A workflow diagram depicts a series of actions that define a job or how work should be done. A workflow diagram visualizes how tasks will flow between resources, whether they're machines or people and what conditions allow the sequence to move forward. This workflow can be illustrated or described with a flowchart using abstract boxes and diamonds or it can be created with depictions of real-life objects using graphics and pictures that represent customers, forms, finance, products, shipping, payments, and more. For software development, a workflow diagram defines a series of steps a process must execute consistently.
A workflow diagram is commonly used for documentation and implementation purposes since it provides a general overview of a business process. It's often the foundation for other documentation including flowcharts, data flow diagrams, projects, and more.
Processes can be convoluted and hard to understand. However, when represented visually with a workflow diagram, the tasks and protocols are easier to comprehend. Documenting a workflow helps employees understand their roles and can help programmers design systems more efficiently.
Each step in the workflow is represented with a pictorial symbol or an abstract shape like a box. The steps are connected with arrows that indicate the flow from beginning to end.
How to Create a Workflow Diagram
- Define the start point of the process or system and add a symbol to the page to represent it. In a flowchart, this symbol would be a rounded rectangle, but with a workflow you can use graphics such as a customer or employee entering a request or initiating an action.
- Create the process. For each step in the workflow, add a symbol and connect it to the previous shape. If you use a SmartDraw template, this will be done automatically for you. The arrows show the direction of workflow. Continue this until the entire workflow has been illustrated. In some cases, it may loop back to the starting point.
- Consult with all stakeholders to make sure the workflow diagram is complete and accurate.