Process mapping methodology

December 6, 2021

This is a supporting article, if you have not yet read Digital strategy - Mapping your value creating process we suggest you start there.

In this article, we outline one method of process analysis more in detail (for those interested). The scope and method for process mapping varies greatly, but typically involves the following steps:

  1. Establish a process context (project, product, service, department or an internal delivery) – start small
  2. Clarify roles/functions involved in the context process (1)
  3. Clarify the tasks involved for the roles (2) within the context (1)
  4. Clarify the necessary input to perform each task (3)
  5. Clarify the deliverables (output) from each task (3)
  6. Clarify the data flow/software systems involved with the deliverables (this includes data format) (4)
  7. Clarify how the handover is notified to the person responsible for the successive task(s) (transparency)
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 for as many iterations as is needed, until the process is mapped to the desired level of detail

Who should be involved  in the mapping? Typically, all roles defined under item 2 should take part in the mapping. These are the doers, performing the tasks (3) on an everyday basis. Tapping in and mapping their reality is a key starting point. Software owners or super users will contribute under items (4 and 5). Managers or process owners involved in the context (1) should take part. We are mapping the process with the intention of improving it – meaning those who are empowered to do so need to be involved.

Visualizing the process

As the complexity grows, it is absolutely necessary to visualize the progress (and end result). We have found it useful to use a split lane diagram with the roles (people tasks) in the upper section and a data section (with lanes representing software systems) in the lower section. Note that many handovers will take form as data supplied to the next responsible person with a defined data format, a clear source system in which to deliver it and a clear means of notification that the task is pending for the next role.

Although this two dimensional representation (lane-diagram) of the process is useful to map a single (sub)process, it quickly becomes overcrowded when trying to link multiple parallel processes. Most complex deliveries or projects involve several processes functioning in unison. This is where we will introduce 3D mapping of several processes in unison.

Note that presenting the final result of a process analysis in a diagram like this is very difficult without the audience having participated in the discussion that formed it. The presentation can quickly generate information overload with corresponding blank stares and non-committal nods. Presenting a complex analysis to management like this (that may or may not have a loose understanding of the process to begin with) is near impossible. Therefore it is important that decision makers are on board as the train leaves the station.

Where are my improvement potentials?

When establishing a context (1) for analysis, this will seldom be done at random. Companies generally have a feeling (documented or not) of their problem areas, quality issues or bottlenecks. It will typically be one of these processes selected for scrutiny.

However, mapping any process like this typically uncovers more detailed understanding of the issues involved. The discussion may reveal differing expectations between team members: 

What should I supply? How do I deliver it? When should I deliver it? How are my colleagues notified of handovers? How is software used to support the flow of tasks and data?

The next step involves a root cause and improvement analysis of the process by the doers. What does my ideal process look like? Mapping the process from start to finish also builds a common understanding of the situation and issues of others in the process. In other words, we better understand the needs of our colleagues in this process, not just what I need to perform my tasks...

The discussion quickly uncovers the need for process changes, interface clarifications, and changes to QMS procedures and software (integration, notification, data fields).


The improvement areas resulting from process analysis will range across all the flavors of strategy (organization changes, digital development, competence development and process updates). These must be sorted out and prioritized in a coordinated way to make real progress. The resulting action plan can be part of the strategy process, but implementing change requires an empowered coalition to take action both in the process and digital domains. Both development and implementation require management backing for the coalition and clear messaging about motivation in the company: Change management strategy – setting up for success

The process owners – challenging the silos

Process oriented thinking is more in line with process mapping than the traditional silo organization. With process ownership focusing on end-to-end delivery across multiple functions and disciplines, it may challenge the often sub-optimized silo oriented thinking. However, no process is an island, and efficient interaction management is a key skill. As the company progresses on the improvement path the context (1) is expanded, the number of interactions and complexity increase. This is where digital support for processes becomes invaluable. Well-designed software support systems manage complexity with ease and support all users with the data needed when it is needed: Understanding the data needs. A strong process leader team can well form the coalition (mentioned in the previous section) needed to enact change needed.

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