What is a Flowchart?


This is the definition of flowchart according to the Dictionary of Business Charts & Graphs.

Flowchart (noun) - A visual representation of the sequence of steps and decisions needed to perform a process.

Each step in the sequence is noted within a diagram shape. Steps are linked by connecting lines and directional arrows. This allows anyone to view the flowchart and logically follow the process from beginning to end.

Description of a Flowchart

Here's an example of a simple flowchart, which displays a process for warming a cup of coffee in a microwave oven.

What is a flowchart

You'll notice that the flowchart has different shapes. In this case, there are two shapes: those with rounded ends represent the start and end points of the process and the process steps are presented in rectangles. These are known as flowchart symbols, and are detailed in this article.

What Kinds of Flowcharts are there?

There are a wide variety of flowcharts, including:

  • swimlane flowcharts,
  • data flow diagrams,
  • influence diagrams,
  • workflow diagrams,
  • process flow diagrams,
  • and many more.

Here's an article on various Flowchart Types and with explanations and examples.

What are Some Uses of Flowcharts?

Some of the ways to use flowcharts include:

  • project planning
  • program or system design
  • process documentation
  • audit a process for inefficiencies or malfunctions
  • map computer algorithms
  • and many more.

This article goes into detail, with some examples of how flowcharts are used.

Where Do I Find Flowchart Examples?

Here are a few flowchart samples (click on the images to enlarge):

Click here to see more flowchart samples.

More Answers to the Question, 'What Is a Flowchart?'

Other Definitions of Flowchart

Here are some other definitions of the term flowchart.

Merriam Webster Dictionary

A diagram that shows step-by-step progression through a procedure or system especially using connecting lines and a set of conventional symbols.

The Free Dictionary

A schematic representation of a sequence of operations, as in a manufacturing process or computer program. Also called flow diagram, flow sheet.

The American Society of Quality

A flowchart is a picture of the separate steps of a process in sequential order.

Elements that may be included are: sequence of actions, materials or services entering or leaving the process (inputs and outputs), decisions that must be made, people who become involved, time involved at each step and/or process measurements.

The process described can be anything: a manufacturing process, an administrative or service process, a project plan. This is a generic tool that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes.

Flowchart or Flow Chart?

A flowchart by any other name would smell as sweet.

Well, maybe that's a stretch; our apologies to William Shakespeare. But the flowchart is known by many other names. Here are some of them: process chart, process flowchart, process map, functional process chart, process model, business process model, flow diagram, business flow diagram, process flow diagram and work flow diagram. Believe it or not, there are a lot more. The term flowchart is sometimes expressed as flow chart or hyphenated, flow-chart.

We prefer to keep it simple, so we call it a flowchart. Sweet!

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