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Diagramming, Modeling, and How to Get Started with Draw.IO

Kurt Wondra Kurt Wondra  |  
Jun 05, 2018
 
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 a bit more of an art than they are a science. Nevertheless, being able to visually represent something can be incredibly valuable.

A simple diagram can oftentimes replace multipage written documents and can help establish a stronger shared understanding across your team members. This is especially true for communicating with senior level leadership when time and electronic real estate are limited.

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 Draw.IO

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) it works on every computer I use without needing a program to be installed by the IT department. Here are 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://draw.io and click on “Create a New Diagram”:
 
new diagram
 
Next, let’s create the starting point for our process flow which will begin when the item is posted for sale.
 
untitled diagram
 
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. 
 
diagram nodes
 
adding diagram nodes

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 verbiage like “Yes” and “No” depicted below.
 
process flow diagram
 
Drag-and-drop different objects from the left-hand side into your diagram. The search functionality is also quite helpful.
 
drag and drop diagram
 
Also, to style your objects, just click on one and then use the formatting options on the right-hand side.
 
diagram objects style
 
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 distribution).
 
diagram save file
 
Finally, don’t forget to save your work for future reference or for later revisions. The many different options here are quite useful.
 
diagram save options
 
diagram save as

And there you have it: no manual installations needing managerial approval and 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 Draw.IO which we didn’t cover, so feel free to experiment yourself to learn more. There are even many online examples you can use to help get you started.
 
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. 
 
 
Want to learn more? Feel free to contact us at info@skylinetechnologies.com about training and coaching opportunities on this and other business analysis skillsets. Thank you for your time!
 
Business Analysis

 

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