Volume 8 • Number 3
Flowcharting with Excel
by Daniel R. HEISER, DePaul University, Paul Schikora,
Indiana State University
In this article we present a method for teaching the
art of flowcharting to graduate and undergraduate business
students using Microsoft Excel. Although the focus is on
the academic environment, several aspects of the discussion
are relevant for corporate trainers and novice flowcharters.
The approach used is to treat flowcharting as a graphical
language, complete with its own vocabulary and syntax. A
number of practical suggestions and cautions are offered
to enhance the legibility and communicative power of the
tool. In addition, several extensions are offered to allow
customization of individual process maps to the specific
needs of a particular application.
Key words: process analysis, process mapping, process
reengineering, service blueprinting
An adage holds that A picture is worth a thousand words.
It should then come as no surprise that one of the most useful
tools for analyzing operational processes is the flowcharta
simple picture of the stream of work and information. This
graphical tool can easily be customized to support business
process reengineering, to document processes for training
and quality manuals, or to illustrate the interaction of cross-functional
teams. Perhaps as a consequence of their versatility, flowcharts
appear under many namesincluding process maps, service
blueprints, and block diagrams. Yet regardless of the label,
the power of this humble tool is its chameleon-like potential
to fit the task at hand.
Many excellent texts describe the use of flowcharts in process
analysis. Both Galloway (1994) and Damelio (1996) provide
a relatively straightforward treatment of the subject, while
Harrington (1991) and Roberts (1994) provide a more extensive
discussion. Our intention here is not to replicate this analysis,
but to focus on the creative process itselfthe art of
flowcharting. This note outlines the process used in our classrooms
to teach both graduate and undergraduate business students
how to create and capture process maps on a digital canvas
with Microsoft Excel.