All you Need to Know about Flowcharting

We thought of breaking up the usual string of UML diagram posts with a simple post onFlowcharting. If you have been a regular reader of our blog, you would have been privy to a great deal of information on flowcharts, like this one – Learn to unleash the power of flowcharts. While flowcharts are excellent when it comes to business, it would be prudent at some point to pay attention to some of the best practices with regard to flowcharts, in general.

       

You’ve probably already seen this title in one form or the other, but the truth is that there are some uses that need to be considered besides the obvious. As you may be aware, a flowchart is a visual representation, which shows you a sequence of operations that are to be performed in order to get the solution to a problem. While flowcharts may be applied to computer solutions, they can be used for a myriad of processes, as well. Flowcharts are an excellent tool when it comes to business, education and even something as myriad as a recipe or a how-to guide.

Misunderstanding flowchart symbols is certainly something that could leave you in a quandary, especially if you are not too aware of the relevance of flowcharting symbols. While there is no strict protocol as such when it comes to using boxes, circles, diamonds or such symbols in drawing a flowchart, they do help you to illustrate and make sense of the types of events in the chart with more clarity. Described below are standard symbols along with a visual representation right below.

  1. Data object – The Data object, often referred to as the I/O Shape shows the Inputs to and Outputs from a process.
  2. Rectangle - This is used to represent an event which is controlled within the process. Typically this will be a step or action which is taken.
  3. Diamond - Used to represent a decision point in the process. Typically, the statement in the symbol will require a `yes’ or `no’ response and branch to different parts of the flowchart accordingly.
  4. Document - The Document object is a rectangle with a wave-like base. This shape is used to represent a Document or Report in a process flow.
  5. Rounded box – This is used to represent an event which occurs automatically. Such an event will trigger a subsequent action, for example `receive telephone call, or describe a new state of affairs.
  6. Stored data - This is a general data storage object used in the process flow as opposed to data which could be also stored on a hard drive, magnetic tape, memory card, of any other storage device.
  7. Manual input - This object is represented by rectangle with the top sloping up from left to right. The Manual Input object signifies an action where the user is prompted for information that must be manually input into a system.
  8. Direct data – Direct data object in a process flow represents information stored which can be accessed directly. This object represents a computer’s hard drive.
  9. Circle - Used to represent a point at which the flowchart connects with another process. The name or reference for the other process should appear within the symbol.
  10. Internal storage – This is an object which is commonly found in programming flowcharts to illustrate the information stored in memory, as opposed to on a file.
  11. Predefined process – This allows you to write one subroutine and call it as often as you like from anywhere in the code.

While learning the various symbols that are associated with flowcharts are rather important, you need to also remember that there are certain guidelines in flowcharting that deserves some respect as well. The following are some guidelines in flowcharting:

1. Proper Form is Essential: In drawing a proper flowchart, all necessary requirements should be listed out in logical order.

2. Clarity is Paramount: The flowchart should be clear, neat and easy to follow. There should not be any room for ambiguity in understanding the flowchart.

3. Stick to the Right Direction: The usual direction of the flow of a procedure or system is from left to right or top to bottom.

4. Standard for Flow Lines: Ideally just one flow line should come out from a process symbol.  While only one flow line should enter a decision symbol, around three flow lines (depending on the answer) should leave the decision symbol. Additionally, only one flow line is utilized together with a terminal symbol.

5. Be Concise, not Copious: Write within standard symbols briefly.

6. Logic precedes Everything: If you are dealing with a complex flowchart then use connector symbols to minimize the number of flow lines. Ditch the intersection of flow lines to ensure effectiveness and better communication. It is imperative that your flowchart has a logical start and finish.

That wraps up this post, in the meanwhile, do get in touch with us here, if you do have any queries. For more interesting tips and trends on diagramming, stay tuned to this space.

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Creately offers forward thinking Text capabilities!

We break our usual slew of knowledge-based posts with a very exciting announcement today. With the latest Creately release, we’ve added on some really smart features that is sure to make your diagramming experience easier and rewarding. While we do have two awesome features to talk about, we’ll concentrate on just one in this post, with the next feature described in a subsequent post later on, during this week. So without further ado, discover Creately’s multiple text feature on lines! To help you understand the potential this gives you, scour through the benefits illustrated below.

    

1. Add multiple text to lines

To make the whole process of plugging in extra text has been made easier. So easy, in fact, all you need to do is double click on the relevant line to create text. Even cooler is that you can create any amount of text on the line by double clicking at any point. Plus, editing text is also an easy endeavor; all it requires is double-clicking on the text you want to edit. Observe this super-intuitive convenience in action below.

2. Easy drag functionality

So, now you can create any amount of multiple text on lines. But we’ve also taken pains to ensure that there is unhindered usability afforded with this feature as well. With most diagrams precision is key, which is why clicking and dragging text anywhere on the line to position and place your text makes the art of diagramming so much easier with Creately.

3. Experience multiplicity with UML associate connector type

While multiple text can be added onto any type of line in a variety of diagrams, we’ve also ensured that there is multiplicity with regard to associate connector type in UML Class Diagrams. So, now there is no need to plug in awkward and mismatched textboxes when all you need to do is plug in multiplicity with just a click or two. Simply change the type of connector when connecting two Class objects to “Associate” and the multiplicity options will be available.

There you have it. A simple feature that is packed with a level of potency that is sure to make diagramming faster, easier, more intuitive and versatile. Remember to spread the good news!

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Explore the standard Flowchart symbols and their usage

Flowchart Symbols   Flowchart Symbols and their usage

This is an overview of all the flowchart symbols that you will use when drawing flowcharts and process flow. All these objects are available in Creately and you can try out a demo or take a look at some sample flowcharts for more context.

Terminal / Terminator

The terminator is used to show where your flow begins or ends. Ideally, you would use words like ‘Start’, ‘Begin’, ‘End’ inside the terminator object to make things more obvious.

Process / Rectangle

Flowchart Process object is used to illustrate a process, action or an operation. These are represented by rectangles; and the text in the rectangle mostly includes a verb. Examples include ‘Edit video’, ‘Try Again’, ‘Choose your Plan’.

Data (I/O)

The Data object, often referred to as the I/O Shape shows the Inputs to and Outputs from a process. This takes the shape of a parallelogram.

Decision / Conditional

Decision object is represented as a Diamond. This object is always used in a process flow to as a question. And, the answer to the question determines the arrows coming out of the Diamond. This shape is quite unique with two arrows coming out of it. One from the bottom point corresponding to Yes or True and one from either the right/left point corresponding to No or False. The arrows should be always labelled to avoid confusion in the process flow.

Document

Document object is a rectangle with a wave-like base. This shape is used to represent a Document or Report in a process flow.

Stored Data

This is a general data storage object used in the process flow as opposed to data which could be also stored on a hard drive, magnetic tape, memory card, of any other storage device.

Direct Data

Direct Data object in a process flow represents information stored which can be accessed directly. This object represents a computer’s hard drive.

Internal Storage

This is an object which is commonly found in programming flowcharts to illustrate the information stored in memory, as opposed to on a file. This shape is often referred to as the magnetic core memory of early computers; or the random access memory (RAM) as we call it today.

Sequential Access

This object takes the shape of a reel of tape. It represents information stored in a sequence, such as data on a magnetic tape.

Manual Input

This object is represented by rectangle with the top sloping up from left to right. The Manual Input object signifies an action where the user is prompted for information that must be manually input into a system.

Subroutine / Predefined Process

This shape takes two names - ‘Subroutine’ or ‘Predefined Process’. Its called a subroutine if you use this object in flowcharting a software program. This allows you to write one subroutine and call it as often as you like from anywhere in the code.

The same object is also called a Predefined Process. This means the flowchart for the predefined process has to be already drawn, and you should reference the flowchart for more information.

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Discover a rich Variety of Mind Map Templates!

Choosing Color to Improve Diagrams

It is a well known axiom that color is one of the most important components of diagramming. Whatever diagram type you do use, the utilization of a color scheme can make it either excellent or mediocre. This post will offer you a few simple but potent ways in which you could use color to great effect.

        

1. Color can be Used as a Differentiator

One of the main ways in which a color code can be utilized is for the purpose of differentiation. Consider an org chart, where (as an HR Manager) you want a split of the two sexes. Yourorganogram would look something like the example shown below.

As you can see, this is just a simple example. But colour can also be used to differentiate various things like office locations and hierarchy on an org chart, too. The use of color may be extended to various diagram types as well. For instance, consider using different colors to show what is a process and what is a decision in a flowchart.

      

2. Use Color to show Intensity

Color may also be used as an excellent barometer to show the difficulty or intensity that is present in certain tasks. For instance, if you are Project Manager who is tracking down a flowchart, you could use various colors to generate the difficulty of certain processes. A basic example is shown below.

      

3. Make it a Point to Utilize Color in the right Context

One of the main things that we need to be mindful of is using color that is relevant to whatever it is we are drawing. For instance, if you take a topographic map, certain colors would have meaning i.e. brown would be indicative of land, green would be indicative of vegetation and blue would mean sea. Another example would be the color utilization to show an increase in temperature. You would have the color increasing in intensity from light orange to dark orange and subsequently red.

4. Use Color to ensure Readability

One of the main benefits of using color is that you get to ensure absolute clarity. Usually, you need to pay attention to readability. Avoid designs that have color contrasts that cannot be easily read like dark brown text on a dark brown background. An ideal example is shown below, where proper utilization of color to ensure readability is encircled in red.

5. Use Colors from the same Palette

While we are all for the proper use of color, remember that you can seriously draw diagrams quick and easy with Creately’s one-click styles. Each row has complementary colors, and you can go up or down to show intensity within a color. Why not try this smart app for free and see for yourself!

We do agree that colour per se and color combinations are inherently subjective, yet you cannot deny the fact that it is certainly something that is important and can be widely used to offer a glut of benefits from easy assimilation of information to making diagrams look real beautiful. As always, we’d be thrilled with whatever response that you may have and would encourage you to make comments on this post and/or to get in touch with us if you got any queries.

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3 ways to make your Org Charts better

We did speak quite a bit about Org Charts a few posts back, but in this post we thought of letting you all in on 3 simple points that can to help make your Org Charts more focused and clearer.

1. Know the difference between Vertical and Horizontal

A vertical organizational structure denotes a strict top down or bottom up structure. Typically, a rigid top down vertical organizational structure has been favored for businesses and other organization types. On the other hand, a horizontal organizational structure means a flat or semi- flat organizational structure, like a meritocracy. While many do design their Org Charts with their direct reports being positioned horizontally, the right thing to do is to be aware of what your company structure is all about, i.e. vertical or horizontal before actually attempting an Org Chart. A vertical Org Chart is shown below.

2. Name It and then Put a Face to It

Including images of staff in your Org Chart can help humanize your company intranet site, assist new employees get better acquainted, and help virtual teams that are not in close proximity to get a sense of who their co-workers are. But you really need not limit yourself to just staff pictures. If you do have an Org Chart that is rather mundane and abstract, you could infuse some liveliness and color to it but plugging in some images to highlight the type of operations as well. For instance, if you have a department called Division of Finance & Management, you could have a dollar sign image next to it. Check out how big a difference, having a picture and not having one makes below.

3. Go Unconventional with Org Charts

While Org Charts are conventionally used by HR to show the basic structure that is present in an organization, why not use such a diagram type to illustrate other types of information? For instance, you could use Color to showcase the gender balance or the different age groups present in an organization. Don’t stop there though, you could even use a colorful Org Chart to allocate staff members into different teams in the Sports Committee, to assess the number of Senior Executives present as opposed to Junior Executives or even. There really is no limit as to what you can do with organigrams, all it takes is some intuition and creativity.

Stick to these 3 tips to make your designs clear, sharp, clutter-free and offer more information. Try out these smart 3 tips on Creately for free and see how creating Org Charts is as easy as peanuts.

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Manage your project better with Org anization Charts

A while back, Indu did three amazing posts on the different types of org charts. While org charts has been the topic of focus this week, we ruminated a bit on how we could use organigrams like never before. True, we did talk about how we could use org charts in an unorthodox manner in our last post, but we wanted to push the envelope a bit further.

You see, there are various tools that are used for project management, which have had varying degrees of success but we thought – Why not form your own customized project management tool using Creately? Confused? Let’s shed some light on this compelling topic.

As our first example, consider two teams of web designers who all report to separate project managers. As a project manager, you would call/phone/email your web designer and divvy up the workload (e.g. to design a wireframe). Make sure you agree on a delivery date and a WIP date as well. Once this is done, using the collaborative features of Creately you can easily see if the tasks are being done. This way you get rid of time wastage and keep track of each team member’s progress without having to invest is a PM tool that is both expensive and is good for just one particular use. Use an organigram (as shown below) to create a customized version of a PM tool relevant to your department alone.

When inside Creately you would click on the blue icon to open up the wireframe / mockup below.

Think that this is probably just a one-off example we cracked our brains at? Think again. Let’s consider a marketing department where you are the boss. You have two executives working for you on various research projects. That big presentation is coming up soon and boy, do you need that Ansoff Matrix and PEST analysis in a hurry. Why not get your executives onto Creately and then collaborate with them. This way you would be aware of who has done what and when. Peruse the example below.

Again clicking on the blue icon, when inside Creately, will open up the PEST diagram.

The aim of this post is to help you think and use Creately from a totally different angle. All it takes is intuitiveness and some innovative thinking to use this smart app anyway you want. We’d be more than glad to offer you more exciting tips on how to use Creately. Plus we’re all eager to know what you think of how we have offered a new spin on things in this post, so please do go ahead and comment. In the meanwhile, stay tuned for some exciting posts from the rest of the Creately team soon!

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How functional structures benefit in bringing clarity into business

Most organizations today spend thousands of dollars on business solutions to manage their business assets, but they sometimes fail to manage the most important asset – the workforce. Understanding the structure of the organization is important, understanding the roles people play, how they interact through formal and informal processes and the relationships they build are crucial to the success of any strategy.

Electrolux Home Products (EHP) as you may know is a global leader in household appliances. They are manufacturers of refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, cookers and air-conditioners. It’s a Swedish multinational company that has grown through acquisitions to become a dominant player in Europe. But the European market is highly competitive and the company had to find ways to cut down on costs and improve product standards to stay ahead of fierce competition.

This is a case study of how Electrolux Home Products Europe used a functional organizational structure to compete in the European market.

Their solution was quite simple yet very strategic in nature. They introduced a Europe-wide functional structure to replace the geographical structure (resulting from its acquisitions).

The new organizational structure had four functions/departments. You can see the org chart below, which will help you visualize the breakdown of EHP’s company structure.

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1. Purchasing, Production and Product Development – This department/function was important as it ensured a seamless flow from supplies to finished products.

2. Supply Chain Management and Logistics – This function was responsible for getting the products to the customer and created the association between sales forecasts and factory production.
3. Product Businesses, Brand Management and Key Account Management – This function was involved in all the marketing activities to support products and brands. Also included key account management, service and spare parts functions.
4. Sales clusters – The different sales divisions grouped geographically.

Functional structures always allow for greater operational control at a senior level with clear definition of roles and tasks. This structure is best suited for organizations producing standardized goods and services at large volumes and low cost. Having introduced functional structures, EHP was able to improve operational efficiencies where employees became specialists within their own realm of expertise. The realignment was also helped to ensure profitable growth as the organization brought in more clarity and uniformity into business by creating more focus on areas where increased effort is required to meet the tougher challenges of the market-place.

This is a demonstration of how a functional structure has helped EHP. If you’ve been part of a functional structure or have any interesting stories to share, drop a comment here or contact us.
Source – Exploring Corporate Strategy, 7th Ed – G Johnson K Scholes R
Original Source – Adapted from The Electrolux Executive, December 2000

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5 Reasons why HR Managers love Organizational Charts

HR managers in companies have been using organizational charts for decades to fulfil a very basic but significant function. These managers have used org charts to form the modus operandi of a company, where questions of “Who is Who?” and “Who does What?” are answered. Organizational behavioral experts are aware of the issues that arise when lines are vague when it comes to job roles and responsibilities. Org charts need to be properly used to define the function and role of every single individual in a company so that there is room for accountability.

Additionally, you may also be aware of how org charts are used in collaboration with appraisals and job descriptions. To break it down simply, an org chart is a map as to where exactly you are in an organization. The truth here is that every company has a hierarchy of sorts, even those that claim to be a meritocracy. Paying heed to the following reasons as to why HR Managers love their org charts could help you understand your job role better.

1. Delineate work responsibilities

One of the chief functions of an organigram is to clearly show the allocation of work responsibilities. As any HR Manager who is worth his salt is aware, this is one of his chief responsibilities, which if properly executed leads to the efficient functioning of the company as a whole.

2. Establishing specific tasks

Technically this point may be interlinked with the very first point. One of the many advantages of org charts is that you can break down job responsibilities into specific tasks  as well. For instance, if one of your responsibilities is to conduct quarterly recruitment for executive positions, then one of the specific tasks would be to conduct an initial selection interview in keeping with the company guidelines.

3. Clarify work relationships

Another important function of an org chart is that it helps to clarify the working relationships that exist between an Executive and a Manager. The corporate culture has evolved in varying degrees where traditional reporting lines are not adhered to anymore. For instance, you may have an HR Executive whose job responsibilities include recruitment and training, which are two separate departments. However, in this case, one executive may report to two separate managers as shown below.

4. Establishing hierarchical structure of decision-making and power

Contrary to popular belief, org charts are not relevant to only the lower rung of management (think Executives and Staff Officers) but also to middle or higher management (think Managers, GMs, DCEOs and CEOs) as well. Not to sound melodramatic but using org charts for the sake of transparency could lead to less misunderstandings and friction when it comes to the sharing of power.

5. Provides you an information portal

Whatever your position may be in a company, you are sure to have third-party interactions. Just to highlight a very basic example, if you are a new Management Trainee, you’d probably want to know who you request stationery from, who you would call if your salary gets delayed, where administration is located etc.


Considering all that has been highlighted thus far, you could get quite creative with org charts. There is no reason why you should give into a “cookie cutter” mentality and be orthodox in your ways. Coming up with innovative uses of org charts could very well help you as a HR Manager to create a better roadmap for the company, in terms of roles, responsibilities and staff interaction. Stay tuned for more goodness on org charts. Till then – Keep those diagrams beautiful!

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Part 1 : 15 mistakes you would unintentionally make with flowcharts

We just finished with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 on the basics of UML diagramming. We now have a two-part series on Flowcharts. This is a very straightforward post, which you will find useful when it comes to getting your diagrams picture perfect. When it comes to flowcharts, one of the most significant things to consider is the element of clarity and attention to detail. Flowcharts, as we all know, can range from solving simple to complex problems. However, there is a list of common mistakes that are relevant to any flowchart, which you should be cautious of.

1. The use of appropriate symbols

Every symbol has a meaning. While it may seem convenient to use a process symbol for everything, this could end up confusing the reader. To get a better understanding of what symbols are relevant when, read up on what each object is all about.

2. Avoid flow direction that is inconsistent


The two most widely accepted flow directions are top to bottom or left to right. Having said that these two types of directions should not be mixed into the same flowchart. Consistency really does matter.

3. Excessive color schemes

Your flowchart is designed to give a solution to a problem. With this in mind, the last thing you want to do is to have your message lost in visual noise.

4. Symbol sizes should be consistent


Maintaining a flowchart that is well proportioned is vital when it comes to avoiding a visual mess. As a rule of thumb, ensure that the height and width are in proportion to each other and the rest of the symbols in the flowchart. This is not, however, applicable to objects that are meant to be intentionally small, like connectors.

5. The need for consistent branch direction

In a perfect world, a flowchart should be logical in all aspects. One of the areas that we do not pay much heed to is branch direction. The best example to illustrate this point is with Decision symbols. Ideally, TRUE conditions should flow out from the bottom while FALSE conditions should flow out from the right side.

6. Flowchart symbols and spacing

More often than not we choose to ignore this crucial point. To make your flowchart more professional you should maintain even spacing around symbols. The one exception to this rule would be Decision symbols, which require extra space to accommodate branch labels.

7. Remember to scale

One of the most basic facts that are overlooked is scaling. Too often a detailed flowchart is re-sized to fit just one page. This is never a good thing. It is better to have a flowchart span multiple pages than to be crammed into a small space, where all the details are unreadable. If you really aren’t happy to span your flowchart over several pages you might like to create a high level flowchart which incorporates several process steps in to one. Alternatively you can also group processes together and then collapse them to reduce the visual clutter of your flowchart.

8. Extended flowcharts

If your flowchart is connected to another flowchart, then instead of putting it in just one page, it is best that you connect it via a circular node to the flowchart on a different page.

Well that’s the first 8 done and tidied away. Keep this list handy and next time run through it at the end of your next flowcharting exercise. We’ll go through the remaining 7 mistakes in the next post. In the meantime if you have a common mistake you think others should avoid let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure it’s covered.

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