An Essential Guide to Process Mapping

Create a visual top-down view of how your business works.

Process mapping

Every business is made up of interconnected processes – from manufacturing products and fulfilling purchase orders to onboarding new employees and filing paperwork. The better you understand how your organization operates, the better you can manage it.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these processes are not properly documented. Often, business processes only exist in the form of tribal knowledge and are passed from employee to employee through word-of-mouth. Everyone is only familiar with the processes in their own domain and the big picture gets lost.

Is your business running efficiently? Is there room for optimization? Who knows.

This is where business process mapping comes in. Let's dive deeper into what process mapping is and how it can be used to optimize your business operations.

What is process mapping?

Process mapping is a technique commonly used for capturing how a business process works. A process map is often visualized in the form of a flowchart, which highlights every step, decision, and task involved in a process.

Process mapping flowchart example

Sales process map example

Process maps help organizations get a high-level overview of how every process works and identify improvement opportunities. They are an essential part of process documentation and are often included in SOP documents. Here's an example of a process mapped and documented in Nuclino, a knowledge sharing and documentation tool for teams:

Process mapping example in Nuclino

Process mapping example (created in Nuclino)

Benefits of business process mapping

The high-level purpose of business process mapping is to improve organizational efficiency. Creating process maps enables companies to:

How to create a process map

Process mapping is not a challenging task, as long you follow the right approach. To make sure you map the process accurately, involve all relevant stakeholders – this includes those who will be responsible for running the process as part of their day-to-day work, as well as those who will be managing it.

Step 1: Identify the process

Start by determining the basics and setting the high-level constraints for the process you are planning to map:

Step 2: Gather information

Even if you think you know your business inside out, you’ll still want to do your research. Work together with the employees who will be involved in the process you are mapping and gather as much information as possible. Err on the side of collecting too much information and filter it down later. Aim to find high-level answers to the Five Ws:

Step 3: Define the activities involved

Put together a detailed list of all tasks that need to be executed in order to complete the process. Determine who will be responsible for each of them. When you name tasks, it's helpful to always start with a verb.

Step 4: Determine the sequence of steps

Take the list of tasks you prepared and arrange them in the correct order. Some tasks may only be necessary if a certain condition is fulfilled – make sure to note it down.

Step 5: Visualize the process

Now, on to the fun part! Use a diagramming tool – such as Diagrams.net, Lucidchart, Gliffy, or Google Drawings – to visualize your process map. Each element in a process map is represented by a specific flowchart symbol.​ Make sure everyone in your organization knows what they mean.

Step 6: Document the process

The final step of process mapping is to document the result. No matter how pretty your flowchart looks, it will add no value if the intended audience can't find it when they need it. Don't let it get lost in your shared drive or gather dust in someone's desk drawer. Make sure all your processes are neatly documented in one central place that acts as a single source of truth for your team.

A great place to organize your process documentation is your internal wiki or a company intranet portal. For extra clarity, it's advisable to include a step-by-step guide explaining the process, in addition to the flowchart you create.

Process mapping symbols

A process map flowchart visualizes the process using process mapping symbols – actions, decision points, documents, databases, and so on. Make sure that you and your team clearly understand what each process mapping symbol means and use them consistently.

Process mapping symbols

Process mapping best practices

Every organization may have a slightly different approach to process mapping, but there are several universal best practices that work for all:

Business process mapping is not a one-time project. Continuous process optimization requires constant monitoring and regular reviews. It's also something you can't undertake alone – getting a buy-in from your team is essential. However, your efforts will pay off, and when done right, process mapping can help you standardize and optimize your workflows, onboard new colleagues, and create a shared understanding across the team.

Nuclino: Your team's single source of truth

Nuclino

Nuclino is a unified workspace that helps you organize all of your team's work in one place. Instead of digging through the chaos of files and folders and drowning in endless meetings and notifications, Nuclino allows your team to break out of silos and collaborate more thoughtfully.

Try it for free

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