By Ursula Wirtz on October 07 2018 10:42:37
In terms of the Information Systems industry, flowcharts have been used for years, well before the introduction of the commercial computer in business. Originally they included process diagrams; later they were used by programmers as a convenient means to document program logic. Such flowcharts typically made use of ANSI standard flowcharting symbols. But as the Structured Programming movement flourished in the late 1970`s, ANSI symbols were considered archaic, and many new types of diagramming techniques emerged, including Bubble Diagrams, Data Structure Diagrams, E/R Diagrams, HIPO, VTOC, etc. (anybody remember Nassi-Schneiderman Charts?). I could argue the pros and cons of the various techniques but that is not the point. What is important is that all of these diagramming techniques acknowledged documentation as an inherent part of the design process.
Each flowchart should ideally begin with a Terminator shape, from which the next step should be linked. Each shape should be indicative of a specific stage in the process and there are conventions for each of these, the most common being the rectangular "Process" shape. Many others exist, however, including shapes representing Data, Documents and Decisions. Decision shapes are diamonds, each of the four corners (or nodes) being either a link from the preceding shape or action to be taken in the next stage depending on the decision.
Although drawings typically consist of geometric shapes, it is not uncommon to include tables or indices to represent decisions or to provide a cross-reference. Nonetheless, boxes and lines represent the principal means to visualize and communicate a design regardless of the structure to be built, and have been used since time immemorial.
Such drawings basically consist of boxes and arrows. Boxes (be it squares, rectangles, polygons, circles, etc.) represent tangible objects and lines represent relationships between such objects. Flowcharts are similar; here, boxes represent specific types of processes or decisions or objects such as inputs/outputs/files, and lines represent dependencies between them (comes from/goes to).
As a process mapping consultant, it is imperative to get everyone to see not only their own procedures, but how they interconnect into the organizational structure. Once in place and agreed upon by all the contributors, you begin to be able to challenge the current way of doing business and assist them in finding inefficiencies that could be costing the business thousands of dollars.
This is where simple process mapping can be used as an effective tool. Developing sample flowcharts that focus on specific areas or duties can help each subject matter expert define their areas of knowledge and communicate to others in the room. Linking each area together with inter-dependencies and business rules is where the real power of this technique comes in.