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Rupinder N

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Process Mapping


Process Mapping is a diagrammatic representation of the flow of information and/or material in a process. It depicts all the process steps and the decisions taken in the process. Flowchart is the most common form of a process map


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Natwar Lal  on 22nd August 2019.


Applause for the respondents- Natwar Lal, Manjula Pujar, Vinod Shanmugham, Mohamed Asif, Somrita Chatterjee & Prasanna Pokhrel


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q. 187  What are the thumb rules to decide how much detail should be included while doing As-Is Process Mapping in a DMAIC project? How can you gauge whether you are including too much or too little detail?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.


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Process Mapping - is a diagrammatic representation of the flow of information and/or material in a process. It depicts all the process steps and the decisions taken in the process. Flowchart is the most common form of a process map. (as taken from Benchmark's Dictionary)


If you search the net, there are multiple levels of a process map that one would come across. Some content say there are 5 levels (level 0 through level 4) while some talk about 4 or 3 levels. It is all about the perspective and the level of detail that one captures in a process map. 


I am more comfortable working with 4 levels of Process Mapping which I am detailing below


Level 1 - SIPOC (high level view of the process or 30000 feet view of the process). At this level, the entire process is captured in about 3-5 very high level steps

Level 2 - Activity Level Process Map. At this level, all the various activities are covered. A particular high level step (as covered in SIPOC) might be broken down into 3-4 activity steps

Level 3 - Task Level Process Map. At this level, the tasks within the activities are captured and displayed

Level 4 - Key Stroke Level Process Map (more like an SOP). All the key stroke levels are displayed


Let us take an example of the process for planning and taking the flight for a vacation. 


Level 1 - SIPOC will look something like this


Level 2 - Activity Level Process Map. Expanding the step of 'Book the Ticket'. It will be broken into following activities


Level 3 - Task Level Process Map. Expanding the 'Payment' Activity


Level 4 - Key stroke level process map. Expanding the 'Enter Details on Website' task



The above is just for explanation sake. You will notice that at each subsequent level (or as we go deeper) more details are getting added.


Thumb rules for As-Is process mapping in a DMAIC project - 

1. It should never be done at SIPOC (Level 1) or Key Stroke Level (Level 4). SIPOC leaves out too many details while Key stroke will capture too many details

2. If a project is being done for the entire process, As-Is map should be prepared at an 'Activity' Level (Level 2)

3. If the project is being done at a sub-process level, one would prefer to prepare the 'Task' Level (Level 3) map

4. All decision points in the process should be captured in the As-Is process map (both Level 2 and Level 3 maps suffice this requirement)

5. The details in As-Is map should enable one to do the 'Process Door' analysis i.e. project lead should be able to apply some of the process map based tools like VA/NVA analysis to identify the wastes to be removed (again Level 2 and Level 3 will allow one to do process door analysis)


If the process is too complex and process map is too big, usually Level 2 map (activity level) is created for end to end process. Each Activity is then treated as a sub-process and a Level 3 (Task Level) is created separately.


Also, another practical approach in checking about the details being covered in the process map is whether you are working with the aspirational (or what it should be) or the actual process map (what it actually is). If the team responds like 'it should be done like this' or on similar lines, then the project lead should get a hint that team is working on an aspirational process map and in such cases the details are usually vague or unclear. However, if the team is working with the actual As-Is map, then the team will be confident of even the minutest details and statements will be like 'it is done in this way' etc.

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As-Is process mapping deals with analyze the process and improve it. It ensures enhance of working process to grow of company. Here collecting and consolidating of required documentation is done which refers to current Employees who involve in day today activities participate. Also clients and Suppliers also can be part of it.Example of As-IS and To- be   process

Above is the as-Is process flow where customer place the order. Sales team checks the stock if available good will be shifted after packing. If stock is not available will suggest customer to change the order or date of delivery.IF we need some improvement in this process then we can use to-be process.

In above flow we can see two segments are made Sales and warehouse, where
It is east to rotate the stocks

Rules to decide how much details to be included in As-Is process

•    Analysis of current document
•    To check what all expected for process and business in future
•    What is the necessity of model and what is required  result or output
•    Assigning techniques, giving clarity of objectives , assigning the responsibilities to the team
•    Resource or input required
•    Discussions with operations and support department about the requirements
Also there are few techniques used in As-IS mapping.
Gauge the whether details are little or too much

•    Sampling : Run set of protocol and check,
•    VOC Sample checks on VOC

•    Interview/brain storming : There can be one on One discussions or Brain storming with employees for better understanding

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

How does a Six Sigma Project differ from a regular improvement initiative? While many improvements do happen continually in any organization, an improvement that is led through a Six Sigma DMAIC approach aims to improve the process. Based on the condition of the process, it may be decided after the ‘Analyze’ phase, whether we need to ‘Improve’ the process or ‘re-Design’ the process.


On many instances, the project is identified and the charter created, but when we ask a question… “What process are we trying to improve?”, the team gets into a debate. Some of the issues faced at this juncture are:

  1. The team is not very clear about the process that is associated with the objective
  2. Team members come up with multiple processes and go into a discussion
  3. Team feels that a process does not exist at all
  4. What should be considered as the start and end points of the process, as relevant to the project?
  5. Team hesitant to discuss the process since they do not have direct control on many of the process steps.


Once the team is facilitated to work on the ‘As-Is’ process mapping, they will be forced to clarify all the above points.


A few guidelines that would help while mapping he ‘As-Is’ Process are:


1.      Identify the relevant process or processes

This is possible only if we have some team members who are reasonably familiar and experienced in the processes associated with the objective. For instance, if your objective is to improve the response to ‘customer inquiries’, we need to be clear about all the channels through which customers make inquiries and in turn identify the relevant processes.


2.      Work back from the point of final objective.

The final objective for a given project will be dependent on several outputs from previous activities. Working back will help in identifying the intermediate outputs and the corresponding process steps from which they emerge. For example, if the objective is to improve the conversion rate of hiring, the ‘as-is’ recruitment process has to be mapped. While the ‘Hired resource’ is the final output, the intermediate outputs may include the screened resources, shortlisted profiles, the job profile document from the requester etc. It may be noted that some of the intermediate outputs become the ‘inputs’ for the subsequent process step.


3.      Decide the scope (start and end points) of the process

Once we have identified the process and its steps at large, we need to be clear about the scope within which the project is defined. For instance, if we are trying to improve the ‘effectiveness of training’ programs, we may take the start point as the ‘Request for training’ and end point as ‘Qualified resource’. However, it is also possible to take the start point from ‘Training need identification’ to ‘On job performance of trained resources’. Both are different bands of scope that could be relevant depending on the need of the organization. However, the scope has to be specified clearly in the beginning and the ‘as-is mapping’ should be done appropriately.


4.      Start with a high level ‘SIPOC’

It is a good practice to initially develop a high level ‘SIPOC’ consisting of 6 to 8 process steps. On these process steps you may identify the final and intermediate outputs, also known as KPOV (Key Process Output Variables)


5.      Fine tune the SIPOC with the KPOV chart

Some leaders mention their primary metrics relating to main objective and sub-objectives and secondary metrics on the project charter, whereas some others use a KPOV chart to depict the Big Ys, Small ys, Contradicting Factors and Boundary conditions. It is quite possible that while developing the KPOV charts, more clarity would emerge on the relevant intermediate outputs and you may go back and modify the SIPOC accordingly.


6.      Do detailed mapping for select process steps.

From the SIPOC, you will be able to identify those intermediate outputs that are considered relevant for the project under study and you may give preference to those process steps and do a detailed process mapping for them. Otherwise, doing a detailed process mapping for all the steps could be consuming high time and effort.


7.      Include relevant metrics

The very purpose of the As-Is Process mapping is to assess the baseline. Hence, for all the relevant KPOVs and KPIVs, indicate the metrics (targeted and actual). In case there are variables without metrics, this is the time to decide on their quantification and measurement methods.


Make use of the As-Is Process map while you move on with your subsequent phases of the project. This will ensure that the exercises that you perform during the Measure and Analyse phase are relating to the process steps outlined in your As-Is Map. Where needed keep fine-tuning the as-is map for any information that you might not have added in the beginning.

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As-Is Process map, otherwise called as Current State process map is drawn to understand how the process is presently carried out.  It is a pictorial way of depicting all the major activities or tasks performed to deliver the process outcome.  As-Is process map helps to visualize the current process and is drawn during the Define and Measure phase of DMAIC project.  The following thumb rules can be kept in mind while deciding how much detail should be included in the process map:

1.    Not too much and not too less: An ideal As-Is process map should cover below details:

a.    Inputs that goes into the process to provide the output of the process

b.    Inputs which are controllable by the business and the ones which business cannot control;  including the critical inputs

c.     Which of the tasks / activities are Value Added (VA) and which are Non Value Added (NVA) including process metrics like Cycle Time, Processing Time and Lead Time

d.    Different hand-offs in the process

e.    Highlights opportunities for Elimination, Combining, Rearranging, Standardizing and Simplification with or without automation

f.      Highlights bottlenecks in the process

2.    Opportunity Identification: One could keep on including details in a process map until he thinks that he has drawn a perfect map.  But is that what we are looking for?  Ideally we should map the process to the level that will help us to identify the opportunities for improvement.

3.    Purpose: Before drawing the process map, ask ourselves the question as to why are we drawing the map.  Focus on the purpose of what we intend to achieve

4.    Notations: Business Process Modelling Notations (BPMN) standards prescribe the symbols and notations we should use while drawing the map.  Adhering to BPMN standards will ensure that the map follows a standard and others can correlate and understand easily

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Process Maps are vital in any six-sigma project. It visually represents the steps, actions, decisions that constitutes the process. 

With the help of process maps we can easily identify strengths and weaknesses in the process flow, identify value adds and non value adds based on the level of process map.


Process maps are essential component in a project. They are useful in both Micro and Macro level.


"If you can't describe your work as a process, you don't know what you are doing" - Deming


Sequence of process maps starts with Level 1 to Level 5, which is commonly referred in most of the organization.


Level 1, being the high level SIPOC

Level 2, Flow chart level

Level 3, Swim lanes

Level 4, Value Stream Mapping &

Level 5, KPIV, KPOV


For detailed insights on the levels of process maps, refer to previous forum discussion in the below link: Posted October 6, 2017



In most of the projects, basic process maps are created in initial stages of the project.

In DMAIC Improvement projects, we use

Process Flow chart & SIPOC in Define,

As-Is process map in Analyze phase and

Swim lane, multilevel process maps, To-Be process maps in Improve phase (if any change in flow is required).


As-Is describes the Current State and To-Be describes the Future state. To-Be process map is more like improve flow for current state.


Which level of process map we select in DMAIC project?

Depending upon the complexity and type of the project, process map is selected during DMAIC.

Depends on "How much information is necessary" or "How specific information's/details that needs to be captured" in the project and in the intentions and purpose.


For instance, VSM is used in improvement projects.

For complete radical transformation in processes, detailed end to end process map is used, kind of Business Process reengineering projects.  


Few considerations while selecting process maps include:

  •                 Scope of the project (In scope & Out of Scope)
  •                 Improvement / Process reengineering project
  •                 Level of Focus / Granularity
  •                 Objective (SLA Improvement / Optimization)
  •                 Automation (Full / Partial / RPA / RDA)

Based on the above consideration the level of process map is selected.


Process maps are usually created in Visio, some organization use advanced process mapping tools.

In our organization we use Blueworks Live (From IBM), for cross function collaborations in designing process maps across our offices for improvement projects.



Reference: Sample process map from Blue works

Classification: Public


Selecting the right process map based on purpose:

                          Purpose                                Process Map Type
 For a Process Snapshot  SIPOC
 Simple description of process working  High Level Process Map
 Radical Process Transformation   Detailed End to End Process Map (With in Scope)
 BPR  Detailed End to End Process Map (With in Scope)
 For Critical Problem Solving  Detailed End to End Process Map (With in Scope)
 For displaying different departments operation  Swim lane Map
 For displaying interaction/collaboration  Relationship map
 For Lean Implementation  Value Stream Mapping


Each type of map has its pros and cons, hence based on the situation, criticality and purpose we can select the relevant process map.

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Process Mapping

Process Mapping is the task of creating workflow of process of process with what exactly a business does, who is responsible and the parties responsible and with standards by which a business process can be judged and understood with concepts.


  • Communicating processes to other and making them understand the business alignments with it.

  • Onboarding new processes for new employees to shorten training time

  • Put less strain on other staff members in the project

  • Process Improvement and Re-engineering- Documented process are easily understandable, easily analyzed and can increase efficiency.


    Basic steps before Process mapping:

  • Identify the process that needs to be documented

  • Gather information from participants via interviews or observations

  • Identify the start and end points, stakeholders, parties involved, decision points

  • Break the process into tasks, activities and decision points.

Types of Process mapping:

  1. Cross Functional process map or Swim lane based process map

  2. Top down flow process map

  3. L1-L5 Process mapping flowcharts


    Cross Functional Process Map- Process Flowchart provides detailed information on who does what, different stakeholders involved with proper symbols and notations. In a swim-lane based map, lanes are shown either horizontal or vertical depending on the flow of the diagram. Each lane is allocated to a role/actor and the process steps which are performed by the role are depicted in that particular lane and arrows connected with them.


    Top down Mapping generally doesn’t use graphical symbols and is start and end points and don’t have more steps in the process. It is not a detailed map which shows who does what and processing times and decision points.


    Level1- Process categories Line-Of-Business Level (the Core businesses of company)- Finance, operations, Analytics, Human Resources

    Level 2: Process groups (Value chains of Line-of-Businesses) - Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing, Shipping

    Level 3: Processes (Departmental operations and responsibilities) – payment process, transaction process, risk and compliant processes

    Level 4: Activity level map (in-depth description with competencies, flow)

    Level 5: Task Level (Further decomposition of activity elements of a L4 map)




    Preferably, it is a good practice to start with a SIPOC flow before a process starts with a particular type of process mapping. It gives a basic idea of the overall structure of the process which needs to be documented.


    For Process Map in a DMAIC project:


    Different people have different ways of approach to document a map but when it comes to a DMAIC project, it is preferable to start with below map approaches where the map shows the foundations of lean methodologies, Kanban methods and graphical methods of Six Sigma.


  1. Value Stream Map- Highly efficient in calculating cycle times, takt time of the process or project

  2. Business Process mapping- Efficient on providing L3-L5 maps on business alignments

  3. SIPOC

  4. Ishikawa and Pareto (depends on the goal of the project)

  5. Kaizen graphical symbols- For product based innovations in graphical form





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Rules to determine how much detail to be used  in process mapping:

  1. Purpose : Identify the purpose as to why the As- Is process map is being created and at what stage of the DMAIC project is it being created
    1. This will help identify which type of map to use :
      1. Presenting a Macro View : If we are looking to understand the overall picture or the end to end wing span of process and what it does at high level without getting into details of how the steps are being performed we will select L1 process maps
      2. Presenting a Process level View : If we are looking at the end to end process map & identifying the flow of goods, inventory, the cycle time & the process times , in order to depict VA/ NVA steps, throughput rates along with the bottlenecks we will use Value Stream Maps
      3. Presenting a Micro View: If we are trying to understand how the process is  being performed, what sub processes are involved, which different functions, departments, roles are involved, how are these related, what are the hand offs between these processes & departments, what is the sequence & flow in which the steps are mapped in the process in order to identify any failures , wastes and  also depict decisions and alternate actions being performed  we will use swim lane diagrams (L-3 process maps)
      4. Presenting a step level view: If even more detailed understanding  of individual process steps are required including what are the activities within each step of the process are being performed (L-4/ 5)
    2. Intended audience :
      1. If higher authorities, organizational leaders are using for approval & decision making, L-2/ L-2 process maps should be used highlighting the key observations, defects and possible areas of improvement typically VSM will be the best option to use in these situations (process view)
      2. If tactical members (supervisors/ SMEs) are using the map then L-3 process maps should be used as they will need to have  clear understanding of what is being done (activity / transactional view)
      3. If the end users / doers are using the map then even more detailed process maps may be required , especially if there are no existing SOPs or step level instructions. In such cases the level of detail could even be at L-4 / L-5 (Screen/click level)
    3. Rule of thumb: Although there are no official guidelines relating the level of detail to be added in a process map, following could be used.
      1. Process / activity , activity & end should be clearly depicted and visible and the activities should not be left open ended
      2. Process boundaries should be clearly depicted
      3. Related upstream, downstream processes, hand-offs ( for L-2 and down) decision points should be clearly visible
      4. Standard protocol should be used for direction, flows, symbols & connectors
      5. The L-1  process map should
        1. Legibly fit in a A-4 sheet
        2. Should have no more than 5-7 steps and no decision point
        3. Should give the overall view of the process with input, process & output clearly defined (without getting into the steps) along with any key indicators or metrics
      6. L-2 process map should:
        1. Legibly fit in a A-4 sheet
        2. Should have 15-20 steps
        3. Should give the overall view of the process with input, process & output of different p clearly defined with some dependencies
      7. In case of VSMs, the details should mention the customer, suppliers, volume , key processes,  Information and material flow. Data boxes should typically be filled with the details of the Cycle Time/ Lead time/TAKT time, Throughput, Inventory, accuracy levels, set up times & should be mentioned
      8. In case of L-3 & down it may not be possible to fit all the relevant steps In a single view & we could use the right connectors and multiple pages to fully describe the process

How can you gauge whether you are including too much or too little detail?

  1. If too much detail is being used, it will typically create a busy/ crowded process map and the steps will look complicated for the level of detailing required. For such cases the solution will be to go back & re-look at the purpose and the audience. If unavoidable, then we should drill the map down to the next level of detail.
  2. In case of too little detail, if the map does not give the intended answer to the why ( for L-1) , what for L2 process maps and how the process is being performed ( L-3 & Downwards), then the details will need to be enhanced.
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