This is the second tutorial in the “Slide from Scratch” series. In the first, we walked through an example of creating a 3-Prong Marketing Strategy on a PowerPoint slide.
In evaluating any business function, creating process flows is an inevitable task. I’m sure you have had to create your fair share of process flows in the past.
The big problem with process flow diagrams is that they often grow to become overly-complicated and therefore, very difficult to interpret. There are too many lines going everywhere. Lines are criss crossing (very confusing!). Boxes aren’t aligned nor similarly sized (creates misdirection around importance of step).
You need to create a slide illustrating a high-level billing process. The process begins with the system-triggered invoice generation and ends with a customer service rep resolving a billing inquiry.
These are the simple steps I follow when constructing a process flow from scratch.
Step 1. Swim Lanes
The first step is to define your swim lanes, which are horizontal cross sections of your process flow corresponding to distinct groups that touch the process. Swim lanes add structure to your flow and are easy for people to understand.
I like to break process flows into 3 swim lanes:
- System - Capturing automated steps that are performed by a system/software
- Manual - Capturing manual tasks done by people within the organization
- External - Capturing any task performed outside of the organization (e.g. 3rd party vendor, customer)
I create my swim lanes using a table in PowerPoint.
Each step is represented with a box. There are number of standard process flow shapes. There’s no need to use the standard shapes. Why? Simply, most people don’t know what the standard shapes anyway–and so, using all the official, standard shapes may confuse your audience. Your goal is to create a process flow diagram that is very intuitive for your audience to understand and digest.
In fact, I recommend using icons that are non-standard, but intuitive, such as the ‘person’ icon to manual nature of an activity. There are 4 primary shapes/icons that I like to use, as shown in the picture below.
At learnppt.com, we’ve compiled a collection of People & Process Icons that you can use in your process flows.
So, in this step, add all your boxes. Structure the flow of your steps from the left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Don’t connect anything yet, as you will likely need to re-arrange and re-size your boxes to ensure they all fit on your slide in an easily readable manner.
I like to also add a box on the top right of the slide indicating the frequency of the process (e.g. daily, weekly, or monthly).
Step 3. Add your lines
This is very important — Use the AutoShape Elbow Arrow Connectors to connect your shapes. Connectors ensure your lines are straight and connected to the centers of shapes. Most importantly, when you move around boxes, your Connectors remain in tact. This saves a ton of time as you go through multiple iterations of your process flow.
Sometimes, you Connector won’t connect to the part of the shape you would like it to. There’s an easy work around to this. Create a small box to use as your proxy end connection point. I.e., connect your Connector to this small box and move this box to where you would like the Connector to go. Then, make the small box disappear by removing its fill color.
Avoid criss crossing at all costs. If you have a situation where this is impossible, then replace one of the Connector AutoShapes with a Curve (line) AutoShape.
Now, here’s our final product with all the lines added. You can download this slide/example here.
Add a couple embellishments, and here’s a slightly more refined version.
For more information related to process analysis and optimization, check out the Cost Reduction Toolkit. This Toolkit takes a detailed look at process improvements across the entire Value Chain of a company (as defined by strategist Michael Porter [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_chain]). Here are other various resources you may be interested in:
- Various guides on Operational Excellence
- 13 modules on Performance Improvement and Cost Reduction
- 250+ slides of Process, System, and Transformation diagrams and templates
You can download a free PowerPoint plugin called Flevy Tools that creates commonly used consulting diagrams here: http://flevy.com/powerpoint-plugin. Flevy Tools allows you to dynamically generate Gantt Charts, Harvey Ball diagrams, approach diagrams, and other diagrams. For the time being, it’s a completely free download.
Questions, thoughts, concerns? Go to my site (learnppt.com) and shoot me an email. On my site, you will find information about my recent eBook, Become a PowerPoint Guru, which teaches how to create effective business presentations (from structuring your story to designing your diagrams).
For pre-made PowerPoint diagrams used in business presentations, browse Flevy’s library here: https://flevy.com/function/PowerPoint-Templates-ppt. These diagrams were professionally designed by management consultants. Give your presentations the look and feel of a final product made by McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Booz Allen, Deloitte, or any of the top consulting firms.