cross-functional flowchart

How to create cross-functional flowcharts

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A cross-functional flowchart is a popular way to show processes, create a process map, or break a decision down into multiple steps. With different options for showing complex information, cross-functional flowcharts offer flexibility and support creative chart-building for different fields and use cases. 

What is a cross-functional flowchart?

Beyond a simple flowchart, cross-functional flowcharts allow for greater complexity. Cross-functional flowcharts are a flexible solution for visualizing information that’s complex, presenting information in multiple categories, and including different steps or functional units. With each separate swimlane, you can break down your flowchart to highlight important distinctions. For instance, you can show process flows in sequential order, one after another, to document a manufacturing process. 

Use cases for a cross-functional flowchart

Cross-functional flowcharts can be used for a variety of purposes including: 

cross-functional flowchart
  • Showing relationships: Show how different team members, stakeholders, or objects relate to each other. Different swimlanes define a timeline, phase, or other important distinction. 
  • Describing functions: Different functional areas can be separated within a cross-functional flowchart. 
  • Connecting departments: Your flowchart can show the connections between phases undertaken by different departments in your organization. 
  • Explaining a process: Breaking a process down into discrete phases or steps, your flowchart can help you organize complex work into a visual format. 
  • Identifying opportunities: These flowcharts can be used to separate value-adding work from steps that don’t add value or waste resources. Using two columns or swimlanes, you divide your process steps into these two categories. This process can help you find opportunities to refine your work toward a business goal. 

How to make a cross-functional flowchart

Creating a cross-functional flowchart starts with taking notes about your process or information to identify steps, distinctions, and sections for your diagram. You want to think carefully about what your goals are for the flowchart and what you intend to show. 

  1. Create a diagram using software

However you decide to create your flowchart, you’re going to need to start with a basic diagram you can edit. You can create your flowchart using intelligent diagramming software like Lucidchart. This working draft will take shape over time as you add details and begin labeling each segment and object. 

  1. Choose a vertical or horizontal chart 

The best way to orient your chart may vary depending on your goals and the types of information you’re visualizing. You could use a horizontal chart to display time divided into phases. On the other hand, vertical charts can show a project’s flow through various functional departments. 

With some creativity, both horizontal and vertical flowcharts are useful for a wide range of needs. Adding more columns or rows can be helpful for displaying detail and depth. 

  1. List steps or swimlanes

As you start, carefully list any steps or swimlanes that are part of your chart. If you’re showing the passing of time, you can use swimlanes to indicate phases with vector lines and shapes. The beauty of cross-functional flowcharts is that you can place more than one step at a time inside each phase if necessary. 

From this list, you can begin labeling your cross-functional flowchart. 

  1. Add shapes to show objects, people, and departments 

Actors are responsible for parts of your process—people, departments, systems, and others are typically represented with shapes or labels. Your process may have a single phase with more than one actor responsible.

cross-functional flowchart

Important considerations for cross-functional flowcharts 

As you develop your flowchart, consider how these best practices can help you create better visuals. 

  • Lean into premade shapes and patterns: There’s no shame in using predefined shapes, and there’s not much benefit to reinventing the wheel with your flowchart. Templates and built-in designs simplify the process so it’s easier to plan your process. 
  • Know your actors: Within your process, any person, group, or object taking an active role is an actor. Identify who the actors are and note wherever they are in your chart. Some actors are likely to show up in more than one swimlane and may be part of several segments of your process. 
  • Collaborate with your team: Getting input from everyone could be valuable as you design your flowchart. Since cross-functional processes often involve more than one department, it may make sense for you to have many different people reviewing and commenting on your chart. A process involving outside stakeholders should include their input on the project. 
  • Take advantage of swimlanes: By adding segments to your flowchart, you can increase the complexity of your visuals and show important interrelationships. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of what cross-functional flowcharts have to offer, since they can help you show information with more depth than a typical chart. 

How Lucidchart can help 

Lucidchart allows anyone to create an account and start making their own cross-functional flowcharts. You can take advantage of our flowchart maker and pre-built library with flowchart shapes and flowchart templates to make a chart that fits your own use case. Just choose the appropriate template and start inserting your own content. 

When you’re ready, you can share your flowchart with your colleagues or bring your diagram into other apps through Lucidchart’s integrations

cross-functional flowchart

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About Lucidchart

Lucidchart is the intelligent diagramming application that empowers teams to clarify complexity, align their insights, and build the future—faster. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, everyone can work visually and collaborate in real time while building flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, and more.

The most popular online Visio alternative, Lucidchart is utilized in over 180 countries by millions of users, from sales managers mapping out target organizations to IT directors visualizing their network infrastructure.

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