Every successful business has one thing in common: they operate like clockwork. As a result, every team member needs to work cohesively to meet their goal. That’s why ensuring everyone knows their roles and what they should do during business operations is essential. Fortunately, a workflow diagram can help get everyone in sync with the business goal.
This article will discuss the workflow diagram and its significance to any business. First, learn everything you need about workflows, including their uses, symbols, icons, and more.
What is a Workflow Diagram?
A workflow diagram is a step-by-step graphic representation of a business-related procedure from start to finish. It provides a visual overview of how individual actions, resources, and tasks flow between different people or groups within the company. It also shows how to accomplish each task accordingly, which is essential for the people involved in the process.
While its purpose may sound simple, creating a workflow diagram isn’t easy. First, you’ll need to create an initial draft, brainstorm with your team members, and make several revisions before you can come up with the ideal workflow. Afterward, you’ll need to conduct a thorough workflow analysis to help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses to fortify the effectiveness of your workflow.
Understanding the Purpose of Workflow Diagrams
A workflow diagram is a visual representation of a company’s workflow that helps employees understand their roles and the correct order in which work should be fulfilled. This tool promotes unity and cohesiveness within different departments, creating a more fluid and dynamic workforce.
The Evolution of Workflow Diagrams
Originally used in the manufacturing industry, workflows are now utilized by other industries and businesses. From financing to the government, workflows are now as popular as ever in trend and use.
Conducting a Thorough Analysis
Before creating a functional workflow diagram, it is essential to thoroughly analyze your company’s current strategy for accomplishing tasks, as well as the order of work and the responsibilities of each team member. This data forms the foundation for your workflow diagram.
Setting Goals for Your Workflow
Every workflow needs to have a goal, whether standardizing work processes, identifying critical points of a project, or achieving other objectives. By visualizing your workflow, you can better plan and promote a clearer context on your overall business goals.
Workflow diagrams play a vital role in streamlining business operations and promoting a better understanding of roles and responsibilities among employees. Businesses can create effective workflow diagrams that lead to improved productivity and success by conducting a thorough analysis and setting clear goals.
Workflow Diagram Vs. Data Flow Diagram Vs. Flowchart: What’s the Difference?
Workflow diagrams, data flow diagrams, and flowcharts are visual tools that help businesses understand their processes and identify inefficiencies. Unfortunately, many confuse workflow diagrams with other variations, such as a data flow or a flowchart. While they may have similar elements, these diagrams are completely different. Let’s break them down to find out how they are similar and how they are different from each other:
- Flowcharts represent a series of actions requiring you to make decisions before moving further. Your choice will determine the entire process’s outcome, thus making the flowchart the perfect choice for guiding businesses toward the ideal conclusion to a process. It breaks the problem down into smaller, manageable subtasks to help visualize the entire problem and lead to a more plausible outcome.
- Data flow diagrams show how data flows through a certain system. They include where data starts, the routes it goes through, the endpoint, and the process as a whole.
- Workflow diagrams function similarly to flowcharts but are more comprehensive and complex. They offer different tasks and decision-making scenarios that every member goes through to determine the outcome of their work and accomplish the end goal.
Key Differences Between Workflow Diagrams, Data Flow Diagrams, and Flowcharts
Here are some of the areas that separate these three diagrams completely:
- Scope: Flowcharts are best for small, simple processes, while workflow diagrams are better suited for complex processes involving multiple decision points and tasks. Data flow diagrams focus solely on the flow of data through a system.
- Level of Detail: Flowcharts offer a high level of detail and focus on the specific steps involved in a process. In contrast, workflow diagrams provide a broader overview of the process, focusing more on tasks and decision-making scenarios. Data flow diagrams depict data flow through a system with a detailed representation of inputs, outputs, and storage.
- Purpose: Flowcharts are used to analyze and optimize processes, while workflow diagrams are used to plan, design, and optimize workflows. On the other hand, data flow diagrams are used to model and analyze data flows in a system.
While these three visual tools have similarities, they each have distinct differences that make them useful for different purposes. Choosing the right tool for your business depends on the scope and complexity of your process and the level of detail and purpose needed to achieve your goals.
When Should You Use A Workflow Diagram?
The use of the workflow diagram dates back to its inception in the manufacturing industry in the 1880s. Today, the workflow diagram has come a long way and is now used in every industry. Workflow diagrams are used to streamline everyday business activities and operations. It aims to help keep the entire organization in sync with the operation and boost overall work efficiency, productivity, and revenue.
Workflow diagrams are an effective tool for streamlining business processes and improving productivity. They visually represent a workflow, allowing employees to understand their roles and responsibilities in a process. Workflow diagrams are most useful in the following situations:
- Complex Processes: Workflow diagrams can be particularly useful when dealing with complex processes with many decision points and tasks. By visualizing the process, employees can understand how it works and identify improvement areas.
- New Processes: When implementing a new process, ensuring everyone understands how it works, and their role is essential. Workflow diagrams are an excellent tool for this as they provide a simple and easy-to-understand visual representation of the process.
- Process Optimization: Over time, processes may become less efficient, or new challenges may arise that require changes to the process. Workflow diagrams can help identify areas of inefficiency, enabling businesses to optimize their workflows to achieve better results.
- Cross-Functional Teams: Cross-functional teams include employees from different departments who work together towards a common goal. Workflow diagrams ensure that everyone understands the process and their role in it, which can help prevent delays or misunderstandings.
- Quality Control: Workflow diagrams can be used to develop quality control measures within a business. By mapping out the steps involved in a process, businesses can identify where errors or defects may occur and implement measures to prevent them. This can help improve the quality of products or services offered, leading to higher customer satisfaction and improved business performance.
By using workflow diagrams in these situations, businesses can improve the clarity of their processes and increase overall productivity.
Types of Workflow Diagrams
Different types of workflow diagrams accomplish different areas within the business landscape. They are essential for visualizing and improving business processes that involve multiple steps and decision points. One thing to know about workflow diagrams is that they come in different formats and variations. To help you determine which one to use, here’s a quick run-through of some of the most popular variations:
- Process Flow Diagram: A process flow diagram is the most basic type of workflow diagram. It maps out a process chronologically, showing the sequence of steps and decision points.
- Swim Lane Diagram: This type of workflow diagram divides a process into multiple flows while retaining unity and interconnectedness within the organization. It visualizes various processes, highlighting the correct interaction, potential inefficiencies, and positive outcomes. This makes it an ideal tool for cross-functional teams or complex processes with multiple stakeholders.
- Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN): BPMN is a standardized notation that uses simple symbols to make the process easier to digest. The symbols are easy to understand, making it an efficient way to communicate complex workflows. BPMN also allows for more detailed documentation of processes, which can be useful for auditing or regulatory compliance.
- SIPOC Diagram: Suppliers Inputs Processes Outputs Customers (SIPOC) is a variant of the swim lane diagram. However, this version focuses more on analyzing different workflow aspects while identifying their level of importance. SIPOC diagrams are useful for identifying critical inputs, outputs, and processes, which can be helpful in process improvement efforts.
Shapes and Symbols
While it may fall under personal preference, a universally accepted standard exists for using shapes and symbols in a workflow diagram
- Oval: This shape indicates the start and endpoint of a process. The oval is commonly found at the edges of the workflow.
- Rectangle: this shape is where you’ll place actions or instructions within your workflow.
- Diamonds: this shape denotes decisions. Like a standard flow chart, they will contain questions leading to a yes or no answer. Your choice will then determine where you will progress within the workflow.
- Circle: this shape serves as a connector. It is commonly used when the one reading the diagram needs to skip from one section to another. Circles are connected through arrows and can bypass other stages.
- Arrows: finally, arrows serve as the lines that connect the shapes. The arrows will serve as the direction that will take you from one step to another, helping you understand the flow of the diagram.
While these are the standardized way of using shapes, remember that you can also use other symbols and pictures depending on your preference.
How to Create a Workflow Diagram
At this point, you now have an initial understanding of a workflow diagram and its purpose for your business. The final step is learning the different steps in creating one. If you’re ready, let’s begin. Follow the steps outlined below to create your first workflow diagram:
Step 1: Choose Your Process
First, you must select the process you plan to track; most importantly, determine why you intend to track it. What are your intentions for this workflow? Answering these initial questions will help you choose the ideal diagram type. At the same time, it’s also essential to address the people who will see and use the diagram.
Step 2: Determine the Start and End
Once you’ve defined the process, identify the individual steps involved in the process. Write them down in chronological order. A workflow has three major parts: input, process, and output. Whatever conditions you place between the start and finish is up to you. But make sure you have a clear and understandable kick-off and end goal.
Step 3: Determine the Flow
Determine the flow of the process by identifying the decision points and branching paths. This will help you create a visual representation of the workflow. You will also be able to identify the points where you may need additional resources or have a bottleneck in your workflow. At the same time, include any notes or additional information for each step.
Step 4: Research and Gather Relevant Information
This phase is where you conduct meetings with people within your company. Gather important information to make sure your workflow is 100% accurate. Define each activity involved in every step and mention the person in charge of accomplishing these decision-making tasks. Also, don’t forget to note process timelines, potential bottlenecks, deviations, and even possible improvements in your workflow.
Step 5: Choose a Diagramming Tool
Select a diagramming tool that meets your needs. There are many options available, such as Microsoft Visio, Lucidchart, Gliffy, or DATAMYTE (More about us later). Creating a workflow diagram from scratch is doable, but you’ll need help from a diagramming tool to make it easier and more convenient.
Step 6: Create the Diagram
Once you’ve chosen a diagramming tool, it’s now time to put everything together. Start creating the diagram by adding shapes and lines to represent the steps in the workflow. Use symbols or shapes to represent decision points, input/output, and other key elements. Also, make sure you’re using the correct colors and designs to make it easier for readers to understand the flow.
Step 7: Add Details
Add more details to the diagram, such as task descriptions, decision criteria, and other relevant information. Doing so will help others understand the process more clearly. Don’t hesitate to add more if you feel like something is missing. It’s better to have too much information than not enough.
Step 8: Eliminate Useless Tasks
Once everything is in place, look around and label each according to relevance and priority. Label the important ones as ‘must-have,’ ‘useful,’ and ‘relevant.’ If you find one particular task isn’t as important, you can label them as ‘unnecessary.’ You can either change them to something else or eliminate them completely. Doing so will help streamline your workflow and assign tasks to the right person.
Step 9: Personalize Your Workflow
Now that you’ve got all the data in the right places, it’s time to be artistic by adding some lovely visuals into your workflow. Whether using the traditional pen and paper or a more sophisticated diagramming tool, you must design your workflow according to your preference. Just make sure it’s easily shareable, simple to use, and editable for when you want to make changes in the future.
Step 10: Results Analysis
At this point, you now have a workflow diagram. Now, it’s time to try it and see if your process works fluidly. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing some trial and error before you can perfect your workflow. So make sure you pinpoint potential bottlenecks that need fixing. By taking note of potential red flags within your workflow, you’ll be able to improve your workflow as a whole and other aspects, like speed and efficiency.
Create a Workflow Diagram Using a Low-code Platform
If you’re looking for a more effective and efficient way to create a workflow diagram, then consider using a low-code platform. Low-code platforms are designed to make the process of creating workflows easier and faster. Using a drag-and-drop interface, you can easily arrange tasks and add elements like decision points without writing any code.
DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. The DataMyte Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features tools that let you create and edit workflows with ease. With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you have the power to design a workflow diagram without writing any code.
DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.
With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for creating and implementing any workflow diagram. Book a demo now to learn how DATAMYTE can help you design and improve your workflow diagrams.
Keep in mind that improving your workflow is a continuous process. So feel free to make any necessary changes that you find during the testing phase. Then, tweak your process accordingly and review your tasks. Keep repeating this process until you find that ‘sweet spot’ where you can feel that your workflow effectively presents a comprehensive, step-by-step walkthrough of your intended process.