They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They also say that time is money. So why are these statements so important?
Often in our roles as Business Analysts, we are tasked with helping our teams run as efficiently and as effectively as possible. To do that, we need to utilize multiple tools in our “Business Analysis Toolbox” based upon the situation in front of us.
Just like how a handyman doesn’t use a screwdriver to hammer in nails, sometimes we too need to adjust our approach to utilize the best tool for the job. That is where diagramming and modelling comes into play.
Diagrams Increase Understanding, Efficiency, and Effectiveness
Not all Business Analysts are as well-skilled in modelling and diagramming. Perhaps this is because these skills can be more of an art than they are a science. Nevertheless, being able to visually represent something can be incredibly valuable.
A simple diagram can often replace excessively long documentation and can help establish a stronger shared understanding across your stakeholders and team members. This is especially true for teams which are in various geographies or those teams with tight timelines.
Being able to quickly put together some sort of visual diagram or model can go a long way towards increasing your team’s efficiency and improving their effectiveness.
Getting Started with Diagrams.net
There are many tools available to help construct such diagrams and models. One such tool I’ve been using a lot recently is Draw.IO. It is free, has simple drag-and-drop functionality, is easy to save and open pending work, can export finished work to multiple formats, and (since it’s browser-based) works on every computer I use without needing a program to be installed by the IT department. Here are some quick tips for getting started.
Let’s say you want to make a simple process flow diagram. For our example, let’s assume you are building an auction-based website where your users can log in and bid on the items listed. Highest bidder remaining when the auction closes wins that auction for the price they specified. Ready? Let’s jump in.
First, head over to http://app.diagrams.net and click on “Create a New Diagram”:
Next, let’s create the starting point for our process flow which will begin when the item is posted for sale.
To add more nodes in your process flow, simply hover over your starting point and click on one of the arrows to add another node.
Repeat those steps to build out the rest of your process flow. Drag the arrows over the top of your new objects to “connect” them. Double-click on the connecting lines to add annotations like “Yes” and “No” depicted below.
Drag-and-drop different objects from the left-hand side into your diagram. The search functionality is also quite helpful.
Also, to style your objects, click on one and then use the formatting pane on the right-hand side.
When you’re ready to share your work with others, you’ll need to save your document in a sharable format like a PNG (my preferred format for email and instant message distribution).
Finally, don’t forget to save your work for future reference or for later revisions.
And there you have it: no installations needing managerial approval and/or assistance from your service desk team; no need to draft a cost justification request for a pricey license; and no need for an extensive and even expensive training on how to use the tool.
Now you have a new tool you can add to your “Business Analysis Toolbox”. There are plenty more capabilities of Diagrams.net which we didn’t cover, so feel free to experiment yourself to learn more. I’d also recommend peeking at their Tutorials page for additional guidance as well.
At the end of the day, remember that we as Business Analysts need to utilize different tools to help our teams be as effective and efficient as possible. Being able to translate requirements into visual models and diagrams will go a long way in ensuring your whole team has one cohesive understanding of the desired outcomes.