A flowchart is a graphical representation of a process or a system that details all the sequence of events required to create an output. This helps one understand the relationship between a particular event and its impacts on a given outcome. It is also commonly known as a flow diagram. Though widely used in the field of software development, flowcharts are also now extensively used by business architects to understand complex business processes and provide the best possible solution. In this article, I am going to discuss the importance of flowcharts in business architecture, steps to create a simple flowchart, and the best tools available in the market.
The Importance of Flowcharts in Business Architecture
Sometimes it is more effective and easier to present something visually than through words. That is the essence of what flowcharts do for us when we use it in the Business Architecture. Flowcharts can explain highly complex business processes with symbols and text which are a lot easier to comprehend and digest quickly by a wider audience. Here are some of the more salient reasons to use flowcharts:
One of the major advantages of flowcharts is the ability to graphically represent business process models to analyze, improve and automate current processes. Flowcharts can help an individual to draw the process model in such a manner that it shows every step of a process in a clear and explicit manner. The top-down and left-t0-right flow of steps provide a natural order to a process and are easy to follow at even a glance. This helps in communicating the process with someone who is unfamiliar with it such as a new employee or an external team, reducing the time needed to learn the processes enables teams to get the work done faster.
The first step of any continuous improvement procedure is to define the current status of the process by creating an “As-In Flowchart”. This allows us to analyze the processes for any waste of time or inefficiency. After we identify the bottlenecks or areas for improvement, we can draw a new flowchart to implement the leaner processes.
Flowcharts are widely used in most of the training documents as it enables new employees to easily understand how each step moves an entire process to completion.
In any industry, especially in the technology industry, it is important to have a troubleshooting guide to better understand issues and get to the root cause in order to take the necessary corrective measure. These guides are usually in a form of a flow chart that progressively narrows the range of possible solutions based on a set of criteria.
Steps to Create a flowchart
Flowcharts typically use specialized symbols for a particular activity in the process. Some of the main symbols that are used to construct flow charts include:
- A round-edged rectangle to represent starting and ending activities, which are sometimes referred to as terminal activities.
- A rectangle to represent an intermediate activity or step. Each step or activity within a process is indicated by a single rectangle, which is known as an activity or process symbol.
- A diamond to represent a decision point. The question to be answered or a decision to be made is written inside the diamond, which is known as a decision symbol. The answer (typically Yes or No) determines the path that will be taken as a next step.
- Flow lines show the progression or transition from one step to another.
- Swin lane is used to visually distinguish the jobs or responsibilities performed by different persons or departments.
Constructing a flowchart involves the following main steps:
- Define the process and identify the scope of the flow diagram
- Identify project team members who own the activities and need to be involved in the construction of the flow chart
- Define the different steps involved in the process and the interrelationships between the different steps (all team members should help develop and agree on the different steps in the process)
- Finalize the diagram, involving other concerned individuals as needed and making any modifications necessary
- Use the flow diagram and continuously update it as needed.
Best Online Flowchart Tools
Although it is possible to create a rudimentary flowchart with Microsoft Powerpoint or Word, you may need a specialized flowchart tool to efficiently create a professional-looking flowchart that visually communicates complex ideas and processes in the simplest, clearest form possible. Here is a list of the top open source and commercial flowchart tools available online.
Flowcharts are an essential part of a business process management practice and an important tool in the hand of business architects. Creating accurate flowcharts can be a lot of work, but the benefits they can deliver in both the short and long-run make them worth the time and energy.
Do you use flowcharts in your business? If yes, let us know how you use them! If you want to learn more about business process documentation or have any questions, please send me an email, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!