those words were spoken by a great man: none other than ‘terrible’ terry tate — office linebacker.

it’s a simple phrase, “where’s your flowchart, baby,” but it’s an important one. it’s important because a picture is worth a thousand words. flowcharts can help you in so many ways. here are just a couple…

flowcharts are a decision making tool

you can use flowcharts to help you in your decision making. if you have a process that is repeatable, you can set up a flowchart to help direct that process to an end goal. if for each data dump you receive from the client, you need to classify it as belonging to one of two or more categories, a flowchart can help you place it in the right bucket. “does this have personally identifiable data? if yes then a, if no then b.” you can walk that tree all the way down to your final buckets: “this belongs in the transactional database.” or “this belongs in the data warehouse.” — etc.

more after the jump!

flowcharts are a programmer’s friend

you can build a chart to show the expected path of logic through your application. and i’m not just talking large, multi-million line of C# code desktop or server-based programs. one of the most common ways we use programming now is with microsoft office. wether it’s through VBA or common excel formulas, you may have programmed before. it’s interesting how many people will say, “i’m about an 8 or 9 out of 10” in reference to the question “how good are you at using excel?” and have never used macros before. in enterprise, excel files can become massive undertakings. through the use of macros and form controls, a simple workbook is turned into a data crunching application. flowcharts can help you identify: (1) where data needs to come from, (2) what needs to happen to it, (3) where the outputs go, and (4) at what point you scream at your computer “excel was never meant to be a database! we should have used access for this!”

flowcharts give you a hammer

one thing that our project team has struggled with lately is keeping an eye on our goals. because of that, some of our primary requirements have begun to slip. this is common in any project and has probably happened to you many times in the past as well. because some things don’t get done, other things have to slip and your schedule starts to creep. by building a flowchart of your important requirements and the expected schedule/release version each is supposed to happen in, you’ve given yourself the ability to track those requirements in a way that easily makes sense. now the next time someone says they can’t get a requirement in, or that some ancillary change the client is requesting has to be done instead, you can drop the hammer and stop those schedule and scope creeps from happening by showing exactly which requirements will be affected and where the cascading effects go.

flowcharts are more than just pictures

as you’ve seen, flowcharts are more than just pictures with fancy gradient fills (love those gradient fills!); among many things, flowcharts are a magic 8-ball, a friend, and a hammer. they take some of the guess-work out of your day. they organize your thoughts. they show you where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re heading.

so open up ms visio, or OmniGraffle, or any open source alternatives, and start using these charts to your advantage.and check out the bone-crunching hits below!

(watch for terry’s signature line at 0:54!)