Business Tips

Create the best online flowchart for your business

As a business owner, you (and your team) have a lot to keep track of – and making sure that everyone is on the same page can go a long way toward avoiding missteps. And when it comes to training, nothing beats using a process flowchart template for creating materials that can help everyone understand what needs to happen, and when.

However, what you may not realize is that—thanks to the cloud and today’s never-ending stream of data—you can create a flowchart template, connect it to a data source, and watch it come to life with real-time data that will inform how you work on the fly.

The value of having a flowchart online that’s updated as your data changes isn’t necessarily easy to understand – until you have access to one and can see how it can improve the way you work. Which is where the scenarios below can help. So, let’s take a look at how flowcharts like these can make it easier for you, and your team, to make more informed decisions at any moment of the day.

Information technology

For organizations that either manages servers for other companies or their own, an online flowchart tool that shows you a layout of your servers and is tied to real-time data can provide you with at-a-glance insights into capacity, scheduled downtime (for maintenance), critical temperature changes, etc. This way, you can monitor the health of your servers from moment to moment, and make any adjustments or provide service before major issues arise.

Manufacturing

When it comes to fulfilling orders, nothing beats tracking your progress against a production flowchart that’s updated as your product makes its way to the finish line. By using a process flowchart template that’s connected to the cloud and your production line, you can track where your product is in the process, see where delays may occur and prevent minor problems from developing into disasters.

For instance – if you’re in the business of creating bent wood chandeliers and you have an order from a large hotel for 25 pieces, managing all the moving parts for the order can be difficult. Yet with a flowchart that receives data throughout the day, you can easily keep tabs on when the wood has been cut, bent, wired, assembled, and finished – and make sure that the process is going smoothly so the chandeliers are ready for delivery when promised.

Financial Services

As a mortgage lender, you have a process that's set in stone. And while yours may differ, let's assume it goes something like this: Start->Initial Loan Application->Loan Pre-Approval->Loan Application->Closing->End. By creating an online dashboard for your team, placing this flowchart on it and using real-time data to inform it, you can help staff understand where the application is in the process, see when a loan has progressed from one step to the next – and anticipate where delays may occur.

Healthcare

When you manage a fast-paced emergency room, it can be difficult to know which patient is in which room – and when that room will be ready for the next patient. With an online flowchart and real-time data, you can keep track of each room's status – including whether it's in use (and by whom), if it's empty but needs to be cleaned, and if/when it's ready for the next patient. By giving you insight into the status of each room, you can better manage patient flow and provide care seamlessly.

Retail

Whether you own a bricks-and-mortar shop or an online store, keeping the things your customers love in stock is critical. (After all, if they can't buy it from you when they need it, they might shop somewhere else – permanently.) And by tying your point-of-sale system into your inventory chart, you can effortlessly track how many of each item you have in stock – and know when to re-order. This way, you can manage your inventory as purchases are made, keep your top sellers on hand, and provide your customers with a better shopping experience.

When running a business, there are many things to keep track of. With the power to receive real-time data within a cloud-based flowchart tool, you can keep tabs on your processes, your inventory, and other vital information from your shop, your office or wherever you are. Which means, that you can take a business trip, a vacation, or just a day off, and check in if you need to — without ever picking up your phone or sending an email.

Standard flowchart symbols

You may have recognized the different symbols used in a flowchart. The common shape is a rectangle, which represents a process, operation or task. The second most common symbol is the diamond, which is used to denote a decision.

Other common flowchart symbols for a document, start/end, data, and manual input exist. Check the flowchart symbols page for a list of different symbols and their common usage. Of course, some people use different shapes for different meanings. You might see a circle designate start or stop instead of an oval shape.

Flowchart best-practices

The following are best-practices to use when diagraming a flowchart. Using flowchart standard symbols, color coding, and swim lanes will help ease the challenging task of diagraming a complex process.

Here are six useful tips to create better flowcharts:

  • Identify the reason for drawing a flowchart. Once it's clear why a flowchart is necessary, explain the process to someone to better understand it, find bottlenecks and so on.
  • Use a color scheme to identify various functions. Color coding is used to differentiate between processes and decisions. You can also use it to call out processes that associate with different parties, to highlight a specific path, identify risky processes/decisions, and many other things. Remember to include a legend so the reader understands what the colors mean.
  • Use swim lanes to separate actors/parties. A swim lane chart is the best way to explain a process flow that includes different stakeholders or things. It helps clarify who and what is responsible for each step in a straightforward visual fashion.
  • Identify the start and end points of the flowchart. It may sound trivial but it's crucial to choose objectives and keep it simple.
  • Break complex flowcharts down into multiple sub-flows. Long flowcharts tend to be complicated and may cause the reader to overlook details conveyed in the chart. Best practices suggest breaking down a flowchart into sub-flows.
  • Get your team involved and engaged. Documenting processes or planning steps require careful review and thinking. Collaboration and input with other team members are invaluable and helps simplify the task of documenting.

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Microsoft 365 Team

The Microsoft 365 team is focused on sharing resources to help you start, run, and grow your business.

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.