No matter what type of business you are in, that business probably has two overarching goals: to be profitable and to be productive and efficient. Usually, the latter brings about the former.
There are many ways to ensure efficiency and high levels of production, thus ensuring profitability. Team building, policy writing, and organizational templates are all great ways to keep your business running smoothly with positive, happy employees. One of the other surefire ways to become successful is with process mapping.
Process mapping tools help achieve the communication goals of who performs what jobs, when and for what amount of time, and what the end goals are.
Process mapping tools also construct reminders, updates, and communication streams so that everyone can be on the same page.
This article will detail what process mapping is and the types of mapping available to your business, and then it will detail many of the available software programs that will make this solution even faster and more efficient for your business.
Definition of Process Mapping
Process mapping is the process by which you draw out the flow of work in a chart or diagram so that people can have a clear understanding of the way a process works and how they can achieve it effectively.
Basically, process mapping involves putting the exact steps of a task into picture form so that one can see how best to accomplish it, thus saving time, energy, and resources.
Using process mapping tools can help eliminate production errors, help people understand the ways in which sections of an office work together, and increase efficient production.
Process Map Types
Depending on the type of business you are running or what you are producing, there are many types of maps that might be helpful.
- Flowcharts – This type of map can be further divided into top-down, deployment, or detailed charts. All variations show the direction and order of work to be completed.
- Swimlane diagrams – These are best for when certain sections of a workplace or project teams might work together to complete a solution. Different “lanes” can cross back and forth into each other when necessary.
- Data flow diagrams – These are similar to flowcharts but show how information moves ‘through’ a system. They are comparable to a mix of flowcharts and swimlane diagrams but are mainly used for inputs and outputs.
- Value stream maps – This type is the most complex. It takes a process’s current state and shows possibilities for certain outcomes. This process map tool is often used when companies are aiming for lean—reduction of waste and resources through efficient process outlining.
Benefits of Software Process Mapping Tools
A business needs to perform its tasks in an efficient, productive way. In essence, creating process maps is a task in itself! Thus, using software to create these process maps is a smart investment.
Using a software program allows you to:
- Choose from tools that create professionally artistic diagrams and clearly explain processes with visually appealing graphics.
- Define steps, who is in charge of said steps, and the amount of time that should be devoted to each.
- See areas for improvement and create opportunities to continue improving over time.
- Restructure the hierarchies of your business when necessary, without loss.
- Reap a large return on your investment as your business becomes more profitable.
Software programs with process mapping tools also hold benefits for top-level managers and employees. Executives gain insight and knowledge on all the workings of the business that they do not get to see every day. They can then choose the processes and policies that benefit everyone the most.
Employees are benefited as well. When upper-level management understands what work is like “on the floor,” employees are understood and respected more. Having clear visuals also helps employees know what is happening in other areas of the workplace and how their jobs affect and are affected by other teams. They can also see areas for improvement and be empowered to bring about change.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Software Program
There are three main questions that every business owner should ask before choosing a software program as a process mapping tool.
- How does the interface work?
- Information to gather: the ability to customize shapes and tables, themes and effects, collaboration tools/capabilities, linking of maps to each other, spell check availability, drag and drop functions, MS-word and/or web compatibility, abilities for process simulation and analysis
- Who will have access to the program?
- Information to gather: number of users who can comment on and edit maps, number of people who can use the software at one time, administrator controls, ability to export, email, and print maps
- What will it cost the business?
- Information to gather: options for monthly or yearly subscription packages, number of users included in the price, free trial options, updates available
Administrators should also know the different categories of process mapping software programs. These are:
- Diagramming – Diagraming tools are used in the actual creation of diagrams as well as editing and sharing. These are best used for individuals.
- Project management – This type of software is best for organizing workflow and numerous projects happening at the same time.
- Business process management – This choice of software helps automate the processes of your workplace.
Various Choices for Software Process Mapping Tools
The options in this list are a compilation of the above-mentioned types of software programs available.
This option helps take your mapping to the digital extreme. Using Tallyfy will help you scale and automate each part of your business.
- Incorporation of email programs such as Gmail and Outlook
- API integration
- Tracking of process steps
- Automation via conditional branching
- Web forms to approve workflow
- Large amount of server space for storage
- Low level of customization options
This user-friendly software is an easy way to map the processes of your workplace. If you need more detailed charts and diagrams, it can do that, too.
- Drag and drop availability
- Large number of templates to start from
- Extensive shape library
- Ability to be used offline
- Works with a variety of Internet browsers
- Ease of use
- Ability to connect with other programs
- No subscription fee
- Also used for other business tools; not as detailed for process mapping
- No data storage
- Requires internal server for sharing capabilities
The beauty of this program is its ability to store information in the cloud. It can also generate reports and track progress on individual employees as well as teams.
- Advanced analytics
- Integration with API
- Ability to drag and drop
- Extensive collaboration tools
- Flexible customization and workflow
- Mobile app for accessibility
- Process automation
- Structured to combine with HR programs
- Must have Internet connection
Creately is an excellent choice for any business that needs to create detailed, complex diagrams. Their template library has diverse choices for any business for fast, clear choices.
- Ability to access revisions as far back as necessary
- Thousands of customization options
- Ability to drag and drop
- Ability to import and/or export information
- Integrates easily with other programs
- On- or off-line access
- Affordable subscription price
- Collaboration tools for group buy-in
- Specific storage requirements that might not fit your business model
- Desirable functions not available in free version
This program is web-based and focuses on project management as well as process mapping. The program leads itself to collaboration among employees and promotes empowerment of teams to work together to achieve common goals.
- Integration of API
- Real-time updates
- Automatic work process capabilities
- High security functions
- Ability to merge with Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, and other common programs
- Works with any Internet browser
- Goes beyond process mapping; a multi-use investment
- No autosave or backup features
Gliffy is an online program for creation, editing, and sharing of diagrams as a process mapping tool. It is best used for basic diagrams for small, quick projects.
- Ability to drag and drop
- Collaboration tools
- Can import and export information
- Ability to track and revise processes
- User friendly
- Intuitive interface
- Ability to integrate with Confluence
- Free version only comes with limited features.
- Only has ability to diagram, as opposed to programs with advanced features
Process mapping is something that every business should be using to streamline their workflow and make production efficient and profitable. Using process mapping tools such as software programs is a simple way to get a large return on your investment and create a workplace that has empowered, successful, well-trained employees who work well together.