Business Process Diagram Guide: Benefits and How To Create

Lauren Oliver

Updated July 26, 2022

Published October 9, 2020

Lauren Oliver, B.Ed., is a veteran educator with 10-plus years of experience teaching and working with mathematics, statistics, economics and personal finance. She’s currently pursuing training and eventually professional certification in data analytics.

A business process diagram is an important visual tool for business success. It details several steps in a process through simple language and a clean display, which helps teams complete tasks or projects more effectively. Learning how to use this type of diagram can help you increase your productivity and improve a company’s processes. 

In this article, we define a business process diagram, list some benefits of using one and provide steps you can follow to create one.

What is a business process diagram?

A business process diagram is a map that displays individual steps in a process. Professionals often use this tool for procedural work, and it serves as a map toward obtaining a goal.

Business process diagrams consider alternatives and choices at each step of the map. For example, a diagram might have two routes with either “yes” or “no” as the answer. According to how the user chooses, they follow a certain route on the diagram. 

These diagrams concisely explain a business' thought process or approach to certain work, and they can help employees or stakeholders understand a project’s goals and processes. You can create this diagram with different shapes to detail various aspects of the process. These symbols may include: 

  • Circle: Events

  • Square: Activities

  • Solid arrow: Task transfers

  • Dotted arrow: Messages

Related: Coming Up With a Business Process (With Tips and Examples)

Benefits of using a business process diagram

There are many advantages to using a business process diagram. These tools can simplify procedural information by focusing on the more valuable steps of a process. Here are additional advantages to a business process diagram and why a business might create one:

Encourages a mutual mindset

A business process diagram provides a foundation for a business and its employees. As a result, everyone in the business refers to the same information. This consistent source of information encourages employees to have a similar approach to business. A mutual mindset can avoid disagreements, misunderstandings and a wide range of opinions because you have established standards.

Related: 13 Process Mapping Tools for Business Efficiency

Simplifies complex topics

Business process diagrams focus on the most important information while omitting unnecessary details. This approach can help avoid confusion and allow people to understand information by using a common language. Doing this also can allow people on other teams in the project to better understand tasks they’re not responsible for and the overall goal they’re working toward.

Related: Business Planning Process: Tips on Who and What To Include

Provides a reference

A visual representation of a business plan can be extremely useful to have. When on display, a business process diagram serves as a motivator and a quick reference for team members.

For example, if someone is unsure of the next step, they can quickly refer to the diagram for confirmation. The diagram also may include contact information for the team lead overseeing that step, so they know who to contact with any questions.

Related: What Is Business Process Management? Types and Benefits

Documents progress

A business process diagram is a great tool for documenting the process of a project. The outlined steps help employees see where they are with progress and how close they are to achieving goals. This can help improve motivation and provide a greater sense of achievement when a team completes a task.

Related: How To Create a Project Timeline in 8 Easy Steps

How to create a business process diagram

Here are several steps you can follow to create a business process diagram:

1. Brainstorm with a team

Consider meeting with your team to discuss the process and write down the thoughts and ideas they have. After this, you can think about how to integrate them into your diagram. Brainstorming can be a good way to have an unstructured conversation, so be welcome to unplanned discussions and questions. In brainstorming meetings, try to encourage innovative thinking and consider all ideas.

Read more: 12 Strategies for Brainstorming Effectively

2. Gather information on the project

Acquiring information is essential to an informed business process diagram. The more information you have, the better your diagram reflects your project. This can include what resources you want, such as labor, time and budget. You also can consider what metrics you hope to achieve and whether they’re quantifiable. Doing this can allow you to plan each stage carefully and create a clear workflow.

Related: What Is Business Process Analysis? Benefits, Types and Steps

3. List keywords of steps

Collecting keywords is a great first step to making a business process diagram. Create keywords by considering the initial information from brainstorming and gathering information.

Try to focus on unique and useful words that remind you of the most valuable parts of each step. For example, if you’re near the end of the process and have a step to finalize your product, you might use a keyword like “quality control” to remind you to test the product thoroughly before releasing it.

Related: How To Conduct Business Process Mapping

4. Use various shapes and symbols

Drawing the business process diagram creates a visual aid for your data. You can draw the map by hand or use a computer program for better readability. Some businesses prefer maps on a whiteboard to change information easily, if necessary. Implementing shapes, such as circles, squares and triangles, can help you signify specific steps and make them easier to identify and understand.

5. Analyze the flow of the diagram

Analyzing the flow of the diagram focuses on its visual structure and how you present the information. Consider going through the business process diagram several times with multiple employees to judge how easy it is to follow and what steps might confuse some people. If you struggle to understand a piece of the diagram, consider replacing or improving that component to ensure no one else has the same issue.

Related: A Guide to Project Management Flow

6. Receive feedback from stakeholders and employees

Feedback is valuable when creating an effective business process diagram. It encourages honest opinions and suggestions from stakeholders and employees that you can use to revise the diagram. Because the process diagram is for the entire business, it’s important to consider the perspective of others. Additional opinions can provide insight into the effectiveness of the diagram.

Related: Giving and Receiving Feedback: Definitions and Examples

7. Revise the diagram to implement feedback and edits

After receiving feedback, consider what you want to edit and change from the diagram. Taking the time to look at your diagram a few more times and revising it before sharing can help you identify any missed mistakes or edits you can make. Ensuring it’s easy to follow and understand can help you save time and let team members start working without delay.

8. Share the diagram

Sharing your business process diagram can be one of the most exciting steps. This is when people begin to use your diagram for work by applying it directly. Try to monitor your diagram's effectiveness and how people respond to using it. These observations can help you improve your current business process diagram and create more effective ones in the future.

Related: 6 Types of Business Process Mappings With Examples

Tips for making a business process diagram

Consider the following tips when creating your business process diagram:

  • Make it easy to read. If team members can read and understand your diagram easily, they may be able to follow it more effectively. Try to make your diagram simple to follow and convenient to reference.

  • Provide the right amount of information. Ensuring you don’t put too much information on your diagram can help you avoid confusing or overwhelming your team members.

  • Create additional diagrams. If you think you have too much information for one diagram, consider creating another one. This can allow you to prioritize the most important topics while offering more detail for complicated steps.

  • Update your diagram. During your process, you might learn new information that’s valuable to include in the diagram. Consider adding this information and updating your diagram when you discover it to ensure your team is aware of the changes and can adjust to them quickly.

  • Provide a key. If you’re using shapes and symbols, try to provide a key to your diagram to explain the meaning of each shape. This can help people understand and follow the diagram more easily.

  • Maintain consistency. Using consistent keywords, shapes and symbols throughout your diagram can make it easier to understand. If you use many diagrams with your teams, consider having shapes that mean the same thing on each one to reduce the time it takes them to understand your new diagrams.

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