What’s with Data-Flow Diagrams?

Flow charts are often used in designing or describing a process. It’s really a personal vice – that I prefer visual diagrams over literal outlines. So much so that I find myself hoping inputs to be in visual formats, as well. I do realize this to be a nasty habit that eats up productivity at start, but I’d argue it also makes communications thereafter about the process a lot simpler.

And if the audience finds the diagram too straight-forward? A job well done, I say.

Granted, there are depths to visual presentation that calls for rigor – not just a high-level sketch. Variety of notations and mark-ups are always a challenge to fit more than a couple audiences. (Some want UML, others ERD, BPMN, G/S, the list goes on)

As the title notes, I am looking at data flow diagram this time, which are used to describe the path of data that will traverse a scoped process. Many wikis would indicate the Gane-Sarson notation to be the most clarifying form,and while I do not necessarily disagree, I do have an experience where it does not do its job.

When your co-workers do not know it, it’s a poor choice – no matter how one might see its appropriate use.

If the team is more familiar with a basic flow chart with no more than control-flow shapes, then it’s a waste of productivity for each of them to learn a new notation. Rather, the creator of the diagram delivering a cross-functional chart at multiple depth levels can deliver the type of clarity we all hope for.

Unless I am consulting for a client who wants a specific notation, what is the value of sticking to a version that will take longer for any team-member to understand?