Flowcharts are incredibly helpful templates and have many different applications, some of which you can learn about from reading our guide on 10 different flowchart examples. What these applications don’t tell you, however, is the specific reasons that flowcharts are so important. In this article, we will outline the biggest flowchart advantages and demonstrate the importance of integrating them into your team. In addition, we will provide some balance by highlighting some disadvantages to implementing them and the scenarios where they aren’t applicable.
Flowcharts are incredibly good at taking a complex series of steps and organizing them into a visually digestible format. Doing this helps build clarity within the defined process and makes everything easier to understand.
Clarifying not only the steps in the process but the different outcomes and end results is super helpful for teams to gather their focus on one objective and find the best way to reach it.
Flowcharts gather this information on a single document, making it accessible and concise. Providing a single source of information is another reason they build clarity and help build a shared understanding within teams.
Helps Identify Specific Steps
One of the big advantages of a flowchart is, similar to a customer journey map, helping break down processes into their individual steps. This is helpful from a team perspective to understand the directional flow within a process, but additionally, it’s helpful for people to better understand each specific step that goes into the process.
Breaking down these steps can highlight things that might have flown under the radar or were lumped together when really they should have been their own individual steps. Separating tasks into distinct steps helps identify the specific goals associated with that action and the desired outcomes of each phase.
Mapping processes out on a flowchart helps identify the most important steps in the process and unearths things that are hard to discover without a visual aid.
Outlines a Complex Process
Similar to identifying specific steps in a process, flowcharts are mainly used to outline a complex process and make it simpler. This has less to do with the specific steps but more about how they connect.
Flowcharts are all about creating directional flow within a process. Things start from point A and, through a series of steps and actions, will eventually progress to point B. Flowcharts are all about making this journey as simple and repeatable as possible.
In order to achieve a simple journey, they provide direction to and from every single step in the process. This direction is linear and will always be traceable to the next task or assignment, making complex processes much easier to follow and complete.
Communicates Ideas Quickly
Flowcharts don’t simply break down complex processes quickly, but they do it in a collaborative setting. It can be easy for one person to understand how a process is completed but communicating that flow is an entirely different challenge.
Flowcharts create a forum where people can communicate processes, steps, and direction instantly by simply referencing an easy visual aid. This aid makes communicating ideas referenced in a flowchart incredibly easy and gives people a reference point to begin a conversation about how to best achieve their goals.
Coordinates Team Effort
Similar to how flowcharts communicate ideas in an understandable way, they also help coordinate focus in specific places. For example, if in a customer outreach flowchart there are three very specific steps that need to be followed in order to reach the end goal, the team will focus their efforts on reaching those three steps. In a previous iteration, they might hit one or two, but now they can focus on hitting all three.
Especially for project managers, being able to use a flowchart to plan ahead for future sprints and create a manageable flow for their development team can be super helpful and can lessen the burden of prioritization that people face.
Being able to coordinate team effort is critical when prioritizing steps and being able to do so is another critical piece of the many flowchart advantages.
Increases Efficiency and Exposes Inefficient Areas
When flowcharts outline the most important steps in a process it accomplishes two big things. It allows teams to focus and increase their efficiency around those steps, and it exposes areas of inefficiency and waste.
By listing every necessary step in a process, flowcharts focus only on the things that are essential to project completion. Regardless of the external factors, these items are absolutely required. This allows teams to focus on the best way to move between them and complete the cycle with maximum efficiency.
Additionally, when all these steps are listed it helps expose the things that the team might have been doing before implementing a flowchart. These things could be taking away from their overall efficiency and, depending on their effect, can be scratched entirely.
This shows that increasing team efficiency and exposing areas of waste are two of the biggest flowchart advantages.
Creates Clear Documentation
Using a flowchart template is critical for some people because it provides clear documentation for a given process. Understanding the details of how a process functions might not be of utmost importance to everyone, but having it clearly documented can be extremely helpful for distributing and communicating this process.
For example, digital flowcharts can be used for hiring, onboarding, and healthcare to help document the process internally and externally. This flowchart can then be accessed by everyone who goes through those services and can provide value for years to come.
Additionally, digital flowcharts help save paper and provide a more efficient way of documenting a process for a large number of people. Having accessible documentation can be critical for some industries and is an important addition to our list of flowchart advantages.
Helps Solve Problems
Flowcharts are popular communication and documentation tools, but they also serve as a good problem-solving tool as well.
Flowcharts help solve problems by breaking up the sequence into multiple parts, each easily definable on their own. Having a documented process broken down into its essential elements helps highlight anything missing, any waste, and the most important phases, all things that are necessary for effective problem-solving.
Additionally, each step has a specific direction associated with it, so no problems are left in a void with no logical path forward. Everything is connected to the end goal so there will always be a clear route to the solution.
While we can outline many flowchart advantages, it’s important we discuss some of their shortcomings as well. These might not apply to everyone using a flowchart but in some use cases, they will be detrimental to the team’s efforts.
- Flowcharts take precious time: If you are diagramming a flow that isn’t complex or is very short, making a flowchart might end up being a waste of time and resources. Make sure it’s being used for a project that really needs it.
- Can’t account for unique actions: Flowcharts are limited by their linear pathways and for this reason, a simple flowchart might not account for some very specific or unique actions you have to take.
- Difficult to edit: Sometimes, processes change over time and a flowchart will not remain as accurate as it once was. In this case, if you have to update a flowchart every time you make an edit it might not be worth creating one until the process is fully cemented.
While every single situation might not call for a flowchart, it can be extremely useful when applied correctly. Hopefully, this list of flowchart advantages helped narrow down your needs, and if you want to learn more about how to build your own flowchart make sure you check out Fresco.