A very quick review indicates that while these is much agreement on what each graphic image, shape or node means, it is not universal. This list includes the three most commonly used and 15 less frequently used ones.
I use the terminator to identify the beginning and ending of a particular process. The text I use is “Start” and “Stop”. It really is that simple. 100% of the time there is only one “Start” terminator. In rare instances, approximately 1% of the time, I will use more than one ‘Stop” terminator.
The bulk of all nodes will be rectangular boxes with the step description in the text of the node graphic. You will become very familiar with this node type.
Decisions are the second most commonly used node type in my process maps. When I use a decision node, I always write it as a question. The answers to the question are located on the connecting lines that come out of the decision node. “Is more data required?” This type of Yes/No question is the most common.
The balance of the node types follow in alphabetical order. While less frequently used, there are instances where you may need to use them.
Information that is stored outside of the process proper and is introduced into the process is best displayed using this node type. If the process you are documenting were how to pick parts for a shop floor assembly, the quantity per information coming from the bill-of-material record should be displayed using the data node type.
Other questions can have more than two answers but for a limited range, such as; “What color does the customer desire?” If red, green, blue and yellow are possible answers that type of question is appropriate.
If the question has an indeterminate number of possible correct answers, you will have to be creative with documenting the process. One approach I have used is to change the question node into a process node. “How long does the mounting bracket need to be?” is a poorly phrased question in a process map. Use a process node with text indicating that the information needs is collected. “Request information customer regarding the desired length of the bracket,” would be a better alternative.
Information stored in such a way that any single record is retrieved easily is classified as direct data.
Information displayed to a human on a computer screen, digital read out, measurement device or other mechanical means should use the display graphic. I have found that this is increasingly becoming a computer display of some form.
If the process node results in a printed document, this is the node type to use. I identify the report name in the text of the node.
You could also call this computer storage.
When used in a loop element, the loop limit identifies the maximum times the process can cycle through that path before proceeding to the next step.
If a human is required to provide input, this icon type may be used. I would recommend using these if multiple data input types are used in the same process.
Humans perform manual operations. If computers or manufacturing equipment also performs steps in a process, including this type will help to differentiate the who and what actors involved.
When the physical layout of the process map is large that multiple screen views or electronic files are used to display the process or multiple process maps, you can use this node type. Similar to the on-page reference, the connector is virtually linked to a corresponding off-page reference located on a different screen view or different process map-1 to 1, A to A, etc. These nodes will be found on very large or complex process mapping situations.
When the physical layout of the process map is complex you can use this node type to link a connector line to a corresponding on-page reference-1 to 1, A to A, etc.
Paper Tape or Card
This is an archival data storage method where information was store on physical tapes or paper tapes. Early in my manufacturing career, I worked in a shop that had numerically controlled, or NC machines. The simple computers that controlled the lathes and mills were feed data and processing information on these NC tapes. Prior to tapes, actual paper cards were used to store computer program data. This node type is now rarely if ever used.
If a process in and of itself is considered a step in a higher-level process map, the predefined process is the node type to use. Modern process mapping software will allow you to imbed hyperlinks in node. This type should always contain these hyperlinks to improve usability and ease user navigation within the process map library.
If a process, step needs to be initialized-target values input, limits determined and set, etc,–use the preparation node to represent the activity. Be sure that the activity is not just the preceding process step. This is a less frequently used node type.
If data cannot be directly accessed and most seek out the data in logical sequence, the step to use is this one. It is rarely used in process maps I have developed.
This node type is commonly confused with the data type. The main difference is that this node causes data to be stored.
Other Process Mapping articles by Garrison:
Business Process Mapping Basics
Business Process Mapping — Visual Presentation Best Practices
Resources used in creating this article
The Crown Protection Service website, http://www.cps.gov.uk/Publications/finance/process_mapping.html#a06, June 23rd, 2013.
Microsoft Visio Software.
Microsoft Website, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/visio-help/create-a-basic-flowchart-HP001207727.aspx#BM1
City of Riverside website, http://www.riversideca.gov/audit/pdf/process%20mapping%20guidelines.pdf. June 21st, 2013.
Twenty plus years of manually drafting, facilitating group discussions, working individually with MS Visio in a business setting trying to figure out what works and what does not work.