Standard Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
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- Category: Symbolism
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Flowcharts are the ideal diagrams for visually representing business processes. For example, if you need to show the flow of a custom-order process through various departments within your organization, you can use a flowchart. This paper provides a visual representation of basic flowchart symbols and their proposed use in communicating the structure of a well-developed web site, as well as their correlation in developing on-line instructional projects. A typical flowchart from older Computer Science textbooks may have the following kinds of symbols: * Start and end symbols, represented as lozenges, ovals or rounded rectangles, usually containing the word “Start” or “End”, or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as “submit enquiry” or “receive product”. * Arrows, showing what’s called “flow of control” in computer science. An arrow coming from one symbol and ending at another symbol signifies flow passes to the symbol the arrow points to. * Processing steps, represented as rectangles.
Examples: “Add 1 to X”; “replace identified part”; “save changes” or similar. * Input/Output, represented as a parallelogram. Examples: Get X from the user; display X. * Conditional (or decision), represented as a diamond (rhombus). These typically contain a Yes/No question or True/False test. This symbol is unique in that it has two arrows coming out of it, usually from the bottom point and right point, one corresponding to Yes or True, and one corresponding to No or False.
The arrows should always be labeled. More than two arrows can be used, but this is normally a clear indicator that a complex decision is being taken, in which case it may need to be broken-down further, or replaced with the “pre-defined process” symbol. * A number of other symbols that have less universal currency, such as: * A Document represented as a rectangle with a wavy base; * A Manual input represented by a rectangle, with the top irregularly sloping up from left to right. An example would be to signify data-entry from a form; * A Manual operation represented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel side upmost, to represent an operation or adjustment to process that can only be made manually. * A Data File represented by a cylinder
Flowcharts may contain other symbols, such as connectors, usually represented as circles, to represent converging paths in the flow chart. Circles will have more than one arrow coming into them but only one going out. Some flow charts may just have an arrow point to another arrow instead. These are useful to represent an iterative process (in Computer Science this is called a loop). A loop may, for example, consist of a connector where control first enters, processing steps, a conditional with one arrow exiting the loop, and one going back to the connector. Off-page connectors are often used to signify a connection to a (part of a) process held on another sheet or screen. A flowchart is described as “cross-functional” when the page is divided into different “lanes” describing the control of different organizational chart units. A symbol appearing in a particular “lane” is within the control of that organizational unit. This technique allows the analyst to locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision correctly, allowing the relationship between different organizational units with responsibility over a single process. Standard Flowchart Symbols
Flowcharts use special shapes to represent different types of actions or steps in a process. Lines and arrows show the sequence of these steps, and the relationships between them.
Workflow relationships are where work is done by different departments in a fixed sequence. This means that one department needs to finish its job before work can continue in another department. The development and maintenance of these work flow relationships is very important for managers because they are dependant on the preceding areas for his or her own work, and responsible to managers and workers at different stages further down the chain.
Audit Flowchart Shapes
The follow shapes is similar with the basic flowchart symbols but are specially used in the audit flowchart.
The Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
Process represents a step in your process.
Predefined process indicate a set of steps that combine to create a sub-process that is defined elsewhere, often on another page of the same drawing.
Decision indicates a point where the outcome of a decision dictates the next step. There can be multiple outcomes, but often there are just two – yes and no.
Terminal points indicates the starting and ending points of a process.
Data Shape Indicates that information is coming into the process from outside, or leaving the process.
Delay shape Represents a waiting period where no activity is done. In Process Mapping, delays are often important as they may result in adding to the cost of the product or simply delaying its production.
Database shape Use this shape for a step that results in information being stored.
Step represents a single step within a process, and usually contains the name of a specific action. Page symbols refer to individual web pages, which may or may not contain multiple elements. File symbols represent those data elements that exist independently of navigational properties outside of that page, e.g., audio sounds, movie clips, or a portable document file (PDF). A decision point indicates a sequence in the process at which the end user chooses an option, i.e., a “yes-no”, or “true-false” response, and then branches to different parts of the flowchart. Arrows and connecting lines diagram the logical progression through the course, subject to the choices made at decision or action points within the process. The input/action symbol represents a user response that directs the course flow from that point onwards, i.e., an online test, or questionnaire form.
Represents the choice made by the user from mutually exclusive options, e.g., a student choosing among different lesson plans. Conditional selector is similar to the conditional branch except that the user has the option to choose from a number of paths that will fulfill the requested conditions, e.g., the results of a search engine request. Pages that share one or more common aspects, and are functionally identical may be simplified as a rounded corner rectangle, such as an on-line test or feedback form. Annotations provide helpful comments or explanations, e.g. denoting the location where an undeveloped new page/process will fit into the navigational flow structure, or notes for specific team members for further development.
Flow references and flow areas are symbols for reusable sequences, such as logging in with a specific user id and password to enter the course or to initiate an on-line quiz. The flow reference symbol acts as a placeholder for the flow area sequence in the chart in every situation in which it is repeated. Flow area is used as a flow area, it documents sections that share similar components/repeated steps within that flow, and requires the use of the following two symbols: entry and exit points. Exit point concludes the subroutine, such as when the proper user id and password are verified, and documents where the user re-enters the master flowchart. Entry point documents the place within the master flowchart where the process deviates into a subroutine. Reference is used as a connecting point when the flowchart necessitates using more than one page, or refers to a complicated subroutine that would be impossible to contain on the main flowchart page. On-page reference Indicates that the next or previous step is somewhere else on the flowchart. It is particularly useful for large flowcharts.
Off-page reference Use the a set of hyperlinks between two pages of a flowchart or between a sub-process shape and a separate flowchart page that shows the steps in that sub-process.
Flowchart Shapes The designers can click this multi-shape to set to any of the following shapes: Data, Document, Decision, or Process. Any text you type onto the shape, or information you add to its Shape Data, remains with the shape.
Document Represents a step that results in a document.
Process Flowchart Drawing Guide-lines
There is no one right way to develop a flowchart, but the following guide-lines provide a general structure to follow, whether it’s of the overall course navigational process, or at the hand-off phase to the various team members to develop more detailed treatment. 1. Start with a simple one-line description or title of the process being flowcharted , e.g., “How to…” 2. Using a top-down hierarchy, start with a terminal symbol, naming this trigger event, e.g., “User accesses course database…” 3. Connect each successive action step in the logical sequence of events. 4. Reference detailed information through annotations or connectors. 5. Follow the process through to completion, denoted by a labeled end terminal symbol, e.g., “exit course.” A well-developed functional flowchart created in the design phase can save hours of wasted manpower time by ensuring the structure, sequencing and branching decision points in a computer based instructional program, support the course goals and objectives before development. Whether you are the sole creator wearing many hats, or one of many on the development team, sharing a common visual language will guide the project through its many iterations and development phases throughout the instructional design process.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the diagram type. For the poetical writing “Flow Chart”, see John Ashbery.
A simple flowchart representing a process for dealing with a non-functioning lamp. A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents
an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting these with arrows. This diagrammatic representation can give a step-by-step solution to a given problem. Process operations are represented in these boxes, and arrows connecting them represent flow of control. Data flows are not typically represented in a flowchart, in contrast with data flow diagrams; rather, they are implied by the sequencing of operations. Flowcharts are used in analyzing, designing, documenting or managing a process or program in various fields. Contents [hide] * 1 Overview * 2 History * 3 Flowchart building blocks * 3.1 Examples * 3.2 Symbols * 3.3 Data-flow extensions * 4 Types of flowchart * 5 Software * 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 Further reading * 9 External links|
Flowcharts are used in designing and documenting complex processes or programs. Like other types of diagram, they help visualize what is going on and thereby help the viewer to understand a process, and perhaps also find flaws, bottlenecks, and other less-obvious features within it. There are many different types of flowcharts, and each type has its own repertoire of boxes and notational conventions. The two most common types of boxes in a flowchart are: * a processing step, usually called activity, and denoted as a rectangular box * a decision, usually denoted as a diamond.
A flowchart is described as “cross-functional” when the page is divided into different swimlanes describing the control of different organizational units. A symbol appearing in a particular “lane” is within the control of that organizational unit. This technique allows the author to locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision correctly, showing the responsibility of each organizational unit for different parts of a single process. Flowcharts depict certain aspects of processes and they are usually complemented by other types of diagram. For instance, Kaoru Ishikawa defined the flowchart as one of the seven basic tools of quality control, next to the histogram, Pareto chart, check sheet, control chart, cause-and-effect diagram, and the scatter diagram. Similarly, in UML, a standard concept-modeling notation used in software development, the activity diagram, which is a type of flowchart, is just one of many different diagram types. Nassi-Shneiderman diagrams are an alternative notation for process flow. Common alternate names include: flowchart, process flow chart, functional flow chart, process map, process chart, functional process chart, business process model, process model, process flow diagram, work flow diagram, business flow diagram.
The first structured method for documenting process flow, the “flow process chart”, was introduced by Frank Gilbreth to members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1921 in the presentation “Process Charts—First Steps in Finding the One Best Way”. Gilbreth’s tools quickly found their way into industrial engineering curricula. In the early 1930s, an industrial engineer, Allan H. Mogensen began training business people in the use of some of the tools of industrial engineering at his Work Simplification Conferences in Lake Placid, New York. A 1944 graduate of Mogensen’s class, Art Spinanger, took the tools back to Procter and Gamble where he developed their Deliberate Methods Change Program. Another 1944 graduate, Ben S. Graham, Director of Formcraft Engineering at Standard Register Industrial, adapted the flow process chart to information processing with his development of the multi-flow process chart to display multiple documents and their relationships. In 1947, ASME adopted a symbol set derived from Gilbreth’s original work as the ASME Standard for Process Charts. Douglas Hartree explains that Herman Goldstine and John von Neumann developed the flow chart (originally, diagram) to plan computer programs. His contemporary account is endorsed by IBM engineers and by Goldstine’s personal recollections.
The original programming flow charts of Goldstine and von Neumann can be seen in their unpublished report, “Planning and coding of problems for an electronic computing instrument, Part II, Volume 1” (1947), which is reproduced in von Neumann’s collected works. Flowcharts used to be a popular means for describing computer algorithms and are still used for this purpose. Modern techniques such as UML activity diagrams can be considered to be extensions of the flowchart. In the 1970s the popularity of flowcharts as an own method decreased when interactive computer terminals and third-generation programming languages became the common tools of the trade, since algorithms can be expressed much more concisely as source code in such a language, and also because designing algorithms using flowcharts was more likely to result in spaghetti code because of the need for gotos to describe arbitrary jumps in control flow. Often pseudo-code is used, which uses the common idioms of such languages without strictly adhering to the details of a particular one.
Flowchart building blocks
A simple flowchart for computing factorial N (N!)
Template for drawing flowcharts (late 1970s) showing the different symbols. A flowchart for computing the factorial of N — written N! and equal to 1 × 2 × 3 × … × N. Symbols
A typical flowchart from older basic computer science textbooks may have the following kinds of symbols: Start and end symbols
Represented as circles, ovals or rounded rectangles, usually containing the word “Start” or “End”, or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as “submit inquiry” or “receive product”. Arrows
Showing “flow of control”. An arrow coming from one symbol and ending at another symbol represents that control passes to the symbol the arrow points to. The line for the arrow can be solid or dashed. The meaning of the arrow with dashed line may differ from one flowchart to another and can be defined in the legend. Generic processing steps
Represented as rectangles. Examples: “Add 1 to X”; “replace identified part”; “save changes” or similar. Subroutines
Represented as rectangles with double-struck vertical edges; these are used to show complex processing steps which may be detailed in a separate flowchart. Example: process-files. One subroutine may have multiple distinct entry points or exit flows (see coroutine); if so, these are shown as labeled ‘wells’ in the rectangle, and control arrows connect to these ‘wells’. Input/Output
Represented as a parallelogram. Examples: Get X from the user; display X. Prepare conditional
Represented as a hexagon. Shows operations which have no effect other than preparing a value for a subsequent conditional or decision step (see below). Conditional or decision
Represented as a diamond (rhombus) showing where a decision is necessary, commonly a Yes/No question or True/False test. The conditional symbol is peculiar in that it has two arrows coming out of it, usually from the bottom point and right point, one corresponding to Yes or True, and one corresponding to No or False. (The arrows should always be labeled.) More than two arrows can be used, but this is normally a clear indicator that a complex decision is being taken, in which case it may need to be broken-down further or replaced with the “pre-defined process” symbol. Junction symbol
Generally represented with a black blob, showing where multiple control flows converge in a single exit flow. A junction symbol will have more than one arrow coming into it, but only one going out. In simple cases, one may simply have an arrow point to another arrow instead. These are useful to represent an iterative process (what in Computer Science is called a loop). A loop may, for example, consist of a connector where control first enters, processing steps, a conditional with one arrow exiting the loop, and one going back to the connector. For additional clarity, wherever two lines accidentally cross in the drawing, one of them may be drawn with a small semicircle over the other, showing that no junction is intended. Labeled connectors
Represented by an identifying label inside a circle. Labeled connectors are used in complex or multi-sheet diagrams to substitute for arrows. For each label, the “outflow” connector must always be unique, but there may be any number of “inflow” connectors. In this case, a junction in control flow is implied. Concurrency symbol
Represented by a double transverse line with any number of entry and exit arrows. These symbols are used whenever two or more control flows must operate simultaneously. The exit flows are activated concurrently when all of the entry flows have reached the concurrency symbol. A concurrency symbol with a single entry flow is a fork; one with a single exit flow is a join. It is important to remember to keep these connections logical in order. All processes should flow from top to bottom and left to right. Data-flow extensions
A number of symbols have been standardized for data flow diagrams to represent data flow, rather than control flow. These symbols may also be used in control flow charts (e.g. to substitute for the parallelogram symbol). * A Document represented as a rectangle with a wavy base; * A Manual input represented by quadrilateral, with the top irregularly sloping up from left to right. An example would be to signify data-entry from a form; * A Manual operation represented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel side at the top, to represent an operation or adjustment to process that can only be made manually. * A Data File represented by a cylinder.
Types of flowchart
Sterneckert (2003) suggested that flowcharts can be modeled from the perspective of different user groups (such as managers, system analysts and clerks) and that there are four general types: * Document flowcharts, showing controls over a document-flow through a system * Data flowcharts, showing controls over a data-flow in a system * System flowcharts showing controls at a physical or resource level * Program flowchart, showing the controls in a program within a system Notice that every type of flowchart focuses on some kind of control, rather than on the particular flow itself.
Driving to reach a specific goal can be modeled using a flowchart. However there are several of these classifications. For example Andrew Veronis (1978) named three basic types of flowcharts: the system flowchart, thegeneral flowchart, and the detailed flowchart. That same year Marilyn Bohl (1978) stated “in practice, two kinds of flowcharts are used in solution planning: system flowcharts and program flowcharts…”. More recently Mark A. Fryman (2001) stated that there are more differences: “Decision flowcharts, logic flowcharts, systems flowcharts, product flowcharts, and process flowcharts are just a few of the different types of flowcharts that are used in business and government”. In addition, many diagram techniques exist that are similar to flowcharts but carry a different name, such as UML activity diagrams.
Any drawing program can be used to create flowchart diagrams, but these will have no underlying data model to share data with databases or other programs such as project management systems or spreadsheets. Some tools offer special support for flowchart drawing. Many software packages exist that can create flowcharts automatically, either directly from source code, or from a flowchart description language. On-line Web-based versions of such programs are available.