Process flow mapping, also called flow-charting or process diagramming, is a tool many organizations use to show the relationship of activities within the processes of business operations. A process flow map uses shapes containing activities connected with arrows or lines. The shapes contain different steps in a process and provide a graphic illustration of how the process works.
The first main objective of process flow mapping is for organizations to gain an understanding of all of the steps involved in a particular process. A process flow map is traditionally drawn on a large sheet of paper; these days, software programs are available. The visual illustration helps companies understand what steps are involved in each process. It also helps them visualize how each step works together with other step within the same process. A process flow map is shared with employees to teach them about the steps and how each step fits in to the process.
Companies use process flow mapping to determine how good the performance is with a certain process. By studying a visual image of the process and its steps, an organization can see if the process is being conducted efficiently and logically.
After a process flow map is created, an organization can often easily detect problems, such as areas of miscommunication. The map also may help point out redundancies in steps, dead ends and areas that are inefficient or unnecessary.
The primary objective of process flow mapping is to find ways to improve the steps in the diagrammed process. After a process flow map is created, all of the areas containing inefficient steps can be discovered. Companies take this information to develop improvements. Sometimes steps are completely eliminated; other times, steps are simply changed. The changes made to a particular step might be either small or very significant. After changes are made, the process continues, but follows the new steps, illustrated in a new process flow map.