Flow ChartsWhat is a flowchart?

Flow Charts graphically represent a series of steps in a process, with points for an action to take place, an input of some form, outputs, decisions resulting in multiple paths, a start point and end point.

Each step is shown by a symbol, and each symbol is linked to others to show the order and direction through the process. Flowcharts can be constructed with dedicated software, either standalone or online, or made using Microsoft Excel.

The Flowchart uses a standard set of symbols representing steps, actions, decision points, and inputs, linked together in a sequence with arrows that may flow back to other parts of the chart or to an exit point.

Some Flowcharts make use of BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation), which is a standard notation for business process modelling. BPMN is in version 2 since 2011.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)

The Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard uses symbols and notation that have specific meanings and contexts when used in Flowcharts or BPMN Diagrams. Using such a standard, developed for businesses, ensures the Flowchart is easily understandable by a wider audience, rather than using bespoke flowchart symbols that take time to interpret.

There are four main element categories in BPMN:

  • Flow objects
  • Connecting Objects
  • Swim Lanes
  • Artifacts

Flow Objects

  • Events - represented with a circle
  • Activities - represented with a rounded-corner rectangle
  • Gateways - represented with a diamond shape

Connecting Objects

  • Sequence Flow - represented with a solid line and arrowhead
  • Message Flow - represented with a dashed line
  • Associations - represented with a dotted line

Swim Lanes

Swim Lanes are used to organise the Flow and Connecting Objects into groups related to those with responsibility for the tasks, such as an individual, group, department, or organisation. There can be multiple lanes arranged horizontally or vertically that structure the Flowchart.


Artifacts allow more information to be added to the Flowchart or Diagram to help explain groupings and differentiate activities.

  • Data Objects
  • Group of Activities
  • Annotation 


Common Flow Chart Symbols

 See the Wiki Page for more technical information on BPMN.

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