Many of us use flowcharts in our daily function – indeed the creation plus deployment of a flowchart is one of the most common tasks in business today. But what do we mean by a flowchart, and what is it supposed to do?
Well, flowcharts may be used to analyze, design, document or manage a process in a wide variety of fields. Examples could include a Recruitment or Human resources process, the logical procedure in just a piece of software, or a process in an company such as Health & Safety, Equal Opportunities, Conciliation & Arbitration or Social Services. There are several derivatives from the basic flowchart including the Workflow Plan,
A flowchart could be defined as a pictorial representation of a process where the steps are symbolized by forms – in other words a diagram that explains the steps in a procedure. Every shape should link to its neighbour by a connector line, and often these have arrow heads to describe the particular direction of flow.
Each flowchart should ideally begin with an Endst¨¹ck shape, from which the next step should be linked. Each shape should be indicative of the specific stage in the process and you will find conventions for each of these, the most common becoming the rectangular “Process” shape. Many others exist, however , including shapes representing Data, Documents and Decisions. Choice shapes are diamonds, each of the 4 corners (or nodes) being either a link from the preceding shape or even action to be taken in the next stage with respect to the decision.
Flowcharts can be quickly created in many computer software programs; even latest versions of Microsoft Word plus PowerPoint contain Smart Shapes that will allow users to rapidly put in a flowchart into a document associated with presentation. Specialist Flowchart Diagramming software also exists but for sheer flexibility and the ability to connect data to shapes I would put my money on Microsoft Visio. It has an enormous range of ready-made stencils containing all the shapes you could possibly need (and the opportunity to create your own if you wish), and very slick automatic connection features. Visio also allow a flowchart that will dexcribes one process to become section of a larger process and to integrate with it via a hyperlink from a button on the drawing page.