Using a flowchart in business is not an entirely new concept, but have you fully utilized everything it has to offer? A well-made flowchart makes more of a difference than you might think, especially in a constantly busy world that is overloaded with information.
If you find documents to be dry and overwhelming, consider turning to flowcharts to help simplify things. With a set of symbols and very few words, they highlight only the important parts that need attention, giving you great clarity on how to handle everything.
What Is A Flowchart?
A flowchart is a diagram that shows a step-by-step progression of a process, workflow, or system. It uses specialized symbols to illustrate the orders and meanings of the tasks involved, connected through lines or arrows. Each shape represents a different course of action, which you can use accordingly for others to visualize the overall procedure.
The basic symbols in flowcharts and their meanings
These symbols can be very overwhelming at first sight, as there seem to be so many of them. However, as you get used to them, you will find it easier to understand what they mean and what context to use them in. For beginners, here are the five most commonly used ones and their roles:
Terminal: Used to represent the start or end, otherwise known as terminal activities, or potential outcomes
Process: Used for any basic task or action in the overall workflow
Data: Used to indicate the input/output of information
Flowline: Used as a guide for directions and order of the entire flowchart
Decision: Used to indicate that a question needs an answer or a choice needs to be made, the result of which determines the following steps
What Are Flowcharts Used For?
The main use of flowcharts is to help you simultaneously visualize the bigger picture while also having a clear grasp of the details. For this reason, they play an essential and irreplaceable role in different aspects of a business.
Flowcharts in Production & Manufacturing
Flowcharts can help companies maximize the efficiency of their production and manufacturing by simplifying these processes and highlighting the most crucial details. You can often find these diagrams used to:
- Thoroughly illustrate the entire process of product development, manufacturing, quality assurance, maintenance, etc.
- Ensure effective communication and transparency between different departments
- Identify defects and encourage continuous improvements of the entire process
Flowcharts in Day-to-Day Operations
Flowcharts can solidify the work structures, automate the workflow, simplify operational processes, and improve overall productivity. Some company management activities that require these diagrams are:
- Assigning specific tasks to departments, teams, and employees
- Creating a solid routine and company standards for everyone to follow
- Developing plans for various activities such as meetings, team buildings, company policies, audits, and more
Flowcharts in Sales & Marketing
In commercial sales and marketing, company executives use flowcharts to visually represent the approach, planning, and execution of a project. The employees of both departments will know how to work together to achieve the best results. In these areas, a flowchart has its moment when:
- Planning strategies for market research, sales process, campaigns, etc.
- Showing step-by-step guides for communication plans, PR strategies, and more.
In addition to business, flowcharts are also widely used in software development and programming. They help developers visualize complicated information in a more organized way, making it easier to process data, assess structures, and make other informed decisions.
The Most Common Types Of Flowcharts
Flowcharts’ usage is far-reaching because they can be applied to almost all business process models. These four types are the most common owing to how simple yet effective they are.
The Process Flowchart
A process flowchart is a diagram that shows an orderly series of steps and decisions that lead to the eventual outcomes. It is incredibly versatile, as it uses a logical flow that anyone can understand. Consisting of basic shapes, you can draw it in just a second, whether by hand on a piece of paper or any automation software.
The Data Flowchart
Also known as the data flow diagram (DFD), this flowchart helps you visualize how information is transmitted and processed in a wide system. Using predefined symbols makes data flow more tangible and easier to understand.
There are two main types, logical and physical. The logical DFD focuses on the informational paths of a business, while the physical one centers more around the actual implementation of the data flow. Depending on the purpose, you can use either one to analyze the system, find ways to improve it, or even build an entirely new business model.
The Workflow Flowchart
A workflow flowchart demonstrates all the business processes of an organization. This includes the roles of individuals or departments, daily responsibilities, how services are provided, amongst other things.
Business process mapping gives new employees an overview of the workplace and creates unity within the organization. It also gives a thorough analysis of the company, thereby eliminating any potential flaws, unnecessary steps and strengthening the system.
The Swimlane Flowchart
This type of flowchart illustrates the cross-functional relationships between different employees, teams, and departments in a company. Similar as it may sound to the workflow chart, this one, however, provides more depth and clarity thanks to its structure.
Much like the name suggests, this flowchart usually comes in horizontal or vertical lanes, which categorize separate work teams. By observing the swimlane chart, you can understand how the people responsible interact, collaborate, and influence each other. This also makes it easier to identify problems and reduce redundancies.
Examples Of Business Process Flowcharts
Example Of The Process Flowchart
A basic process flowchart showing an article writing procedure
This flowchart depicts what a simple process of writing usually consists of. Based on the shapes of the boxes, you can easily tell what each action requires, while the arrows provide a helpful guide on the orders to which they are done.
Example Of The Data Flowchart
A process model of the data flowchart on managing customer’s data
This business process diagram maps out the flow of information when a customer makes an order. It comprises all the primary channels and forms through which the info travels. In the end, what you receive is the fundamental knowledge of how a company handles data collected after providing a service.
Example Of The Workflow Flowchart
A workflow flowchart demonstrating the way a customer’s order is handled
Containing only important steps and scenarios, this process flow diagram accents the actions needed when dealing with a customer’s order. It can be used as part of the training materials by an office manager for new employees or an external team to follow.
Example Of The Swimlane Flowchart
A cross-functional swimlane flowchart of a website-changing project
This flowchart demonstrates the link between company departments when achieving a mutual goal. The project teams are divided into three lanes with assigned roles put into different-colored boxes. Everything is neatly organized, so viewers can still easily understand the complicated network.