Thursday, April 7, 2011

Just Picture It!

In zero words or less, tell me what this means…
There are countless ways to approaching project documentation. One of the ways we are going to review is the use of, you guessed it,  diagrams!

A well documented problem or proposed solution is ideal for developing a common understanding (stakeholders), providing new hires a starting point, and monitoring/mitigating impact of scope creep. By not only developing but by using detailed project documentation, all project stakeholders with access to this information can acquire a common understanding and contribute to the project in constructive ways. This contribution may lead to 

Changes in the project scope - change isn't bad - it just needs to be managed. The earlier in the project the change is caught, the easier it is to make the necessary adjustments.

Identification in errors in design - Don't be afraid - this is part of the reason we write documentation. Changing a design in your documentation is FAR easier then making the correction in the testing cycle.

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Have you ever read project documentation helped cure insomnia? Not everyone can be a wordsmith; however, using diagramming techniques provides you with the ability to accurately convey your intentions and helps your audience to understand through visualization.

For example, a project that requires a process to only go through steps A and D may be quite easily be described and understood. But after a few project meetings and/or iterations, the simple process may morph into one that requires steps A and D going through B with contributions from process C.  Now the process becomes more difficult (not impossible) to describe with only text and may be glossed over by the key parties that should pay close attention.

Tools? We don't need no stinking tools….
Now the key to diagramming effectively comes down to using the right tool for the job.  Knowing what diagrams and diagramming tools are available will help you in your quest to convey specifications, requirements or your understanding of a situation. The list below provides a little insight into the numerous diagrams that are at your disposal. 

Seeing as this is a 'blog' and not a doctorial thesis, I 'borrowed' content from Smart Draw .  I downloaded their trial version and I love it. It has a similar look and feel as MS Office - so you can find your way around, the diagrams are intuitive and easy to use!

Considering I've been using Visio for my diagramming needs - I'm going to start a petition to get this tool in my office.

Balanced Scorecard
A Balanced Scorecard allows a company to divide a vision, or overall objective into the smaller pieces or necessary steps that will allow it to occur. These pieces may be phases of the process, or the project from the perspective of different departments of the company, but in any case it should be a continuing cycle that will continue working towards a single overall goal.
The Balanced Scorecard is especially useful when trying to communicate the role of a team or company in accomplishing the overall mission. It can also be helpful in tracking the progress of a goal by the specific parts that will make it possible.

Boston Consulting Group Matrix
A BCG Matrix, or Boston Consulting Group Matrix, allows for a realistic plan of finances in a manner that is more diverse using symbols and focusing on investments. Each investment or product is plotted in one of four positions of the matrix based upon the Market Growth Rate versus the Relative Market Share.
A BCG Matrix is best used to focus on many different aspects, such as products, of a company at once.
Cause & Effect Diagram
(Fishbone /  Cause + Effect   /  Ishikawa diagrams )
Originally developed by Kaoru Ishikawa to visualize the causes of a specific event, the Cause and Effect Diagram has come to be known by several names: Cause and Effect, Fishbone, or Ishikawa diagram. It is one of the seven basic Quality control tools, and has become commonly used to determine components needed for a desired outcome. The main issue is written in a box that is typically in the center of the right edge of the page. A line called the "spine" or "backbone" extends to the left starting from the edge of the main box. Branches angle off of the spine, each representing a cause or effect of the main issue. Each of these branches may contain additional branches.
A Cause and Effect Diagram is used to examine why something happened or might happen by breaking up the issue into smaller categories. It can also be helpful to show relationships between contributing factors.

Using Mockups feels like drawing, but because it’s digital, you can tweak and rearrange easily. Teams can come up with a design and iterate over it in real-time in the course of a meeting. Product managers, designers, developers, and even clients can now work together in the same tool to quickly iterate over wireframes, before writing code

Strategy Maps
Strategy Maps are a summary of what a company plans to do in order to improve its business. The map is similar in structure to that of a Swim Lane Diagram and in concept to that of a Balanced Scorecard. It has swim lanes (although they are horizontal rather than the usual vertical), or visual category divisions, representing different perspectives of the topic. These perspectives are typically Financial, Customer, Internal (business) Process, and Learning and Growth, following the Balanced Scorecard divisions. Then boxes representing different aspects and ideas of each category are organized into the appropriate swim lane.
Strategy Maps are especially beneficial when a company is looking to better their sales or reinforce internal processes. They allow improvements to be viewed from several different viewpoints, which assists in the decision process.

SWOT diagrams can be especially useful when trying to decide whether or not to embark on a certain venture by determining if the pros outweigh the cons. By clearly outlining all positives and negatives concerning the project, it will be easier to decide whether or not it is really worth it.

Diagrams of notable mention:
Flow Chart / org chart, Swimlane, Gantt, Strategy Map, Rich Picture, Decision, Network diagram ,Pyramid Chart

The ROI: I can't see it
So I have merely gone through and listed the tools you can use - where's the ROI you ask? Well its two fold: Firstly, we identified new ways you can express your processes or maybe this simply reminded you of the options and tools you can reach for while documenting your complex sleep inducing processes. Secondly, we helped your audience. If you begin to implement or increase your usage of diagramming techniques, your documentation will become easier to grasp, more enjoyable and, for those that skim through,  easier to pick out the key points.

With some luck, this illustrated documentation tools you are egger to try and as always….
Hope this has helped and not hindered!
-Project ROI

I stole a lot from here -->

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