A process map is a planning and management tool that visually illustrates the steps, details, and flow of a process. Software testing is an investigation done on software to gain insights into the quality of the software.
While many software developers may not want to admit it, the work of a Quality Assurance (QA) team in testing developers’ software is crucial to a software company. Customers would not be happy with a low-performance, buggy product or service (just imagine an automation testing process that doesn’t automate). But software testing can take time, and finding out the cause of a software bug can get difficult fast. This is where process mapping can help.
If you’d like a guide on using process mapping for software testing, read our guide below.
What Is a Process Map?
A process map is a tool used in planning and management. A process map is a visual illustration of the workflow, activities, and people of a work process. A process map visually shows what is a business process.
Process mapping helps businesses and companies to be more efficient by providing insight into the processes of that business or company. Process mapping helps to identify bottlenecks, repetitions, and delays in the flow of a process, as well as helping to identify boundaries, responsibilities, effectiveness metrics, and set a schedule baseline.
When mapping a process, you identify each step, draw each step using the appropriate shape or symbol, and show the flow by drawing arrows to connect the steps. This can be done by hand or using process mapping software.
Process Map Symbols
Each step in a process is represented in a process map using a shape (also known as a flowchart shape). While there are 30 standard flowchart symbols, for most people, just a few of the most common symbols is enough.
The most common symbols are the rectangle, oval, diamond, and arrows, with their meaning being:
- Rectangle: a process step or activity.
- Oval: beginning or end of a process.
- Diamond: a decision to be made. Arrows labeled “yes” and “no” come out from the diamond to show which direction the flow goes depending on the decision.
- Arrows: show the direction and flow of the process.
Types of Process Maps
It’s strongly recommended to use a specific type of process map best suited to your goal. Below are some of the most common types of process maps:
Basic Flowchart: A simple visualized mapping of the steps or actions of a process. It is best used for planning new projects, modeling and documenting a process, helping teams to communicate better, solving problems, and analyzing and managing workflows.
Detailed Process Map: This provides more details by showing a more drilled-down version of each step in the process. Sub-processes are also shown in this process map. This process map is best used to give all details (such as input and outputs) of the process step and to document decision points within a process.
High-Level Process Map: A high-level representation of a process showing the core activities, namely the interactions between Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer (SIPOC). High-level process maps are best used for designing and defining business processes, and for key steps and details of processes.
Cross-Functional Flowchart: Also known as a Swimlane Map. This type of map shows which team or department is responsible for which process steps by using swimlanes. Swimlanes are simply just color rows used to separate the teams, with each process step that belongs to that team placed in their column.
Benefits of Process Mapping
Process mapping can greatly benefit a company or business by spotlighting waste, streamlining work processes, and building understanding due to its visual nature. Below are some more benefits of process mapping:
- Increases the ease of understanding and communicating the process indicated in your waiver agreement template for the benefit of teams, stakeholders, and customers.
- Shows where a process can be improved by helping to identify flaws.
- Illustrates to other teams, trainees, customers, investors, and stakeholders how a process is done.
- Is a useful tool for scenario testing and what-if assessments.
- Improves team performance, communication, and brainstorming.
- Provides reader-friendly process documentation.
- Standards and certifications like ISO 9000 require process mapping.
- Can identify processes ready for automation.
How to Create a Process Map
Now you know what a process map is, what types of process maps there are, the process map symbols, and the benefits of processing. The next step is to create a process map. Follow the steps below to create a process map.
1. Identify the Problem/Process
What is the process that needs to be mapped and visualized? Is it a process that is underperforming or important to a new project? Give the process a name and write it at the top of the document.
2. Put Together the Best Team
Place everyone who is in the activity, management, and inputs of the process into a team equipped with online phone numbers so they could easily contact each other when needed.
3. Brainstorm the Process Steps
Gather all information about the process from start to finish. This means the steps, inputs, outputs, roles, time durations, etc. Decide how much detail to include. You don’t need to put the steps into sequence just yet.
4. Organize the Process Steps
Take the process steps identified in the previous step and put them in sequential order. Determine the start point and endpoint of the process. How detailed do you want the actions and decisions to be?
5. Draw the Process Map
Using the symbols learned before to represent each step and decision of the process, draw the process map. From start to finish, draw the actions, decisions, and flow of the process.
6. Identify Areas for Improvement
Use the process map to identify any inefficiencies or bottlenecks in the process and make improvement plans. Look for redundancies, missing steps, disagreements with the process flow, and process steps not being followed.
7. Implement Improvements and Observe
Implement the improvements identified in the sixth step and assess them. Do this before creating your own process improvement methodology.
You can create a process map by hand using Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, or Excel, but there is also dedicated process mapping software. This process mapping software makes drawing process maps much more streamlined.
How to Use Process Mapping for Software Testing
Software testing is an investigation into a piece of software to gain information about the quality of the software or service through testing. It can be done in-house or by a QA solution partner. Software testing often involves six stages:
- Requirement Analysis: defines end-user expectations for a piece of software that will be built or modified. Requirements analysis, reports, documents, validates, and manages software requirements.
- Test Planning: a test plan gives the details of a software test, such as test objectives, schedule, estimation, deliverables, and resources required.
- Test Design: this is the phase where, based on the test plan, the required use cases for testing are designed.
- Test Environment Setup: the platform for implementing and executing the test cases designed in the previous step is built to test the software. This involves both hardware and software.
- Test Execution: this is the process of executing the test cases. The results are documented and compared between the expected and actual results.
- Test Closure: Various actions are performed to ensure a smooth transition to the next test. Actions include providing all observations are logged, ensuring functional tests were completed on schedule, and updating test-proof documentation.
We now know what process mapping is, its benefits, and how to create one. Next, let us look at how we can use process mapping to improve software testing.
Process Mapping for Coding/Debugging
There are two ways process mapping can help software testers in coding and debugging: process mapping for debugging and process mapping for control flow and statistical analysis.
Every software developer can tell you about the drudgery of debugging a piece of software. Developers can spend hours combing through code trying to find the piece that is generating an error or incorrect output.
Software/code is simply a process with a series of actions. By mapping the process of the software, it can make it easier and more efficient to find the flaw in the process flow. This ease and efficiency are due to process mapping’s visual nature versus looking through lines of code.
A metric used to measure how complex a software application is is cyclomatic complexity. This metric helps software testers understand the extent of unit testing that needs to be done to achieve complete coverage.
A process map is a standard method to calculate this metric. By drawing out the process map and then using the formula Cyclomatic Complexity = Number of connections or Lines – Number of Nodes + 2, the measure can be calculated.
Process Mapping for Software Testing Process Illustration
The entire six stages of software testing are a process, and each stage of software testing is also a process. This means that we can use process mapping to illustrate the workflow of not just an entire software testing method (such as the elastic QA method) but also each stage of the software testing.
By mapping out the software testing process, we can reap the benefits of process mapping and make the software testing process more streamlined and efficient. Inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and redundancies can be identified, and improvement plans made. A software testing team could even use AI to further optimize the process.
Because of its visual nature, process mapping makes it easy to visualize and understand a process and its workflow. These features can be very useful to a software testing team, allowing them to better debug and test a piece of software or to improve and analyze their software testing process.