By Katrin Freeh on December 07 2018 18:44:54
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.
Many of us use flowcharts in our daily work - indeed the creation and deployment of a flowchart is one of the most common tasks in business today. But what do we mean by a flowchart, and what is it supposed to do?
Many departments have established business rules based on guiding principles and philosophies that may have been created years before. Because there has been no initiative in documenting these procedures, chances are that there are many rules still in place that are causing unnecessary barriers and redundancies that add to the purchase order cycle time.A flowchart is a sequence of graphical symbols and shapes that can be used to help subject matter experts visually walk through their processes and validate those rules for accuracy and relevancy based on current business needs.
I recently overheard a Business Analyst say there was more to systems architecture than drawing boxes and arrows on a piece of paper. This may be true to a degree, but the ultimate deliverable of any engineering/architectural practice is a set of drawings from which to build a product. Architects and engineers do not spend all of their time drawing diagrams; for example, they have to specify requirements and analyze such things as the stress of components to determine the suitability of materials for use in design. But aside from this, the end result of engineering or architecture, their deliverable, is a set of drawings, be it a blueprint, a floor plan, wiring diagram, plumbing, or a set of flowcharts.
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.
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.
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