Cross-functional Process Map

Problem Addressed

Gaining an overall understanding or a process, how it is is initially triggered, how the library members, internal staff/teams and any external suppliers are involved in the process. It can also be used to identify interactions with major IT systems.

Method Proposed

The eventual result is a diagram consisting of ‘swimlanes’ – horizontal (or vertical) boxes on a page each of which represents a group or system involved in the process. For example:

Cross-functional process map example

In this (overly) simple example the swimlanes represent the library member or customer, the self-issue system, and the circulation team (assumed to be the team responsible for front line support for loans/returns/fines etc.)

  • Step 1 – On a large piece of paper draw and label swimlanes for each group/system involved in the process
  • Step 2 – Create post-its describing each activity and decision points within the process (one per post-it activity/decision point)
  • Step 3 – Arrange post-its on the swimlanes in such a way that the ‘flow’ of the process is represented from left to right (or top to bottom if using vertical swimlanes)
  • Step 4 – Draw arrows between post-its indicating inputs and outputs or outcomes of decision points
  • Step 5 – Re-draw diagram using standard symbols (ideally use appropriate software such as Visio for this)

Common symbols for this type of diagram are:

Cross-functional process map symbols


The objective of this method is to understand the nature of the processes, how they relate, where work has to move between people/teams/systems, and how the customer is involved in the process.

Typical patterns exposed in a cross-functional process map are:

  • Serial workflows (where different teams contribute to the process one after another)
  • Parallel workflows (where different teams work on their own part of the process at the same time)
  • Hand-offs (where work moves between teams)
  • Customer interactions (with which teams/systems, how frequently)

The process map should also capture:

  • What triggers the process
  • What signifies the completion of the process

When interpreting the cross-functional map it is important to ask:

  • How does the customer experience the process?
  • What physical items are passed around as part of the process?
  • What information is passed around as part of the process?

The process map should prompt an examination of a process where there are frequent hand-offs between teams or systems (as these tend to be expensive in terms of information flow and customer experience); where delays can hold up the overall process; where actions are duplicated or repeated within the overall process.