By Vanessa Richter on December 05 2018 07:07:52
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.
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?
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.
A flowchart can enable the process analyst to effectively document the information given to them by the subject matter experts. With a defined list of symbols, directional arrows and flow diagrams, flowcharts can help the team find gaps and or problem areas that have been known for awhile but have never been visually mapped out in an as-is process map.
This is not easily done, especially in a large room with multiple experts who know only a small portion of the entire process. Each contributor who works within the team can identify their specific areas they deal with on a daily basis, but do not necessarily understand or know the linkages and dependencies that exist outside of their general areas.
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.