Value Stream Mapping vs. Process Mapping: Definitions, Features, & Benefits

February 29, 2024


Emily May

If you’re ready to leverage visual mapping techniques within your team, you’ve clicked on the right article.

While researching agile mapping techniques, you’ve likely come across value stream mapping and process mapping–but with all of the information available online, it can be a challenge to decipher which method fits your organizational needs.

We’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about the definitions, features, and benefits of both mapping strategies so that you can begin to drive value and workflow improvement today.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

Before we explore value stream mapping, we need to establish the concept of a value stream. A value stream represents the journey from an internal idea to the finished product that falls into your customer's hands.

Value stream mapping, or VSM, provides organizations with a high-level view of the flow of materials–from point A (raw materials) to point B (the end customer).

The visual roadmap helps teams analyze the current state of their processes and identify areas of waste, operational inefficiencies, and opportunities for improvement.

Key Features

Visualization: Process flowcharts and symbols showcase the current process, including all steps, inputs, outputs, and decision points.

Identification of Waste: Visual mapping helps teams identify bottlenecks in their value stream and eliminate waste and inefficiency, such as overproduction, waiting time, and defects.

Data-driven Analysis: To accurately chart the value stream process, data collection on cycle times, lead times, inventory levels, and other KPIs is necessary.

Collaborative Approach: To ensure an in-depth analysis and facilitation of improvements, team members from every department should participate.

Future State Planning: Based on the results, teams can create a future state map that reflects identified goals for improvement, such as reducing lead times, eliminating non-value-added steps, and improving overall flow.

Steps to Create and Use a Value Stream Map

  1. Select the value stream to map
  2. Gather data
  3. Design a visual representation of the value stream process
  4. Analyze the current state of the value stream
  5. Develop a future state map that accounts for desired improvements in the stream
  6. Use the values stream map as a tool to communicate with stakeholders, prioritize improvement efforts, and track progress

The Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping provides organizations with a deep understanding of their entire process from a high-level perspective, enabling them to identify bottlenecks in the system and make  informed data-driven decisions.

Secondly, the tool establishes an agile culture of continuous improvement and promotes a shared understanding of end-to-end processes among employees. In an environment where scanning for roadblocks and inefficiencies is commonplace, companies cultivate more adaptability to evolving market conditions.

When teams solve problems productively and operate at peak performance, they deliver value more quickly and effectively to their devoted customers, improving customer satisfaction and remaining competitive.

What is Process Mapping?

Unlike value stream mapping, which is particular to mapping out the process of value delivery to the customer, process mapping outlines any business process, workflow, or procedure within an organization.

For example, a sales team may create a process map that details how each account manager searches for leads. The map would include detailed information at each step in the prospecting process, including all tasks involved, the flow of information in and out, decision points, and where the process starts and ends.

Process mapping can be used to analyze any operation within a team, and like value stream mapping, it allows for waste reduction and process improvement.

Key Features

Clarity: Process mapping provides a visual picture of the steps involved in a particular procedure.

Standardization: In studying and improving a process map, teams develop a standard way of working and communicating that optimizes all steps involved in the workflow.

Identification of Bottlenecks: Organizations are empowered to identify inefficiencies across operations and implement streamlining efforts.

Visibility & Communication: By creating a process map for a particular departmental function, colleagues gain more visibility into their team members' work, collaborative efforts are fostered, and onboarding employees have a step-by-step guide in their job functions.

Continuous Improvement: A process map provides a baseline for measuring changes and enhancements to a process over time.

Steps to Create and Use a Process Map

  1. Identify the process to be mapped
  2. Gather data
  3. Organize process steps into a visual format
  4. Analyze the current state of the process
  5. Discover inefficiencies
  6. Streamline & standardize

The Benefits of Process Mapping

Through process mapping, teams gain a deeper understanding of individual processes across the organization. By analyzing a particular workflow in a visual format, team members can more easily identify where processing time, resources, or energy is wasted, enabling them to streamline and standardize their processes.

The tool promotes enhanced communication and transparency among colleagues by providing a visual aid for discussing and coordinating collaborative efforts. Detailed process maps can also be incredibly useful in educating new and existing employees on streamlined workflows.

Finally, the technique supports organizational agility by reinforcing a productive mindset in employees, boosting performance and industry advantage.

How to Choose Between Value Stream Mapping and Process Mapping

While value stream mapping and process mapping are similar at first glance, each tool has specific use cases.

Value stream mapping zooms out to examine an entire value stream from start to finish. On the other hand, process mapping provides a detailed visual representation of any organizational process within a given value stream.

For example, value stream mapping aims to streamline overall value delivery, reduce lead times, and enhance process flow. In contrast, process mapping is best suited for understanding a individual process within a value stream and how to improve it.

So, which mapping strategy should your organization utilize? Both.

Value stream mapping and process mapping complement each other in providing a comprehensive understanding of the value stream and the complex processes contained within it.

The holistic view of the value stream is a beneficial tool for expediting customer value, while process mapping offers an opportunity for targeted improvements within the stream. In combination, both mapping strategies optimize internal workflows to support an agile mindset within an organization.


Value stream and process mapping are valuable solutions for analyzing and improving internal systems. Each approach has distinct advantages, as VSM directly impacts the customer, and process mapping standardizes task workflows.

Organizations can leverage both tools to analyze the value stream and its operations, discover inefficiencies, optimize, and plan for the future. Further, each drives continuous improvement and enhances productivity and efficiency.

Finally, value stream mapping, by itself or in conjunction with process mapping, empowers teams to enhance the value delivered to the end user–the chief stakeholder of every organization.

Are you eager to assess and optimize your value stream but need help determining where to start? Consider investing in our Agile Product Ownership certification course to gain insight into balancing the needs of your business, teams, and customers to maximize the value delivered.

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Product Ownership, Agile Product Ownership, Product Strategy, Product Management

About the author

Emily May | ICAgile, Marketing Specialist
Emily May is a Marketing Specialist at ICAgile, where she helps educate learners on their agile journey through content. With an eclectic background in communications supporting small business marketing efforts, she hopes to inspire readers to initiate more empathy, productivity, and creativity in the workplace for improved internal and external outcomes.