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How do I Make a Business Process Diagram?

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  • Written By: Jess Rhodes
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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A business process diagram visually depicts business processes in a step-by-step manner with the goal of improving them, and it can be created by any organization for any process. Process diagrams vary in complexity and format, so format, scope and the level of detail should be established before creation begins. Once parameters have been set, sequential process steps can be graphically documented and subsequently analyzed. Diagrams can be created using a variety of techniques, using sticky notes, paper or specialized computer software. Often small teams of people create the diagrams to ensure thoroughness.

Defining the scope and boundaries of the business process diagram involves understanding inputs, interactions and outputs of the chosen process. Very complex processes or those that occur across many organizational levels may need to be split into multiple diagrams. Initial consideration of which processes to diagram and their scopes can ensure the benefits outweigh the costs of creation.

No matter the level of detail, a business process diagram is only as beneficial as the information that goes into it. Mapping teams with members from various stages of the process can, therefore, provide valuable information that a single creator could miss. Despite the size of the process or the number of employees involved, however, teams should remain small enough to be manageable.

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A business process diagram can be created on paper, with sticky notes, or through computer programs and specialized business process software. Benefits of working with paper or sticky notes include the speed of creation, shorter education time and the ease of manipulation. Computerized diagramming includes a longer education process, but it enhances longevity, eases transmission of information, and can be plugged directly into business process management software.

Another aspect of formatting includes choosing a modeling notation. Business Process Modeling Notation, created by the Business Process Management Initiative, is an example of a standardized graphical notation system for process diagrams. Standardized notation systems can facilitate interdepartmental or business-to-business communication of the diagram upon completion. As an example, Business Process Modeling Notation uses rectangles to represent activities, diamonds to represent decisions, and various arrows to show sequence. Other forms of standardized notation exist, however; notation can also be improvised.

Once the scope, format and mapping team have been selected, process stages can be graphically represented to complete the diagram. Brainstorming the various process stages with the mapping team is one way to complete documentation. Sticking to chosen notation standards in this stage can also help streamline creation. The level of detail required for the process map will dictate required information at each step, which can include time lags, customer impressions and external influences.

Multiple drafts and reviews of the process diagram can ensure that all steps have been documented. One way to accomplish this is by walking through the process in real time with the mapping team. If the process makes this impossible, evaluation can be achieved by distributing copies of the business process diagram amongst team members or employees. Completing the business process diagram provides users with a visualization of the business process from start to finish, which can help with business process management and optimization.

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