How to Map a Process
Updated: Aug 26, 2022
There are many reasons why companies should be mapping out all their business processes. From business continuity to training, there's never a bad reason to get them all down into a lovely flow chart.
Where do you start?
Firstly, you should have a clear idea of what you want to map. It might be how to run payroll, how to order more coffee, or your entire end to end sales process.
You should be considering the audience of your process map. Likely it will be a variety of people - someone might be using your process map to run a business critical process when you are uncontactable. With this in mind, it should cover every single step. Don't make any assumptions that the person reading it has any prior knowledge about the process. I sometimes refer to process maps as "an idiot's guide" but you probably shouldn't do that at work...
Next, think about who else participates in the process. Is it solely one person, or are several people/teams playing active roles in it? This helps you think about how to get it down on paper.
LucidChart gives you the ability to create swim lanes. You should assign a swim lane to each person or department. This way, you can really easily see when the process passes between people. You can have them vertical or horizontal:
Now you can consider what is the trigger that kicks off this process. It could be an email from a client, or a certain date each month.
This trigger is the first thing you add onto your process chart.
For the purpose of this worked example, I'm going to map out a process to run the monthly financials for the Board report. For this process, the finance team need to run their report and have the numbers signed off by the Finance Manager, before they get added into the Board pack
We start the process map like this:
Next we add in the first thing that gets done. Likely here you will email the finance team and ask them for their report.
Next, it's over to the Finance team to run the report. They should have their own process for this - you shouldn't need to add their entire process to this process map, unless you are reviewing the entire end to end workstream.
For the purpose of this worked example, I am assuming that the Finance team would run the report and then send it to their manager for approval.
Then it's over to the Finance Manager to review the report and let you know if it's good to go. At this point you will need to add in a step for the manager to be able to circle back to the Finance team if there are any issues with the report. You can see that I've added in a Decision which takes the process back to the step where the Finance team run the report.
Finally, you get the report from the Finance Manager for you to add to the Board report.
Now that your process map is complete, you can sense check it to make sure it accurately reflects the task at hand.
You can also start to look at where you might make some efficiencies. For example, is there a way to set up an automated reminder for the Finance team to kick off their process to run the report in the first place?
In this worked example, I've used the free version of LucidChart. You can get your own account here. The paid accounts aren't essential, but offer you more flexibility in terms of storage, commenting and security.
I have mapped processes throughout my career - from expense processing to sales stages; from customer billing to management escalations. I can help your organisation map all its processes so that you can scale and grow. Get in touch for a call to see how I can help.