Process Map Types and Best Usage

There are many different types of process maps and, while they serve the same purpose, different types exist because they fit certain scenarios and projects better than the others. Some of the most common process map types are as follows:


The flowchart is the least complex process map type. That can be a strength and a weakness. The strength is the versatility of a simple flowchart to plan new projects, improve communication between team members, model and document processes and identify problems in a current process.

The weakness is those processes are in a sequential, step by step order. For more complex scenarios, the flowchart is not the best option. It is best for mapping a process from start to finish, step by step.

Value Stream Map:

A value stream map (VSM) is a lean management tool that visually documents the process of bringing a product or service to the customer. Using a unique set of symbols, value stream maps capture the flow of information and materials necessary to the process.

By documenting data including process steps, handoffs and the people and materials involved in both, a value stream map produces value in identifying areas of waste, ways to reduce or eliminate them and exposing other opportunities for improvement that can lead to related projects. They are best for documenting complex processes related to product development.

Swim Lane Map:

Swim lane maps, also described as cross-functional or deployment charts, define process steps and activities into groups or “swim lanes” to determine who is responsible for each task. The map is divided into stakeholder channels and identifies the assigned activities for each stakeholder. Understanding who plays what role in a process and how they interact is crucial to figuring out gaps, delays, redundancies and other problem areas that need improvement. They are best for defining the roles of multiple stakeholders in a process.

SIPOC Diagram:

SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers. A SIPOC diagram identifies the key elements of a process as a lead-in step to developing a detailed process map. Similar to a value stream map, a SIPOC diagram is helpful for defining the scope of complex processes, but it is best used to highlight the major elements and stakeholders in a specific process.

Detailed Process Map:

In contrast with other process map types, a detailed process map provides all the details of each step and includes sub-processes. It documents decision points and the inputs and outputs of each step. This process map provides the most thorough understanding of the mapped process and is most effective in pinpointing areas of inefficiency due to its high level of detail. Therefore, it is best used for a deep dive understanding of a specific process with all details, inputs, outputs, handoffs and contingencies included.

There is literally a process map type for almost every scenario imaginable for a project, within a particular aspect of a project or a series of connected projects. What tool is selected for what scenario and how best to act on what it uncovers are the key reasons why lean consultants like Prosit are so valuable for organizations.

Please contact Prosit for help with process mapping or other lean consulting projects your organization is either starting or has become stuck and needs a reset on. Prosit’s expertise and strategic enterprise approach will deliver the results.

« Go Back