Document maps are rich in data detail but can lack activity details. Activity maps or value stream maps provide sufficient details for processes.

Document Maps

A document map displays visually what information you should expect to receive, and from whom. It also shows you what information you are expected to produce for someone else. Document maps show all input and output documents used. Document Maps are an expanded SIPOC format. Each row of the SIPOC flow represents:

  • Supplier ->
  • Input (yellow) ->
  • Process Step (light green) ->
  • Output (blue) ->
  • Customer

Effectiveness criteria and performance objectives are listed at the bottom. Your effectiveness criteria represent your Key Performance Indicators (KPI), metrics, or measures for your process. If you are planning on continuous improvement (to conform to ISO 9001) then you should identify your metrics and your performance objectives.

We have also introduced PDCA or Plan, Do, Check, Act structure to the process steps:

  • “Plan” is performed as part of the prior “Act” step where credit criteria are determined.
  • “Do” occurs when the sales person gets the order and starts entering it in the system, credit checks are performed and terms calculated.
  • “Check” occurs when the credit issued is reviewed along with the credit criteria.
  • And finally, “Act” occurs when new credit criteria are issued.


document maps

Bizmanualz Credit Approval Document Map


Document maps come in handy in quality systems like ISO 9001, which require that certain records (like product requirements) be created and maintained. Since they show the records your process creates, documents maps remind and remind process owners to generate output documents without having to name someone as the “document police.” And if you’re in the middle of the process, document maps can tell you if you have the inputs you need to do your job.

Document maps provide a lot of data detail but can be short on activity details. Text based procedures are much better at depicting individual tasks and methods. But we can also use an Activity Map.

Activity Map or Value Stream Map

Activity maps or Value Stream Maps are used in lean implementations to depict process tasks as single-piece flow and with as much detail as you can capture. The whole purpose of an Activity Map is to capture enough information so that you can identify the tasks that are clearly adding value and those that are of questionable value. Activity maps are helpful for architecting and organizing the text before writing a new procedure.

Each of the five activities in the Credit Approval process (figure 2.) are listed along the top row in light blue. Next, an optional tally field totals the number of tasks below each activity (i.e. 4+1). The first number represents the task total and the second number is the lean value-added (green tasks) total. Then the person or department responsible for the activity is listed with a departmental color code. And finally, the detailed tasks are shown, one per box. Value-added tasks are color coded green, clearly wasteful tasks are coded red, and all the white boxes represent possible waste, or steps that can be eliminated through lean process improvement events.


Value Stream Map – Activity Map

Figure 2: Value Stream Map – Activity Map


Swim lane maps and document maps are descriptive rather than prescriptive: we use them to communicate what is happening today, not what we’d like to happen or what should be taking place. To change the existing process, we need to map the activities at each step and critique them for the value they add to the process.

Activity maps provide sufficient details for process improvement and can also be augmented with task timing data, which can be used to quantify time and cost savings. All you need is a spreadsheet and you can start making activity maps. Unfortunately, activity maps are just OK at training or communicating how a process works. Work flow diagrams are much better for training workers and communicating processes.