A flow chart is a way of graphically representing a data flow or sequence of simple routines that will be carried out to solve a problem. These serve to indicate the sequence of a certain problem, the units that are involved and who will be responsible for the execution, which in other words indicates the symbolic representation of any administrative process.
In addition, it is important to mention that flowcharts play a fundamental role in programming a problem since they facilitate the understanding of it. Once they are prepared, they make it easy to explain the program to anyone, which makes it a necessity for the documentation of a complete program.
What is the goal of a flow chart?
The fundamental objective of these types of diagrams is to graphically represent the different stages of a given process and their respective interactions, facilitating the understanding of its operation. It is very useful for the analysis of the process that is currently being executed, knowing the clients and suppliers of each of the phases, the representation of the controls, among others.
Characteristics of a flow chart
Among the characteristics that stand out most of these diagrams are the following:
- Definibility: you must specify and specify each of the steps to be followed, avoiding any play on words or detours when each of the steps must be specified. The language used must be clear and precise as well as being formal, especially in computer programming or mathematics.
- Finitude: it is essential that the number of steps to follow is precise and reasonable.
- Effectiveness: which means that anyone must have the ability to make the diagram exactly without the need for a machine, in addition to being in a reduced period of time.
- Input: the diagrams must have quantities supplied before starting it, these quantities are part of the specific groups of objects.
- Output: the diagram will have one or more outputs, which are related to the inputs it has.
- Synthetic: the representation of a process should be summarized in a few sheets, preferably just one. When the diagrams are extensive they tend to make it difficult to assimilate and understand them.
- Symbolized: its symbology allows analysts to make excessive, confusing and repetitive annotations when they are interpreting it.
- Visible: thus allowing the visualization of each of the steps of a process or system without having to read extensive notes.
According to other authors, in addition to the aforementioned characteristics, the flowcharts should also provide the basis so that a clear and precise report can be written, should give the analyst the assurance that he developed all aspects of the process, should allow the link with the personnel who will eventually be in charge of operating the new procedure.
Other features are:
- Of use
- Of destiny
- Of understanding
Types of flowcharts
In this type of diagrams, what varies is the way in which they are made or designed, in any case these are the different types that we can find:
Horizontal format flowchart
In this we can find the order, flow, theme or sequence of operations located from left to right.
Vertical format flowchart
In this case, the order of operations or sequence (flow) appears descending, that is, from top to bottom. In other words, it is a list of ordered operations of a process or development in which we can view the information in full, especially that which is necessary and always depending on its purpose.
Architectural Format Flow Chart
This format describes the path of shapes or people on an architectural plan of the work area.
In these, the order or the process is presented in a single letter, which allows it to be appreciated at a single glance, that is, in a faster way than if the entire text had to be read, which facilitates the understanding of it for those who are not related to the topic. At the same time, it not only registers vertically but horizontally the different synchronized actions and the participation in turn of one or more departments that are not achieved vertically.
Symbology of a flow chart
Various forms are used to represent the processes in these diagrams, find out what they are below:
- Square : used to indicate the development or control process.
- Circle : This shape can mark the beginning and end of the diagram.
- Broken line : symbolizes the flow of information as a digital form.
- Solid line : represents the flow of information as a form or documentation supported on written paper.
- Rectangle : it can represent form or documentation, it must be plotted with twice the width of the respective height.
- Small rectangle : in this case it is graphed with the width of its height increased four times, that is to say four times, being this the same width as the forms.
- Triangle (lower base) : used to graph the final files.
- Inverted triangle (upper base) : contrary to the previous one, it represents a transitory file.
- Pentagon – This indicates a connector.
- Ellipsoid : represents access through the screen.
- Trapezoid : indicates the data capacity.
- Hexagon : refers to an unrepresented process.
- Rhombus : symbolizes the division between different alternatives.
- Diagonal cross : refers to the destruction of the forms.
Other authors point out the symbolism with its respective meaning as follows:
- Ellipse or oval : opening and closing of the diagram. (start and end).
- Rectangle : means the execution of one or more procedures (activity)
- Rhombus : raises a question or question (decision)
- Circle : symbolizes the link of one activity with another within the procedure (connector)
- Triangle upside down : in this the files are saved permanently (definitive files)
- Triangle face up : provides a time to store a document (temporary files).
According to the rules for preparing these diagrams, the budget flow is presented from left to right and vertically, from top to bottom, in this case the use of arrows is optional. When the direction is reversed, the use of arrows is mandatory.
What is the process of making a flow chart?
The process of making a flow chart is quite simple if you follow the rules of development, using the symbology appropriately. This must be prepared by a multifunctional and even multi-hierarchical team in which each of the people contributes a perspective of the process in a complete way. These would be the steps to follow:
- Determine the process that you want to diagram.
- Specify the degree of detail: the information regarding the flow of main activities must be presented in broad strokes, or developed in such a way that all activities and decision points are included.
- Determine the sequence of the process steps: placing them in the same order in which the process activities are carried out.
- Draw up the diagram: for which specific symbols are used, each organization could define its respective group of symbols.
- Check the process flow diagram: guaranteeing its validity and correctness.
Starting from the sequence of activities outlined in the diagram, the process indicators can be easily established, that is, those that are of interest to execute their control and evaluation since a process cannot be managed without the data. The process indicator becomes the parameter that allows evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes. These can measure the customer’s perception of the results (perception indicators).
At the same time they refer to intrinsic variables of the process as such (performance indicators), with this it is possible to discover the deviations that occur during the execution of the process that could manifest as a negative consequence in their respective performance.
Flow diagram within companies
In a company it is the simplest way to represent systems, processes and information using visual strategies that guarantee a better understanding by users. At the same time, it works to detail the stages and processes of the sales strategies for clients, as well as the actions and possible contingency plans to develop in case of specific problems in the company. Let’s see what its advantages are:
- Determine the processes.
- Organize the steps to be followed in the event of specific eventualities.
- Its preparation is extremely easy to understand and remember.
- It does not require working in a specific area of the company or being an employee of the same to understand the information displayed in it.
- It allows you to summarize documents, even of several pages.
- It graphically shows the interaction that occurs between customers, transactions and suppliers.
- Provides facility to analyze possible failures in the system.
These tools have great benefits to present any procedure in an orderly way, they also serve to clarify how things work and in turn how to improve them.
Through these, the key elements of the process are easily located, its understanding is facilitated and the responsible parties involved are identified. Finally, they allow us to establish the areas of greatest importance to collect data and generate hypotheses about the possible causes of the problem.
Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.