Working in new ways: unconventional uses of flow chart software


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Any flow chart software worth its salt will come standard with a few basic features: template layouts and shapes, automated formatting, cloud compatibility. More advanced options, however, go above and beyond, allowing for diagrams to be linked to external data sources. Data linking gives users the power to update their flow charts simply by changing information stored in a spreadsheet or SQL database. This is especially useful when a flow chart is shared team wide, since important status changes can be communicated easily and instantaneously across all devices and locations. Common uses of data linking include managing budgets and tracking vacations.

As you can imagine, data linking makes high-end flow chart software highly versatile. It’s one of those scenarios where you might be limited by your imagination more than anything else. If that’s the case, here are a few ideas to help you get your creative juices flowing.

Allocating Resources

Those in charge of managing and allocating a team’s time and resources often have a tough go of things. They’re in constant need of up-to-date information about stakeholders’ availability, which isn’t always, well, available. And it even when it is, it’s likely being presented piecemeal, across various formats and messages. Preferable would be a central hub of reliable information, conveyed via simple visuals. Luckily, data linking can make this a reality.

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What to do:

  1. Create a basic diagram with an icon or image representing every member of the project team
  2. Link this diagram to a shared spreadsheet where stakeholders can mark their estimated available hours
  3. Choose a way for each stakeholder’s availability to be visually represented in the diagram — changing colors, shapes, etc.
  4. Assign tasks confidently and quickly based on knowledge gleaned from each stakeholder’s visual status

Reserving the Right Space

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The workplace as we know it is changing. Cubicles and offices are giving way to flexible, collaborative spaces; individual desks to laptops and intra-office mobility. Given these shifts, many companies — especially larger ones, with multiple floors or buildings — will likely want to provide employees with an always-updated record of which work areas are available and which are reserved. Data linking can provide an easy solution.

What to do:

  1. Create a diagram (or several) that maps the company’s floorplan
  2. Link this diagram to a shared spreadsheet where employees can reserve a room or area for specific times
  3. Choose a way to visually represent when a room or area has been reserved
  4. Share the diagram across the company so the whlie team knows which spaces are available

Marking Progress

Flow chart software is obviously great for visualizing major business processes — but it’s also great for mapping the stages of individual projects. Not only that, it’s useful for tracking progress on said projects. And when all stakeholders involved can see exactly what’s been done and what needs to happen next, the likelihood of stalling greatly decreases. Data linking can make it happen.

What to do:

  1. Create a diagram with an icon or image representing each stage of the project and each stakeholder’s involvement
  2. Link the diagram to a shared spreadsheet where stakeholders can mark which tasks have been completed
  3. Choose a way to visually represent when a task has been completed
  4. Share the diagram with the whlie project team so everybody knows what still needs to be done and when Visual communication allows people from all backgrounds to parse complicated information quickly. With the right flow chart software, you can help prevent miscommunications and misunderstandings. How will you use it?
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