A Newbie’s Information to Information Move Diagrams


Ask any skilled athlete or enterprise government how they grew to become profitable, they usually’ll inform you they mastered a course of. By determining which habits led to success and which didn’t, they improved their effectivity and productiveness.

However implementing a course of right into a enterprise, division, or perhaps a staff is a totally completely different animal than honing your private course of. With so many transferring elements, how do you observe and refine every side of your online business course of?

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Data flow diagrams present an easy, environment friendly manner for organizations to grasp, excellent, and implement new processes or techniques. They’re visible representations of your system, making it straightforward to grasp and prune.

Earlier than we dive into how information move diagrams will help refine any of your online business techniques or processes, let’s go over what precisely it’s.

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DFDs grew to become well-liked within the Seventies and have maintained their widespread use by being straightforward to grasp.

There are two kinds of DFDs — logical and bodily. Logical diagrams show the theoretical strategy of transferring info via a system, like the place the information comes from, the place it goes, the way it modifications, and the place it finally ends up.

Bodily diagrams present you the sensible strategy of transferring info via a system. It will possibly present how your system’s particular software program, {hardware}, recordsdata, workers, and clients affect the move of data.

You possibly can both use logical or bodily diagrams to explain that move of data. You can too use them in conjunction to grasp a course of or system on a extra granular stage.

The Advantages of Information Move Diagrams

DFDs are visible representations that may assist nearly anybody grasp a system‘s or course of’ logic and capabilities. Apart from being accessible, they supply much-needed readability and enhance productiveness. This is how.


As a result of visible info is simpler to digest, DFDs usually clarify complicated ideas higher than blocks of textual content can.

Visible displays of how a course of works may maintain individuals’s consideration longer — making it simpler to retain the data.


DFDs make clear the techniques and processes essential in your staff to do their greatest work. Whether or not implementing a brand new company-wide system or refining a division’s current course of, a DFD will get you and your staff on the identical web page.

Creating DFDs will provide you with readability about enterprise operations, too. A clearer understanding lets you refine and observe your online business processes with much less friction.


The accessibility and readability created with DFDs will depart much less room for error. Your staff will higher grasp techniques and processes as a result of they perceive them.

Higher understanding — paired with a repeatable course of — will doubtless enhance staff effectiveness and productiveness.

On a broader stage, DFDs will help you streamline your online business operations. When mapping out your processes, you‘ll acquire insights into what does and doesn’t work.

These insights assist enhance you and your staff’s productiveness. As a bonus, you’ll be able to share any greatest practices throughout departments.

Information Move Diagram Symbols

Earlier than utilizing a DFD, it is advisable know the symbols used to explain it.

Information move diagram symbols are standardized notations, like rectangles, circles, arrows, and short-text labels. These symbols characterize a system’s information move route, inputs, outputs, storage factors, and sub-processes.

4 widespread strategies of notation are utilized in DFDs: Yourdon & De Marco, Gene & Sarson, SSADM, and Unified.

All use the identical labels and related shapes to characterize the 4 foremost components of a DFD — exterior entity, course of, information retailer, and information move.

dfd symbols

1. Exterior Entity

Exterior entities — that are also called terminators, sources, sinks, or actors — are exterior techniques that ship or obtain information to and from the diagrammed system.

They’re both the sources or locations of data, in order that they’re normally positioned on the diagram’s edges.

Exterior entity symbols are related throughout fashions apart from Unified, which makes use of a stick-figure drawing as an alternative of a rectangle, circle, or sq..

2. Course of

Course of is a process that manipulates the information and its move by taking incoming information, altering it, and producing an output. A course of can do that by performing computations and utilizing logic to kind the information or change its move of route.

Processes normally begin from the highest left of the DFD and end on the underside proper of the diagram.

3. Information Retailer

Information shops maintain info for later use, like a file of paperwork that’s ready to be processed. Information inputs move via a course of after which via a knowledge retailer, whereas information outputs move out of a knowledge retailer after which via a course of.

4. Information Move

Information move is the trail the system’s info takes from exterior entities via processes and information shops. With arrows and succinct labels, the DFD can present you the route of the information move.

DFD Ranges

DFDs can vary from easy overviews to complicated, granular representations of a system or course of with a number of ranges, beginning with stage 0.

The commonest and intuitive DFDs are stage 0 DFDs, additionally known as context diagrams. They’re digestible, high-level overviews of the move of data via a system or course of, so nearly anybody can perceive it.

Stage 0: Context Diagram

This DFD stage focuses on high-level system processes or capabilities and the information sources that move to or from them. Stage 0 diagrams are designed to be easy, easy overviews of a course of or system.

Stage 1: Course of Decomposition

Whereas stage 1 DFDs are nonetheless broad overviews of a system or course of, they’re additionally extra detailed — they break down the system’s single course of node into subprocesses.

Stage 2: Deeper Dives

The subsequent stage of DFDs dives even deeper into element by breaking down every stage 1 course of into granular subprocesses.

Stage 3: Rising Complexity

Stage 3 and higher-numbered DFDs are unusual. That is largely as a result of quantity of element required, which defeats its authentic objective of being straightforward to grasp.

Information Move Diagram Examples

Professionals in numerous industries, like software program engineering, IT, ecommerce, and product administration & design, can use DFDs to higher perceive, refine, or implement a brand new system or course of.

However what does a knowledge move diagram appear to be in observe — and the way does it assist your online business? Listed below are three examples that will help you contextualize DFDs’ affect.

1. Stage 0 DFD

dfd 0

This Stage 0 DFD offers a contextual map of a securities buying and selling platform.

Information flows in a single route from the customer support assistant and the dealer to the platform. It additionally flows in two instructions from clients to the platform and again once more.

2. Stage 1 DFD

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This Stage 1 DFD breaks down the shopper course of in additional element, increasing it to incorporate account creation, money withdrawals, and eventual securities transactions.

3. Stage 2 DFD

dfd 2

This Stage 2 DFD decomposes the “Place Order” course of to contextualize the steps required to put an order — both by a buyer or by a dealer.

It even accounts for a third-party inventory alternate middle the place transaction particulars are forwarded after an order is positioned.

1. Know the fundamentals.

Earlier than you begin mapping out information move diagrams, it is advisable comply with 4 greatest practices to create a legitimate DFD.

  1. Every course of ought to have a minimum of one enter and one output.
  2. Every information retailer ought to have a minimum of one information move in and information move out.
  3. A system’s saved information should undergo a course of.
  4. All processes in a DFD should hyperlink to a different course of or information retailer.

2. Choose a system or course of.

Start by deciding on a selected system or course of you wish to analyze. Whereas any system or course of may be became a DFD, the bigger the method, the extra difficult the diagram and the harder it will likely be to contextualize.

Wherever attainable, begin with a small perform or course of you’re trying to enhance.

3. Categorize associated enterprise actions.

Subsequent, categorize all actions associated to this course of into exterior entities, information flows, processes, and information shops.

Think about a restaurant meals ordering system. Prospects are exterior entities, the meals ordering system is a course of, and the interplay between clients and the system (which matches in each instructions) is the move.

Additionally value noting? The ordering system doubles as a knowledge retailer, so for an SSADA mannequin, this implies drawing it as a rectangle with rounded corners with two horizontal traces inside to characterize its twin perform.

4. Draw a context DFD.

Now it’s time to begin drawing. DFDs may be created by hand, utilizing free templates accessible on-line, or by way of browser extensions.

Start with a easy, Stage 0 DFD: Begin along with your course of or system, then map all primary connections and flows.

5. Verify your work.

Earlier than diving into extra complicated DFDs, verify the work you’ve already finished to ensure it’s correct and full.

In the event you’ve missed (or added) a course of, entity, or move, your next-level DFDs could not make sense, and you might be compelled to begin over.

6. Create youngster diagrams.

For every course of or system described in your Stage 0 DFD, create a brand new youngster diagram with its personal entities and flows. Finally, you should utilize these youngster diagrams to attach processes collectively.

7. Broaden processes into Stage 1 DFDs.

Utilizing your youngster diagrams, you must map extra in-depth connections between every course of.

Within the case of our restaurant instance, this might imply digging deeper into the meals ordering system and its connection to suppliers, managers, clients, and kitchen employees.

8. Repeat as wanted.

Every course of — regardless of how giant or small — may be reimagined as a Stage 0 context diagram, and the cycle can start once more.

Repeat these steps as wanted to create as many DFDs as required, or break processes down additional to develop Stage 2, 3, and many others. DFDs.

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Perfecting Your Course of

Whereas there’s no such factor as a “excellent” information move diagram, continued observe will help streamline the method and supply crucial perception into what’s working, what isn’t, and the place your online business could make impactful enhancements.

Your greatest wager? Bear in mind the rule: Preserve it easy. Begin with context, construct out linked processes, and repeat as wanted to map key connections, flows, and entities throughout your group.

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