How to Construct a Process Flow Map

by Ma Wen Jie; Updated September 26, 2017
Simple decision flow

Process flow maps are an excellent way to document repeatable processes. By creating solid, tested process flows, employees will have a simple visual reference for solving questions relating to business processes.

Terminator

Define the input, or trigger, for the start of the business process. This is the situation or activity that will indicate the start of a business process. Valid triggers will differ but are often a phone call, request for information, or need for a deliverable. Insert a terminator, or oval. This is the start of your process.

Decide if the next step in your process is an action or a decision.

Process and predefined process

Insert a process box if the next step is an action or process. Process boxes are usually rectangular. If this step is a process documented on a different flow chart, use a predefined process box. A predefined process box is a rectangle with an extra line on either end to indicate that there is another predefined process that must be executed before continuing in the flow.

Decision

Insert a decision box if the first step is a decision. A decision box is usually diamond-shaped and is used to indicate an either/or decision, such as "Yes" or "No."

Terminator connected to a decision

Connect the initial terminator with the first step using a line.

Simple process development flow

Continue adding and connecting decision and process boxes until you have built a good visual representation of the process.

Tips

  • There are a number of more advanced flow chart symbols that may be appropriate for your process; refer to a good reference if the basic business process symbols aren't enough to adequately document your process.

    Process flows can be created in a variety of applications, including Visio, Excel and PowerPoint on both PC and Macintosh platforms. Kivio is a popular flow-charting system for Unix and Linux systems.

    Many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, such as Baan and SAP, have built-in process documentation modules.

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About the Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.

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