By Kristin Walter on December 01 2018 12:20:11
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.
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.
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.
In addition to diagramming techniques, engineers and architects have found it useful to develop models and prototypes to evaluate the overall physical aspects of their design. These are useful but let us not forget they are all ultimately based on a design of some kind (boxes and lines). From the models and prototypes, designs can be adjusted as required.
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.
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.