What is the difference between a flowchart & data flow diagram?

Written by ginny putscher
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What is the difference between a flowchart & data flow diagram?
A Data Flow Diagram and a Flow Chart. (process flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com)

Flowcharts show physical or conceptual relationships. Some people consider flowcharts indispensable for illustrating processes, procedures and sequential relationships. Data flow diagrams are illustrations interpreting the course or movement of information in a process. They are expressive modelling techniques used for analysing and constructing information processes.

Creating Flowcharts

Flowcharts provide a visual of data flowing through a system process that includes the operations performed and the sequences in which they occur. Flowcharts offer a clear understanding of the logic of complicated problems.

For example, the Document Control Office records all documents received for processing by accounting. A flowchart would keep track of recording, identifying and distributing each document to the appropriate location within the accounting department. Performing a document audit would ensure each document was properly processed in a timely manner.

Creating Data Flow Diagrams

When creating a Data Flow Diagram, the principle rule is to permit the reduction of one system into subsystems that follow a systematic progression of those subsystems being reduced to even lower subsystems, until no subsystems exist at a lower level. Each subsystem in a Data Flow Diagram represents a process.

For example, the accounting department receives a document for processing. A data flow diagram of the processes performed on the document clearly records the details and identifies each process.

The Difference

While a data flow diagram can flow from any direction, a flow chart starts at the top and ends at the bottom. In addition, data flow diagrams depict the step-by-step progression of a process used in a program or system, while flowcharts show the step-by-step flow of data in a program.

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