Efficient business operation is the outcome of business processes communicating seamlessly with one another. To establish seamless communication between processes, a thorough understanding of the processes and their nuanced details is a must. How do you achieve that? Mapping business processes is the most effective way to decode the process along with all its tasks and dependencies. A process mapping software comes in handy for mapping out the business process completely. Business process mapping tools represent the process along with its tasks and dependencies in a clearly understandable visual format. Process map tools stand out as a helpful tool for visualizing processes, communicating their nuances, and eliminating data silos. Read on to understand the need for process mapping software, effective ways to create a process map, and top 10 business process mapping software that improve business productivity.
What is process mapping software?
A process mapping tool is a software that creates a detailed visual representation of a process that demonstrates a series of events, chains of commands, and nuanced steps in various workflows. Process mapping software combines diagramming, data visualization, and collaboration that drives innovation and improves understanding of the process. Process maps help team members understand, improve, and streamline operational processes and procedures that are critical for business operations. There are several types of software for process mapping, including, whiteboards, visualization apps, mind-mapping software, and visual design apps. Choosing the right tool for mapping processes depends on the needs of an individual organization and the intended outcomes of the process.
Process map tools make it easier to understand how each step of the process works and identify areas of inefficiency and improvement opportunities. The process map represents the flow of a process from beginning to end, including inputs, outputs, and decision points. Mapping processes tools like flowcharts, swimlane diagrams, value stream maps, etc, can be used for accurate mapping of the process.
Types of Process Mapping Techniques
There are many types of workflow mapping tools. Gantt charts, UML diagrams, business process modeling notation (BPMN), data flow diagrams, role activity diagrams, and Petri nets. Each of these techniques come with their own strength, you need to choose the one that aligns with the nature of business processes. Here is a list of some of the popularly used process mapping techniques.
Workflow techniques –
Workflows are essentially a sequence of tasks between people in an organization or between computer applications. These techniques involve more than just process modeling, they are useful in process analysis and improvement. The various stages in the workflow techniques include information gathering, business process modeling, workflow modeling, implementation, execution, and verification.
Business process modeling notation (BPMN) –
This technique is preferred by process experts looking to drill deeper into the process for identifying and fixing errors and exceptions. The BPMN diagram is most effective when used by business analysts or process experts, when non-technical personnel use this method, it could be counterproductive.
Data flow diagrams –
Data flow diagrams are also referred to as Yourdon’s technique. These diagrams represent the information flow from one place to another. They represent how the process links to the external environment and how it links through data stores.
Unified model language (UML) –
This technique is most useful for software building. There are 2 categories within UML, namely, behavioral and structural diagrams. UML is considered as a specialized mapping tool for specific industries. This isn’t the right tool for creating process workflows.
SIPOC diagrams –
These are high-level process maps that visually represent a process at the surface level. These diagrams do not give a detailed representation of the process, they simply break down the process into the following sections – suppliers, input, process, output, and customers.
Flow charting tools –
One of the most widely used process mapping tools, flow charting tools enable employees to build and collaborate on process maps of all types. Different shapes and symbols are used for representing different tools, decisions, processes, and information flows.
Value stream mapping tools –
Value stream mapping tools are a variation of flowcharts that focus on eliminating waste in industries like manufacturing, supply chain management, and software engineering. This mapping technique is based on the Lean Six Sigma approach to management. This tool breaks processes into symbols in 4 categories – material, process, information, and general. VSM tools are typically used to analyze the flow of components involved in creating a product or service.
Swimlane diagram tools –
A swimlane diagram is also a type of flowcharts that demonstrates the responsibilities of different participants in a process. These diagrams help employees visualize individual responsibilities by placing steps of the process within lanes assigned to a specific employee or department. Using swimlane diagrams, allow team members to create clear and accessible swimlane diagrams that aid in process standardization within the organization.
Mind mapping and whiteboard tools –
In various structured flowcharts and diagramming approaches, process maps can be created with more flexible tools like whiteboards and mind mapping. These tools provide an open environment for collaboration and discussion, as well as outlining processes and workflows.
Need for Process Mapping Software
Process mapping is a crucial element in executing efficient and smooth workflows. Whether they are used in the brainstorming phase or all through the development, process maps reduce bottlenecks and optimize operations by visually conveying a series of steps that make up a workflow or procedure. You can use maps to depict a communication chain or org chart. What is the importance of using process map software? A business process mapping software enables –
- Visual representation of steps involved in the process that helps identify improvement areas
- Identification inefficiencies, redundancies, and bottlenecks that may slow down the process or cause errors
- Determination of areas where automation can be implemented leading to significant savings in cost and improved efficiency
- Standardization of processes for improving quality and reducing variability in the process
- Seamless collaboration between team members and stakeholders
- Better understanding of the process and find ways to improve
Business mapping software is a useful tool for team members to understand the process well and comprehend their role in the process.
Must have features of Business Process Mapping Tools
So, what should you look for in a process mapping tool? Since process mapping tools come with different feature sets, it is important to know what features to look for in a process mapping software. Although there is no single way to create a process map, there are a few non-negotiable features that the software must provide. Make sure that the process mapping tool provides all these must-have features.
Ease of use – The process mapping software must have an user-friendly, intuitive interface that enables users to create process maps quickly and easily. The navigation through the user interface must be simple, so that users can start using the software without much training. Lucid installation and usage instructions are a must for the process mapping software. A highly visual user interface is appealing and easy to use.
Visual functionality – The mapping tool must be able to handle a wide variety of process mapping tasks like creating flow diagrams, swimlane diagrams, value stream maps, and other types of process maps. Features like drag-and-drop functionality, auto-alignment, and auto-connection of shapes, must be available for users to save time and create accurate diagrams. Tracking milestones, task dependencies, and relationships must be easy and accurate.
End-to-end customization – Process mapping tools must allow users to customize their diagrams as per the specifics of their processes. Features like adding logos, changing colors and font, adjusting the size and position of shapes, creating their own templates, must be available in the process mapping software. The software must also provide tons of collaboration capabilities. Customization features help users create maps that adhere to specific standards of the organization.
Multiple integrations – Process mapping software must be able to integrate with other software applications that are commonly used for business operations. Multiple integration capabilities with popularly used software like Microsoft Office, SharePoint, etc, make it easy to import data from multiple sources and export diagrams to other software applications. This feature enables easy sharing of diagrams with colleagues. Seamless integration with existing software simplifies business operations and easy sharing of data between applications.
Instant reporting and analytics – The mapping tools must provide real-time analytics and reporting features that enable users to make informed decisions. The status of each task is readily available for all users. These insights allow key decision makers to stay updated on the direction the process is heading.
Transparent pricing – Most of the mapping software allows free versions, while others charge a fee based on the number of users or the features offered now. The pricing policy must be transparent, without any hidden charges. Also any discounts or feature roll out must be proactively mentioned to the users. The process mapping software must provide the right balance of features and affordability for the organization’s needs. While evaluating the pricing, the long-term costs of the tool, like maintenance and updates must also be considered.
Automation features – Process mapping is the basis for workflow automation. The process mapping tool must provide automation features. The process map must enable easy automation of the process.
Scalability and performance – Processes change as businesses evolve, the process mapping tool must also adapt to these changes. Consider process mapping tools that are capable of scaling and changing as processes change, and make it easy for business users to quickly scale changes or updates.
Take time to evaluate the features offered by the process mapping software and compare it against the must-have features listed above. Look for personalized features, streamlines operations, improves collaboration, and helps in achieving goals more efficiently. It is worth noting that these tools are immensely helpful in improving process efficiencies. These mapping tools help teams gain a deeper understanding of goals, metrics, and workflows, and also help in continuously monitoring the process as needed.
Benefits of Using a Process Mapping Software
In the earlier sections we talked about the importance of using process mapping software. In this section we will cover the benefits of using process mapping software. Here is what a process mapping software can help you achieve.
Document or improve any plan or process
Teams waste a lot of time writing out the important details of the process by way of flow charts or process maps. Moreover, not all team members have a good grasp of the process and its nuances, which makes it difficult for them to create a comprehensive and accurate process map. A process mapping software helps create a clear, easy to read visualization of the process with the help of customizable templates, shape libraries, and formatting tools. The process mapping tool helps create a shared understanding of the process among team members and define the current process to see what changes/improvements need to be made.
Collaborate in real time across scattered locations
As globalization enters the business world, businesses are required to work with teams scattered across geographic locations. This being the pattern of work in businesses, a single document is edited by team members scattered at various locations. A process mapping tool helps teams collaborate in their work so that all the edits are updated instantly. The latest version of the document is maintained by the software so that updates are not missed out and all team members work on the latest version of the document.
Use process maps on other documents
The diagrams or maps of the process created by the process mapping software can be imported into other apps like Microsoft Office, Excel, and Powerpoint. Using these diagrams in your presentations enhances the quality of the presentation and provides a better understanding of the process.
The primary benefit of using process mapping software is making the flow of information and activity visible. This visibility makes it easier for teams to identify problems with their processes. Along with the steps of the process that are visually represented by the process map, the bottlenecks or error-generating steps are also made visible to the team. Other potential risks like data leaks or silos can also be easily identified by the process map.
Helps in strategic planning
Process maps increase the visibility into processes, which helps teams make informed decisions to guide their business strategy. Process mapping provides deep insights into the way work is organized and helps teams evaluate efficiency accurately. These insights help teams make better decisions confidently.
Process mapping software provides a complete step-by-step visual of a process or workflow. This visualization provides an overall view of the work, start and end points, roles of resources, and areas of improvement. Process teams have complete visibility into the redundancies, inefficiencies, or bottlenecks that inhibit progress or impact delivery deadlines. Process mapping makes it easier to spot ways to improve productivity and efficiency.
Improves communication and collaboration
Not only do process maps help spot work bottlenecks, but also helps spot key communication or work handoffs that fail or are lacking. Armed with a complete picture of their workflow, teams can now track communication flows and identify where the flow stops and figure out ways to clear bottlenecks.
End-to-end workflow automation
Build fully-customizable, no code process workflows in a jiffy.
Top 10 Process Mapping Software for 2024
To help you identify the best process mapping tools, we have compiled a list of top 10 process mapping software, apps, and tools for 2024.
1- Cflow –
This is a no code BPM workflow automation software that helps you build process workflows within minutes. You can start creating workflows with the flowchart-based visual workflow builder for automating time-consuming tasks. The web-based interface facilitates easy and accurate modeling and visualization of workflows. Even a non-technical user can easily create workflows by simply dragging and dropping workflow elements and steps into the right positions as per business rules.
Cflow understands the importance of visualization in workflow automation, which is why the workflow builder has been created to map process workflows. You can drag and drop process stages, create rules automatically, and set any process in motion easily with Cflow. The conviction in the no code ecosystem is an added advantage for business in creating processes relevant to their use case. With Cflow the dependency in the IT for workflow management is drastically cut down. There is an exhaustive library of process templates in Cflow that can provide a jump start to process automation. The workflow builder in Cflow is flowchart-based, which helps users visualize the actual working of the process and dramatically reduces the complexity in creating workflows and setting rules.
2- Creately –
This is a visual workspace software that can be effectively used as a process mapping tool for businesses. This process mapping software includes a variety of no code tools for visual process optimization. Some of the tools include, a visual canvas for process mapping, streamlined process templates, real-time collaboration capabilities, and extensive BPMN shape libraries.
Creately allows teams to design processes, document changes, and use more than 50 different process optimization frameworks for helping businesses with process mapping and execution. This is a robust solution for operations management and process mapping.
3- Lucidchart –
This is an intuitive diagramming solution that can be used for visualization of systems, processes, and the organizational structure. The unified visual language and cloud-based collaboration features in Lucidchart enable team members to work together in real-time to create optimized process maps for organizations. This app includes a sizable content and training library, and integrates with applications like Microsoft 365, Slack, and Zoom. Lucidchart is a highly scalable solution with a focus on security and account controls, making it the ideal choice for larger enterprise businesses.
4- EdrawMax –
This diagramming and flowchart tool from Wondershare can be used to create diagrams that demonstrate details of organizational processes and other types of maps of engineering systems, floor plan designs, and even instrumentation diagrams. This is an AI-based tool that helps professionals create diagrams with ease by extracting text, generating content, and analyzing charts and texts. This process mapping employs 280 types of scalable visualization solutions, and over 1600 business diagram templates and over 6000 symbols that process teams can use to create visual workflows.
EdrawMax also includes social sharing and export features that facilitate sharing and collaboration across commonly used business applications.
5- MindMeister –
This is a collaborative cloud-based mind mapping tool that can be used by teams to visualize ideas and business processes and put them into action. This is an intuitive, user-friendly solution that aids in the creation of visually attractive and accessible process maps.
Appealing themes and customization options in MindMeister help create process maps that fit the needs of the organization. This process mapping tool seamlessly integrates with popular software for easy import and export of data. The MindMeister Academy is a course library designed to help users get familiar with their software.
6 – Microsoft Visio –
This is a professional diagramming application that is part of the Microsoft commercial suite. This tool is built to enable teams to create easy-to-interpret visuals without the need for extensive design knowledge. The ready-made templates in Visio along with the customizable shapes and real-time collaboration, provide a highly customizable process mapping solution that boosts productivity across entire organizations.
7- GitMind –
This is a collaborative mind-mapping software that comes with aesthetically pleasing process mapping tools. You can create up to 10 mind maps for free with GitMind. This is an AI-based tool that allows users to transform images into editable maps, and generate notes, and project plans. The easy to use drag and drop functionality along with the aesthetically pleasing built-in teams and hundreds of diagram templates, make GitMind a powerful process mapping tool. Other features include, real-time collaboration features and cloud-based synchronization that enables employees to access and collaborate on creating process maps from anywhere.
8- Canva –
This is a drag and drop design software that can be used for process mapping as well as creating visually appealing presentations and social media graphics. The whiteboards in Canva allow users to create custom, visually appealing flowcharts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams quickly and easily. The whiteboard elements like shapes and graphics in Canva can be used to create custom diagrams. Even non-designers can use Canva to build diagrams. The drag-and drop tools and dynamic flowchart elements can be snapped and stuck to the flowchart elements. The enormous library of over 400 templates for flowcharts alone, makes Canva an exhaustive source for mapping processes.
9- Cacoo –
This collaboration-centric mind mapping tool from Nulab can be used by teams for brainstorming and designing operational process maps. Cacoo is a user-friendly platform that can be used by individuals and teams of all sizes to map out, optimize, and implement processes easily. Users can use this process mapping software to import spreadsheets and other assets to create dynamic process maps. There are tools available for embedding and sharing diagrams outside the app once they are finished. The user-friendly dashboard, shared folders, and in app video makes Cacoo one of the most sought after collaboration solutions.
10- Bitrix24 –
This is a collaborative tool that allows project managers to add task deadlines, track KPIs, and scale efficiencies with task templates. This is also a free sales process mapping software that makes it super easy for users and teams to analyze sales. Bitrix24 is also a free CRM app that helps teams and managers carry out their sales processes efficiently. The dedicated project workspaces in this software allow project members to access all attachments, files, and sales details easily.
The best features of this software include – built-in online time clock, conversion of email conversations into chats, and employee polling feature for gathering team feedback.
The above list includes AI-based mapping software and mind mapping tools that foster seamless collaboration within process teams.
The human mind is influenced by visual elements rather than plain text. The use of process mapping software brings visualization into process analysis, which gives the team a better understanding of the process nuances and insights into improvement areas. Business process mapping tools are a must for progressive organizations looking to stay in the continuous improvement mode. Not only do these tools map out the as-is process, but they also show improvements which could be incorporated in the “to-be” process. Cflow is one such process automation tool that provides robust no code process mapping features. The visual form builder in Cflow simplifies process mapping greatly, enabling teams to map out the most complex processes easily and quickly. Ready to take Cflow for a test drive? Sign up for the free trial today.
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