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How to Create a Workflow Diagram for Your Business

how to create a workflow diagram for your business

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 it’s important to ensure that everyone knows their roles and what they should be doing during business operations. Fortunately, a workflow diagram can help get everyone in sync with what the business is trying to achieve.

In this article, we will discuss the workflow diagram and its significance to any business. You will learn everything you need to know 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 an actual 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.

Purpose of Workflow Diagram

As mentioned earlier, a workflow diagram is used to represent a visual overview of a company’s workflow. It’s a useful tool to help employees understand their roles and familiarize the correct order in which work is fulfilled. It also promotes unity and cohesiveness within different departments, creating a more fluid and dynamic workforce.

Originating from 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.

Before creating a functional workflow diagram, you’ll need to conduct a thorough analysis first when you deep-dive into your company’s current strategy of accomplishing tasks, as well as the order of work and the responsibilities of each team member.

The data you collect during the analysis phase will help lay out the foundation of data for your workflow diagram. Keep in mind that every workflow needs to have a goal. It can either be standardizing work processes, identifying critical points of a project, or other things. By visualizing your workflow, you can better plan and promote a clearer context on your overall business goals. 

Workflow Diagram, Data Flow Diagram & Flowchart – What’s the Difference?

Many people 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.

  • Flowchart: this type of diagram represents a series of actions requiring you to make decisions before moving further. The choice you make will determine the entire process’s outcome, thus making the flowchart the perfect choice for guiding businesses towards 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 diagram: this type of diagram shows you how data flows through a certain system. It includes where data starts, the routes that it goes through, the endpoint, and the process as a whole.
  • Workflow diagram: this type of diagram functions similarly to a flowchart. However, it’s a lot more comprehensive and complex. It offers different tasks and decision-making scenarios that every member goes through to determine the outcome of their work and accomplish the end goal.

 

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.

Examples of industries that take advantage of workflow diagrams include e-commerce, the medical field, education, app development, and more. So no matter what business you’re running, you can utilize a workflow diagram and benefit from all the perks that it offers.

Types of Workflow Diagrams

Different types of workflow diagrams accomplish different areas within the business landscape. Here’s a quick run-through on some of the most popular variations:

  • Process flow diagram – the most basic type of workflow diagram. It maps the process of the workflow in chronological order.
  • Swim lane diagram – this type of workflow splits into two or more flows while retaining unity and interconnectedness within the organization. It visualizes various processes, highlighting the correct interaction, potential inefficiencies, and positive outcomes.
  • Business Process Modelling Notation – also known as BPMN, this workflow diagram utilizes simple, standardized symbols to make the process easier to digest.
  • 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. 

 

Shapes and Symbols

While it may fall under personal preference, there is a universally accepted standard 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 be placing 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 connectors. 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 together. To read and understand a workflow diagram, the arrows will serve as the direction that will take you from one step to another.

 

While these are the standardized way of using shapes, keep in mind that you can also use other symbols and even pictures depending on your preference. 

 

How to Create a Workflow Diagram

At this point, you now have an initial understanding of what a workflow diagram is 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 outline below to create your first workflow diagram:

Step 1: Choose Your Process

First, you will need to 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 important to address the people who will see and use the diagram. 

Step 2: Determine the Start and End

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: 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 tasks of making decisions. Also, don’t forget to note process timelines, potential bottlenecks, deviations, and even possible improvements in your workflow.

Step 4: Eliminate Useless Tasks

Once everything is in place, take a look around and label each one according to relevance and priority. Label the important ones as ‘must-have,’ ‘useful,’ and ‘relevant.’ If you find that one particular task isn’t as important, you can label them as ‘not necessary.’ You can either change them to something else or eliminate them completely. Doing so will help streamline your entire workflow process and assign tasks to the right person.

Step 5: 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, it’s important to design your workflow according to your preference. Just make sure that it’s easily shareable, simple to use, and editable for when you want to make changes in the future.

Step 6: Results Analysis

Congratulations! You now have a workflow diagram. Now, it’s time to give it a try 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 not only your workflow as a whole but other aspects as well, like speed and efficiency.

 

Wrapping Up

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 on your intended process.

Creating a workflow diagram manually can be an additional burden for you. So, why not use DataMyte’s digital clipboard to digitize the process? DataMyte is an online productivity tool that features a workflow builder to help you create workflows for any process. 

Our workflow builder contains all the necessary elements to create a functional workflow that you can share with your team and use to its full potential.

 

 

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