Business process illustration is a technique by which process flows are represented visually. The intent is to make complex processes easier to understand for readers. Flow charts, process maps, and other similar diagrams are examples of business process illustration.
Manufacturing and business processes can often be highly complex and contain many steps and functional areas. They can also consist of a series of if-then scenarios, scenarios on which the next step in a process varies based on the resolution to the previous step. When explained verbally, these processes can be confusing to people who do not execute them on a daily basis. It may also be difficult for those trying to learn a new process to follow the correct chain of events. Business process illustration provides a way to present process steps in a clear, easy-to-read format that helps people follow them more quickly and with a greater degree of success.
The flow chart may be the most commonly used tool in business process illustration. A basic flow chart consists of two basic elements: boxes containing a short description of the steps and arrows showing the order in which the steps should be completed. For example, a chart illustrating the process of starting a car could be comprised of three boxes. The first might read, "ensure that car is in parked gear," the next might read, "insert key into ignition," and the last might read, "turn key." An arrow would be placed between the first step and the second, and another between the second and the third, each arrow pointing toward the next step in the process.
This example might be expanded to create a chart that incorporates if-then scenarios by altering the second arrow and the last box. For example, rather than one final box, there might be two, one that reads, "turn key," and one that says, "turn key while depressing gas pedal." This would require two arrows leading from the "insert key into ignition" step, one for each alternate step. Along the arrow pointing to "turn key," the person creating the chart would write, "if your car has automatic fuel injection." On the other arrow, she would write, "if your car does not have automatic fuel injection."
The same process that would be used to create these chart examples is used in business process illustration. It can be used to create flow charts for simple processes such as submitting a request for leave time or complex processes involving multiple departments and machines. Complex charts might incorporate multiple shapes or color coding to indicate the involvement of different individuals or functional areas, or to alert the user to critical steps.