Workflows can be complex. Team members must remember where their tasks fit in the grand scheme. Making sure a team completes tasks at the right time will contribute to successful project management.
A workflow diagram is a visual representation of the steps that make up a workflow. It also helps everyone on the team understand who’s responsible for the tasks that their work is dependent on.
Deciphering a workflow with a workflow diagram can make your life easier. Let’s learn about workflow diagrams and how they help.
This article will cover the following:
- What is a workflow diagram?
- Uses of a workflow diagram
- The benefits of a workflow diagram
- The difference between a workflow diagram and a process flow diagram
- How to create a workflow diagram
What is a workflow diagram?
A workflow diagram is a flowchart showing the components of a job or process. It makes complicated processes easier to understand. It also shows who is responsible for each step in a process. The workflow chart helps a team visualize the goal of the workflow and where their tasks fit in.
Flow charts use standardized symbols to document parts of the workflow. Ovals represent start and endpoints. Rectangles represent processes. Diamonds represent decisions that impact flow. The result of the decision determines the path of the workflow. Arrows are used to represent flow directions, which can be dependent on decisions that team members have to make.
Let's look at a few situations where a workflow diagram could be beneficial.
Uses of a workflow diagram and real examples
Workflow diagrams are not industry specific and can be used anytime there is a workflow to be defined. They can be used for a simple process or a complex project. Here are a few examples.
Software development workflow diagram
The workflow diagram for software development can define the process from analysis to the release of a software update. It would show who is responsible for each task along the way. The team might be made up of business analysts, developers, testers, and technical writers who each play a part in the workflow.
Order fulfillment workflow diagram
The order fulfillment workflow diagram would show who is responsible for each step from the point an order is placed until it is shipped. There might be departments responsible for different parts of order fulfillment - one might fill the order, another might handle orders that will be delayed or canceled due to low inventory, and another might ship the order.
Human resources new hire workflow diagram
A human resources department might use a new hire workflow diagram to document the steps needed to onboard a new employee. The diagram would start with extending an offer. If the candidate accepts the offer, the team will execute steps to ensure the employee can start their work on their first day. Human Resources, the training department, the IT department, and the hiring manager might all have different steps to ensure the employee is ready to go on their first day.
Once a team implements a workflow diagram, there are multiple benefits the team will experience. Let's look at some of them.
The benefits of a workflow diagram
A workflow document offers many benefits.
The workflow diagram provides documentation of all tasks and who is responsible for each part. Since it’s visual, it can be easier to understand than lengthy written documentation.
The workflow diagram can be a helpful document for training new team members. It can help them learn complex processes and see where their part of a workflow is.
Existing team members can use the workflow diagram as a reference for their part of the process.
A workflow diagram improves communication and collaboration. It shows who's responsible for each part of a process. Team members will know who to go to if they have a question about a task in the workflow.
The workflow diagram allows a team to review a workflow for process improvement opportunities. They can pinpoint specific parts in the diagram, and discuss what they want to change,
Changes to a workflow can include removing unnecessary steps or automating pieces of the process.
When the process is optimized and easily repeatable, it’s more efficient. Efficiency in the process means costs are cut, which can translate to more profit.
The difference between a workflow diagram and a process flow diagram
Workflow diagrams can seem similar to process flow diagrams, which are another tool to map processes, but there are some differences. Let's look at how the two types of charts differ.
A workflow diagram is focused on tasks
Workflow diagrams are used to visualize tasks within a process. For example, when a team redesigns a website, one of the tasks might be to test the website. The team would document the steps to do so in the workflow diagram. Steps could include creating test cases, executing test cases, providing test results to the developer, bug fixes, testing fixes, and approval of the process.
A process flow diagram is focused on a process
Process diagrams are an overview of a business process. Workflow diagrams are more detailed in that they include all the tasks needed to complete a process.
A website redesign process diagram could show a testing phase, but it wouldn't show every step of the testing process like the workflow diagram.
Now that we know the differences between a process flow diagram and a workflow diagram, let's look at how we can create a workflow diagram.
How to create a workflow diagram
Identify and define the workflow
The first step to creating a workflow diagram is to determine what workflow you want to map out. For example, an IT team may decide to map out their software development workflow.
Next, the team would define the start and end points of the workflow. In our example, the start point would be an analysis of what needs to be done for the software update. The endpoint would be the release of the update.
Analyze the steps
The team would then perform a workflow analysis to determine the steps needed to get from the start to the end. When they define the steps, the team should also note who is responsible for each step. The software development team might have the following steps defined in their workflow.
- Analysis of requirements by business analyst
- Design of the solution by business analyst
- Acceptance by stakeholders (feedback on changes needed would send this back to the design step)
- Programming of the update by developers
- Unit testing by the developer (bugs would mean this loops back to programming for an update)
- Test case creation by QA
- Test case execution by QA (feedback of bugs would send this back to programming for a fix)
- User acceptance testing by the Beta testing team (feedback of bugs would send this back to programming for a fix)
- Documentation in release notes by technical writers
- User manual updates by technical writers
- Release of updates by developers
After the team has brainstormed the steps, they can review them for redundancy and make adjustments as needed.
Document the workflow
Once the steps of a workflow have been identified and analyzed, the team should document the workflow. This can be done in something as simple as Microsoft Word or with a project management tool.
Even better, Motion's task management lets you organize the workflow steps and add them to team members' schedules.
Review and modify the workflow as needed
A team should revisit their workflows and see if any changes are needed.
For example, they may decide that someone should review the documentation created by the technical writers before it is published to the end users. The team can discuss who should take on the task. Is it the business analyst who originally defined the requirements? Would a beta tester who'll be using the software in production make more sense? Once the team decides who to assign the task to, they'd add this step to the workflow.
Using workflow diagrams in Motion
Make your and your team's life easier, and ensure tasks are completed at the right time, by setting them up in Motion.
You can also attach your workflow diagrams in Motion, which can come in handy when someone has a question on a process.
If you are not already using Motion, access a free trial today.