Learn to unleash the power of flowcharts

As we are all well aware, diagramming is a potent way to solve problems and as technology improves along with our understanding of the world around us, this becomes a whole lot easier. While our last post detailed some interesting mistakes with regard to sequence diagrams, today’s post will concentrate on flowchartingand how you can use it to solve simple to complex problems.To start things off, let’s attempt to define what a flowchart is. A flowchart is basically a tool which is perfect for “visually presenting the flow of data through information processing systems, the operations performed within the system and the sequence in which they are performed”. Presuming this is your first foray into the world of flowcharting, why not brush up on some of the basics here.

Flowcharting for me?

While the very first flowchart could be credited to Frank Gilbreth in 1921, the complexity of use varies depending on the problem that needs to be solved. After Gilbreth introduced flowcharting, it soon found a home in the field of industrial engineering curricula. Before you think to yourself that industrial engineering is something that is way above your scope of thinking, pause for a second.

Flowcharting in this day and age has found itself being used to solve a myriad of problems. For you to get the gist of what exactly I mean, a basic flowchart is highlighted below.

Seems rather simple, right? Well, it is. Yet as previously mentioned, flowcharting can be used to solve a great many complex problems that encompass a variety of fields as well. Needless to say there are different types of flowcharts to consider. For instance, let’s consider how flowcharting can be used to highlight a process in the banking sector, which can be regarded as being moderately complex.

Some tips, some tricks

Flowcharting has become a potent tool in a diagrammer’s arsenal. However, there are few simple tips that you can consider to make your flowcharts perfect.1.Verify –You started on a flowchart for a reason.The question you need to ask yourself once you finish is, “Does this flowchart represent the process that I set out to describe?” May seem like a no-brainer but trust me, verifying what you have drawn may just help you save face when you send it across to your boss.2. Validate – always conduct a walkthrough of the actual process. As a manager if you document the processes of your subordinates, it is best that they go through the process with you. Whatever said and done, no one knows a job better than the person doing it.

3. Shape Legend – Depending on your flowchart, it is best that you consider putting up a legend as well. While those who do create or draw flowcharts are well aware of what the various shapes mean, like a diamond is a decision, there are some shapes such as manual operations and alternate processes that people are not that familiar with. Creately flowchart tools support all these shapes so you can use it straightaway without exporting any other shapes.

4. No Caps Please – Using ALL CAPS takes up too much space and can be harder to read. So stick to lower case text and keep it simple.

5. Pencil & Paper – I am of the opinion that people may not have fully foregone the use of pencil and paper. Personally speaking, I find it useful to sketch out all my thoughts before I use the PC to flesh out my flowcharts. Oh, well, to each to his own.

6. Arrow Direction – Ever seen those arrows which overlap each other? You’re never quite sure where they are pointing. So how can you avoid this? a) Avoid overlapping b) Use connectors

Author

rohitha

Rohitha Perera is a Community Evangelist at Creately.com, a collaborative diagramming software for teams. When he’s not working on marketing strategies for web start-ups, he spends time reading, watching movies, jogging, gardening and cooking. You can follow him on Twitter:@creately @ForzaRP

Comments

  1. […] blog, you would have been privy to a great deal of information on flowcharts, like this one – Learn to unleash the power of flowcharts. While flowcharts are excellent when it comes to business, it would be prudent at some point to pay […]

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