How Flowcharts Document and Improve Business Processes
HOW FLOWCHARTS DOCUMENT AND IMPROVE BUSINESS PROCESSES
“Flowchart” is an umbrella term that describes various types of process diagrams whose forms follow their functions. They’re used to picture the structure of organizational operations, perpetuate company cultures and objectives, evaluate and optimize processes, manage change, and facilitate new projects.
Typically utilizing simple shapes and concise text, these diagrams break down and describe business processes in clear, easy to follow steps and terms. This enables their users to visualize the parts of an overall business operation, relationships between the parts, and the resulting “big picture.”
More specifically, flowcharts are handy tools businesses use to:
- Define and standardize processes and the human roles they involve.
- Make decisions about changes to processes and roles.
- Bridge communication between technically oriented personnel and those who are less so.
- Share processes with new personnel or stakeholders.
- Analyze processes to identify problems, maximize efficiency, and eliminate redundancy.
- Plan projects—both internal ones and those involving outside stakeholders—by addressing questions such as: How many people are needed? and What kinds of contingencies and variables are involved?
Types of Flowcharts and How They Help You Manage Change and Improve Processes
The type of flowchart that best fits the current needs of your business is always determined by its intended purpose. Here are the most common types and their purposes:
- Process Flowcharts. Using symbols and words, these depict a business process in easy-to-grasp increments. They’re often created to standardize a process, communicate a process, or facilitate an upcoming project.
- “Cross-functional” Flowcharts. Also known as “swimlane diagrams,” these visualize processes that cross functional “lanes”—such as departments, units, and locations. They work well for compliance and regulatory reports, either as a workflow adjunct to text or as the report itself. They may also be used to give a big-picture view of a large organization and its many interrelated processes.
- Workflows. A workflow shows required tasks, their interactions with other tasks and procedures, and expected outcomes. They can be used by HR departments and individual departments or units to define tasks, establish accepted procedures, and orient new employees.
- Process Maps. Comprehensive process flowcharts give an in-depth view of existing processes, usually created for inspecting those processes closely for possible improvements.
- Flowsheets. These document technical processes.They’recomplex flowcharts, often used in chemical, utility, refining, engineering, and similar applications. When they document several processes, they may be referred to as “block diagrams.”
We create flowcharts that improve our writing processes and your business processes.
There are two main reasons The Writers For Hire (TWFH) might create a flowchart for your business: 1) To facilitate a project we’re doing for you, or 2) For your own in-house use.
We create flowcharts for larger writing projects to help ensure we understand your processes completely before writing begins.
As a project proceeds, you may also find these same workflows useful in-house.
They can become an important addition to a primary project, such as an SOP, a larger “corporate standards” document, or a content management plan.
Your organization may need one, several, or many flowcharts, depending on the number of processes to be documented. We can create a master “swimlane” flowchart that encompasses a number of units, departments, or groups, as well as a separate flowchart or workflow for each functional group.
Whether or the primary project we’re doing for your company is the flowchart itself or a larger project, the flowchart is a practical tool that can help you standardize processes, ensure consistent outcomes, acquaint new employees with their jobs, give insight to managers, plan process improvements, or achieve other goals.
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How We Document Your Business Processes and—Sometimes—Our Writing Processes
When your business needs a flowchart or charts for any reason, we do whatever is necessary to complete them. In some cases, this may begin with interviewing your personnel about the details of their tasks and procedures and how those interact with other tasks and procedures.
TWFH copywriter Suzanne Kearns explains that client interviews are sometimes used to create a workflow, which is then shown to our client “to see if we got it right or there are any changes.” Many times, she says, when clients see the workflow “in black and white, they might make a change to how they’re doing things.”
Kearns has also been part of large TWFH projects for which our writing teams created workflow charts to “convey to the client our thought process, or to map out a large process and put it into little pieces so everyone can just look at the workflow and understand the project.”
The usefulness of these project-specific flowcharts isn’t confined to large companies and large projects, either. Even for small clients, Kearns says, a flowchart that details planned topics and the articles we’ll write on each topic can help a client know what to expect and can serve as a progress map.
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