5 Questions About Business Process Mapping

1) What is a process map?

A process map lays out each of the step-by-step workflow activities for a functional part of a business organization. Each step isolates an individual process into a workflow diagram for a clear depiction of a process or series of parallel processes.

Within the process step, we document what happens in the process step – what was the input to the step, what happens with that input, and what is the subsequent output.

What’s critical is to create an easy to read view of business processes. The maps need to be organized so they can be understood at a high level by top management, but also provide the detail that is need for review and analysis.

2)    What kinds of processes are usually mapped?   

We’ve found that a typical manufacturing company will have 200 to 300 processes in the following areas – with the goal of taking out waste, simplifying processes, and streamlining operations. Again, these areas are typical across manufacturing industries. Functional areas include:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Engineering
  • Customer service
  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing planning
  • Production
  • Quality
  • Service
  • Accounting
  • Human resources

3) When is business mapping needed?

Process maps are typically needed when a manufacturer experiences bottlenecks in a workflow. Examples might include experiencing issues with shipping to customers, fulfilling orders, delivering to schedules, just to name a few. Another red flag is when those in functional areas complain about a cumbersome process.  Other indicators are an excessive use of workarounds, manual data entry, double data entry, excessive use of Excel or homegrown systems, use of paper files or proprietary solutions, as well as redundant record keeping.

4) What takes place during a business mapping exercise?

Let’s take a fairly common process: vouchering accounts payable checks. In this example, we would conduct a workshop with the business process users. We would facilitate a session to map the current state process. We would map the process on the wall with either Visio or on a flip chart. The team would define the steps and then the inputs, process, and outputs for each step. In the session we look for agreement on waste.

These steps follow the business process review, as well.

5) What are some of the typical goals of process mapping?

In general, the goal is to eliminate waste. improve productivity, optimize existing resources, handle growth without adding resources, or streamline existing operations.

A business mapping exercies should track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in order to deliver tremendous insight into where waste resides, where bottlenecks occur, and where there is a possibility for improvement.

Business process improvement drives business performance improvement. This improvement can take many forms from improving productivity to improving utilization of assets, and profit performance


  1. avatarJohn Hoyes says

    Process mapping is essential for any large organization – just for the reasons you mentioned in this posting. I would imagine that a successful process mapping exercise would yield two types of main discoveries (given that there is an effort to expose “waste” in the entire process): (1) the way things ARE done and (2) the way things SHOULD be done. There are certainly decisions to be made in regards to improving a process, and it is essential that all seat-holders at the decision-making table be recognized before the exercise is put in place. Depending on the type, size, and scope of an operation, the make-up of this decision-making table will vary. I expect the science (and art) of process mapping will only grow in sophistication and recognition within the corporate world in years to come.

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