At its core, the modern workplace is a coexistence of multiple variables. Whether it’s people, processes or procedures, a small change in one variable can produce a major change in another—and sometimes, ripple across entire organizations.
Ensuring your employees understand how processes, procedures, and their individual roles play a part in the entire ecosystem is crucial to running a smooth business operation. However, it can be challenging for business leaders to effectively communicate these complex ideas.
Lack of clarity can lead to frustration on both sides. If employees can’t understand direction or context, they’ll be unable to carry out what leaders want. Conversely, managers may wonder why employees can’t grasp what they‘re trying to say. Ultimately, the associated business risks and costs of failed communications can be significant—and result in decreased revenues, stagnated growth, and fractured relationships both within and outside the organization.
The good news is that no matter your industry or department, it’s possible to create messaging to communicate complex ideas that simplify concepts in a way that resonates with others. That solution lies in diagramming software.
What diagramming software is—and isn’t
Diagramming isn’t about pictures, and diagramming software isn’t a drawing tool. Rather, you use this type of software for visually communicating thoughts, ideas, and processes in two dimensions. While some people include pictures within the context of their diagram, the end result is always more about the data and metadata versus the “artistry” of the visual.
Moreover, diagramming software is about standardized communications. Standardization is especially critical when communicating complex organizational or corporate information, because it helps ensure the message you want to send via your diagram is easily understood by your audience.
When searching for a data visualization tool like diagramming software, it’s beneficial to find one that connects and integrates seamlessly with other data sources. Look for a solution that will help you easily import and export data from sources such as spreadsheets, business analytics, file hosting services, and the cloud. Ultimately, your diagrams will only be as good as the data you use, so ensuring connectivity across multiple channels is critical.
While it’s possible to create your own diagrams from scratch, diagramming tools also provide many templates to get you started. Choose from an assortment of diagram types, including org charts, flowcharts, compliance process flows, and facility layouts. With hundreds of options to choose from—for example, floor plan diagram templates include directional maps, criminal scene investigation, office layouts, home plans, and parking lots—you’ll save a significant amount of time in getting started.
Some diagramming software also provides templates that are designed to specific organizational or industry “languages” such as Six Sigma, ISO standards, BPMN specifications, and patient medical processes. Regardless of the template you choose, they are often prefilled and easy to modify according to your needs via a drag-and-drop feature.
Whether you create your own diagram or modify a template, you have many choices when it comes to formatting (such as selecting colors, shapes, and connector lines). You also need to make sure everything is standardized and consistent across the entire chart.
Communicating with shapes
Diagrams are all about data and metadata. The shapes within your diagram hold that information, making each distinct shape an intelligent object.
For example, imagine that you need to create an office layout diagram of onsite equipment used by employees. Computers are represented as circles, and printers are represented as squares. Each shape needs to “hold” information, including purchase date, vendor, product number, and employee name. You could enter the data manually into your diagram, and then map specific shape types and connectors based on that information. Or, you could take advantage of data connectivity by connecting with and uploading information from a data source (like a spreadsheet tool).
Regardless of your method, remember that shapes are customizable, allowing you to set and edit data types. If you try to attribute a currency into a data field that requires letters, your diagramming tool will reject it. Look for software that will also further the opportunity for standardization across shapes, by enabling you to create drop-down lists of predefined values to choose from.
Very quickly, you’ll have a full-featured diagram representing all the complex information you wish to communicate. As you change your data (whether manually or via an integrated solution), your diagramming software will automatically update your file to reflect the most recent changes.
Sharing your diagrams
When searching for diagramming software, ensure that your files are easy to share with others. After all, the value of using this type of solution is the ability to communicate complex ideas within the workplace. Without integration with other tools your team already uses, your software will have little value. In other words, the availability of your diagrams and their content is crucial to the state of your entire organizational communication.
Look for a solution that will enable you to email your diagram as a PDF or JPG file. If you’re sending your diagram to multiple people for review and editing, make sure it can be stored centrally and worked on via a file sharing or collaborative communication platform that integrates seamlessly with your diagramming software.
When you use diagramming software to break down complex ideas, strategies, and structures from hard-to-understand text and tables, you not only increase the potential for productivity—you also show your employees that you respect their time.
Moreover, in industries where attrition is high, even the smallest things that improve the employee experience will help you stand out from your competitors. As a result, the power of a well-designed diagram—one that simplifies the complexities of your organization—can’t be overstated.