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Developing a Process Map for Managing a Project

written by: Sidharth Thakur • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 7/31/2010

Using project process maps allows easy understanding of the entire process through visual illustrations. Process mapping is more effective than detailing processes and procedures in documents for communicating the essential details and sequence of a project to the team members.

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    In project management, process mapping is the ultimate tool to streamline the work and accomplish the project goals in a smoother and more efficient manner. A good project process map covers the entire lifespan of a project – including without fail the basic project processes like planning, implementation, tracking, and closing. It serves as a road map that depicts what is to be achieved and how. A project process map facilitates the management's ability to keep track of the progress and measure the overall performance against the expected time frame and standards initially set for the project. The visual illustration of the process in the form of a map allows the management to detect discrepancies in the progress of the project.

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    What Does a Project Process Map Show?

    Process Map 

    A project process map depicts every step and every process involved in the execution of a project - till its final completion. This visual representation, in the form of a flow chart, using lines and symbols, helps one to better understand the process. Just one look at the project process map gives the reader information like:

    • What is the current status of the project, and what is the likelihood of the project getting completed within the set deadlines?
    • What work is being executed, by whom, and where?
    • Which processes are in accordance with the projected schedule, and which ones are running behind schedule?
    • Which sub-processes are more crucial to the completion of the project?
    • What phases or sub-processes are experiencing problems and require immediate attention?
    • Are the available resources being used optimally?

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, MPRI Sandra (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:(5)_2008-07-07_Recruitment_pg2.jpg)

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    Developing a Project Process Map

    Developing a project process map is a somewhat complex and time-consuming task, but it is worth the effort as it serves as a valuable project management tool once it is complete. A visual representation of the process makes it easier to understand, interpret, and remember the processes that are detailed in words. Here are the key steps involved in drawing process maps:

    Identifying the Processes

    To begin with, the management must identify all processes and sub-processes and the key trigger points that will impact the project, right from the planning stage till the completion of the project.

    Defining Standards and Assigning Responsibilities

    The next step requires establishing quality standards and completion deadlines for each of the processes involved in the project. This will, additionally, help in determining and setting the control points along the process paths. It is at this time that the team members are allocated to each of the processes and their duties and responsibilities spelled out clearly.

    Dissecting the Processes Further

    With a broad picture of the processes in place, it is time now to dissect each process into further steps, to clearly define where the process starts and where it ends. Also, information, like tools and techniques to be applied and the input and output of each step, can be added during this phase.

    Make the Final Drawing

    With all this information organized, the final step of drawing the project process map can begin. There are several flow-charting and process-mapping software products available online, some for free and others for a fee. However, there is no need to search for any process mapping software, as this task can be easily accomplished in Excel (Resource: FlowBreeze/Breeze Tree Software at http://www.breezetree.com/articles/how-to-flow-chart-in-excel.htm.)

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    Post Mapping Analysis

    When the process diagrams are complete, they must be analyzed to see whether the complete picture makes sense and whether the process promises effective and efficient handling of the project. A close look at the process map will ascertain whether there is optimum resource usage. Probable problems and bottlenecks may also become evident looking at the pictorial view of the project, and the map can be altered to avoid any such discrepancies. It is best to critically examine the project process map before putting it up for implementation.