Workflow mapping is like planning a trip to a foreign country.
You’ll likely get lost if you rely only on your friends' recommendations, a 20-second TikTok video, or an article you read about the place a month ago. It's nearly impossible to plan your trip without knowing exactly where you're going, how to get there, and what's worth seeing.
Consider workflow mapping your comprehensive guide – complete with shortcuts, alternate routes, must-see landmarks, a pocket dictionary, and warnings about restaurants that could give you food poisoning.
In business terms – they give you a clear view of your goals, broken down into neatly organized, achievable milestones. The lack of such organization and effective time management can cost a company as much as $1.3 million a year.
What is workflow mapping?
Experts from TechTarget define “workflow” as a “series of activities that are necessary to complete a task”. Workflow mapping is simply a visual representation of the individual steps and the order in which they should go.
We can think of process maps as a more advanced version of a basic flowchart, using geometric symbols and arrows to illustrate stages and how they relate to each other. A workflow map looks somewhat similar, but it's enriched with supporting information for each phase of the entire process.
How can workflow process mapping help you?
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
According to Dr. John Medina's Brain Rules, text-based information is much harder to remember than visuals. His studies show that people remember 65% of visual information three days after seeing it in a picture, compared to just 10% of the information they hear. Not only that, but it also takes your brain much less time to process visual information.
That's reason enough to make sure your company's critical information is visually represented. Workflow process mapping brings clarity to how your business works. But that's not all.
Identifying problems and risks
Making a detailed process map gives you a comprehensive understanding of the flow of tasks throughout the project. When working in this organized manner, you will quickly identify delays and frozen tasks, preventing missed deadlines, unhappy customers, and costly mistakes. You'll soon discover patterns in areas that are prone to errors and need more focus.
Discovering new approaches to tasks
Why not get your team members involved in the process of workflow mapping? Brainstorming solutions and organizing goals together can help you uncover shortcuts, new opportunities, and innovative problem-solving solutions.
With advanced workflow mapping tool options, you can find unnecessary steps that have been standard in your company up until this point or automate tasks that have only been done manually, reducing the risk of human error.
Optimizing your workflow for greater efficiency
Process mapping is the best method to streamline your workflow processes and cut back on time and effort spent on redundant or repetitive tasks – which can take up to two hours of your employee's time daily and cost you approximately $13,345 yearly. At the same time, workflow mapping makes it easier to foresee and avoid mistakes, which helps to improve work quality.
Creating workflow process maps: A how-to guide
As with any business process, you should start by defining what you want to achieve. Some key questions you may want to ask yourself at this point are:
Is this part of a bigger project or just a stand-alone task?
What is the scope of the process? Consider its start and end, necessary resources, and the teams or individuals that you should include.
Will other departments be affected or involved in the process or its outcome?
Once you know what you're striving towards, it's time to map out all the tasks that will get you there.
Identify the key processes you want to map
The logical (although possibly daunting) next step would be to identify all your business’ specific aspects. List every task that needs to be done – even those that seem trivial or intuitive. We recommend that you do this in a digital form, so it will be easier to work with the data. Many people focus better when working with pen and paper, but that would mean going through dozens of sheets of paper that could easily get lost.
At this point, it would be best to group tasks into categories. These can be transactional processes, manufacturing, hiring, advertising, etc. You will use this information to break down the workload into individual project management workflows.
Now you should have a pretty good picture of how complicated your workflow diagram should be.
Determine the process type
Pick one category from the list you've just created and organized. Let's determine which process type it fits into. Each category will have a slightly different map structure that fits the type best. This could be:
Transformational – these involve changing the nature or form of inputs, such as the manufacturing process, product development, or construction.
Transactional – these include repetitive, routine tasks with well-defined inputs and outputs, such as order processing, invoice management, or customer support.
Decision-making – these are tasks that require making strategic decisions for the future of the company, such as project approvals, resource allocation, or budget planning.
Determining the process type will help you implement targeted strategies, manage risks better, and allocate resources effectively. For example, decision-making processes might need more detailed information mapping and stakeholder involvement, while transactional processes need a greater focus on data security.
Transactional metrics’ performance is measured by speed and accuracy, while transformational ones are measured by innovation and value creation.
Outline all the details
At this point, you've gathered all the necessary information to create a workflow. Exciting, isn't it? Remember, each process step should be understandable to someone who's seeing it for the first time. This will make it much easier to communicate between teams and onboard new collaborators.
Here are the most important aspects of organizing process flow maps:
The order in which the individual steps should occur.
The place and time of decision points that will happen through the process completion.
The inputs and outputs (items that you should include in the procedure and its outcomes).
The roles and departments, external partners, and resources (both material and otherwise) that will play a role in the execution.
The business metrics that will illustrate your success.
Make sure to break down complex processes into smaller, bite-size objectives. This will not only make them more attainable, but it will also give you a better view of where you are in the process and what still needs to be done.
Choose the workflow process map type
Based on the information you have, select an appropriate workflow mapping technique that best fits the project type and your objectives. Standard mapping types include:
Workflow diagrams – best for transactional processes, they visualize the flow of tasks, decisions, and information with standardized symbols, making them the easiest type to understand.
Value stream maps – best for transformational business processes, they provide you with a value stream mapping, which makes it easier to identify the activities that do and don't add value.
Swimlane diagrams – best for mapping processes that involve multiple departments, they illustrate responsibilities and handoffs across teams
Ask your team for feedback and test
You will have to run plenty of tests before you find a flow that truly works for your business processes. What looks good in theory may not be very practical in reality. Always ask your team members for their opinions – if they don't find your workflow software helpful in completing daily tasks, it's pretty much useless.
Don't be afraid to test new solutions for modern business process mapping. Regularly reassess, stay agile, and make adjustments to keep your workflows optimized. Experts highlight that the willingness to change and adapt is the key characteristic of digitally mature, profitable, and successful organizations.
Automate workflow mapping with workstreams.ai
Now, imagine all we've mentioned so far can be automated, making your business processes not just easy but actually pleasant.
workstreams.ai is a workflow process mapping automation tool that can help you to coordinate dependencies between individual tasks, understand the resources and employee responsibilities necessary to complete them, and effectively model your entire business.
You can sign up for a basic Free version here to test out all the features and see for yourself how much faster your day-to-day operations will become.
Workflow mapping examples with workstreams.ai
At workstreams.ai, we've developed a diverse library of workflow maps that you can use to ensure that all your company processes are running smoothly. Now, let us show you precisely what you can achieve with our workflow examples.
You can use our workflow management software to create a fully automated workflow for hiring and recruitment. Specifically, you'd be able to collect and store applications in one place, conduct screenings, and set review stages.
Not only can you schedule interviews via workstreams.ai, but also treat it as a database for candidate information (CVs, LinkedIn profiles, salary expectations, etc.). You'll find it easier than ever to keep track of each candidate's progress with our clear labeling options.
The Customer Support Workflow map is focused on all things customer experience. Use it to organize and manage queries without leaving any questions unanswered. It's great for:
Resolving issues as fast as possible and improving the problem-resolution rate.
Improving customer satisfaction and retention, resulting in more profit for your business.
Saving time and directing focus to the aspects that currently need it most.
Ensuring consistency and building customer trust.
Estimating how long each task will take, based on previous inputs with our time allocation feature.
Streamlining the decision-making process of customer support agents by categorizing urgent tasks.
Mapping out repeatable processes ensures that all your team members provide the same quality of customer experience every time. This is particularly helpful when you're running multiple venues and need to standardize the procedures.
A feedback loop
According to Officevibe’s Pulse Survey, 28% of employees aren't satisfied with the frequency of feedback they're getting, which prevents them from improving. Companies tend to struggle with consistent performance reviews, which get lost in a sea of other more pressing daily tasks.
This is where our feedback loop workflow map comes in. It will help you standardize the feedback process, allowing all your employees to submit their opinions in the same format. Trust us – your HR managers will thank you for that.
Filling out pre-built forms is much simpler and quicker than writing feedback from scratch so you might see a surprisingly positive rise in your feedback rate.
A solid time-off workflow is a must for any company. It helps to organize time much more effectively, allowing employees to submit vacation requests in advance and, consequently – ensuring that business processes are running smoothly with adjusted schedules.
Without an automated process map with a clear calendar view, it's easy to get lost and waste time keeping track of all off-day requests, particularly around the holiday season.
With workstreams.ai, you can:
Provide your team with easy-to-use templates for vacations, sabbaticals, and parental leave requests.
Include all relevant information in one place (e.g., leave duration).
Track requests statuses.
Plan and schedule work accordingly.
New product launches
Lead generation strategies
This intelligent workflow process mapping lets you break down big and bold goals into achievable milestones, complete with subtasks and assignment delegation. We promote collaboration and transparency with options for sharing boards with clients, stakeholders, and external freelancers.
The marketing agency workflow mapping process is excellent for:
Drafting a campaign outline for manager approval
Brainstorming content ideas
Tracking campaign performance and expenses
There is also a similar sales workflow with robust tools for tracking sales pipelines and effective lead management.
This is particularly useful for leaders managing multiple accounts. If that's you, you will need digital workflows for each of them to help you stay on top of many tasks and deadlines.
This type of stream mapping is beneficial for:
Aligning your strategy with company objectives
Delegating tasks to your team members
Providing clear feedback and evaluation
Managing tasks and tracking their deadlines
Filtering assignments by accounts, clients, type, and priority to boost productivity
Speeding up client onboarding by having all the information about future projects in one place
In short, these types of digitized workflow maps can eliminate piles of paperwork and the time and confusion it takes to go through them.
We know how important it is to keep track of business spending. But separate procurement tools are only necessary for big enterprises with numerous employees. Our customizable, pre-made procurement workflow map is all you need to monitor all employee purchase requests at small to mid-sized companies.
We've built two procurement workflow templates to fit your needs – one for one-time purchases and another for recurring purchases. Here's what you can do with them:
Submit sales requests
Track order placements
Organize total payments
As you can see, workflow mapping is much more than pretty boxes, circles, and arrows. It's a proven business process improvement method that can help you identify bottlenecks and make your company run much more smoothly.
The multiple, easy-to-navigate options you get with workstreams.ai help you break down and simplify any complexity in your workload. Use them however you like – to collaborate across teams, automate repetitive tasks, or pick up on errors and stagnations before they cost you precious time and money.
Sign up to get your first streamlined workflow process map today.
How do I map a workflow process?
It's easiest to create workflow maps with dedicated software like workstreams.ai. Consider your business goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. Next, all you have to do is input this into the program, which will help you delegate and automate tasks, eliminating any errors and bottlenecks in your process.
What is process mapping with an example?
Workflow mapping is a visual representation of the activities needed to complete a task or larger goal. Let's illustrate this with an example of a purchase order processing flow:
Receive purchase order
Check the inventory
Check the customer's credit
Process the order
What are the 4 key steps of the mapping process?
The four main steps in workflow mapping are:
Identifying the business processes you want to map
Determining the best process type for each of them
Outlining the details (individual steps, resources, and people responsible)
Choosing the process mapping type and implementing the workflow
That's it! Just test and improve as you go to ensure your workflow map works well.