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Visio is Windows software that can be used to create process maps, Lean 6 Sigma diagrams, and other tools for documentation and mapping.

Detailed BPM Example

detailed example of a business process map

Requesting Visio

Learn how to request Visio

Visio licensing is $24.00/per user per year. 

Please complete this order form with a name and email address for each license requested. Multiple licenses may be entered on the same form as long as they are being charged to the same cost center.  Email the signed form to

Please submit the signed form prior to the 1st of the month to avoid delays.

Downloading Visio

Learn how to download Visio

O365 offers an online version of Visio, which works well to view documents.  But, it is not optimal for creating documents, so Visio should be downloaded to your Windows personal computer.  These are step-by-step instructions to download Visio to your PC.

Visio cannot be downloaded to Macintosh computers.

menu image

  1. At the top of the browser, click Resources then click Webmail/Office 365.
  2. Log into Microsoft by entering or selecting your email, clicking Next, and entering your NetID password.
  3. At the top right, click Install Office then Office 365 apps.
  4. You will see the Just a few more steps... pop-up.
  5. Click the View apps & devices button.
  6. Click the blue Install Visio button. If you are not sure if you need 64-bit or 32-bit, please call the Helpdesk at 448.2222.

  7. Click on the circle again to choose Sign Out.

Using Visio

Visio basics
  1. Open Visio.
  2. Select Basic Diagram -- Create
    Visio screen
  3. Formatting
    1. Select Design.
    2. Click the Down arrow to move to the next row of designs.
    3. We use “Modern – Bubble.”
      visio design options
  4. Border & Title
    1. Select Design.
    2. We use “Alphabet.”
      Visio design screen
    3. You will see VBackground-1 as a separate tab.
    4. Enter your title (if you will have more than one page, delete the title and put it on each separate page).
  5. Switch tabs to Page-1.
  6. Pick your shapes
    1. Basic Shapes
    2. More Shapes → Business → Business Process → Six Sigma Flowchart Shapes
      visio six sigma shapes
  7. Start at the very beginning
    1. Start shape
    2. Process Steps
    3. Drag in your shape
      Visio page
  8. Connectors
    1. On Home Tab, you will see
      1. Pointer Tool
      2. Connector
      3. Text
        visio toolbar
    2. Pointer Tab is what you want to use when you are adding/moving shapes – Ctrl+1
    3. Connector is how you add arrows – Ctrl+3
    4. Text allows you to add text inside boxes or anywhere on the page – Ctrl+2
  9. Spacing – magic green guidelines show spacing between shapes. Important to be consistent.
  10. Text – click on shape to add text. The default font is Franklin Gothic, but we use Arial as per the UTHSC Branding guidelines.
    Visio text box
    1. Click outside shape to add text
    2. Insert Text Box
  11. Be sure to save your work!!
    1. File → Save As
      visio save as screen

The more detail, the better!

Let’s try an exercise:

How to bake a cake - think of all the steps needed to bake a cake and create a process map of those steps in Visio.

Supplemental Information

Visio Tips & Tricks

Learn tips & tricks to make Visio work for you!

UTHSC faculty and staff should use Visio to create business process maps (BPM). The purpose of BPM is to display a process in simple, visual terms so that it is easy for everyone to understand.

We use a standard template that can be downloaded.

Here are some helpful tips when using Visio to create your BPM:

  • BPMs must have a start and an end. The end could be a link to another page/process, if possible.
  • BPMs are linear. A person can only do one thing at a time. So, BPMs should go left to right. However, it is possible to have two different people or departments doing things simulataneously during the process.
  • Process steps should include:  Who is performing the step and an action verb (i.e. Business Manager enters form fields into IRIS).
  • Process steps should reflect exactly what the user/customer does, in their words. Be descriptive. For example, “Student accesses form on webpage.” “Student completes form online or prints form to complete manually on paper.”
  • Be sure to identify pain points and issues.

KEEP IT SIMPLE! The fewer types of shapes used, the better. The intention is to make a picture of a process and to show the process in the most simple, straightforward manner. Many processes are not simple to follow. The focus should be on the process, not what the shape means.

Basic Shapes

start/end button Start/End Symbols indicate the start and end points on the map.
process button Rectangular boxes are used to indicate process steps.  Remember: this is a business process, so these are generally manual steps.
decision button Diamonds are used for decisions, when the individual performing the step has a choice.  Usually, these are Yes/No decisions.  However, the response can be more specific to the question.  In addition, there may be more than two responses to the question.  For example:  “How will remains be dispose of --Burial, NOK pick-up, shipping?”
connector button Off-page connectors are used when another process is initiated or if the map exceeds the space limit and it is continued on another page.  Be sure to name or number these connectors (“Donor”, “A” or “1”), and label the “from” and the “to” shapes.
start/end button Database symbol is used to indicate the electronic database storage of data.
external data button External Data symbol is used to indicate data from an outside source, such as a spreadsheet or data feed from an external processor (e.g.  Excel spreadsheets from Practice Plans; CAS application data).
external data button Document symbol indicates a paper document.  Multiple documents can be used to indicate a file containing more than one document type.
paint point button Pain Points, Issues & Risks are included on the process map to show where issues exist.  A separate page of Pain Points & Issues are documented in greater detail and denoted with a code, such as “P1” to indicate the Pain Point #1.  Pain Points could be “data integrity risk,” “Motion Waste:  paperwork walked across campus for approval,” or “Defect Waste:  Process delay occurs when incomplete forms are received.”

Shape Tips

  • Shape size should be consistent throughout document, whenever possible. 
    • If a shape has a lot of text, consider splitting the shape into two steps. 
    • If clarification is needed, add a note outside step. 
  • Align shapes as much as possible.  Pleasing to the eye goes a long way to give the impression of simple. 
  • Shapes should be a consistent distance apart.  Visio has a tool which provides guidance on shape size and distance.  Uniformity makes the document easier to follow. 
  • When entering text in shapes, use Arial font and 10 point font for consistency and readability.  
  • Use crisp and concise language to capture the step.   
    • Avoid ambiguity.   
    • Separate process steps if necessary to make the contents clear and concise. 
    • Always use action verbs with processes (i.e. Open File). 
    • Be concise - detailed processes can be described on another page. 
    • Write for your audience (should be clear, concise, and easy to follow for users). 
  • Capture the user’s exact words.  Avoid putting into your words.  It is their process, so their words should be captured.   
    • Example:  “Daily IRIS Load” not “Daily IRIS Referential Load” 
  • Use roles and titles, not individual names in process steps. 
  • Job titles should be capitalized. 
  • Use upper/lower case instead of all caps. All caps = screaming 
  • Use all caps only when referring to buttons, tabs, and proper names (when required). 
  • Decision boxes  
    • Have at least two exits.  Can have more than two exits. 
    • Exits are always labeled “Yes/No” or whatever are appropriate answers to the question. 
  • Process flows can exceed one page.

Connectors, Lines & Arrows

  • Lines should be consistent in length. 
  • Straight arrows are ideal.  Reduce the number of bends in arrows.  (Use Shift+arrow key to move line in small increments) 
  • Use the Visio magic green lines to size and line up items. 
  • Never crisscross arrows, as this will make the process map much less readable.  Bowl of spaghetti 

Last Published: Apr 12, 2021