Workflow process mapping: how to create a process map with Slickplan

One of the many powerful tasks it can handle is process maps. And we’re going to go over just how to create a process map. The Slickplan Diagram Maker is one of those tools that just keeps on giving. To be honest, we’re pretty darn proud of it, too!

We’ll show you the workflow process mapping basics and how to get the most out of them. They’re so incredibly easy to use, but the results…well…chef’s kiss.💋

Here’s how to create a process map

To get started, we’ll go over the simple process mapping steps and along the way, we’ll show you how to do process mapping within Diagram Maker. You can use this process mapping guide no matter how complex the problem or process is.

1. Identify a task, problem, or process to map

First things first, you need a subject to map out. This could be something like how to operate a piece of equipment, how to submit an assignment or even the sales process your company uses from warehouse to shipping.

There’s almost no end to the number of possibilities for subjects in step one, and there are plenty of mapping techniques available to work any of them out.

In Slickplan

After you’re selected a task, problem, or process, it’ll be added as the first point on your map. It’s the dealer’s choice here whether to go ahead and add this to the diagram now or table this starting point on a written list elsewhere.

Be direct in your wording, and remember that clarity, simplicity and specificity are the best foundation for this first level of information.

Process map step 1

2. Choose a mapping methodology

Types of process maps include swimlane, value stream map, SIPOC, business process model and notation (BPMN), high-level process map and many more.

Complex processes or processes with more than a few simple steps and info will require more than your basic process map. Depending on what you aim to get out of this, how many steps there are or how much info there is to add, one of those other types may be what you’re after.

In our example, we’ll be taking you through the steps of a basic process map.

In Slickplan

After you’ve picked a methodology, you can begin familiarizing yourself with what kind of shape this diagram should take and what symbols you may use.

You can find them via the various buttons and menus located in the toolbar of the diagram project window.

Process map step 2

3. Make a list of must-do steps

Now you need to pull information from any existing documentation as well as what you know based on your experience in the company.

After that, have a brainstorming session with your team to gather their input (if your situation calls for it) in listing all the steps and must-do tasks. This is mainly for clarifying info, checking who does what and finding any overlap. New employees need not be involved in producing these maps since they’re often used for training and onboarding those very people.

Sequential order is not super important yet, so don’t feel obligated to shoot for the "big picture" so soon. Get everything on the table, then rework the information along the way.

You may still need to learn all the steps of a process or you may need to find out the exact order and that’s ok!

Gathering the necessary information is your goal here. The rest will come as we go along.

Despite possibly including your team in a brainstorming, creating the actual process map is best done by one person. Results can be passed along and changes can be made by the appropriate people but there should be one point person.

Getting a room full of higher-ups, team leads and stakeholders together can result in a whole lot of nothing getting done as they may not all know the exact details of the process.

It’ll become too much of a discussion before any work gets done. The classic too many cooks in the kitchen scenario.

Building and submitting the map to those stakeholders will produce much better results because there’s an actual process map to discuss rather than just starting from zero and turning into a circus.

In Slickplan

To make a list, you can either hand write it, add a note to your project or add a temporary text block to the diagram window. The main thing to remember is to leave room for things to go in between as needed.

It’s a near guarantee you will only gather some of the data needed, and likely not in perfect order the first time around, so allow space for changes to be made as efficiently as possible. This is also why we recommend mapping everything out without a rank order list made out first.

Process map step 3

4. Sequence the above steps

Now that you have a good idea of everything you need to do to complete the task, solve the problem or finish a process, it’s time to give it all some order.

Something to keep in mind: one of the beautiful by-products of process mapping is identifying inefficiencies, redundancies and bottlenecks in your process.

In fact, you may be creating a process map for that exact reason. So if you discover two or more people doing the same thing, or spot a problem, write it down and include it! (100% not the time for the attitude of "when in doubt, leave it out.")

Then, leadership or whomever you’re passing the results onto can work out who should be doing what, who can stop or who needs to be switched to something else. If you leave anything out, this was a waste of time.

If the redundancy or inefficiency was already mapped out previously i.e., you’re on another iteration of this map after finding the problems, and you’re in charge of writing the process the way it should be done, write it up without the duplicates or issues. This is where you make the correction.

When needed, go back to step 3 and make sure nothing is being left out of the process, think of it as a checklist at this point.. Failing to rerun these steps could lead to items being left out or vital information not being reported.

Pro-tip: we recommend reporting duplicate steps to the higher-ups in the decision-making process instead of having a potentially tense conversation with people who’ve possibly been wasting their time doing what someone else is doing. Let the bosses sort it out and make a decision.

In Slickplan

Now time to create order to the list from step 3. One of the larger purposes of this tool is to get things sequenced and make them accessible to those who need them. This can be done by numbering and/or annotating the list you made in the previous step.

Process map step 4

5. Flowchart rules

Now it’s time to take all of the steps and map them out. Beginning with an oval or terminator symbol at your project’s top or left side is the best way to begin. This is always the start and end points of any flowchart, and this is also where you’ll write the task, problem or process from step 1.

We also have an excellent resource for those wishing to use a process mapping template.

Next, add your steps in the order you created in step 4. The shapes/symbols you use depend on the steps in your process, so paying close attention to what you use here is vital.

As with any flowchart, there are rules to be followed.

Whether it’s a basic flowchart or a massive and complex detailed arrangement, process mapping symbols and practices are universal, making it easy to read and utilize by team members.

Inputs, outputs, decision points, endpoints, subprocesses and so on all use the classic flowchart symbols, keeping things consistent and leaving out the guesswork for anyone who understands the symbols, no matter which process mapping software you choose.

Following process map symbols is also a time saver because it doesn’t require getting creative and making up a whole new language or system. This has already been done and is a tried and true method.

A few other important notes, sticking to top-down/left to right is a must. Flowcharts don’t go in any other direction.

Avoid line/connector crossing or intersecting each other, as this is highly confusing and can result in steps being performed out of order, maybe even doubled up, which ultimately defeats the purpose of this tool.

Be concise in naming tasks and use a level of detail that leaves little to no room for interpretation. Remember if it gets too detailed, you’re not bound by a basic map, there are alternatives where additional process documentation can be included.

In Slickplan

Now that you have the order of your steps, it’s time to put it into a map with symbols. Take extra care to use the correct symbols and make the text clear and easy to read.

You’ll need to carefully consider what file type you’ll be exporting and how big your text should be. Is zooming in and out an option for the end user or are they printing a PDF Take note of the rules outlined above and fire up the engines.

Slickplan’s Diagram Maker offers undo and redo buttons, copy and paste and the ability to move symbols and connectors in bulk.

Keep in mind, nobody cares about the mess ups while you build the map; it just matters that the end product is correct, so feel free to experiment.

Process map step 5

6. Review/Finalize/Share

By now, you’ve got a whole process flowchart up and running. Congratulations, and well done, with everything written out, you have a good idea of how the system works, flaws and all (unless this is the corrected version as we mentioned earlier).

Your work isn’t entirely done just yet though..

Going back to steps 3 and 4 and tidying up with step 5 one more time is highly recommended.

The project management team may want to review it to get a feel for how things look and may have suggestions or additions. Since it’s a management tool that will be used for training, a means to optimize tasks and more, letting them in on the progress should be part of the project. Just not too soon.

Ideally, running it by management should be done after you’ve listed all the tasks out as per step 3.

After you submit the map to management, the process improvement work begins, and changes can be made; changes like addressing those duplicate steps we brought up earlier.

If you’re confident the work is done and ready to be passed along, you can export in whatever style fits your needs and share your work with the appropriate people. If another version is necessary to fix the issues, you can skip right to step 4. Then export. Share. Bam.

Take motivation in knowing that getting this right can make processes easier and your team more efficient. That leads to time and cost savings that’ll make any higher-up happy.

A process map is a powerful tool meant to be used for a long time and even built upon in the future. If you just put it together and don’t check the work or run it a few times, it may not live up to all it can do.

In Slickplan

As you go through the steps and repeat items as needed, do yourself a favor and continue to tidy up as you go along. It helps things look more uniform and ensures you’re not left running around like a headless chicken trying to fix it and make it look presentable just before submitting it.

Resizing symbols and text, changing connectors and moving things around should all be done as you work so you don’t have too many last-minute adjustments.

From there, you’re left with exporting (outlined below) and sending it off to the appropriate people in the organization.

Don’t be deterred if changes are requested. In fact, be ready for it and be ok with it. This is part of the process and it isn’t personal.

The follow-up versions may be corrections to the process – improvements and fixes – and you’re part of the solution! So pat yourself on the back because you’re just provided an insanely powerful tool to your company that can last for years or be the base for future versions.

And it all started with you.

🎬 Learn what Slickplan can do!

We filmed a short video to show you exactly how to use Slickplan

Who should use this workflow process mapping procedure?

In this case, our workflow process map is a basic or simple process map design and should be used by those who need a minor process to be defined.

It’s a process model that is direct and to the point. No extra documentation or copious amounts of steps in the process. Just a clean and straightforward map to guide a basic process.

Suppose you don’t feel like a visual representation of the basic variety (and shown in the process mapping example shown in the photos in this article) is enough. In that case, a detailed process map is your next option.

Tips on how to make a process map work harder for you

Creating process maps is easy once you know the symbols and how to put them to good use. Making them work harder for you can be done by ensuring you’re sticking to some of the things we discussed earlier.

Building the map independently before submitting it to whoever needs it is a huge timesaver and a way to avoid added stress. Doing it alone and then getting feedback and corrections rather than trying to do that all at once, will speed up the whole process.

Process flow mapping is most effective when you stick to the correct symbols and rules. There’s a reason a standard list of symbols exists; they keep everyone on the same page by using the same visual language. Imagine if we used characters from random alphabets to write this article…it’d be a nightmare to understand. Let the universally accepted map symbols do the work; there’s no need to create extra work for yourself by getting creative and inventing a new way of putting this together.

Using the right tools, like Slickplan, also makes it easier to build a straightforward process map. Our Diagram Maker is equipped to quickly and efficiently handle the task and save you time and frustration.

How to make visual process mapping images

Creating a visual process map is the easy part of this tool. Apps like Microsoft Visio, Lucidchart, and of course, Slickplan all come with export tools to take your visuals and send them where they’re needed.

Here in Slickplan, it’s as simple as clicking Export in the top right corner of your browser window, selecting the Image tab and choosing from PNG or EPS (vector). Next, click Export and a file is immediately downloaded to your machine for use wherever it’s needed.

How to create process map PDFs

How to create process maps and turn them into images is one option, another is PDFs and you’ll be pleased to know that it’s just as easy. Once the procedure mapping in the steps above is complete, click Export, select PDF, choose landscape mode if you wish, select a size (8×10 is standard and preselected), click Export, and your file is downloaded right away.

Think visually. Improve UX with Slickplan

Build intuitive user flows, stronger customer journeys and improve information architecture.

14-day free trial
No credit card required

Start creating a process map now!

Try Slickplan today with a free 14-day trial and learn how to build a process map — one that’s sure to get your whole team on the same page and working towards the same goal. You’ll get to test out all of our best features and tools along with our process mapper — and there’s no credit card required! Discover why Slickplan is the #1-rated online diagram maker in the UX industry.

Ian Lawson

Want more free content like this?

Tips & tricks, how-to’s and deep dives delivered to your inbox 🚀

Think visually. Improve UX with Slickplan

14-day free trial
No credit card required

You might also like

How to make a UML class diagram (and others) with examples

How to make a UML class diagram (and others) with examples

Understanding systems is what UML diagrams are all about. Whether it’s a UML class diagram, a sequence diagram or any of the other 10+ out there, there’s a method to…

Communicate your vision with diagrams

Sign up