Beginners guide to map processes

In this article I’m going to explain some of the key steps you can take to map your business processes.  I’ve created a tool to run alongside the article which you can find here.  This is aimed as a beginners guide to map processes rather than a step by step walk through.  If you need any further help, please get in touch or book a meeting here.  The world of process mapping can turn into a minefield so please don’t suffer with overwhelm!  My business exists to help other businesses be their best, I take no pride in charging based on a lack of knowledge or experience.


I wrote a separate article explaining why you need process maps but in a nutshell you should write them if:

  1. Work or tasks fall through the gaps
  2. You need to explain your processes to someone else
  3. Things are just in a jumble in your head or that of your team.  Things don’t fall through the gaps, yet, but you’re worried they will

Some words or warning before you start trying to draw things out.  Trying to map ALL processes is very complicated and even the global players like Toyota invest millions in their processes.  That takes me onto the fourth reason:

4. You want to hunt for inefficiencies

As a very big generalisation, SME’s need processes more for the first three than the fourth, so this article is aimed at those.  In any case, find peace by mapping “just enough” to settle the mind or your team.  The more you create, the more you need to maintain.

Where to begin

In the tool, I explain that processes should be thought about as levels.  As with everything I do I try to keep things simple.  Just think for a moment about a daily repetitive task you do without thinking about it.  How about your morning routine.  I’ll write it in a few different ways:

  • Get up->Get ready->Leave
  • Wake up at 7->Shower->Eat->Make packed lunch->Pack bag-> Leave
  • Wake up at 7->Use the toilet->Rinse body->Shampoo hair->Wash body->Rinse all->Dry…….. This one could go on!

You can easily see with a morning routine that there are many different ways to write it, and the same goes with all your processes.  In the tool you can see that I’m a fan of making sure you stick to 5 levels.  The majority of the fun happens at level 2 and 3, but don’t try to jump straight there without listing out what is in level 1 – the Core Processes.

The Core Processes

In the tool I’ve referred to level 1 a lot, this is where the core processes live.  They can dip into level 2 as I’ve shown in the diagram on page 3.  It is fundamental that you’re able to replicate what is on the top half of page 3 before you continue.  If you need any help or pointers with that, please get in touch.  If you can’t get the core processes written it will make everything else that follows more complicated.

Once you’ve mapped the core processes and go onto the next stages, there is the potential that you need to go back and update the core processes.  That’s OK, it’s just important to get the level and language started at the core processes first.

The Play Area

I’ve called levels 2 and 3 the play area, mostly because I love geeking out at those levels!  When you start to draw out a process at this level you start to see businesses gain a real advantage.  In this article I talk about hiring staff and the link between process and staff is a strong one.  I’ve worked with businesses who know they have the work to hire someone, but aren’t sure what.  I’ve also worked with businesses who assume they need to hire an administrator, but once processes are mapped they need a business development manager.

With processes well mapped at this level, you create clarity in your business and almost write the job descriptions for your existing staff as well as any new hire.  I’ve often spoken about how unexciting processes are but the results can easily pay for the time and cost spent mapping them.

The Low Level

OK, it’s the low LEVELS because we’re talking about level 4 and 5 but you get my point.  If you’re down and mapping at this level just make sure there’s a definite need for it.  In an ideal world you’ll have things mapped out at level 1-3 and not really need to get into this much detail.  I don’t tend to support clients with this level of detail as it’s usually beyond what I can help with.  Here you might find that you need to write step by step tasklists for a team member.  It could be instructions to update leads in your CRM system.  It could be how to build a hardware component before packaged for sale.

Processes do exist at this level, but it’s highly likely they start to become text/document based rather than drawn.  I’d 100% recommend sticking to a pictorial view for the first three levels.  That does take me to another part of the tool though, the language.

The Language

Before I even start to explain the boxes, diamonds, lines and circles that make up BPMN2.0, just make sure you keep things consistent.  It’s easy to start calling the same thing by a different name.  Even in this document, I nearly called “The Play Area” the “Fun Zone”.  It’s all kinds of language that you need to keep consistent in your business.

If at all possible, simplify the names of things.  Add names that make sense.

The reason I talk about BPMN2.0 is that it simplified things for me when I started using it.  Before that, I always needed to explain what box meant what.  Once I’ve explained BPMN once, it sinks in very quickly and is easily absorbed.  Drawing using it is a different skill to understanding it though.  If you want to go that route, I’m happy to help and support you.  The other recommendation I’d give is using a tool to do it.  I use Lucidchart because it comes with the BPMN2.0 shapes pre-loaded as a template.  With the likes of Visio, the shapes are there, but you can then also start to go off track and use any other visio shapes.  Keep it simple, use the standard tools and don’t get carried away!

Ultimately, BPMN2.0 is a language, just using shapes and lines rather than words.  Whatever route you go, keep it simple.


Hopefully that’s given you a head start when it comes to mapping your processes.  To summarise the whole article, be sure to consider:

  • WHAT you want to map
  • WHY you want to map it
  • WHO you are mapping it for

Then start at the highest level and go for those core processes.  Good luck!