Process Maps: The Importance of Clarity

Business process maps are a high-level visual representation of the flow of a business process and the different people, teams, or organisations involved in it. These diagrams help simplify complex processes. A process map lets anyone see, at a glance, how things happen and who does what without any prior subject area or technical knowledge.

Process maps are just one way of turning business process steps into a picture. You can also create flow charts, use case diagrams, UML diagrams, data flow diagrams and others. Some options use precise and standardised notation which makes them more useful for engineers. Non-technical people can struggle to follow more formal process diagrams. Process maps are easy to understand which means they are more likely to elicit constructive feedback from normal business users.

Increasing visibility helps identify inefficiencies, risks and ensures everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in a process. This can be particularly useful when orienting new employees, or identifying improvement opportunities for a future state.

Process maps are meant to be high level. It is important that the map is clear and easy to follow. Below are 4 useful tips for drawing a process map.

No need to keep to one page

It may be tempting to fit as many process steps as possible on one page. However, this can result in a busy and tricky to navigate process map. Use white space as it allows the reader to easily follow each step.

Number each step

Numbering each step can provide clarity when following a map. This is specifically important if a process map spans several pages or has decision points. Numbers are used as a reference point, so reviewing and discussing process maps is easier.

Reduce the number of symbols

Usually, having too many symbols can be more confusing than helpful, specifically for a business audience.  Clarity is the most important aspect of a process map. When including different symbols, it’s imperative that the audience understands them, or they’re clearly explained.

Don’t forget the ‘System’

Having a system swim lane shows the role a system plays in a process, or the interactions that occur with the system. The swim lane is usually below the other swim lanes. Labelling the swim lane ‘System’ is useful if there are multiple systems involved, but it can also be specific to one system.

Salman Motara, Analyst, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2024.