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A Guide to Selecting Business Process Mapping Tools

by David Mainville on

Successful businesses constantly look for ways to improve customer experience, increase efficiency and reduce cost. Mapping your business processes is the first step to achieving those goals.

Business processes are like the central nervous system of modern business. Processes connect your customers, employees, and systems, enabling you to deliver your products and services.

If you are serious about improving your business, start by documenting all your critical business processes. 

Knowing the current state of your processes positions you to make impactful improvements.

Before we discuss selecting process mapping software, let's review the objectives and benefits of Business Process Management.

Click Here if you want to skip ahead to tool selection.

What is Business Process Management

I spent a significant part of my career as a process consultant. I got to work with hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies on process improvement initiatives.

I quickly learned to tell if a company was process-driven or reactive.

The reactive companies were always firefighting. Staff was constantly jumping from one task to deal with another "emergency ."Teams were overworked, and the tools they relied on to do their jobs needed to be better implemented and easier to use.

Key employees were too busy to participate in the process improvement project. Other stakeholders were disinterested or thought the process improvement initiative was a waste of time.

The process-driven companies presented themselves very differently.

There was a greater sense of calm. Team members clearly understood what they needed to do and how their work fit the bigger picture. Work got completed quickly, and things seldom fell through the cracks. They understood their gaps and, more importantly, wanted to improve.

The difference between these companies came down to business process management!  

Business process management (BPM) is the skills and methods to design, document, and improve business processes.

The key activities in business process management are:

  1. Process Discovery. The activity of working with the business to identify and document current processes using BPM or Process Mapping Tools.  Check out this article on understanding your processes through identification & process discovery for additional detail.
  2. Process Mapping. The activity of documenting processes clearly and consistently. Check out this introduction to process mapping article for some ideas to get you started.
  3. Process Management.  Using the metrics and controls defined as part of your process to ensure the process delivers value.
  4. Process Improvement. You should review every process regularly with an eye on improving efficiency, reducing cost, and reducing waste.
  5. Business Process Automation. Automate a set of activities or business rules in BPM or workflow management software. The key to successful process automation is well-defined processes and precise requirements.  
  6. Business Process Change Management:  When implementing BPM, it's crucial to consider the resistance to change. Therefore, incorporating organizational change management into the BPM program is vital.  Check out this blog post on business process change management for some practical tips. 

As you can see, business process management goes well beyond a process map or flowchart. It would help if you considered implementing process mapping software that supports all the critical business process management activities. 

Additional Resources:

Benefits of Business Process Management

A tremendous number of benefits come from following Business Process Management practices. These are a few of the main ones:

  • Improve communication through concise and standardized process documentation
  • Identify potential problems through processes measurement
  • Improve business efficiency through continual process improvement
  • Improve effectiveness through process governance
  • Identify bottlenecks by understanding handoffs between teams
  • Facilitate knowledge transfer by maintaining an up-to-date process library
  • Accelerate digital transformation by capturing comprehensive process requirements

A process map alone cannot provide these benefits. Look for process management software that addresses the entire business process management lifecycle would be best.

Check out this article on Business Process Mapping and the Digital Enterprise to learn more about BPM benefits.

How to Map a Business Process

Many people equate process mapping with creating a flow chart in tools like Microsoft Visio, Miro, or LucidChart.

A flowchart is indeed an essential part of process mapping. A map does a great job of process visualization but leaves out a lot of important information. But there is a lot more to documenting a process than creating a process map.

Other elements include:

  • A high-level description of the process providing an introduction and context
  • The goals & objectives of the process, which give insight into the desired business outcomes
  • A description of the roles and responsibilities of those involved in executing the process
  • A description of the systems and tools used by the process
  • A list of supporting documentation helpful to those involved in the process
  • A mind map of the process showing enabling you to see all elements fo the process on a single page
  • Procedural information that provides detailed steps for executing the process
  • The suppliers, inputs, outputs, and customers are essential to documenting the value stream and creating SIPOC diagrams
  • A glossary of terms used in the process to provide clarity
  • Process metrics, controls, and policies to support process governance
  • User Stories and technical requirements to help guide developers in process automation

Check out this article on business process mapping to learn more.

What to look for in a Process Mapping Tool

Here are some things to look for in a tool to create process documentation.

  • A cloud-based product is perfect for those who need to collaborate on process mapping. An online process mapping solution also supports today's work-at-home workforce.
  • Robust security provides maximum protection for your company's data. Be sure to verify how the vendor secures the environment.
  • A user-friendly solution is critical as it shortens the time to become productive with the software and maximizes ROI.
  • A Drag and drop interface for creating process diagrams provides the user with maximum flexibility in the design and layout of process flows.  Check out this article on Process Diagrams: Why they are important and examples to get you started. 
  • Automatic documentation creation from the process map (process guides, RACI charts, SIPOC Diagrams...). This feature will save you time and keep documentation in sync.  Check out this article on 
  • A process repository with free permission-based access for all your users. This feature can save significant money, especially in large organizations.
  • A library of process templates can help accelerate your work with industry best practices.
  • Process maturity and compliance capabilities to drive continuous improvement.
  • Free training and support for the product.
Learn more by reading:  Process Documentation, a Complete Guide.

Process Mapping Examples 

The following Change Management Process Document is an example of the type of documentation your process mapping tool should be able to produce automatically.

Business Process Management (BPM) is essential for today's digital enterprise. Process mapping is a foundational element of BPM. When looking for a BPM tool, look beyond flowcharting tools to products supporting the complete BPM cycle.

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