What Are Process Mapping Tools, Why Do They Matter, and How Can You Augment Them with Process Mining?

by | May 13, 2022 | Process Mining

The pursuit of efficiency in business operations remains a top priority for organizations. Achieving it requires a variety of tactics and processes. It’s also something that happens enterprise-wide, not in silos. For such a massive endeavor, you’ll need to get granular when it comes to processes. Process mapping allows you to do this in a streamlined manner. By leveraging process mapping tools, you can identify bottlenecks and find ways to introduce automation.

What can you do with process mapping tools? And which ones will provide you with the most value? Let’s find out.

What Is Processing Mapping?

Process mapping is a method that companies use to understand the workflow of processes. It’s a visual representation of all the tasks that produce an end result. A process map includes several components and defines:

  • Who plays a part in the process
  • The details of each process and their strengths and weaknesses
  • Events that trigger processes to start, end, or change

The objective of these exercises is to provide transparency around processes and improve them. They play a pivotal role in a company’s ability to deploy automation effectively.

The Importance of Process Mapping in Automation

The goal of automation, specifically robotic process automation (RPA), is to improve efficiency. You may not be aware of just how inefficient processes are until you map them. The endeavor requires you to break down activities piece by piece. In doing so, you can clarify where problems exist.

When you know what the pain points in a process are and can isolate repetitive aspects, you find opportunities for RPA. These digital robots are an easy solution to automating tasks that don’t need human intervention. By using process mapping tools, you can assign process ownership, so there’s no ambiguity. You’ll also decide on how to measure the effectiveness of your RPA deployments.

Process Mapping Tools: What Are They?

Process mapping is an exercise, but to accomplish it, you need tools. They enable you to go from conceptualizing a process to actually understanding it. The use of process maps will vary for each organization, depending on the types of processes you have, your industry, and your goals.

To illustrate and better define tools, here are some examples.


These step-by-step diagrams with descriptions reside in a visual chart. Flowcharts demonstrate the order of the tasks and could include if/then circumstances that “split” the process depending on the results of a step.

A flowchart would be an excellent tool for tasks such as creating a new account for customers, processing documents, approving invoices, and completing any other procedure with interlocking steps.

Data Flow Diagrams

These diagrams are similar to flowcharts but focus on the flow of data through a system. That data can come from any source. Sometimes it has a long journey; other times, it only has one purpose.

You could use data flow diagrams to document data intake from multiple sources and outline what has to happen to conform or aggregate it to enable a process or action.

Value Stream Maps

This type of mapping defines the steps to deliver a product or service to an end user. Many organizations leverage it for identifying waste and planning. This tool can be useful for customer service workflows, like how your system routes tickets across omnichannel options to the right agent. Another value stream map use case is the customer onboarding experience.

Cross-Functional/Swimlane Maps

This approach separates sub-process responsibilities, and its typical application is when processes have multiple stakeholders that must collaborate and fulfill obligations. Swimlane maps promote transparency and accountability while helping to discover redundancies and integration possibilities.

Some example uses of swimlanes are customer engagement initiatives and recruitment activities, both of which involve many departments and considerations.

Concept Maps

These maps are a little more abstract. They illustrate the relationship between concepts and ideas with interlinked visual depictions of those ideas. They are the most complex process maps, and you can use them to organize and structure the knowledge of processes. They are ideal for creating a simplified understanding of multifaceted topics or projects.

Strategies for Successful Process Mapping

To realize the benefits of process mapping—including consistency, efficiency, fewer errors, and decreased waste—you’ll want to follow these best practices.

  • Apply the right tools to the right process. Failure to do this makes it harder to implement changes.
  • Define the goal of the process mapping and what you hope to achieve.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Ensure all stakeholders know their roles.
  • Validate your maps with multiple parties.
  • Ask questions to avoid making assumptions when possible.
  • Learn to live with the fact that there will always be exceptions.
  • Engage experts from the start.

One of the most difficult aspects of these exercises is the reliance on assumptions. You’ll have to make them in some areas based on the information available from those who use the process. While process mapping offers value, it also presents challenges, primarily due to the bias and subjectivity of the people.

The answer to resolving these challenges lies in leveraging process mining.

Process Mining Fills the Gaps Left by Process Mapping

Process mining takes a more data-based approach, creating visualizations of the process from transaction data. Process mining fills in the gaps process mapping can leave behind and offers the “truth” of the digital footprint of the entire process.

Process mining extracts information about the process from your log files and reveals what’s really occurring across the enterprise. With this level of accuracy, you’ll discover the true order of steps, the length of time between them, who performs them, and the business context around the process.

Now you have a more analytical perspective on processes. You can track them precisely, which allows you to identify roadblocks and come up with ways to remove these barriers. The data from process mining and the more subjective information for process mapping deliver a holistic view.

So how do you start with process mining to realize these insights?

How Process Mining Works

When employees and software bots work in software systems, those platforms record those activities. That record becomes an event log, which you then use to develop an end-to-end visualization.

Once you have this visualization, you can analyze all the events. You can then focus on the disconnects between the ideal process and the actual process. From there, you can discover automation opportunities with RPA. When it comes to RPA implementation, process mining is a key element to execute first.

Process mining is instrumental in RPA. In fact, 78 percent of people who automate say that process mining is key to enabling their RPA efforts. Process mining benefits RPA by analyzing processes with accurate data, objectively auditing processes, mapping objectives to automation, and continuously monitoring to ensure RPA ROI.

Once you deploy RPA into these processes, you can monitor and measure performance, making adjustments as necessary.

Process Mapping, Process Mining, and RPA: What’s Next?

Leveraging process mapping tools to carry out mining and implement RPA drives your organization toward efficiency and the advantages associated with it. With these approaches, you can evolve your processes from problematic to harmonious.

To continue your journey to automation, watch our on-demand webinar, “Leveraging Process Mining for Process Understanding, Automation, and Continuous Improvement.”

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