What Are the Different Kinds of Flowcharts?

process flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com

A flowchart is a very useful tool, particularly for business owners or entrepreneurs starting up a new company. Essentially, a flowchart is a graphical or symbolic representation of a process. A different symbol represents each step in the process, and a short description is included explaining the process step. Arrows connect the symbols, and this illustrates the direction of the process flow.

There are many different types of flowcharts, including business flowcharts, and they are used for a wide variety of projects. The process of visualizing and analyzing different parts of your workflow can lead to improvements that save time and increase productivity.

Different Types of Flowcharts

A variety of flowcharts suit particular situations. Below are several of the most commonly used:

  • Workflow Flowcharts are a type of business flow chart that documents office workflows, often involving tasks, documents and information.
  • Program Flowcharts illustrate the controls in a program within a system.
  • Swimlane Flowcharts illustrate who does what in cross-team processes.
  • Event-Driven Process Chain (EPC)Flowcharts illustrate a business process.
  • Specification and Description Language (SDL) Flowcharts brainstorm computer algorithms using three basic components: system definition, block and process.
  • Document Flowcharts show the controls over document-flow through the components of a system, such as the movement of documents through various business units.
  • Data Flowcharts illustrate the data-flow in a system, such as the channels that data is transmitted through.
  • System Flowcharts illustrate the physical controls of data-flow through the components of a system. This may include the flow through programs, servers, processors and communication networks.

The type of flowchart is usually determined by the kind of control, rather than the by flow itself.

Benefits of Business Flowcharts

The benefits of using a business flowchart can be immense for your company. These charts provide entrepreneurs and teams with a great deal of information, which can improve a single project or the company as a whole.

Purpose of a Flowchart

A well-done flowchart should connect ideas and plans, particularly when bringing together ideas from different people and teams within an organization. You want to ensure that all processes and steps are working towards a common goal, and a flowchart can do that.

Flowcharts require that you detail a process from start to finish, which makes it easier to recognize redundant or perhaps contradictory parts of your process. When you compare your original ideas to concrete plans and processes, you can get a clearer picture of what will work and what might not. A good flowchart can bring light to areas in need of improvement.

If a flowchart reveals potential problems, then you can fix them ahead of time. You can address any questions or concerns and move forward cohesively. Leaders and team members can both benefit from a well-thought-out flowchart.

Flowcharts Are Fluid

Flowcharts aren’t something you create once then you're done. Think of them as living documents that change as needed. You should alter them to improve your work processes again and again. If you want to try out something new, a flowchart can make it much easier to vet out a potential process or idea. Think of your flowchart as a document that can proactively solve foreseeable problems.

Some Additional Strategies

In addition to helping provide efficiency and locate potential problems, flowcharts also allow entrepreneurs to locate opportunities in sales, marketing, product development and much more. Also, identifying areas of strength and growth can be a great way to inspire new strategies.

First, decide which areas of your flow you’d like to expand, then you can use your flowchart to detail the steps necessary.

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About the Author

Heather Skyler is a business journalist and editor who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and Delta's SKY magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Miami University and a master's degree in writing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Before writing for a variety of publications, she taught business writing in Seattle.

Photo Credits

  • process flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com