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Flowchart Tutorial: Common Questions, Types, Tools and Tips!

A flowchart is the graphic representation that demonstrates the workflow of a company, the crucial business process or the solution of a problem. Today, a flowchart can be considered as an essential business tool for companies to document, study, plan and better their communication with easy-to-use systematic diagrams.

The progression of any topic can be show through the uses of boxes, arrows, triangles (or whichever shape you wish to use). It can be a technical tool for you to share with your colleagues or supervisors. Or on the other hand, it can be a common tool with simple diagrams for you to share your vision with your audience.

 What Are the Benefits of Creating A Flowchart?

  • Systematic Visual Representation

The key benefit for using a flowchart is the ability to visually demonstrate the improvement, the progression or any sequence your organization goes through. Furthermore, you are not going to deal with stacks of paper or long presentation slides. Numerous detailed diagrams can be put on only in a single document. You can present the company’s workflow, the progression or even the failure of it, via an easy-to-write and read from both to your employees and employers. In addition to that, all of the documents you have created will be shareable with your clients, customers and general audience to boost your sales.

  • Communication Made Easy

Who wants to spend their morning with an unnecessary meeting when it can easily be an e-mail? No one! Thus, by using flowcharts, teams can easily communicate between themselves and each other without dealing with useless and complicated briefings. Clarifying a process helps team members to understand and improve their workflow. On top of that, this visual method provides every employee the chance to save time.

  • Analysis of Every Process

Flowcharts can show ‘what the process is’, ‘how it can improve’ and most importantly ‘which steps to take in order to achieve this improvement’. By analyzing the data of your organization, the options of every process of your organization can be clearly seen and understood by everyone. It especially helps analysts to effectively realize the company’s decisions and choices in a visual manner.

  • Coordination Between Everyone

Flowcharts is a crucial tool for project managers regardless of your company or organization’s field. The ability to schedule events and assign people without a worry diminishes the risk for failure. They help project managers for saving time and resources by removing the unnecessary elements of the process. Additionally, it helps freelancers or frequently-worked employees to better see ‘what to do’ or ‘which action to take’.

  • Work Efficiency

These communication and coordination benefits, of course, are going to show themselves when looking at the efficiency of your employees. Diagrams list every and necessary step an employee would take. Therefore, it strips away every purposeless detail. And in the process of removing the unnecessary elements, it eliminates the potential of errors as well. A flowchart is the visual representation of requirements in order to reach success in any process.

  • Problems and Solutions

As the potential of errors is mentioned, flowcharts are always useful to dissect the courses of action for any problem. If a problem is visually appear for employees, it becomes easier to find a solution.

  • Formalized Documentation

You are not going to be working enthusiastically while looking at boring, colorless and complicated charts on a piece of paper. However, with a flowchart, you can look at the important parts of your company on any technological device you prefer. And even if you want to print it, you easily can do that, too!

How Flowcharts Are Used In Various Fields:

In the field of education, you can:

  • Plan syllabuses
  • Establish a coursework for the class
  • Help students fulfill their academic requirements
  • Create presentations
  • Organize a group project
  • Draft, prepare and arrange homework
  • Structure creative writing examples
  • Show character development in literature or film
  • Teach scientific algorithms
  • Chart biological, chemical and physical processes

In sales and marketing, you can:

  1. Plan out a survey (its questions, process and results)
  2. Build your sales pitch
  3. Research marketing strategies
  4. Spot potential deficiencies
  5. Process data
  6. Analyze customer satisfaction
  7. Identify points of resource wastage
  8. Indicate points of unnecessary spending
  9. Show sales flow (increase or decrease)

In the finance sector, you can:

  • Establish rules and order in the company
  • Demonstrate employee’s (or employees’) daily routine
  • Realize the steps a visitor takes on the company’s website
  • Figure out the path a customer follows inside the store
  • Get the necessary documents in every business process of the company
  • Audit a department or the company itself
  • Achieve a successful data management process

In manufacturing, you can:

  • Indicate the ingredients of a product
  • Visualize the manufacturing process from start to finish
  • Discover problems and the areas which the company is lacking
  • Solve any inefficiency
  • Design products
  • Update the manufacturing process with the ever-developing technology
  • Introduce a new product to an audience
  • Show the employees and the customers how to use the new product

What Are The Essential Symbols of A Flowchart?

  • The Oval

The oval shape is used to show the beginning or the end of a process. It is sometimes known as ‘the terminator’ as well. However, do not forget to use this shape both the start of the process and the end of it.

  • The Rectangle

The rectangle represents any step which you are diagramming a workflow, an improvement or any establishing process. You can use the rectangle shape in every step of the process such as basic tasks or simple actions.

  • The Arrow

The arrow is used in order to guide the person who is following the document. Arrows are the ‘tour-guide’ of your charts and diagrams: they make everything look clean and emphasize certain points.

  • The Diamond

The diamond shape indicates that a decision is required in order to move forward in the document. This decision can be a simple ‘yes or no’ question or perhaps a more complex one that needs time and contemplation for the person to make.

What Are The Different Types of Flowcharts?

  • Document Flowcharts

These kinds of charts show the flow of paper among and between the various departments. The purpose of this document-flow system is to show the controls and the operation unique to each of the departments in an organization. They are a crucial tool especially for analysts for the company. Because they help analysts to understand and record different types of work processes happening in the company. They specifically need to be read from left to right. The reason for that is the indication of the workflow through different units in the company.

  • Data Flowcharts

Data flowcharts is the visual representation of the data flow inside an information system of a company. These types of charts are specifically designed to show the transmission of the data through the channels inside the information system. The spotlighted channels show the data flow processes, storage of data and the external entities regarding the data of the company. It helps to create a picture of the overview of the system without diving deep into the unnecessary details of data and information. Data flowcharts are also known as Data Flow Diagrams (DFD).

  • System Flowcharts

These kinds of charts depict the flow of data through the components of a system as well as the decisions of the control of data. These actions include data entry, inclusion of programs, media, processors and networks inside the systems. These types of charts simply ‘identify the devices to be used’. For example: A modern automobile. A system flowchart of an automobile can depict the mechanism of cruise control by including the diagram for the fuel flow to the engine. The successful operation of the speed sensors and how the engine system responds when the automobile is speeding up. All of these actions can be detailed in a system chart in order for the cruise control mechanism to function properly.

  • Process Flowcharts

Process flowcharts or also known as process flow diagrams (PFD) are used to demonstrate high-level processes in chemical and process engineering. They visually depict the important relationships between the major components inside the company. Through a flowsheet, they focus on the major and important events and processes. You would not be able to find minor and trivial details in a PFD.

  • Program Flowcharts

These kinds of charts are designed in order to provide the graphic symbols which represent coded instructions. They illustrate the internal controls within a system. Four key symbols are used to create a program flowchart. These symbols are start, process, decision and end. They specifically help software developers and computer programmers to locate, fix and update bugs and errors in the code which they have written.

  • Business Process Model and Notation

This method known simply as BPMN is used in depicting the sequence and the progression of the business processes in an organization. It details the business activities of a company and its financial affairs. It helps employees and employers to realize the precise steps a company takes. BPMN is especially helpful for analysts, project managers, accountants and business consultants.

How Do You Create A Flowchart?

A successful flowchart should be presented in an organized way. It should convey the information in a detailed but non-complicated fashion. Below, you can find basic steps on how to create one:

  1. Identify your purpose

Before drawing a shape or even a line, you have to decide on your purpose. What do you aim to accomplish with this document? By answering this question, you can go on to the next step.

  1. Do your research

Flowcharts need to be detailed and thorough and at the same time not convoluted enough for any person to understand while looking at it and reading it. You might be an expert on the topic and the type of the chart you are creating, however, keep in mind that not every person got a grasp of the subject.

  1. Decide on the scope

You might have data and information more than you need. You can remove and change some of the elements in order to not include any unnecessary clutter. Specify what they ‘need’ to know, not what they ‘would like’ to know in your chart and only then, you can decide on the size and the capacity.

  1. Determine your order of events and decisions

Flowcharts should be in chronological order regardless of the topic, type and elements you include in them. That is why it is important to establish a timeline. In order to achieve this, you can talk with participants, process the data and review past accounts.

  1. Organize… everything!

Now that you have every necessary element, it is time for you to organize them and put them into order. These include the process details, decisions, data and information, multiple-choices, inputs and outputs.

  1. Constructing diagrams

You can draw and create your shapes. You can do that by hand and drawing everything one-by-one, however, later in this blog post, you can find much easier ways to create your diagrams on digital platforms.

  1. Validate every piece of information

Make people confirm the data and information you included. Make sure that you did not make any major or minor mistakes, did not miss anything important or did not leave out any major or key events or decisions.

Online Tools vs. Microsoft Excel

There are many different flowchart generators you can find online, free and paid services. A couple of different programs are going to be presented in this chapter with their usage, platform and price. Then, a comparison will be much easier between these online tools and Microsoft Excel.

One of the many online tools you can find is Edraw by Wondershare. You can create flowcharts, data flow diagrams and BPMN which was mentioned above. It can be used in Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. However, the disadvantages of it are that its price ranges from $29 to $145. Also, as every online tool has a monthly subscription fee as well. Furthermore, perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this program is the lack of integration of the software and programs designers are familiar with.

Draw.io is another online tool which can only be accessed in a browser. It provides flowchart generators, process diagrams and network diagrams. Its usage in the departments is abundant. Designers, developers and analysts use this online tool. Also, as it is the case with websites ending in ‘.io’, it is free. While it is compatible with all the digital devices and all browsers, its ‘drag and drop’ method is too simple for experts and professionals to use.

Gliffy is also a drag and drop based diagram building online tool. Its features and functions, in fact, represent a range not often found in in-built-browser online tools. It has an intuitive user interface (UI), smooth object importing and shapes which snap easily in place. However, its customization is lacking in terms of the color and the shapes it provides. Also, it can be a little bit buggy when used in the Google Chrome browser. Additionally, Gliffy uses the monthly paid subscription method with $4.99 a month.

You may be wondering what is the best program to create your flowcharts. Without a doubt, it is Microsoft Excel. First of all, there is not a learning curve for Excel. Every company, big or small, uses Excel and their employees should be familiar with it. Then, some of the programs which you need to download are not compatible with Mac devices.

However, Excel is compatible in and with every platform. You do not need to learn complicated tools for programs or deal with the simple design of drag and drop tools. All you have to do is put in your data and the information and Excel takes care after that! You can create your flowcharts only with a click of a button. Also, if you want to change any data, information, shape or color in the document, you do not need to do everything all over again. You can just change what you want to change and Excel is going to update it for you!

Advantages of Using Flowcharts:

Flowcharts are easy-to-create tools for whatever the size or the field of your business is. It is one of the most important instruments in order to specify or detail any topic in a visual manner. Not only it provides your employees or employers the visual clarity they need but also it can show you some of the important aspects of your subject you might have missed.

Every company needs proper documentation for every project for every department. These records are very important to keep and review later, if any problem occurs inside the company. Thus, charts and diagrams represent the company’s decisions, events, choices and relationships.

Flowcharts are used to process information to make it digestible. That way, there is no confusion, no complicated diagrams and no mistakes. If the relationship and communication between everyone in the company is clear as it can be, then, the risk for potential errors diminishes.

Below, you can find some tips that can make these processes easier and smoother for you:

  1. Decide on your audience before you start. Every diagram you create and every presentation you make has its own audience.
  2. Do not dwell so heavily on details. Charts are created for you to transfer information or a decision to someone. Nobody wants to read unnecessary details on a business document, therefore, only include the important information.
  3. Edit your chart. You can change minor or major details if your chart is in need of an update or updates. The flow of it is the most important factor in order to make it a successful and easy-to-read one.
  4. Do not squeeze every shape, detail or data in the same space. You can break up charts and information into different pages and diagrams.
  5. Do not forget the meaning of the symbols. The symbols -which were mentioned in a previous chapter- can be seen as only a ‘style’ element. However, their function is crucial. Every shape represents something and provides the reader with information.

Summary & Free Templates

  • Risk Assessment Template features an easy-to-use risk management form, so that you can detail all the potential risks and the impacts regarding your company. It also has a professional look and design for experts and professionals. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac devices, without needing an installation. You can just download for free and start using it immediately
  • Kanban Board Excel Template has an Automated Kanban Board specifically designed to be used in Microsoft Excel. It also features an advanced reporting mechanism with dynamic charts. Its easy-to-use filters allows you and everyone looking at the charts to see the overall performance of employees. Furthermore, as it is with Someka’s templates, it works on both Mac and Windows operating systems.
  • Stock & Inventory Tracker has everything you are looking for in terms of your company inventory. It has its own Simple Inventory Tracker in Excel. It also features a dashboard in order for you to see the inventory situation of your company. Additionally, you can utilize the overall inventory report as well and see every product and its quantity on a single report. It also includes sections for item lists, sales, received products, units, codes of the products and the category of the items in the inventory. It is free and ready to use with only a download!
  • Eisenhower Matrix Template features an easy-to-fill data section. With that, you can put your data without a worry and Someka’s template is going to provide you with the ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ columns. This template is specifically designed for you to keep your ‘to-do list’ in check. Also, if you want to print out your organized to-do list and carry it around with you, you can. Someka products are always fully print ready for you and your company!

The essential tool for you to create your flowcharts in is Someka’s Automatic Flowchart Maker. your data and customize every little detail you want with the customizable ID position. Shapes, colors, types, decision labels are all at the hands of you! You might think that this is enough for a flowchart tool, however, Someka’s Automatic Flowchart Maker provides you with the customization of shape settings, width and height, gap size, vertical and horizontal direction of the shapes and the font size.

On top of that, if you want to use the drag-and-drop tool, you can choose to edit the chart as well. It also provides you clear, on sheet instructions with the turn on and off function. It is compatible with both Mac and Windows devices with no installation needed. You can download it and use it in Microsoft Excel. Furthermore, it is much cheaper than its alternatives. And you can find the informational video about Someka’s Automatic Flowchart Maker here.

Every flowchart is different, of course, but they all consist of the same elements: Analysis, documentation, standardization and communication. These concepts, if utilized properly and successfully, are going to lead you to a successful process of creating charts and diagrams.