Blog 8: Flowchart Basics: What is a Flowchart?

Flowcharts are perhaps the most popular out of the 7 quality tools. This tool is used to visualize the sequence of steps in a process, event, workflow, system, etc. In addition to showing the process as a whole, a flowchart also highlights the relationship between steps and the process boundaries (start and end). 

They are widely used in multiple fields to document, study, plan, improve, etc. It helps to communicate complex processes in clear, easy-to-understand diagrams. Flowcharts are sometimes spelled as flow charts. It uses rectangles, ovals, diamonds, and potentially numerous other shapes to define the type of step. While the connecting arrows are used to define flow and sequence. They can range from simple, hand-drawn charts to comprehensive computer-drawn diagrams depicting multiple steps and routes. If we consider all the various forms of flowcharts, they are one of the most common diagrams on the planet, used by both technical and non-technical people in numerous fields.

Flowcharts are sometimes called by more specialized names such as Process Flowchart, Process Map, Functional Flowchart, Business Process Mapping, Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN), or Process Flow Diagram (PFD). They are related to other popular diagrams, such as Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) and Unified Modeling Language (UML) Activity Diagrams.

To start making of flow chart, it first groups all the homogenous or similar data into smaller groups of data called strata. This tool is used for data collected from different sources like people shifts, machines, suppliers, etc.To get the best results from stratification, make sure to include which information about your data sources may affect your analysis results.

A flow chart is a visual representation of a process that can illustrate:

  • What activities are completed, by whom, in what sequence
  • Hand-offs between departments or individuals
  • Internal and external operational boundaries

Symbol of Flowchart.

In the flowchart, we utilize the standard arrangement of symbols, and it is essential to standardize the use of these symbols so that everyone can understand and use the flowcharts easily

Types of Flowchart
There are four basic types of flow charts:

  1. Macro
  2. Mini
  3. Micro
  4. Matrix flow chart

When to use a Flowchart

Following are the uses of a flow chart:

  • To develop an understanding of how a process is done
  • To study a process for improvement
  • To communicate to others how a process is done
  • When better communication is needed between people involved with the same process
  • To document a process
  • When planning a project

How to use a Flowchart   

  • First, we have to gather the employee team that is elaborate in carrying out the process for analyzing it.
  • Then we have to make a list of each phase that is included in the process from beginning to finish.
  • In case we are using an online tool such as Microsoft Visio, excel, or word, then we can first write the steps of the process and record them later on the canvas when we identify the flow.
  • Recognize the step’s order; whenever representing the flow with our flowchart, display it from top to bottom or left to right.
  • Link the shapes using arrows to specify the flow.

Uses of Flowchart:

Following are some of the uses of a flow chart.

  • A flowchart is used to build a general understanding of a process.
  • To analyze processes and discover areas of issues, inefficiencies, blockers, etc.
  • To standardize processes by leading everyone to follow the same steps
  • It helps in the planning of a new project
  • It is used for auditing a process
  • A flowchart is used to standardize the procedures so everybody to follow similar steps.

Advantages of Flowcharts:

There are various advantages of Flowcharts:

  • A flowchart is an excellent means of communicating the system’s logic to all involved or concerned.
  • Using a flowchart, the process can be examined proficiently hence reducing cost and time wastage.
  • In debugging process, a flowchart is useful.
  • A flowchart works as a blueprint or guide during the system analysis and phases of program development.
  • Using a flowchart, the operating system’s maintenance becomes easy. It helps programmers to apply efforts on that part more efficiently.
  • Improve process understanding
  • Provide a tool for training
  • Identify problem areas and improvement opportunities
  • Define and analyze the process in an easy way

Disadvantages of Flowcharts:

  • We cannot type the flowcharts symbols, so flowchart reproduction becomes a problem.
  • Sometimes the logic of the program is relatively little bit complex. In that situation, the flowchart becomes clumsy and complex. It can become a trouble for the user, resulting in a waste of money and time trying to resolve an issue.
  • Alterations and modifications are difficult in a flowchart, if alteration is needed, then we have to draw the entire flowchart again, and in this way, more time is wasted.

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