Thursday, July 13th, 2017 / by Excel Champ
Have you ever been in a situation where someone jumped right in and presented their solution to their view of a problem? How much different is the outcome when the problem is first clearly and accurately defined and appropriate input is received?
In order to fully define a problem and provide an overview of it, sometimes we need to take a few steps backwards, review existing processes and get the discussion going. Documenting existing processes can be extremely revealing in identifying the real areas that need improvement, which may or may not be the same as the areas that seem to be causing the most headaches at the moment.
Fully discussing a problem and obtaining input from those with different perspectives and viewpoints can a shed different light on the problem and help shape the solution. When it comes to data, it’s hard to know what’s really happening on the factory floor or out in the field where the data originates unless we make an effort to find out. Everyone who touches the data should be involved in the discussion, to the extent feasible.
An overview of the problem, itself, sets the framework for those involved and provides an opportunity for everyone to shift gears and focus on the problem before a solution is chosen. There are many methods of providing an overview of a problem, but one that works especially well for data and information system projects is flow diagrams. Flow diagrams can be helpful in honing in on the problem while keeping the overall process in view. As we know, a picture says a thousand words.
Just like an overview existing processes helps define problems, documentation of proposed future processes is helpful in evaluating the merits of a proposed solution and presenting it to others.
Flow diagrams not only help convey processes to others, but they provide the terminology and references that keep everyone speaking the same language. Flow diagrams documenting your current processes and problems along with your proposed new processes and solutions can engage your team in change and bring them in Sync with your Information System initiatives. Whether it’s upper management who needs to be convinced, your office staff or a client, use flow diagrams to convey the message.
You don’t have to be an artist or a graphic designer to create a basic flow diagram. A pencil and paper sketch can work just as well as a professionally drawn diagram. It’s accuracy and clarity in representing your processes is what is most important. Simple flow diagrams can be created using basic flowchart shapes in PowerPoint or Excel. More advanced flow diagrams can be created using software that’s available for free or purchase.
The diagrams below were created in PowerPoint to document a couple possible solutions to a data flow problem. These diagrams helped our client see their data and the possibilities in a new light and helped our software engineer better understand the scope of the assignment.
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