By Ursula Huber on December 05 2018 07:06:00
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.
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.
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.
Once the team recognizes the problem areas, they can easily adjust the map to a future state version that can dramatically affect performance and turnaround time of the purchase order process.
Usually, this exercise takes place during an e-procurement project as part of the analysis phase, but can be done at any time. As long as there is a resource who has the proper skills and knows how to draw a flowchart to help the various departments identify their current procedures and potential problem areas within the purchase order approval 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.