In the business world, efficiency and productivity are key to success. Is no secret that a crucial aspect for achieving these goals is having well-defined processes and procedures. One tool that can be incredibly helpful in visualizing and understanding these processes is a flowchart. It is a graphical representation of a process that shows the steps in a sequence, the decisions made at each step, and the flow of inputs and outputs.
What is a Flowchart?
A flowchart is a type of diagram that depicts a process or system using standardized symbols such as arrows, to show the flow of information or materials. These data flow diagrams are used to comprehend, analyze, and improve processes in a variety of industries, including manufacturing or software development, for instance. The symbols used in a flowchart typically include rectangles for process steps, diamonds for decision points, ovals for start and end points, and arrows to show the direction of flow. These workflow charts can be simple or complex, depending on the process being depicted.
Benefits: Why start using it?
There are several benefits that companies can gain from using flowcharts. First of all, they help to improve efficiency on the grounds that they are useful for identifying bottlenecks. When visualizing the steps involved in a process, it is easier to spot unnecessary steps or even combine them. Thus, your business operations will be optimized and will achieve smart goals.
In addition, flow charts provide a common language for communicating procedures and processes, making it easier to train new employees and ensure everyone is following the same procedures. They also provide transparency into your business processes, enabling you to identify issues and track progress. This makes it easier to make data-driven decisions and continuously improve your processes.
Furthermore, flow maps help recognize the impact of decisions on a process, enabling you to make more informed decisions that consider the potential consequences on the overall process. This leads to better decision-making and helps to ensure that your business is running efficiently and effectively.
Overall, using flow charts can provide many advantages to organization. Whether you are a small business owner or a large corporation, utilizing flow charts can help you optimize your processes and operations to properly achieve your business goals.
Types of flow charts
There are several types of process illustrations that businesses can use, each with its own unique benefits and applications:
Process flowchart: Is the most common type and it is used to depict the steps involved in a process. They are especially useful for businesses that rely on a sequence of steps to complete a task or project.
Swimlane flowchart or cross-functional flowchart: this one, is used to visualize the steps made in a process across different departments or roles. It is the best option whether your business has complex processes that involve multiple stakeholders. Swimlane flowcharts enable firms to identify communication breakdowns and inefficiencies that occur when different departments or roles are not aligned.
Data flowcharts: employed to illustrate the flow of data within a system. They are commonly used in software development to map out how data is processed and transformed within an application. This type of flow chart is significantly beneficial for identifying areas where data may be lost or where errors may occur.
Workflow Chart: this kind, focuses on the movement of tasks or activities in a process, rather than the flow of materials or data. It is highly advantageous to represent business processes that involve human decision-making, such as approval processes or customer service workflows.
Value Stream Map: this flowchart depicts the sequence of steps involved in adding value to a product or service during a process. It is a powerful tool for organizations looking to enhance process efficiency and reduce waste, as it helps identify areas of potential improvement.
Deployment Flowchart or flow chart of deployment: consists of a visual representation of the process of installing and configuring a software application or system. This flowchart is remarkably valuable for enterprises that rely heavily on softwares and want to ensure that their deployment process is efficient and effective.
System Flow Chart: this particular flowchart is a graphic illustration of how information and materials move through a system or network of systems. It is practical for companies to document and comprehend complex systems and identify risks. Consequently, system flowcharts can help organizations predict the consequences of system changes before making them.
Cause and Effect Chart or Fishbone diagram: it is extremely convenient for companies to identify the root cause of complex problems. It is especially advantageous in regards to manufacturing and quality control to find the underlying causes of defects or production issues. By visualizing the problem and breaking it down into manageable parts, businesses can prioritize actions and improve collaboration to address the issue.
When creating a flowchart, there are several symbols that are used to represent different actions and decisions within a process. Understanding the meaning behind these symbols is essential to create a clear and effective flowchart. Some of the most commonly used symbols are the following ones:
Start/End Symbol: Allows to indicate the beginning or end of a process. It is usually represented as a circle or oval shape.
Process Symbol: Represents a step or action. It is depicted as a rectangle or other shape with rounded corners.
Decision Symbol: Illustrates a decision point within the system. It is portrayed as a diamond shape.
Input/Output Symbol: Symbolizes the input or output of data in the operation. It is usually represented as a parallelogram shape.
Connector Symbol: Used to connect different parts of the mechanism. It is reflected as a small circle or dot.
Delay Symbol: Indicates a delay or wait time within the process. Generally, it is displayed as a rectangle with curved corners.
Manual Input Symbol: This symbol portrays a manual input of data within the procedure. Usually, it has a trapezoid shape.
Document Symbol: Represents a document or report within the process. It is usually represented as a rectangle with a wave-shaped bottom.
Off-page Connector Symbol: Employed to link to another part of the flowchart that is located on a different page. One common way to depict it is by using a circular shape with a small rectangular shape attached to one of its sides.
By using these symbols in your flowchart, you can create a visual representation of a process that is easy to understand and follow. Always, ensure to select the symbols that best represent the actions and decisions within your process to create a clear and effective flowchart.
Parts of a flowchart
A flowchart typically consists of several parts that work together to convey the process being illustrated. Some of the key parts of a flowchart include the aforementioned symbols, such as the Start/End, the Process, the Decision and the Connector symbols. On the other hand, other relevant parts of the flowchart are the next ones:
Flow Lines: These lines connect the symbols in the flowchart, showing the direction and sequence of the process.
Annotation: This is additional text that provides more detail or explanation about the symbols or process being illustrated. It is typically represented by a small rectangle with a dashed line connecting it to the relevant symbol.
How to create a flowchart
In order to create a process map, follow these steps:
Determine the purpose: Before you start creating your flowchart, it is crucial to understand the purpose of the process you are trying to design. You should always ask yourself these questions: What is the goal of the process? What are the inputs and outputs? Comprehending the aim of the process will help you determine the scope of your flowchart and ensure you include all the necessary steps.
Identify the steps: Once you understand the purpose of the workflow, you will need to identify all the steps involved. This may involve breaking down the process into smaller components. Make sure you capture each step in a logical sequence.
Determine symbols: As previously stated, flowcharts use different symbols to represent different elements of a process. These symbols generally represent actions, decisions, start and end points, and inputs and outputs. Determine which symbols you will use to illustrate each element of your system.
Draw the flowchart: Once you have determined your purpose, outlined the necessary steps, and identified the relevant symbols, it is time to create your flowchart. Begin by placing the starting point of the process on the chart, and progress through each step, utilizing the appropriate symbols to represent each component. To demonstrate the flow of the process, connect each step with arrows.
Test and revise: It is important that when you have completed your flowchart, to test it to make sure it accurately represents the procedure. Follow the flowchart through from start to finish, verifying each step is added and in the correct sequence. Revise your flowchart as much as necessary to make it as clear and reliable as possible.
Share the Flowchart: After completing the final version of your flowchart, it is important to make it accessible to those who require an understanding of the process or system. You can make it available in a digital format or by printing it out and displaying it in a common area.
Five examples of a flowchart
Hiring Process Flowchart: This flowchart represents the steps involved in the hiring process, from posting a job opening to extending a job offer. This one, generally consists of various steps, such as resume screening, interviews, reference verifications, and background checks.
Sales Process Flowchart: This workflow illustrates the steps involved in the sales methods, from prospecting to closing a sale. It can involve, for instance, a series of sequential stages such as lead generation, qualification of potential customers, proposal development, and contract negotiation.
Project Management Flowchart: Portrays the procedure involved in managing a project, from its initiation to its delivery. The steps usually comprise project planning, budgeting, scheduling, risk management, and quality assurance
Complaint Resolution Flowchart: Outlines the required actions in resolving a customer complaint, including receiving the complaint, investigating the issue, proposing a solution, and following up with the customer.
Decision-Making Flowchart: facilitates the decision-making process by presenting a range of options and criteria that specifies the required steps based on the selected decision.
Flow charts are an indispensable tool for businesses seeking to streamline their operations and minimize errors. They offer a visual representation of processes, enabling everyone involved to comprehend and follow them easily. There are several types of flow charts to choose from, ranging from basic to more complex diagrams, and each provides distinct advantages.
Nowadays, there are tools that can be extremely useful in order to document the processes that we do in our computer. In fact, Uphint transforms any workflow on a step-by-step guide template, automatically. Thanks to this digital tool, enterprises are able to improve internal and external communication. Besides, it is beneficial for onboardings or even answering questions about procedures on the computer.
Lastly, to create an effective flowchart, it is necessary to follow a few key steps, such as identifying the process, defining steps, selecting symbols, and testing and refining the chart. By using flow charts, businesses can improve their processes, identify areas for improvement, and increase productivity, giving them a competitive edge in their field. We encourage you to establish it as one of your profesional goals this 2023