What is Flow Chart

In these article I will discuss one of the most common tool to describe how the information flow in the system using flow charts. I hope this article will help everyone understand what is a flowchart and how to use it in representing the flow of information in the system

Flow Chart Defined

A typical definition of "Flow Chart" usually reads something like ... A flow chart is a graphical or symbolic representation of a process. Each step in the process is represented by a different symbol and contains a short description of the process step. The flow chart symbols are linked together with arrows showing the process flow direction. 3 Alternate Definitions of Flow Chart My definition of "Flow Chart" is a little different. The above definition is correct, but it falls short of describing the coolness of flow charts. Q: Did you just say "the coolness of flow charts"? A: Yes, I did. Read on ... As-Is Flowchart The first cool thing about flow charts is that they let you see the process flow at a glance, so my first alternate definition of "Flow Chart" is a Snap Shot of your Business Processes. The is commonly called an As-Is Flowchart. You can tell a lot about the complexity (and often over-complexity) of many business processes just by looking at an as-is flow chart of them - without even reading the text in the symbols. You can easily see the flow of information and materials, branches in the process, opportunities for infinite loops, the number of process steps, inter-departmental operations, and more. Process Zoom Lens The second cool thing about flow charts is that they let you see the process flow at different levels, so my second alternate definition of "Flow Chart" is a Zoom Lens for your Business Processes. Flow charts are often categorized in 3 levels: high-level (aka, 30,000 ft. level), mid-level and low-level (detailed). A high-level flow chart could be a process defined at the company-wide or large system level. Mid-level flow chart could be a process defined at the department level, and a low-level flow chart could be a process defined at working level. For example, I used to run a test department. Product validation was a process step included in a high-level flow chart in the New Product Introduction procedure. The validation test process itself was documented in a mid-level flow chart showing the general department activities required to support the validation testing process. And, some ISO work flow instructions had low-level, detailed flow charts documenting how to conduct individual test types. Some flow chart tools (including Microsoft Excel) allow you to add hyperlinks to flow chart symbols. The hyperlinks let you click on a flow chart symbol, drilling down from a high-level process step to a detailed set of process flow steps. This truly gives you the zoom lens capability. Process Test Bed The third cool thing about flow charts is that they let you perform risk-free experiments, so with that in mind my third and final alternate definition of "Flow Chart" is a Process Test Bed. All process improvements require change, and most changes involve risk, require work, cost money, or instill some level of emotional uncertainty and fear. You can mitigate each of these by creating process flow charts of any proposed business operation changes. Each flow chart can be a "what-if" that helps the involved players more easily see the risks involved. Personally, I do before and after flow charts on all significant process changes. Other Names for Flow Chart Unfortunately, the world of flow charting hasn't come to a unanimous agreement on what to call flow charts. Common alternate names include: flowchart, process flow chart, process map, process chart, business process model, process model, process flow diagram, work flow diagram, business flow diagram, or just flow diagram. Quite frankly, all the variations get a little annoying. I prefer "flowchart" but use "flow chart" and other terms extensively because that's what people commonly search for online. A big annoyance is terms that have different meanings based on context. For instance, the term "Process Map" often refers to flow charts that assign attribute data - inputs and outputs - to each process step. But "Process map" is also used to refer to flow charts that map the interrelationships between top level procedures in an ISO 9000:2000 system. And, I have a book about "Process Mapping" that contains nothing but traditional flow charting. Flow Diagram is often synonymous with Data Flow Diagram – a graphical representation of the information flow in a computer program. I've seen the term misused to mean standard flow charts as well. Business Process Modeling (BPM) is usually a sophisticated approach to modeling a business process used by Business Process Engineers. The difference between a flow chart and a business process model is usually about 2-3 zeros at the end of the price tag ($$). :-)
A Note on Flowchart Symbols
Different flow chart symbols have different meanings. The most common flow chart symbols are: •Terminator: An oval flow chart shape indicating the start or end of the process. •Process: A rectangular flow chart shape indicating a normal process flow step. •Decision: A diamond flow chart shape indication a branch in the process flow. •Connector: A small, labeled, circular flow chart shape used to indicate a jump in the process flow. •Data: A parallelogram that indicates data input or output (I/O) for a process. •Document: used to indicate a document or report (see image in sample flow chart below). In these article it discuess the different flowchart symbols and its uses in representing the flow of information in the system. If you have some questions regarding this article send me an email at

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. People here in the Philippines who wish to contact me can reach me in my mobile phone number 09296768375 . Thank you very much and Happy Programming. Regards,

Mr. Jake Rodriguez Pomperada, MAED - Instructional Technology

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