By Ursula Huber on October 18 2018 14:28:20
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
Flowcharts can be quickly created in many computer software programs; even recent versions of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint contain Smart Shapes that allow users to rapidly insert a flowchart into a document of presentation. Specialist Flowchart Diagramming software also exists but for sheer versatility and the ability to connect data to shapes I would put my money on Microsoft Visio. It has a huge range of ready-made stencils containing all the shapes you could possibly need (and the ability to create your own if you wish), and very slick automatic connection features. Visio also allow a flowchart that dexcribes one process to become part of a larger process and to integrate with it via a hyperlink from a button on the drawing page.