Just as the name implies, information mapping involves the creation of a visual depiction of the process involved in how a company does business. Information mapping can range from a visual depiction of the workflow within a single department – showing the process involved in recruitment and hiring of new employees through a human resources department, for example – to the entire process flow for how a manufacturing company produces product and brings it to market – from the procurement of parts to the manufacturing process to quality assurance to marketing and, finally, to distribution of the product to the consumer. Over the past several years, information mapping has been shown to benefit companies by improving efficiency and lowering costs. There are several ways in which this happens:

Identifying inefficiencies

Pinpointing exact areas within an organization where waste occurs, or where delays exist in the business flow, is rarely an easy task. But a visual depiction of a process allows corporate management to more easily identify weaknesses. These might include a delay in receiving critical parts from a certain vendor which, in turn, postpones the manufacturing process, for example, or how the lack of graphic artists in a marketing department results in higher costs when the manager must hire expensive freelance artists to get the work done.

Identifying what works

Just as information mapping can pinpoint weaknesses within an organization, it can also help to identify which practices are most effective. When one manager offers incentives to employees that motivate them to increase their rates of productivity, for instance, that same practice may be put to good use in other departments where productivity lags behind.

Improved communication

We’ve all heard the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and information mapping has proven that to be true. A visual depiction of a process or workflow effectively bridges all communication barriers. This can be especially true with companies that employ a high number of non-native-English-speaking employees, for example. While it’s true that all documentation within an organization should be translated into the native language(s) of employees – in fact, companies are required by law to do so in many situations – a visual depiction requires only one translation: that involved in creating a graphic that can be clearly understood by all employees, regardless of what language they speak.

Ensuring the safety of employees

One of the most common uses of information mapping is in the area of ensuring employees’ safety. Whether it involves a graphic depicting how to operate a piece of office equipment, or a much more complex visual depiction of the negative consequences of sloppy forklift operation in a warehouse environment, mapping has long been used as a safety measure that is easily and quickly understood – even when no words at all appear on the graphic.

Improved training and service documentation

Technical documentation was one of the first areas in which information mapping was used consistently and quite effectively. Whether the documentation is used to train a new employee, as a reference for consumers, or in the organization of databases for computer-aided instruction, documentation benefits enormously from visual depictions of concepts and ideas. Although the way in which information is graphically presented varies greatly depending on the specific type of documentation involved, information mapping plays a crucial role in effectively communicating with the target audience. While information mapping may sound like a new concept, it has actually been used for decades in technical documentation and as a process tool for corporate management. Even the smallest company in virtually any industry can benefit from use of visual depictions. They can make it easier to identify and resolve problem areas in the workflow of a company, thereby eliminating waste and reducing costs. They can help to train new employees and provide customer documentation that is easily understood and quickly produced. And, perhaps most importantly of all, information mapping can be an effective form of communication that crosses language barriers and is readily comprehended by employees, consumers, customers, vendors, and other business associates.