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July 2001
Volume 8 • Number 3

Contents

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

INTRODUCTION

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 flowchart—a 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 names—including 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 itself—the 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.