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Workflow Mapping 101: Your Guide to Getting it Right 

If you’re in need of improving business processes quickly, workflow management software may be a solution for you.

Workflow management software is an umbrella term for a variety of workflow solutions, such as workflow mapping.

And workflow mapping can be a godsend when trying to create a visually appealing diagram for your entire organization.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What workflow mapping is and what the benefits are
  • The different types of workflow mapping 
  • The step-by-step process of creating a workflow map
  • How you can use workflow maps to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks 
  • The best workflow mapping software and their features

So let’s dive in!

What is workflow mapping?

Digital workflow mapping is a way of visually illustrating a sequence of steps performed to achieve a specific outcome.

The goal is to provide a clear understanding of the given process, identify inefficiencies or bottlenecks, and improve business operations.

Because it’s so versatile, workflow mapping can be applied to a variety of industries and not only to administrative tasks.

In practice, workflow mapping often involves creating flowcharts or diagrams to document the steps involved in a process.

So how can this benefit your business?

It may prove useful if you want to:

  • Identify areas of improvement
  • Ensure your team has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities
  • Optimize processes for increased efficiency

Workflow mapping tools will identify areas of inefficiency, consequently improving all aspects of your company processes.

And if you’d like an example of a workflow mapping template, this page offers every workflow template you’ll need.

Need to get a better understanding of what is a workflow? No problem! Check out for a comprehensive guide.

Types of workflow mapping

Business process workflow mapping is commonly used in a variety of industries. But not all types are good for every situation. 

To decide which one may be suitable for your organization, take a look at some of the most popular types of workflow mapping below.

Flowcharting

The simplest of them all. It’s a top-down graphical representation of a process, with each step represented by a symbol (such as a rectangle or a circle). Flowcharting is a widely used method for visualizing business processes and identifying areas for improvement.

Best used for: Workflow mapping for manufacturing.

Best used when: You have well-defined steps in a process. 

For example, you can use a flowchart to map out the steps involved in a manufacturing process or a software development process.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

This technique involves creating a visual map of the entire value stream from the customer’s perspective to identify areas of waste and improve efficiency.

Best used for: Workflow mapping in healthcare.

Best used when: Your goal is to optimize the process for efficiency and quality. 

For example, using a value stream map helps you identify the steps involved in a hospital’s patient care process and eliminate unnecessary steps.

Business Process Modeling (BPM)

This is a comprehensive approach to modeling and analyzing business processes. It involves drawing a graphical representation of the entire process to identify inefficiencies and optimize them.

Best used for: Workflow mapping for project management

Best used when: You want to automate business processes.

For example, choosing workflow automations to automate data entry, scheduling, or communication will increase efficiency, reduce manual errors, and free up time for employees.

Swimlane diagrams

Flowcharts that group activities by the role or department responsible for them. Each activity is represented in a specific “swimlane” or column, making it easier to identify the team or individual responsible for it.

Best used for: Workflow mapping for customer service

Best used when: There are multiple parties involved in a process. 

For example, you can map out the steps involved in a customer support process, where the customer, support team, and technical team all play a role.

How to create a workflow map

Want to try your hand at creating a workflow map? 

Great! Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get started:

Gather information

The first step in creating a workflow map is to gather information about the process you want to map.

This includes identifying the steps involved in the process and the roles and responsibilities of the people involved.

Define the scope

Once you have gathered the necessary information, define the scope of the workflow map. 

Pinpoint the specific process or system you want to map and the level of detail you want to include in the map.

Determine the workflow mapping technique

Based on the scope and purpose of the workflow map, choose the appropriate mapping technique. 

Try including flowcharts, value stream mapping, or swimlane diagrams. If you’re unsure which types to use, go back to the previous section of this post.

Create a rough sketch

Start by creating a rough sketch of the process flow. 

You can do this with workflow mapping software tools. This initial sketch should include the major steps in the process, as well as the people involved or other key features.

Add details

When you have a rough sketch of the process flow, begin adding details to the map.

For example, try adding more steps, including additional decision points, and identifying the inputs and outputs at each stage of the process.

Validate the map

Once all the necessary details are added to the map, validate it by reviewing it with stakeholders. 

This will help you to identify any errors or areas for improvement in the map.

Refine the map

Based on the feedback you received, refine the workflow map. 

For example, make changes to the process flow, add additional details, or adjust the mapping technique.

Finalize the map

Now that you have refined the workflow map, finalize it by creating a clean, legible, and easy-to-understand version. 

Share it with stakeholders and use it as a reference for process improvement in the future.

By following these steps, you’ll not only identify areas for improvement but also gain a better understanding of all your processes.

Using workflow maps to improve business operations

Workflow mapping techniques can provide you with many benefits.

We’ve devised a list of their key advantages:

  1. You can gain a more complete understanding of your business processes, including their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.
  2. You can choose the most appropriate method for a specific process and tailor your approach to process improvement accordingly.
  3. You can increase stakeholder engagement and participation in process improvement.
  4. You can improve communication and collaboration among different teams, departments, and stakeholders.
  5. You can improve the problem-solving capabilities of your team.

Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

To put it all into context, here are some examples of how workflow mapping can improve business operations across industries:

Healthcare

A hospital used workflow mapping to improve patient care and reduce the amount of time patients spent waiting for treatment. 

By mapping the patient journey and identifying bottlenecks in the process, the hospital was able to make improvements. They did this by implementing a new triage system and streamlining the admission process. 

As a result, the time patients spent waiting for treatment was reduced by 50%.

Manufacturing

A manufacturer took advantage of workflow mapping to improve the efficiency of their production line. 

By mapping their processes and identifying areas for improvement, the manufacturer was able to reduce the amount of time it took to complete the production process and increase the quality of the output. 

This resulted in a 15% increase in production efficiency.

Banking

A bank used workflow mapping to simplify its mortgage approval process. 

By identifying areas for improvement, the bank was able to reduce the time it took to approve a mortgage application from 45 days to 21 days. 

The result? A significant improvement in customer satisfaction and a reduction in costs associated with the mortgage approval process.

Retail

A large retailer utilized workflow mapping to enhance their inventory management process. 

By mapping the process, the retailer was able to reduce the time restocking shelves and improve the accuracy of their inventory levels. 

A significant improvement in sales and a reduction in costs associated with overstocking and understocking were noted.

Tools for workflow mapping

“Fabulous, but do you have any software recommendations?”

Indeed, we do!

Take a look at the list of our top 3 workflow tools:

Visio

Visio is a diagramming tool from Microsoft that allows users to create flowcharts, organizational charts, and other types of diagrams. 

It has a range of features and templates available, making it quite popular for workflow mapping. 

Visio is available as part of the Microsoft 365 suite of applications, and pricing varies depending on the subscription plan.

Lucidchart

Lucidchart is a web-based diagramming tool that makes it easy to create a variety of flowcharts, diagrams, and more. 

It has a user-friendly interface and a wide range of features, including collaboration and integrations with other software tools. 

Lucidchart offers different pricing plans, including a free version and paid plans for individuals and teams.

SmartDraw

SmartDraw is a desktop diagramming software. 

Some of its features include templates and integrations with other software tools. 

It offers different pricing plans, including a free trial.

And here are some tips we’ve found to be helpful when choosing the perfect tool:

  • The features and templates available
  • The ease of use
  • The pricing options
  • The level of support and training available. 

It is also important to consider the specific needs of your organization and the type of workflow mapping that you will be doing. 

For example, if you want to collaborate with your whole team, you may want to choose a tool that offers robust collaboration features. 

If you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider a free or lower-cost option. 

By considering these factors and doing some research on the available options, you can choose the best workflow mapping tool for your organization.

Since workflow mapping comes from a family of workflow management systems, we also have an honorable mention.

Process Street – A cloud-based workflow software that will transform your workflow game. 

Process Street is a powerful tool for businesses looking to streamline their processes, enhance collaboration, and ensure compliance. 

It’s easy to use, customizable, and flexible, making it a great choice for companies of all sizes.

Think of it as a fairy godmother who will guide you to improved processes and help you achieve business objectives quickly. 

So now you have it!

Workflow mapping is an essential technique for all businesses.

It provides a clear understanding of the flow of work through a process and helps identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and bottlenecks. 

By implementing workflow mapping, you’ll be able to optimize processes, reduce costs, and improve the quality of your products and services.

That’s why we’d highly encourage you to implement workflow mapping software if your goal is to drive success and growth in your business.

Take control of your workflows today