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How to Use Cross-Functional Flowcharts in Business Planning

Written by: Joan Ang

Aug 03, 2023

cross functional flowchart

A cross-functional flowchart shows how workflows extend from one department to another, which can help in effective process mapping.

Cross-functional flowcharts contain a high level of detail that can help organize a business process and flesh out your project plan.

In this article, I will discuss what a cross-functional flowchart is, what it is used for, and how it can help in business planning.

You will also learn how to create a cross-functional flowchart using Venngage’s cross-functional Flowchart Maker. Alternatively, browse our selection of flowchart templates that you can customize and make your own in just minutes.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a cross-functional flowchart?

A cross-functional flowchart is a diagram that documents a process and arranges it into subdivisions or “swimlanes.”

You’ll often see cross-functional flowcharts referenced as a swimlane diagram, a sales process flowchart, or cross-functional diagram.

A swimlane or cross-functional flowchart reveals the individuals or departments who will carry out the steps or activities to complete a process.

Here is a cross-functional flowchart that shows the process of how to take a client from sale of a project to actual handover:

Swimlane Activity Diagram Template

Related: Swimlane Process Maps: How do They Work Together to Improve Business Processes?

What are cross-functional flowcharts used for?

Cross-functional flowcharts are used by businesses and organizations to illustrate how the input of multiple departments is needed to fulfill a process.

They help employees understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, which can prevent miscommunication and errors and ultimately streamline the entire process.

A cross-functional flowchart can be used for the following purposes:

  • Process mapping: Cross-functional flowcharts help map out a process or workflow by providing a clear and comprehensive view of each step involved and the interaction between different departments or individuals.
  • Identifying bottlenecks: Cross-functional flowcharts enable visual identification of bottlenecks or inefficiencies within a process.
  • Communication: Cross-functional flowcharts make it easy to convey complex interactions to team members, stakeholders, and even external parties.
  • Project management: Cross-functional flowcharts help break down dependencies between different project phases, tasks, and teams, ensuring a smooth and coordinated project execution.

What layout does a cross-functional flowchart have?

The swimlanes in a cross-functional flowchart can have a horizontal or vertical orientation.

Each swimlane stands for a department or team involved in the process, while each process step is aligned with the swimlane or department in charge of that particular step.

This is an example of a cross-functional flowchart with vertical swimlanes:

Swimlane Process Flow

How do you analyze a cross-functional flowchart?

A cross-functional flowchart differs from a basic flowchart since process steps are grouped into different lanes. Each lane is labeled with an individual, team, or department while the steps are read from left to right.

In order to understand and analyze a cross-functional flowchart, you need to be familiar with its structure and elements.

Here are the elements that make up a cross-functional flowchart:

  • Parallel lines – These are used to divide the diagram into different lanes.
  • Start and end points – Rectangle shapes with rounded corners that mark the start and end of the process.
  • Activities – These cross-functional flowchart shapes portray a task or step in the process and are represented by a rectangle.
  • Lines or arrows – Connect the steps together from one lane to another.
  • Decisions – Diamond shapes that contain a question or decision that is answered with either yes or no.
  • Input and output – Parallelograms that symbolize any data that comes in and out of the process flow.
  • Document – This rectangle symbol with a wavy bottom side indicates that a related document needs to be retrieved for the process step.

3 types of cross-functional flowcharts

These are the different types of cross-functional flowcharts that you can use for process mapping:

1. Matrix flowcharts

Matrix flowcharts are the most complicated type as they are designed for outlining complex relationships in a single process.

In a matrix flowchart, each process step is subdivided into more than one classification, creating subprocesses and therefore making it harder to read.

It is for this reason that this cross-functional flowchart is not very popular. However, they are useful for illustrating complex processes, especially in the field of programming.

Here is an example of a matrix flowchart. As you can see, it has too many complex parts.

Customer Service Swimlane Chart Template

2. Deployment flowcharts

The most common type of cross-functional flowchart, deployment flowcharts simply group the process steps into their respective departments or swimlanes.

When it comes to a deployment flowchart, the swimlanes are considered classifications under which the process steps or activities fall and follow a sequential order.

Deployment flowcharts are often used in visualizing manufacturing or order processing.

Here is a great example:

Flowchart with Swim Lanes Template

3. Opportunity flowcharts

Lastly, in an opportunity flowchart, the steps or activities are categorized as those that add value to the process and those that don’t.

That said, opportunity flowcharts are comprised of only two swimlanes: value-added and non-value-added.

Here is an example of an opportunity flowchart in which the steps of taking a phone order are divided into those that add value and those that only add cost:

Here is an opportunity flowchart that shows the step-by-step of the product order process:

Ordering Swimlane Process Flow Diagram

This type of cross-functional flowchart is mostly used in business analysis as it helps identify which process steps will increase or decrease profit.

How to create a cross-functional flowchart

Now, to create your own cross-functional flowchart, you can follow this step-by-step guide to ensure that you will produce a clear and well-designed flowchart:

Step 1: Define the process and its components

First, identify which process you will map out, the people who will perform the steps, and your objectives or the outcomes that you want to achieve through the process.

You need to determine all the details of the process before you proceed to create your flowchart.

Step 2: Create a starting point

Now it’s time to draft your flowchart. Write down the first step in the process on a blank piece of paper. Use the right flowchart symbol for your starting point by drawing a rounded rectangle around it.

Step 3: Create the swimlanes

Next, list down the departments, teams, or individuals you have come up with. Take into account the order of their involvement in the process and make sure the starting point falls under the right department.

Create swimlanes for each department by drawing lines to separate them. A horizontal swimlane will have the departments listed from top to bottom on the left side of the page while a vertical swimlane will have them enumerated from left to right at the top of the page.

Related: 10+ Swimlane Diagram Templates and How to Create Them

Step 4: Complete the steps

From the starting point, continue to build the process steps in the correct sequence. Remember the symbols you should use for every step or activity, decision, and input or output.

Connect the steps with lines or arrows. Keep adding more steps or activities until you complete the process then use the endpoint symbol to mark the end of the process.

Step 5: Choose a reliable diagramming tool

By now, your cross-functional flowchart is almost complete and all you need to do is to convert it to its final form.

Picking the right tool to make your flowchart is a crucial step in the creation process as it will define how successful your flowchart will turn out.

Venngage’s cross-functional Flowchart Maker is a great choice as it is a free online tool with easy-to-use features that can help you create a more impactful flowchart. The best part? Our customer support team is available 24/7 to assist you!

cross functional flowchart

Venngage has free, fully-customizable templates that you can use to design and finalize your flowchart. Using the smart drag-and-drop editor, you can easily add and change elements like colors, shapes, and fonts.

But in the other hand, you can always upgrade to a Venngage business account to access My Brand Kit, which lets you add your company’s logo, color palette, and fonts to all your designs with a single click.

venngage my brand kit

A business account also includes a real-time collaboration feature, so you can invite members of your team to work simultaneously on a project.

FAQs about cross-functional flowcharts

How do you make a cross-functional flowchart in Venngage?

Making a cross-functional flowchart in Venngage is super easy. You simply need to:

  • Sign up and create an account with Venngage
  • Choose a cross-functional flowchart template from our library
  • Edit the flowchart shapes, labels, and colors
  • Add icons, illustrations, or backgrounds which you can also get from our library.

After that, you can download your work as a PNG or PDF file (paid plans only) or share it online (free).

What are the main flowchart types?

There are many types of flowcharts, but the most common are:

  • Process flowcharts: Used for process mapping or illustrating how a series of steps are carried out.
  • Workflow charts – Diagrams which describe how tasks are done in a business process.
  • Swimlane flowcharts – Show how a process is fulfilled by different participants.
  • Data flowcharts – Illustrate the process of how data enters and comes out of a system.

Related: What is a Flowchart? Use Cases, Templates & Design Tips

Can you create a cross-functional flowchart in Word?

You can create a cross-functional flowchart in Microsoft Word by building from basic shapes or SmartArt Graphics. However, it will take more time and effort as the program doesn’t offer any templates to make the creation and designing process faster and easier. Venngage’s Cross-functional Flowchart Maker is a better tool you can use for free.

In conclusion: Cross-functional flowcharts can improve process mapping and make business planning easier.

Cross-functional flowcharts can help in task delegation and process management which can contribute to efficient business planning. 

Use Venngage’s Cross-functional Flowchart Maker for your next project plan.