What is Business Process Mapping?

In this article, we will delve into the definition and purpose of business process mapping, explore various types of process maps, and identify key elements and symbols used. Additionally, we will guide you through the steps to create an effective business process map and highlight the benefits and applications of this powerful technique. Whether you’re nWhat is Business Process Mapping?ew to the concept or looking to refine your skills, this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights into mastering business process mapping.

Definition and Purpose

Business Process Mapping is a critical activity within the broader discipline of Business Process Management (BPM). It involves creating visual representations of an organization’s business processes, detailing the sequence of activities, the flow of information, and the roles involved in the process. These visual representations, often depicted in diagrams or flowcharts, serve as a simplified model of the actual processes, providing a clear and concise way to understand, analyze, and improve them.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The primary purpose of Business Process Mapping is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how work is done within an organization. This understanding extends beyond just the “how” to include the “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “by whom” aspects of the process. By answering these questions, BPM helps organizations identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and bottlenecks in their processes, enabling them to make informed decisions about process improvements.

Different stakeholders within an organization rely on business process definitions for various purposes:

  • Executive Leadership: Uses business process definitions to support value chain analysis and establish strategic objectives.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Relies on these definitions to understand critical capabilities and processes that must be restored after a catastrophic event.
  • Corporate Compliance: Ensures the organization complies with external regulations and understands the processes and procedures that need examination in case of regulatory changes.
  • Chief Technology Officer: Supports the development and maintenance of the enterprise technology roadmap.
  • Functional Managers: Ensures complete coverage of onboarding, training, and job support material for their operations staff.
  • Business Analysis Team: Identifies instances where technology investment will provide a positive return on investment.
  • Information Technology Development Team: Understands how information systems requirements and design support business functions.
  • Workflow Applications: Automatically orchestrates activities across operations staff and other functional applications in a production environment.

In essence, Business Process Mapping is a foundational activity that supports the effective management of business processes. It provides the necessary insights to ensure that processes are fit for purpose and fit for use, addressing the specific needs of different stakeholders within the organization.

Types of Business Process Maps

Business process maps are essential tools for visualizing and understanding the various activities, workflows, and interactions within an organization. These maps can take several forms, each serving a unique purpose and providing different levels of detail. Here are some common types of business process maps:

1. Flowcharts

Flowcharts are one of the most basic and widely used types of business process maps. They use standardized symbols to represent different types of actions, decisions, and events. Flowcharts are ideal for illustrating simple processes and workflows, making them easy to understand and communicate.

2. Swimlane Diagrams

Swimlane diagrams, also known as cross-functional flowcharts, add another layer of detail by organizing activities into lanes. Each lane represents a different department, role, or stakeholder involved in the process. This type of map is particularly useful for identifying handoffs and interactions between different parts of an organization.

3. Value Stream Maps

Value stream maps focus on the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to the customer. They are commonly used in lean manufacturing and Six Sigma methodologies to identify waste and improve efficiency. Value stream maps provide a high-level view of the entire process, from raw materials to finished goods.

4. SIPOC Diagrams

SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. This type of diagram provides a high-level overview of a process by identifying these five key elements. SIPOC diagrams are often used in the initial stages of process improvement projects to define the scope and understand the key components of a process.

5. BPMN Diagrams

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) diagrams are a standardized method for modeling complex business processes. They use a specific set of symbols to represent different elements such as tasks, events, and gateways. BPMN diagrams are highly detailed and are often used in conjunction with business process management (BPM) tools like HEFLO to document and automate processes.

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6. Workflow Diagrams

Workflow diagrams are similar to flowcharts but focus more on the sequence of tasks and the flow of information between them. They are often used to model the operational aspects of a process, making them useful for identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

7. Gantt Charts

Gantt charts are used to plan and schedule projects. They provide a visual timeline of tasks, showing their start and end dates, dependencies, and progress. While not traditionally considered a process map, Gantt charts are useful for managing the implementation of process improvements.

Each type of business process map offers unique insights and benefits, making them valuable tools for organizations looking to optimize their operations and achieve their business goals.

Key Elements and Symbols in Business Process Mapping

The key elements and symbols used in business process mapping are standardized to ensure consistency and clarity. One of the most widely accepted standards is the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

Key Elements

  • Activities: Represent tasks or work performed in the process. They are usually depicted as rectangles.
  • Events: Indicate something that happens during the process. Events can be start, intermediate, or end events and are typically shown as circles.
  • Gateways: Used to control the flow of the process, representing decisions or branching points. They are depicted as diamonds.
  • Flows: Arrows that show the direction of the process flow, connecting different elements like activities, events, and gateways.
  • Data Objects: Represent data that is used or produced by the process. They are usually shown as documents or paper icons.
  • Swim Lanes: Horizontal or vertical lanes that group activities by roles or departments, helping to identify who is responsible for each part of the process.

Common Symbols

  • Start Event: A single thin circle that marks the beginning of a process.
  • End Event: A single thick circle that marks the end of a process.
  • Task: A rectangle with rounded corners representing a single unit of work.
  • Exclusive Gateway: A diamond with an “X” inside, used to show a decision point where only one path can be taken.
  • Parallel Gateway: A diamond with a plus sign inside, used to show that multiple paths can be taken simultaneously.
  • Message Flow: A dashed arrow with an open arrowhead, representing the flow of messages between different entities.

Understanding these key elements and symbols is essential for effective business process mapping. For companies looking to scale repetitive and voluminous business processes, utilizing a robust BPM tool like HEFLO can be highly beneficial.

Steps to Create a Business Process Map

Creating a business process map involves several key steps that help in visualizing and understanding the workflow within an organization. Here are the essential steps to create an effective business process map:

1. Identify the Process to be Mapped

Begin by selecting the specific process you want to map. This could be a primary, supporting, or management process within your organization. Clearly define the scope and boundaries of the process to ensure focus and relevance.

2. Gather Information

Collect detailed information about the process. This includes understanding the activities performed, the sequence of these activities, the roles involved, and the inputs and outputs at each stage. Engage with stakeholders, including employees who perform the tasks, to get accurate and comprehensive data.

3. Define the Process Steps

Break down the process into individual steps or activities. Each step should be clearly defined, detailing what needs to be done, who is responsible, and what resources are required. This helps in creating a structured and detailed map.

4. Choose the Appropriate Mapping Tool

Select a suitable tool or notation for creating your process map. Commonly used notations include Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), flowcharts, and swim lane diagrams. The choice of tool depends on the complexity and requirements of the process being mapped.

5. Create the Initial Process Map

Using the gathered information and chosen tool, create the initial version of the process map. Ensure that all activities, decision points, and flow of information are accurately represented. This initial map serves as a draft that can be refined and validated.

6. Validate the Process Map

Review the initial process map with stakeholders to ensure accuracy and completeness. Validate each step, sequence, and role involved. Make necessary adjustments based on feedback to ensure the map accurately reflects the actual process.

7. Refine and Finalize the Map

Incorporate feedback and make refinements to the process map. Ensure that the final version is clear, comprehensive, and easy to understand. The finalized map should serve as a reliable reference for understanding and managing the process.

8. Communicate and Implement

Share the finalized process map with all relevant stakeholders. Use it as a tool for training, process improvement, and performance measurement. Ensure that everyone involved understands their roles and responsibilities as depicted in the map.

Benefits and Applications

Business Process Mapping (BPM) offers a multitude of benefits and applications across various organizational functions. By providing a visual representation of business processes, BPM enables organizations to understand, analyze, and improve their workflows effectively.

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. Nathaniel Branden


  • Enhanced Clarity and Understanding: BPM provides a clear and detailed visualization of processes, making it easier for stakeholders to understand the flow of activities, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Improved Communication: With standardized process maps, communication across departments and teams becomes more effective, reducing misunderstandings and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Increased Efficiency: By identifying bottlenecks and redundancies, BPM helps streamline processes, leading to increased operational efficiency and reduced costs.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: BPM aids in ensuring compliance with external regulations by clearly defining processes and procedures, which is crucial for audits and risk management.
  • Continuous Improvement: The visual nature of BPM allows for ongoing monitoring and analysis, facilitating continuous process improvement and optimization.
  • Training and Onboarding: New employees can be trained more effectively using process maps, which provide a clear understanding of their roles and the overall workflow.


  • Value Chain Analysis: Executive leadership teams use BPM to support value chain analysis, helping to establish new and modified strategic objectives.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: BPM is crucial for understanding critical capabilities and processes that must be restored to maintain commercial viability after a catastrophic event.
  • Corporate Compliance: Compliance teams rely on BPM to ensure the organization adheres to external regulations and to understand the impact of regulatory changes on specific processes.
  • Technology Roadmap Development: Chief Technology Officers use BPM to support the development and maintenance of the enterprise technology roadmap.
  • Onboarding and Training: Functional managers utilize BPM to ensure comprehensive coverage of onboarding, training, and job support materials for their operations staff.
  • Investment Analysis: Business analysis teams use BPM to identify instances where technology investments will provide a positive return on investment.
  • Workflow Automation: BPM supports workflow applications by orchestrating activities across operations staff and other functional applications in a production environment.

In conclusion, business process mapping is an invaluable tool for organizations seeking to enhance efficiency, improve communication, and drive continuous improvement. By visually representing workflows, businesses can identify bottlenecks, streamline operations, and ensure that every team member understands their role within the larger system. As companies navigate an increasingly complex and competitive landscape, the strategic implementation of business process mapping can provide a clear pathway to operational excellence and sustained success.

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