By Katrin Freeh on December 04 2018 12:12:04
A flowchart could be defined as a pictorial representation of a process in which the steps are symbolized by shapes - in other words a diagram that explains the steps in a procedure. Each shape should link to its neighbour by a connector line, and often these have arrow heads to describe the direction of flow.
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.
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.
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.
If your organization is looking for ways to reduce costs, the purchase order chain is one area that can be made more efficient. If the purchasing department learns how to draw a flowchart depicting the as is for each department, the overall effort could help reduce costs by eliminating redundant approval processes and mistakes.
I guess what I`m driving at is that despite all of this peripheral activity, and to refute my Business Analyst friend, the principal thrust of the engineer or architect is to produce and maintain a reliable set of drawings. It all comes down to boxes and lines. Interestingly, today`s analysts and programmers think drawings are "old-hat" or passé. I don`t care whether you draw it with pencil and paper or by computer, documentation is an inherent part of the design process. Failure to recognize this is to deny reality.
flowchart symbols examples