a list of information containing a standardized structure that allows individuals to search and sort through documents.Internal storage symbol: The internal storage symbol indicates that certain information and data are in storage during a program or process, used in software design flowcharts.Collate symbol: The collate symbol represents the process of organizing data, information, and materials into a standardized format.Sort symbol: The sort symbol indicates the sorting of data, information, and materials into a sequence or set according to a predetermined criterion.

Types of Process Maps

Process maps vary in shape and size. Despite serving the same function or purpose, there are particular types of process maps that are more suitable for specific projects or programs. The section below covers the most common types of process maps that organizations use to represent their procedures.

Flowchart: Flowcharts are the simplest form of process maps. It utilizes process mapping symbols to represent inputs, outputs, and steps to perform and complete a procedure. Using of flowcharts is prevalent in planning new projects, establishing and improving communication, modeling and documenting processes, solving issues in procedures, and analyzing and managing workflows.High-level process map: A high-level process map, also known as a top-down map or value chain map, showcases a high-level summary of processes. The steps in this type of process map focus on essential steps with minimal detail. High-level process maps define the steps in business processes. These are also useful for discussing various processes with individuals that need to understand the specifics of an operation.Detailed process map: Detailed process maps provide all the information, steps, and details in a process. It documents all the decision points, inputs, and outputs. The process map indicates a comprehensive understanding of mapped processes, pinpointing areas of inefficiency.Swimlane map: The swimlane map is also known as a cross-functional map or deployment flowchart. It delegates processes into swimlanes and designates an individual to perform the procedure. The map contains various channels for each stakeholder and assigns each activity to them. This type of process map focuses on highlighting the different roles and responsibilities of individuals and the interaction between them. Swimlane maps are ideal for training programs on employee roles, increasing accountability. They are also helpful in identifying delays, inefficiencies, and process failures. Value stream map: A value stream map is a management tool that visualizes the delivery process of a product or service to consumers. These maps are complex and use unique system symbols to describe the flow of information and necessary materials for the process. It is valuable to identify where to reduce costs and waste for more opportunities in the future through documenting time cycles and the number of people participating in the process. SIPOC diagram: The term SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. The SIPOC diagram is more of a chart that identifies key elements of processes that are a prerequisite for a detailed process map. The SIPOC diagram consists of five divisions that feature the different steps in the process, the outputs, customers, inputs, and suppliers. It is also helpful in determining the scope of work for complex procedures.

How To Write a Process Map

Creating process maps is now a streamlined process as it uses workflow management software that provides a better understanding of process mapping. Process maps are also available to individuals using Microsoft applications, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The essence of process mapping is to communicate a certain process to others to achieve organizational objectives. Having an idea of how to create a process map build stronger communication and understanding in the company. The section below covers the steps in developing a process map.

1. Identify a Procedure that Requires Mapping

The first step is to determine a process that requires a map. Ask whether there is an inefficiency in the steps that requires improvement. Is there a new process that needs relaying to all the team members for a project? Is there a process that raises many questions about a specific procedure? Identify the process that the organization needs to map out and start from there.

2. Identify the Necessary Activities for the Process

Make sure to record all the critical tasks that complete the procedure. Create a list of all the activities and the people responsible for performing them. Collaborate with team members and other stakeholders that are part of the process to account for all the required steps accurately and determine the required level of detail when executing tasks. The team must establish a where the start and end of the process to know which tasks to include to produce the desired results.

3. Write Out the Correct Sequence of Steps

After completing a list that lists all the necessary activities the team needs to complete a process, the next step is to sequence the activities into a step-by-step procedure until the entire process is complete from start to finish. It is also during this step that the team conducts a gap analysis to check for any gaps in the process, making the necessary adjustments after.

4. Begin Drawing the Base Flowchart Using the Process Map Symbols

Select the most appropriate type of process map to accommodate the steps and procedures. Draw out the necessary processes and represent the steps with the appropriate mapping symbols. The two previous sections help to identify which type of process map a team can use, along with the different process map symbols.

5. Finalize and Share the Process Map with Stakeholders

After the team finishes setting up and completing the process map, review it with the stakeholders that are with the team members during the process to make sure that everyone is on the same page and is in agreement with the information on the process map. Guarantee that no steps are left out or incomplete, and check for any inconsistencies and redundancies in the process map.

6. Analyze the Map To Check for Areas of Improvement

Once the process map accurately describes the process workflow, the comprehensive process map serves as a management tool that the team can analyze to discover various ways of improving the process. Take the team members and the stakeholders and gather all the feedback to identify the bottlenecks and inefficiencies present in the process. After identifying all the areas of improvement, take the initiative to resolve them and rework and perform the necessary adjustments to reflect these improvements.


What are the main components of a process map?

Three principal components that make up a process map include inputs, outputs, and the necessary steps in the process.

What is a Six Sigma process map?

Six Sigma process mapping focuses on a flowchart illustrating all the steps of a process that documents all the inputs and outputs of an event, activity, or process in an easy-to-read manner using a step-by-step format.

What is the purpose of constructing a process map?

The purpose of working on a process map is to illustrate the sequenced flow of a process, activity, or event for organizations and businesses to improve their efficiency.  It also provides the necessary insights into a specific procedure that enables teams to brainstorm ideas to improve the steps in a process, increase communication, and create a process document.

Process maps are essential to describe complex processes that are essential to keep a business running smoothly and efficiently. Business mapping provides different benefits to organizations that utilize them. Process mapping documents various business processes and procedures. It also enables knowledge transfer, produces an agreement for best practices, shows that all the processes are compliant with standards, and enables opportunities for improvement and continuous improvement. Write a process map for the organization today by selecting from the provided templates above, selecting from 20+ SAMPLE Process Map in PDF, only from Sample.net.