Data Process Flow Mapping Part 1: “Do´s”

Pharmaceutical companies face multiple data integrity challenges. Striving to develop life-saving drugs, optimize manufacturing processes, and ensure regulatory compliance all at once. Vast amounts of information are flowing through their systems. Therefore, a clear and comprehensive understanding of how data moves within their operations is needed.

This is where data process flow maps come into play.

Data process flow maps act as visual guides. As a cornerstone of data governance, they are illuminating the pathways that data follows from its creation until its destruction. These maps provide invaluable insights into the complex interdependencies and relationships between different stages of pharmaceutical processes, enabling the identification of bottlenecks or data gaps. Finally, it’s a chance to improve efficiency, make informed decisions, and to mitigate risks. Like that, data security can be enhanced, and compliance efforts streamlined. A culture of continuous improvement is being set up. The interdisciplinary aspects of this technique are highlighted as well, as activities around data process flow maps are teamwork-based.

Join us on this journey as we unravel the power of data process flow maps. Discover how they play an important role in shaping the future of pharmaceutical innovation and operational excellence.


  1. Get collaborative!

Embracing a collaborative working style and involving individuals who are process experts makes Process Data Flow Mapping successful. This approach fosters a comprehensive grasp of the process as stakeholders pool their insights, yielding a holistic understanding. A cross-functional team contributes a spectrum of perspectives. It is comprised of

  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs),
  • Operators or end users,
  • Process Owners / System Owners / IT,
  • Data Integrity Experts,
  • and Quality Risk Management professionals.

This diversity contributes to identifying system interfaces, potential bottlenecks, and quality assurance gaps, fortifying the accuracy of the mapping process. Each member contributes to the collective expertise. Like that, comprehensive documentation is ensured. Data integrity gaps, and mitigation actions can be identified, unraveling robust process insights. In this way, efficiency and compliance across the pharmaceutical landscape is driven effectively.

  1. Connect high-quality data governance and regulatory compliance.

Effective data governance in the pharmaceutical sector goes beyond technicalities. It is a key element for product quality, patient safety, and regulatory alignment. The integration of data process mapping elevates this process.

Data process maps have already made their entrance into compliance and regulatory requirements. ICH Q9(R1) advocates Quality Risk Management (QRM) tools like flowcharts and process mapping for informed decision-making. EU Annex 11, Item 4.3 stresses up-to-date GMP system listings with data flows and interfaces, while MHRA (‘GxP’ Data Integrity Guidance and Definitions) emphasizes mapping for supporting risk assessments for processes with GxP data. WHO (Guideline on Data Integrity) underscores QRM principles throughout the data lifecycle by mapping data processes. PIC/S (Assessment of Quality Risk Management Implementation) provides a practical roadmap through process mapping. It clarifies inputs, outputs, and control measures. This synergy ensures better data quality and consistency.

In essence, the integration of data process mapping is a vital component of effective data governance. Aligning pharmaceutical practices with regulatory requirements and enhancing data quality and consistency, ultimately benefits product quality and patient well-being.

  1. Using the maps during audits and onboarding to explain the process.

The advantages of employing process maps are multifaceted and impactful. Visual representations of processes coupled with data integrity risk identification form a potent toolset. These maps serve as invaluable aids during inspections, offering regulators transparent insights into operations. They equally serve as educational resources for the onboarding and training of new team members, streamlining the assimilation process. Moreover, they furnish a strong foundation for comprehending the end-to-end process landscape, enabling holistic insights.

Leveraging these maps during audits and onboarding mitigates misunderstandings, miscommunication, and confusion. The visual clarity expedites comprehension, bridging gaps that textual explanations might leave open. By leveraging these visual aids, the pharmaceutical industry can heighten transparency, fortify compliance, and cultivate a culture of precision. Process maps empower organizations to embrace a proactive approach to quality assurance. This enhances operational efficiency and aligns all stakeholders around a collective understanding of processes.

  1. Identification and mitigation of risks.

Another crucial “do” when it comes to data mapping involves leveraging the mapped information effectively. The data process flow maps offer not only an insightful overview of operations. They also suggest means to identify and manage risks more proactively. By connecting these maps with Risk Assessment (RA) processes, a powerful synergy is created. Integrating less formal tools, such as data and process mapping, with more formal tools during risk mitigation and acceptance, can be a game-changer for risk management. This approach ensures that critical risks are identified, mitigated, and controlled with precision. As highlighted by Peter Baker in his article on Formality in Quality Risk Management, this mixture enhances the identification of data integrity risks. At the same time, it reinforces the industry’s commitment to rigorous quality standards and regulatory compliance.

  1. Improve process design and operations.

Process visualization through data mapping yields the vital advantage of streamlined operations. With an elevated process overview, organizations gain advantage to pinpoint redundant or unnecessary steps within their workflows. This clarity empowers teams to streamline processes, eliminating inefficiencies and optimizing resource allocation. As a direct outcome of data mapping, this enhancement in operations not only boosts productivity but also enhances resource utilization. Ultimately it is contributing to cost savings and a more agile pharmaceutical industry.

  1. Ask open questions and support critical thinking.

Asking open questions and fostering critical thinking are necessary aspects of effective data process flow mapping. Embracing open-ended inquiries allows professionals to delve deeper into the complexity of their processes, encouraging a holistic understanding. Aside from that, listening to the responses and feedback given by the involved cross-functional team members is also an important part of communication, which should be applied.  Making assumptions and simply executing can decrease the value of process data flow maps.

However, by thinking beyond the limits and changing perspectives, fresh outlooks on the process steps and associated data integrity risks can be gained. This approach encourages collaboration between participants. Enabling professionals to visualize their data flow diagrams from a process-agnostic standpoint facilitates a more comprehensive and adaptable framework.

  1. Training of DI principles and DI tools.

The training of data integrity principles and tools is crucial for individuals engaged in the process of creating process data flow maps. It not only equips them with the necessary technical skills but also fosters a deep understanding of the fundamental principles underlying data integrity. This will ensure the accuracy and reliability of the maps produced. Moreover, comprehensive training serves as a powerful tool in reducing bias, as it encourages map creators to approach the task with a neutral and systematic perspective. The risk of subjective interpretations that may skew the representation of data processes is minimized. In an era where data integrity is of paramount importance, such training is an important step towards achieving high quality data flow maps.


We would love to listen to your experience with the methodology of data process flow mapping. Which benefits or difficulties have you encountered? Do not hesitate to contact us!

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