Flowcharts are incredibly versatile. Once you know a few key basics, you can tailor them to fit your needs, no matter what your role or the type of business you’re in. Now that you’re familiar with both basic (part I) and intermediate (part II) flowcharting symbols, and have a pretty good idea of how to make a diagram, let’s talk about the four most commonly used flowchart types and how they can help you be better at anything you do.
Four Most Common Flowchart Types
Flowcharts are as unique as snowflakes. And while the variations are endless, there are four flowchart types that are particularly versatile and can be used for describing business, manufacturing or administrative processes, seeing how an organization functions, how different departments work together and much more.
1. Process Flowchart: illustrate the way a manufacturing, administrative or service process works or plan out a project.
A process flowchart is probably the most versatile of the four commonly used flowchart types and can be applied to
virtually anything. It can be used for mapping out roles and responsibilities within an organization to gain clarity, for drawing up a proposal for a new process or project, or for showing the way you wake up in the morning (shown below). The possibilities are endless.
2. Swimlane Flowchart: describe how separate departments, processes or employees interact.
A swimlane flowchart comes in handy when you need to show multiple things side by side. The below example illustrates the way an internal-facing department runs parallel with an external-facing one and at what point they come in contact with each other.
3. Workflow Chart: understand data and document flow within your organization.
A workflow chart shows the way a business or process functions. The below example illustrates the steps required for a potential customer to renew a policy through a company website. This type of flowchart can be used to train new employees, to discover potential problem areas, and to clarify business operations by showing a high-level overview.
4. Data Flowchart: see where data flows in and out of an information system or business.
A data flowchart shows the way data is processed. It comes in handy when you want to design or analyze a system. Although most often used for software, it can be used to analyze any type of information flow. The below example shows a typical sales funnel. In this case the “data” is consumer behavior.
Overview, A Few Last Words of Wisdom
Hopefully we’ve given you some useful information that will set you up for diagramming success and make you the envy of your peers. The most important thing to remember when creating a diagram is to take a step back before getting too deep into details.
- Start by deciding what you want your diagram to accomplish and the amount of detail you’ll need.
- Decide where you want your diagram to start and end.
- Brainstorm, then write down all the actions/steps involved in your diagram without worrying about the sequence.
- Go to Gliffy.com and start drawing.
- After adding all your steps, arrange them sequentially. (Make sure your diagram is as compact as possible.)
- Draw arrows to demonstrate the flow.
- Check for typos, arrow direction and other small errors.
- Perhaps the most important step: GET A SECOND OPINION to make sure your diagram makes sense to someone who’s never seen it.
- Humbly accept praise, accolades & promotions.