What is a Process Flowchart and How to Use it?

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When it comes to keeping track of all the details within a business, things could get messy. To help organise and visualise business processes, you can count on a process flowchart. A process flowchart helps to illustrate the relationship between tasks and the people responsible for carrying them out. 

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We will break down everything you need to know about process flowcharts and how you can use them to help oversee your business practices! 

Coming Up

1. What is a Process Flowchart?

2. Flowchart Examples

3. Flowchart Symbols

4. Why are Process Flowcharts Beneficial?

5. When Should I Use a Flowchart?

6. What are the Types of Flowcharts?

7. How to Create and Use a Flowchart

8. Flowcharts Help Business Flow

What is a Process Flowchart? 

A process flowchart is a diagram that shows the sequential steps of a process and the decisions needed to make the process work. Within the chart/visual representation, every step is indicated by a shape. These shapes are connected by lines and arrows to show the movement and direction of the process. 

Process flowcharts are standardised such that anyone who has an understanding of flowcharts can look at one and know what is happening. They follow the logical flow of information so that business stakeholders have a guide as to how to fulfil processes properly. 

One of the best things about process flowcharts is how easy they are to create! You can either draw a flowchart by hand or leverage easy-to-use, powerful software tools to develop your process flowchart. 

Flowchart Examples

A business process is a compilation of tasks that stakeholders perform to deliver an outcome (product or service) to a customer. Any business process can be made into a flowchart or visual representation of the flow of the process. Let’s take a look at some common examples of business processes as flowcharts. 

Document Approval Process: The document approval process is one in which a primary action may be approved (and so the process continues), or denied (and thus the process starts back at square one, no pun intended!). Let’s see how this plays out: 

  • A document is submitted.
  • The document is denied - process cancelled OR The document is approved - the document is stored.
  • An email recording results are sent to the necessary party.

Incident Response Process: Businesses face a multitude of risks. More often than not, risks cannot be entirely avoided, but they can be mitigated. It’s also best practice to have a contingency plan in place, or process ready, for when an adverse event occurs. For example:

  • A threat occurs (i.e. the potential fraudulent client). 
  • A security team evaluates the threat (if designated as safe, the process ends).
  • If the threat is real, an email is triggered to notify company executives.
  • Management holds an emergency meeting.
  • The permanent solution is proposed and implemented.
  • The process is complete.

Employee Onboarding Process: Bringing on new employees is a crucial step for any business. It requires a seamless and smooth experience that should happen fairly quickly so that new employees can get to work! Here’s a look at how you may outline the process of employee onboarding:

  • HR sends new employee legal documents to sign.
  • HR and management approve the documents are correctly filled out.
  • HR shares the news of the new hire with the rest of the company.
  • An office manager gets the new employee ready for work with supplies and access to IT.

Just from these examples of standard business processes, it’s clear to see how a process flowchart can be useful. When everyone is on the same page as to what should happen next, processes can flow more smoothly and happen more efficiently. 

Flowchart Symbols

For flowcharts to work universally, there is the standardised notation of many shapes and symbols. Use this abbreviated list as a reference when getting started on creating your flowchart: 

Why are Process Flowcharts Beneficial? 

A process flowchart can help your business in many ways. The purpose of creating one will aid you in:

  • Standardisation: Stakeholders will know how to achieve intended business goals by following the process 
  • Process improvement: When you depict a process, you can pinpoint missing steps, bottlenecks or unnecessary steps to apply process improvement. Data automation tools are a great way to improve processes in this way. It can find and remove weaknesses in processes, by mapping out the process on the system, making tasks clearly defined removing critical staff dependency and improving compliance.
  • Defined operating procedures: Flowcharts help achieve better quality control, training and employee understanding.

When Should I Use a Flowchart?

How do you know when it is right to use a flowchart? You can incorporate process flowcharts for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To review a process with the goal of improvement
  • To document a process  in preparation for a sale or consolidation
  • To plan a new project
  • To better communicate across your organisation, how something is to be done
  • To train new employees on processes
  • To introduce and explain new processes to existing employees
  • Understand order and procurement processes
  • Understand the paths that users take on a website or in a store
  • Develop a business plan or product realisation plan
  • Document a process in preparation for an audit, including for regulatory compliance, such as under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Flowcharts are useful across organisations and industries to answer needs for manufacturing, engineering, business, technology, medicine, government, administration, finance, and much more. Across these industries, flowcharts are used for purposes like:

  • Program/system design
  • Process improvement and auditing
  • Map computer algorithms
  • Document a workflow
  • Plan a project
  • Represent the flow of a logic puzzle
  • Understand a scientific process
  • Communicate theories
  • Plot a survey
  • Chart a sales process

What are the Types of Flowcharts?

Depending on your business and its need, you can choose from a variety of process flow charts and styles. These include:

  • System Flowcharts: To show the flow of data through a system, like data entry, programs, communication networks, and processors. They help to identify what devices should be used.
  • Program Flowcharts: These show what internal controls exist in a program within a system and can be broken down into categories for business need such as: logic flowchart, product flowchart, decision flowchart, etc.
  • Data Flowcharts: These flowcharts document the controls that govern data flows and how data is transmitted through the system itself.
  • Document Flowcharts: This process flowchart is read from left-to-right and displays how documents move through different business departments.

How to Create and Use a Flowchart 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of flowcharts let’s get into the fun. Follow these steps to create your process flowcharts. 

First, ask yourself “Do I need a flowchart for this?” If you aim to define and detail each step of a process, then the answer is yes. If your main goal is to deeply analyse how a process is operating to determine optimal efficiency, later you should try other methods like a SIPOC diagram, perhaps. 

Once you’ve determined that a flowchart is a right tool for the job, continue with these steps: 

1. Identify tasks: The process may seem straightforward from a broad perspective. But, if you’re not the one in the weeds, then rely on the team that is to help you outline the steps and tasks with you. 

2. Compile the necessary information: You should know the exact steps, the variables and events that may cause the process to deviate, and also who is responsible for each step along the way. 

3. Double-check the process: Gather critical stakeholders to review this outline of events to ensure the information is accurate. 

4. Create the flowchart: Now, it’s time to get to drawing! You can use the basic symbols mentioned above or go into more detail with BPMN, or Business Process Modeling and Notation. 

As previously mentioned, you have options as to how to create your process flowchart. You can choose from:

  • Drawing by hand - you’ll need a pen and paper. 
  • Online software - use graphing software to make a flowchart digital 
  • Business process management software - create digital flowcharts that can then go a step further and be analysed or even executed by the system. 

For example, automation tools like SolveXia allow you to design your process and then execute it with the click of a button. The software takes care of pulling the necessary data and information to achieve the steps in a fluid way that removes human error from the equation. 

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Flowcharts Help Business Flow 

As a leader of an organisation, the power is in your hands to ensure that your business is running smoothly. There are a variety of business processes that must happen correctly to make this happen. But, keeping track of them all and making sure that everyone knows their duties don’t occur daily. Instead, you can utilise process flowcharts to help standardise procedures, train your team, and check in on how processes are functioning over time. 

One way to make sure that processes are functioning day-in optimally and day-out are to use data automation tools. The use of data automation software can help you to not only track how your operations are running, but they can also run processes for you, without the need for human intervention.

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