Flowcharts Help in Understanding Business Processes

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” – Benjamin Franklin

Every once in a while organizations seek to streamline their business processes. At times the task seems fairly straightforward, while sometimes knowing where to begin is a mind bender. Business processes even when the objective is known, can be tough and complicated, leaving those in charge confused. Keeping track of every detail within a business can be a tough ask and could potentially end up being messy. Those at the helm of a business should seek ways to understand and simplify business processes, and amongst the approaches, process flowcharts stand out. These diagrams help to organize and clearly envisage business processes now and even going forward. The beauty of flowcharts lies in their simplicity and their ability to lucidly illustrate the correlation between tasks and the people assigned to these tasks – the crux of business processes.

Flowcharts depict at a glance detailed business processes, making it simple for anyone to understand. A few words, colors, line, and simple symbols effectively display what takes place at each stage, and how these stages impact further actions and decision making. The great part of business processes flowcharts is that any kind of organization can use them to define and clarify any process. For a business process, flowcharts help to: define, standardize, communicate, identify blocks and waste, suggest ways to solve the problem, and come up with methods to improve the process. Since business processes are a compilation of tasks with persons responsible to deliver an outcome to customers, it is necessary that they are simple and easy to comprehend and implement.

Let’s look at an example – an experienced software developer could use a business process flowchart to understand the correlation and conjunction of the automated and manual parts of a process. The junior members of the team and persons from other teams would also be able to follow and complete all activities in the appropriate order just by following the steps within the flowchart. Another example: By combining a flowchart and the graphical representation of the organizational structure, a company would be able to clearly show its employees who they could contact for which issue, what process to follow, and when.

There are some common business processes that could be simplified and made comprehensible by depicting them as flowcharts.

  • Process for Document Approval

This process defines whether an action should be approved, so as to proceed with the process or whether the action should be denied, moving the process back to the beginning. This process is as follows:

  • Submission of document
  • Document approved leads to storing of document / Document denied leads to process cancellation
  • An email sent to respective party informing of decision
  • Process for Incident Response

Business owners understand that any business is vulnerable to risks, which most often cannot be avoided. There is of course the possibility of mitigating these risks by having a robust contingency plan/business process in place to counter a mishap. Let us understand as below:

  • A fraudulent client emerges and is the threat/risk
  • The team responsible for security evaluates the threat
  • If no real threat, the process would be terminated
  • If the client presents a real threat, a message would be sent to notify all company executives
  • The top management would need to meet to put propose and implement a solution
  • This process would end here
  • Process for Employee Induction

Hiring and inducting new employees is a critical process for any business. It must occur seamlessly and swiftly, ensuring that the new employees not only begin work soon but do so with complete understanding of the organization and its culture. The process would be as follows:

  • New employees receive form and other necessary documents to be signed
  • The forms are checked for veracity and correctness
  • The new employees are introduced via email to the company
  • A designated employee helps the new employees with supplies, IT access, place to sit, and other administrative help

These are just a few examples of what basic business processes are and it is apparent that a process flowchart would be helpful. With everyone aligned as to the steps of the process, the chances of gaps in understanding and break in processes are minimal.

Business processes form the backbone of a company and hence keeping them simple to understand and implement would be critical. A business process flowchart is therefore the tool that not only affords simplicity but also accelerates the documenting and communication of a process making it fast and accurate, leading to ease of implementation. The flowchart in question allows accurate and realistic timelines to be allotted to each task within business processes, ensuring minimum delays and false expectations. Additionally, a clearly laid out business process makes it simpler to identify people for each stage, the role they should essay, and the level of seniority required for each stage.

Experts recommend that those overseeing and part of business processes should ideally create the flowcharts required. As they build the flowchart stage by stage, they would have better clarity of the process, allowing them to manage the processes going forward without feeling overwhelmed. A flowchart depicts the overall structure of business processes, while also tracing the flow of information and best methods to work through them. By highlighting decision points and key persons, it also becomes a highly important tool for process improvements. Not just interrelationship, a business process flowchart is also helpful in gathering data and information about a particular process, which in turn aids decision making and performance evaluation. It can also help with identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps and persons within a process. The human capital could be deployed in other places for greater efficiency.

Flowcharts are design tools, which though relatively older than other tools, continue to be popular for designing business processes given their simplicity and efficacy. Software programmers continue to use flowcharts to build programs that assist and support businesses.

The success of business is the prime and ultimate goal for any company/entrepreneur. A single false step or incorrect decision can snowball into an enormous problem that could prove immensely costly to rectify. Understanding and solidifying business processes within the expanse of a flowchart can alleviate some of the risk. Since the management of business processes focuses on discovering, analyzing, optimizing, modeling, and monitoring of business activities, it must be accurate and sound. This step done correctly would pave the way for smooth and seamless business operations and higher efficiency of the involved human capital.

Management of business processes needs tools to add value to a company from the perspectives of higher productivity, reduced expenditure, better control and higher visibility. Flowcharts are amongst the simplest yet most effective tools to optimize, measure and automate business processes. Companies would benefit from learning and training their staff in the preparation of flowcharts not just for business processes, but other activities as well.

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