Your business may have different processes in place for anything from onboarding to launching new products. However, if you want to gain a better understanding of your business and its processes, then you need to explore business process mapping.

Visualizing your processes helps you and your team understand the definitions, purposes, and overall impact of each process and task. Learning about how your processes function will make your future projects more effective.

This guide will give you an overview of business process mapping, including its history, the different types of maps, and the benefits to your business.

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What is Business Process Mapping?

Business process mapping is the visual representation of steps taken in a work project. It includes the input and output of people who are involved in completing each individual step.

A standard business process map would have a shape representing an individual step, connected by arrows to represent a flow between each task. 

The History of Business Process Mapping

The history of business process mapping dates to 1921. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, American engineers, created the first project flowchart. It was presented to the ASME and was subsequently used in industrial engineering industries.

Throughout the history of business process mapping, the procedures have been adopted and changed by different businesses and industries, leaving their imprint on it in the form of new flowcharts and different types of maps. 

Symbols in Business Process Mapping

There are a few common shapes used in business process maps, each representing a different use.

  • A simple box represents a step in the process
  • A circle represents the end or beginning of the whole process
  • A rhombus signals a step that requires a decision
  • Arrows demonstrate the movement and flow between each step

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Scope and Purpose of Business Process Mapping

The goal of business process mapping is to highlight both the order of when steps need to be taken, as well as who is responsible for each step. But, it’s more than just that. Business process mapping encourages project managers to reflect on their workflows and find areas for improvement.

Most businesses hold a general goal of becoming more efficient. To achieve this, all parts of your business need to function together harmoniously. Business process maps can help attain this by offering a clear diagram of how a company can reach its objectives.

Process maps include a wide scope of activities, such as: 

  • Key players
  • Materials needed
  • External factors
  • Departmental needs
  • And more 

By analyzing each step of a process on its own, it becomes clearer to see how each one can be improved and optimized.

The Role and Need in Six Sigma

Six Sigma applies management tools and techniques to lower the probability of errors, which in turn enhances business efficiency and productivity. Six Sigma relies on data and statistics in its methodology, but it also includes various types of process maps.

Six Sigma uses various methods that define and measure a project, problem, or product. To do this, Six Sigma relies on visual mapping and flowcharts. For example, to define a business problem, you need to first see it from a client’s point of view, then set your goals, and finally map the process needed to move forward.

Value stream mapping is another visual flowchart commonly used in Six Sigma. This map’s purpose is to classify activities in a process that add value, ones that don’t add value but are necessary, and finally, activities that add no value and can be removed. Maps are necessary for this technique to eliminate inefficiencies.

Types of Business Process Mapping

Different types of business process mapping can be useful for different industries, or simply for different projects within a company. Some of the most frequently used process maps are:


A flowchart can be anything from simple visualization of steps in a process to something more complex, like deployment or top-down flowchart. This type of business process mapping can be used for many things, like planning a new project, solving problems, analyzing workflows, or improving communication.

Swimlane Diagrams

Like flowcharts, the swimlane diagram goes further by dividing each step by the responsibilities of each person or team. This type of map is used to see how different players relate to each other in each step.

Value Stream Maps 

This type of map visualizes a project’s current state and points out how it can be improved in the future. A value stream map is often used in Lean and Six Sigma approaches and is helpful to eliminate waste and improve the flow of materials and information.


This acronym stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers, and uses a simple table to define the inputs and outputs of different processes. It’s ideal for defining project scope or using before you create a more complex map.

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Benefits of Business Process Mapping

You’re probably already thinking of ways to implement process mapping in your company, but if you’re not yet convinced, here are some of the great benefits:

  • Helps visualize roles and responsibilities
  • Effective problem solving
  • Identify flaws, errors, or redundancies in your process
  • Improves team performance, communication, and understanding
  • Allows you to measure the efficiency
  • Gives you an overview of a project or process
  • Can be used for employee training
  • Makes achieving big goals easier and more attainable

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If you’re interested in learning more about different types of process maps and other project management tools and best practices, consider enrolling in Simplilearn’s PMP online training.

About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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