How Do Flowcharts Benefit A Business?
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of flowcharts.
I’m a little bias.
Process mapping workshops are one of our most popular services.
But there are plenty of benefits to get you on the same page as me.
And we’re going to go through them!
It can boost your team’s communication.
Hands up if you hate jargon.
The problem is that only experts can understand what you’re saying.
If a member of your team doesn’t really know what’s going on, this is a problem.
Process maps are visual tools that set out complex operations in clear steps.
And the symbols help to simplify things even more.
Any member of your organisation can take one look at a flowchart and understand it.
No specialist knowledge required.
It improves your process analysis.
These days, business moves fast.
You don’t have time to reflect on last month’s numbers in that much depth.
You need quick analysis and even quicker answers.
With a process map in tow, you can be sure you hit your deadlines.
You can look at the flowchart and understand problems and opportunities much faster.
Being able to see delay, repetition and waste in one go is pretty impressive.
And it’s useful, too!
It provides effective documentation.
Process documentation is a really important thing to have.
You need it to:
Train new employees
Comply with regulations
Process mapping is often used to create bespoke process documentation.
If something changes, you need to redo the entire process map.
Change is good.
But unfortunately, it can be a hassle with flowcharts.
If your operations are altered, your process maps will need to be, too.
This could result in wasted time and money.
If your operations don’t significantly change frequently, process maps are a valuable tool.
Remember that client I mentioned?
The American medicine manufacturer?
We set up a schedule with them to ensure they limited productivity losses when production had to shift.
They could spot new problems instantly.
And it saved them losing $37,000 a year!
Process maps don’t work with overly complex processes.
Yes, it’s an ironic disadvantage.
But it does make sense:
If you have a process that is far too convoluted or complicated, don’t use a flowchart.
It’ll look messy and difficult to understand.
And that’s the opposite of what you want!
You need to use specific software or online tool to produce a digital copy.
Remember the good ol’ days of pen and paper?
You want to get things done.
Typing up or creating a flowchart on a computer isn’t easy.
Unless you’re willing to use an online tool.
I know all about those tools.
(I’ll talk you through them later in this article.)
A Step-By-Step Guide To Drawing A Flowchart
Here we are:
You’re ready to get flowchartin’!
Well, it’s pretty simple.
Especially if you use an online tool.
(We will talk about them in a later chapter.)
But for now, we will walk through the basic steps of:
Planning process maps
Drawing a flowchart
And understanding what they mean
How hard can it be?
Step 1: Define the purpose of this flowchart
You can’t know if you’ve succeeded at something if you didn’t have an aim.
So, always start with a few goals.
From there, work out what process you want to map.
What do you hope to accomplish with this flowchart?
Which processes do you need to prioritise?
What are the start and end points of the process you’ve chosen?
Step 2: Identify the individual tasks of a process
Maybe interview some employees…
Put a couple of post-its up on a whiteboard…
Or just go observe a process.
You always need to start by just listing the stages of a process.
Don’t forget to establish how much detail you want on the map!
Step 3: Organise the tasks into process map elements
Take that list and translate each task into the corresponding shape.
Each element has a different symbol or shapes.
Here’s all the shapes you need to know:
Step 4: Draw your flowchart
This is the easy bit.
Start laying out the elements and connecting them with arrows.
You can do this by hand with ol’ fashioned pen n’ paper…
Or opt for a digital tool that can edit and share a flowchart in a single click.
Step 5: Verify your flowchart with stakeholders
So, you’ve produced a flowchart.
And you’re pretty proud of it!
But your manager takes one look and furrows his brow.
Your entire team needs to agree that the process has been mapped accurately - and then are able to understand it.
Walk through the steps with your colleagues.
If you’ve missed out a step or gotten something wrong, get on with editing.
(This is where digital tools really come in handy.)
5 Easy-To-Use Flowchart Templates
Ready to get process mapping?
But, like anything new, it can be tough to get started.
It’s all well and good for me to chuck a few symbols at you…
Talk about steps and planning and arrows…
And then recommend online platforms for your flowchart…
I know what you need.
I know why you came here.
You want some templates.
You want to just change up the text and shake up the shapes.
You want someone else to take the lead.
That’s exactly what one of our newest clients asked for.
4 months ago, we started producing software for an online beauty retailer.
When they heard we use process maps, they quickly asked for a session.
Problem is, their team was struggling.
They weren’t flowchart experts.
And they were concerned they’d start wasting time as they didn’t know how to start one!
This inspired us to make a quick change to our sessions.
We start off by showing them example flowcharts and process map templates.
Even before we’ve talked about their processes!
This means they can understand how they work…
And task some inspiration right off the bat.
Ready to be inspired?
Here are 5 flowchart templates to get you started.
Basic Flowchart Template
Swimlane Flowchart Template
Decision Flowchart Template
Data Flow Flowchart Template
This kind of flowchart is unique.
Also known as a data flow diagram, it maps out the data flow in a process or system.
DFDs use different symbols than flowcharts.
It shows data inputs, data outputs, data storage points and the route the data follows.
Decision Flowchart Template
Our Top-Rated Tools For Drawing Flowcharts
You know what flowcharts are
You know your team needs to start using them
And you know what your finished process map should look like
Now it’s time to actually start creating your flowchart.
You could keep things old school and stick to trusty pencils and a notepad.
Could even chuck in a post-it or two, if you’re feelin’ creative.
These days, more and more executives are logging on to online flowchart generators or downloading helpful software.
This is an intelligent diagramming application.
You can build process maps, share them with your team and collaborate on them.
It comes loaded with basic flowchart templates and is easy to use.
It can even be used to produce data flow diagrams!
Lucidchart is the perfect option for teams - especially remote ones.
You can try Lucidchart for free, or set your team up with unlimited flowcharts and advanced collaboration tools from $108 per person per year.
You know you can trust Microsoft.
Heck, most people use Microsoft Word to produce their process maps!
Just like Lucidchart, it’s packed full of helpful process map templates and an easy-to-use interface.
Anyone can get to grips with this flowchart software.
You can also use it to produce org charts, floor plans and network diagrams.
In addition, it allows real-time collaboration.
It starts at $299.99 per year.
This free online tool might not be as sharp as Lucidchart or Microsoft, but it gets the job done.
Simply type ‘draw.io’ into your browser and you’re ready to start process mapping.
You can save your finished flowchart to your computer, browser or online file storage service.
And you can share it via Google Drive or One Drive.
If you’re looking to give flowcharts a go, start here.
This diagramming software puts team-building flowcharts first.
Not only can you collaborate with any team member on this easy-to-use tool, you can import and edit old flowcharts.
No more starting from scratch!
Plus, you can integrate the software with Atlassian to improve communication that much more.
Gliffy starts at $72 per user per year.
This collaborative whiteboard tool can be used for all sorts of things.
Brainstorming, design, strategy…
And, of course, flowcharts!
Starting at $96 per user per year, this tool can provide you with far more than process mapping.
It also integrates with Jira and Asana to help remote teams keep connected.
You made it!
You should now know:
What flowcharts are
Have a few basic flowchart templates on hand
And be ready to download some flowchart software
Still not sure how to get started?
We can help.