Not just another Visio diagram.

Not just another Visio diagram

Blog post by Kim Quirke

How to use creative sketching in business analysis, to turn a data-driven process into a human-telling story.

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a course by Penny Pullan called Creative Facilitation. It was a course with heaps of practical tips around how to add creativity to the way you facilitate and present information. It was during this course that I had one of the those light bulb moments; adding creativity to how I facilitated meetings was great, but it was the idea that I could also apply this creativity to other business analysis tasks that got me really excited.

The problem that I had was that the process diagrams I was drawing for my business customers weren’t very engaging. They had all the traits of a good process diagram with boxes and lines showing me step by step through a business process, but they still looked like boxes and lines with maybe some colour to spice things up. They weren’t something that was exciting for the business to look at and also not that exciting to create. I really wanted my customer to be able to look at the diagram and see themselves in the business process and give them confidence that we understood them or were well on our way to understanding them.

The course changed things for me – not only was it ok to be creative in areas that aren’t typically seen as creative, but, more importantly, they also provided some really easy techniques for drawing people, people who could do stuff, people who I could draw in seconds.  We have all seen the business analysis methodologies that love stickmen, but to me they always look like they have been drawn by a kid – they were boring and they didn’t do anything. By using a squiggle or a box for the body instead of a line, my person could be riding a bike, sitting at a computer or jumping in the air.

The magic for me happened when I replaced my Visio boxes with these pictures and I didn’t need to spend ages scouring the internet for random pictures, which lacked consistency of style or feel.

Before:

After:

Suddenly my picture didn’t just show a process, it now told a story to the customer, the story about ‘their’ business and how ‘they’ interacted with their business. It helped add context to changes being proposed and what the likely impact would be, not only on the business process but also the people involved in that process. Most importantly the customers were keen to interact with the picture and show me what they thought.

More interesting for me was the feedback I got from other BAs and technical staff. Quite a few people who were Visio savvy and created these types of diagrams didn’t like Visio diagrams, which are often seen as ‘IT’ diagrams. Adding the pictures has removed the ‘IT’ feel and my customer has requested that other people use this technique when creating their business process diagrams.

For me, this has given me the confidence to start adding creativity into all the diagrams that I create, while reinforcing what I already knew about most people being visual and wanting some emotional connection to what they read.

What are some of the ways that you like to add creativity to your every day and help delight your customers?